I was lucky enough to live within an hour from where he used to live in N.C., and got to meet him, and even borrow books from him (some G.K. Chesterton plays). He showed me some magic tricks and I played him a song on the guitar. Gardner was raised in Oklahoma, Oral Roberts country, and a conservative Christian in his youth. He wrote about leaving the fold in a novel titled The Flight of Peter Fromm, and discussed his belief in God and his skepticism in The Whys of a Philosophical Scivener.
As I stated in the titled of this blog entry, Martin Gardner was one of the very few people who loved the works of both the atheist, H. G. Wells, and the Christian apologist, G. K. Chesterton, which also brings to mind something about how close was the relationship of GK and Wells:
Chesterton and Wells were close personal friends, and once when Wells was seriously ill, he wrote Chesterton and said,
“If after all my Atheology turns out wrong and your Theology right I feel I shall always be able to pass into Heaven (if I want to) as a friend of G.K.C.ʼs. Bless you.”
To this Chesterton replied,
“If I turn out to be right, you will triumph, not by being a friend of mine, but by being a friend of Man, by having done a thousand things for men like me in every way from imagination to criticism. The thought of the vast variety of that work, and how it ranges from towering visions to tiny pricks of humor, overwhelmed me suddenly in retrospect; and I felt we have none of us ever said enough… Yours always, G. K. Chesterton.” [Dec. 10, 1933, letter from H.G. Wells to G.K. Chesterton. Undated reply from G.K. Chesterton to H.G. Wells. Letters quoted in full in Maise Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1943), pp. 604-605.]
Of another friend GK wrote, “In a sweeter and more solid civilization he would have been a great saint.” (G. K. Chesteron, speaking of his mystical non-Christian friend, George Bernard Shaw)
GKʼs novel, The Ball and the Cross, is about an atheist (modeled on Shaw and to some extent Wells as well), and a Christian (modeled on Chesterton), who are intent on a duel to the death yet both come to recognize something good and special in the other. The atheist and Christian both experience visionary dreams toward the end of the novel. The atheist dreams of a world without God that grows increasingly anarchistic and violent, while the Christian dreams of a world with suffocating laws linked to Divine fiat, laws that persecute the poor and weak for even the slightest offenses.
GK also wrote in his first book-length defense of Christianity, “To hope for all souls is imperative, and it is quite tenable that their salvation is inevitable…[Though such a view] is not specially favorable to activity or progress…In Christian morals, in short, it is wicked to call a man ‘damned’: but it is strictly religious and philosophic to call him damnable.” (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)
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