Who was G.K. Chesterton?


Gilbert Keith Chesterton, (May 29. 1874 – June 14, 1936) better known as G.K. Chesterton, was an English writer, lay theologian, poet, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist. Chesterton is often referred to as the “prince of paradox.” Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: “Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out.”

Chesterton is well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and for his reasoned apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognized the universal appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both Progressivism and Conservatism, saying, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an “orthodox” Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton’s “friendly enemy” according to Time, said of him, “He was a man of colossal genius.” Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, John Henry Cardinal Newman, and John Ruskin.

Interested in getting a sense of what Chesterton was like in action? Check these out…


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Chesterton Debate?

The Chesterton Debate Series, inspired by the notable English luminary G.K. Chesterton, is an initiative of the Office of Catholic Youth in partnership with the Archdiocese of Toronto. The debate series has two primary goals.

1.  To provide a forum for respectful and substantive discussion on contentious issues relevant in today’s world.

2.  To provide perspective on issues considered important to the formation of an individual’s conscience.

What kind of subjects are covered?

In short, any subject is fair game. Most of the topics will be timely and controversial in popular society. Examples include Church-State separation, public funding of religious education, euthanasia, abortion, miracles, the existence of God, the death penalty, and approaches to alleviating poverty.

Where do the debates take place?

Given that the purpose of the Chesterton Debates is to engage the culture, venues are chosen based on three factors:

1.  Capacity, general accessibility, and technical capabilities.

2.  Proximity to prominent centers of learning or culture.

3.  Proximity to local pubs and eateries for post-debate frivolities.

Is the debate intended for a particular group of people?

Nope. The Chesterton Debates are intended to engage peoples of all ages and beliefs. In fact, we make a conscious effort to promote the events among supporters of both sides of the argument to ensure the audience is well balanced.

How much do tickets normally cost?

Since we want to make the events accessible to everyone, regardless of means, the ticket cost is subsidized by our sponsors. You can expect to pay $10-$15 per ticket.

Can I purchase multiple tickets at once?
Absolutely. You can purchase as many tickets as you like.

How long are the debates?
Usually 2.5 hours with a 15 minute intermission.

What is the format of the debate?

A Chesterton Debate is divided into two parts.

Part I

A.  Opening Statements – The debaters address the audience for 15 minutes each. The opening statements are provided to the opposing debater to review prior to the debate.

B.  Follow-up Questions – Each debater asks three follow-up questions to the opposing debater in relation to the opening remarks. The questions are provided to the opposing debater prior to the debate, but the responses are not heard until the night of the debate. The debaters have 5 minutes to respond to each question.

Intermission – 15 Minutes

Part II

A.  Questions from the Audience – Representatives of each debater read through questions submitted by the audience and pick three to direct at the opposing debater. Debaters are allowed 3 minutes to respond to each question.

B.  Final Follow-up Questions – In this section the moderator plays a more pronounced role. The debaters pose additional follow-up questions to one another. Their responses are limited to 4 minutes per question.

How are the debaters selected?
Each debater is chosen with great care. Selection involves contacting notable leaders in the fields in question and asking them who would most effectively represent their view. Based on their responses, a committee then decides which persons should be contacted. Once the participants and moderator have agreed to the terms of the debate, their identities are released to the public.