Reviewed by Marcus Gibson
It's not very often that Netflix leads me to do something worthwhile with my time, but that is precisely what happened when I started watching the British Broadcasting Corporation's recent series based on G.K. Chesterton's short detective stories. I was inspired to go back and read The Complete Father Brown Stories (Penguin Classics, 2012), which I had serendipitously borrowed from some literary friends a year earlier. As much as I loved the BBC series, Chesterton’s original stories are irreplaceable for their quickness and wit, and their clear distinction between good and evil, and truth and falsehood.
Read just a couple of Father Brown stories (there are 53 altogether), written by the author from 1910 to 1936, and you will see why Chesterton is ranked with C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as one of the greatest and most influential Christian writers of the twentieth century. Indeed, his influence on the work of those authors, and other “Inklings,” who taught at Oxford University and met to read their works in progress to one another, is no doubt why reading his work—like theirs—feels like a breath of fresh air.
Chesterton's Father Brown looks like an ordinary, nondescript Roman Catholic priest clad in his black habit, trademark shovel-hat, and bicycle. But armed with his umbrella, intellect, and wit, he is the physical embodiment of Jesus's command to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves." As a priest who hears confessions, nothing shocks him. As a man who knows the depths of sin in the human heart, he not only figures out crimes, he often even knows the criminals personally.
As a defender of the One True Faith, Father Brown fearlessly mocks the silliness of atheism, condemns the evils of materialism, rebukes the demonic, and encourages the penitent. He is a man to love for all those who love Good, and a man to fear for all those who only love themselves.
For those of us struggling to find how our faith is relevant in our modern world, Father Brown is a lamp to light our path. Be encouraged—and challenge yourself to read The Complete Father Brown Stories.
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