I started reading one of his books, The Everlasting Man, about a year ago. And when I say "started" I mean I read the introduction and first chapter. He presented such a big idea in just those few pages, I've had to set it down and let my mind wonder.
"There are two ways of getting home," Chesterton begins, "and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place." The Everlasting Man is addressed to those who have not gotten home in the first way, inviting them to approach their home in the second way. Chesterton writes:
The point of this book, in other words, is that the next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it. And a particular point is that the popular critics of Christianity are not really outside it. ... the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it. But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it. It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgments; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard. ... For those in whom a mere reaction has thus become an obsession, I do seriously recommend the imaginative effort of conceiving the Twelve Apostles as Chinamen. In other words, I recommend these critics to try to do as much justice to Christian saints as if they were pagan sages. But ... when we do make this imaginative effort to see the whole thing from the outside, we find that it really looks like what is traditionally said about it inside.
I am one who has gotten home by staying there. And what I have seen myself commit with strong judgments are all the complaints of problems in the Church. Her hypocrisy, self-righteousness, carelessness, arbitrary programs, laziness and slothfulness. But in my best behavior I am really just like her. If it's true that I have no righteousness of my own would I hold my very household to have one of their own? I have and am wrong. My "ill-education" is my forgetting the Gospel and my "ill-tempered agnosticism" is believing that I'm better. Without walking round the whole world till I come back to the same place, the Gospel by the power of the Spirit constrains me to draw near enough to home to love it and to desire the sanctity of the Church through the prioritization of the Gospel.