Orthodoxy Setting & Symbolism

This Study Guide consists of approximately 27 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Orthodoxy.
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Orthodoxy refers to any religious system which has doctrines that must be believed on the basis of the authority of some institution. In this instance, Chesterton is referring to the orthodoxy as put forward by the Catholic Church on the basis of the authority it argues comes from Jesus Christ.

Evolution / Darwinism

The theory of evolution was a popular theory in the time Chesterton was writing (early 20th century). Fundamentally, it was the belief that modern organisms evolved from older, "lower" forms of life. Many took this theory and extended it beyond biology, however, and saw society as constantly evolving and improving.


Progress is the movement of society towards some fixed vision of what is good. In Chesterton's time, there is much confusion over what this means. Some equate progress simply with the march of time—that is, whatever changes happen are progress, whether they are good or bad. Chesterton finds that all the conclusions he came to on his own about progress were already believed and being taught by the Catholic Church.


Trinitarianism is the belief that God is a Trinity—that is, that God is one God, but three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Chesterton, that God is a Trinity shows that all persons naturally need others to be happy.


Unitarianism is the denial that God is a Trinity. Chesterton sees a "unitary" God as despotic and vengeful. He argues that religions like Islam are violent, and uses their denial of the Trinity as a reason.


Materialism is the belief that the only things that exist are material things. The doctrine specifically excludes the possibility of God, angels, or souls. It also indirectly denies the possibility of free will. According to materialists, the universe is like an enormous machine which plays out with clockwork inevitability.


Idealism is the opposite of materialism and states that there is no physical reality. Rather, everything exists only in the mind.

The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages refers to the time between the fall of Rome and the re-emergence of Europe around the time of the Renaissance. Many critics of Christianity point towards the Middle Ages as an example of what happens when the Church dominates society. However, Chesterton argues that Christianity is the only thing that kept civilization afloat at all after the fall of Rome. Without it, he argues, civilized life would have been lost forever.


Patriotism is the love of one's country, but it does not exclude criticizing it. In fact, one is not truly a patriot if one blindly accepts whatever one's country does. If a patriot truly loves his country, he will try to prevent it from doing what is wrong and urge it do what is right. The relationship between a patriot and his country is analogous to the relationship between a Christian and the world.


Liberalism is, fundamentally, the belief that all men are equal and should have equal authority in the running of government. The purpose of the arguments presented in Orthodoxy is to show liberals that the ideas in Catholicism are not opposed, but in fact totally in tune with, the tenets of liberalism.


Tradition is the wisdom passed down from previous generations to the modern day. While many see democracy being opposed to tradition, Chesterton believes that democracy, to be truly democratic, should revere tradition, since to do otherwise would be to exclude the voices of generations past. This is not acceptable, since the essence of democracy is to exclude no man.


Pimlico is an English town which apparently is run-down and not very attractive to outsiders. Chesterton argues that a person can still be loyal to Pimlico despite its many defects. In fact, the only way Pimlico could ever improve is if people devote themselves to it and try to change it for the better.

This section contains 650 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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