[From the archives.]
G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw were great friends who rarely saw eye to eye in their personal philosophies. Note in this passage from his book Heretics how Chesterton praises Shaw’s good sense while criticizing his inability to grasp what most people understand: humanity is worth something but progress for the sake of progress is a waste of time.
After belabouring a great many people for a great many years for being unprogressive, Mr. Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense, that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with two legs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity. Mr. Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake.
If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks not for a new kind of philosophy but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window and ask for a new baby.
These two men would debate each other on stage and then dine together afterward, admiring the intellect and integrity of the other. Chesterton’s part in this friendship, as you can see in the quote above, was not to blindly boost Shaw no matter what he said or thought. Rather, he saw this friendship as a place where he could talk things through, hash things out, and come to disagreement if warranted.
Do you have friends like that, friends you can come to disagreement with? I think the Bible tells us this is a good type of friendship.
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:5-6.)
And as Paul tells us under the New Covenant, there is grace when believers disagree even on doctrinal issues:
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (Philippians 3:15.)
I admire Chesterton for many things: his clarity of writing, his intellect, his incisive wit. But I also admire him for his example of what real friendship looks like. I want to be like him.