G. K. Chesterton on the Outsider Test for Faith

One Christian response to the Outsider Test for Faith is that it is faulty in some way. If that's the case then perhaps they ought to listen to Chesterton, who became a Catholic. His book, The Everlasting Man, contributed to C.S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity. In his Introduction Chesterton said:

“The point of this book…is that the next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside 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.” He recommended “the imaginative effort of conceiving the Twelve Apostles as Chinamen.” In fact, he goes on to say “it would be better to see the whole thing as something belonging to another continent, or to another planet.” So it would seem as if he’s arguing for an Alien Test for Faith. “There are two ways of getting home,” he began. “One of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.” His book is addressed to people who have not gotten home in the first way, and inviting them to come home in the second way.

Keep in mind that according to Chesterton to approach Christianity from the outside “is the next best thing,” not the best thing, and that the best “judge of Christianity is a Christian,” not a Confucian. I don’t think anyone who seriously wants to test one’s own religion would say such a thing as this. Just imagine a Mormon or Muslim or Scientologist saying the same thing. So it seems clear he’s arguing from his faith not to it. It’s an exercise in apologetics, not an exercise in examining his faith.

Still, he tried to make a case from the outside for his faith. For Chesterton goes on to argue, “that 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. It is exactly when the boy gets far enough off to see the giant that he sees that he really is a giant. It is exactly when we do at last see the Christian Church afar under those clear and level eastern skies that we see that it is really the Church of Christ. To put it shortly, the moment we are really impartial about it, we know why people are partial to it.”

Quoted form an online copy of The Everlasting Man, first published in 1925.

So if Chesterton didn't see anything wrong with testing one's faith from the outside as non-believers, even aliens, then why do other Christians disagree? Christian scholars like Thomas Talbott, Victor Reppert, Steve Lovell, Randal Rauser, Matthew Flannagan, Norman Geisler, and Mark Hanna disagree, even though C.S. Lewis was convinced by Chesterton's book based on it.

Is it that when an argument suits them they embrace it until such time as it can be shown that same argument effectively undermines their faith? Then they reject it? I think so. Heads I win tails you lose, right? That's the nature of faith, par for the course, like a chameleon always changing colors depending on the realities. For if the Outsider Test proved Christianity was true they would all be crowing about it. Apparently neither Chesterton nor C.S. Lewis realized this.

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