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Commonplaces

Piquant excerpts lifted from Touchstone editors' own reading & listening.

Issue: May/June 2019



Conversions to other religions may also in their own ways be describable as "forgiveness" or "liberation" and so on. To such possibilities the gospel's messengers can only say: "We are not here to entice you into our religion by benefits allegedly found in it. We are here to introduce you to the true God, for whatever he can do with you—which may well be suffering and oppression."

Robert W. Jenson
Systematic Theology, vol. I, part 3 (2001), iv


Christianity Commonplaces #47 May/June 2019


The Declaration of the Rights of Man [France, 1789] could only provide a positive principle for social reconstruction if it was based upon a true conception of Man himself. That of the revolutionaries is well-known: they perceived in Man nothing but abstract individuality, a rational being destitute of all positive content.

I do not propose to unmask the internal contradictions of this revolutionary individualism nor to show how this abstract "Man" was suddenly transformed into the no less abstract "Citizen," how the free sovereign individual found himself doomed to be the defenseless slave and victim of the absolute State or "Nation," that is to say, of a group of obscure persons borne to the surface of public life by the eddies of revolution and rendered the more ferocious by the consciousness of their own intrinsic nonentity.

Vladimir Solovyev
Russia and the Universal Church,
Introduction (trans. Herbert Rees; 1948)


Society Commonplaces #48 May/June 2019


Nowhere else is truth regarded with such horror as in the domain of our Church administration; nowhere else is there greater servility than in our spiritual hierarchy; nowhere is the "salutary falsehood" practiced on a larger scale than in the place where all falsehood should be held in detestation. Nowhere else are there admitted on the grounds of policy so many compromises which lower the dignity of the Church and rob her of her authority. The root cause of it all is the lack of a sufficient faith in the power of truth. And the most serious part of it is that though we are aware of all these evils in our Church we have come to terms with them and are content to live at peace. But such a shameful peace, such dishonorable compromise, can never promote the true peace of the Church; in the cause of truth it signifies defeat if not betrayal.

I. S. Aksakov
Complete Works IV (ca. 1870), 43


Christianity Commonplaces #49 May/June 2019


• [I]f evil men were not now and then slain, it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.

• Many wear the Robe, but few keep the Way.

• The husbands of the talkative have a great reward hereafter.

Rudyard Kipling
Kim (1901)


Culture Commonplaces #50 May/June 2019


To a small boy, his father is more than his father—he's his vision of the future, his portrait of adult manhood. If that vision is discredited, then growing up itself is discredited.

J. Budziszewski
Ask Me Anything (2004)


Culture Commonplaces #51 May/June 2019


Again, in the habits and regulations of schools, universities, and the like assemblies, destined for the abode of learned men and the improvement of learning, everything is found to be opposed to the progress of the sciences; for the lectures and exercises are so ordered, that anything out of the common track can scarcely enter the thoughts and contemplations of the mind. If, however, one or two have perhaps dared to use their liberty, they can only impose the labor on themselves, without deriving any advantage from the association of others; and if they put up with this, they will find their industry and spirit of no slight disadvantage to them in making their fortune; for the pursuits of men in such situations are, as it were, chained down to the writings of particular authors, and if any one dare to dissent from them he is immediately attacked as a turbulent and revolutionary spirit.

Francis Bacon
Novum Organum (1620), XC


Education Commonplaces #52 May/June 2019


For the person who has ever known even one mature and normal erotic fulfillment, it is impossible to imagine turning by choice to a biologically inappropriate partner or placing partial or deviated aims above what has been so obviously well designed for the purpose. What the human organism shows anatomically is scarcely more clear than the emotional evidence, at physiologic as well as at broader interpersonal levels of reactivity. Even from more remote and less tangible sociologic aspects, nature has left no room here for doubt.

Hervey Cleckley, M.D.
The Mask of Sanity (1982), 223


Nature Commonplaces #53 May/June 2019


The Glossop method is based on the patient being given an excess of whatever it is he most desires—as it may be alcohol or the companionship of the opposite sex or, as in Lord Bittlesham's case, food. The patient will eventually revolt at the sheer immoderation of it and voluntarily deny himself. . . . It's theoretically impeccable, Bertie, and extremely popular.

P. G. Wodehouse
Jeeves and Wooster, television screenplay (1990-1993)


Culture Commonplaces #54 May/June 2019

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