touchstone archives

Commonplaces

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

Issue: Jan/Feb 2020



Let the Church remember this: That every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade—not outside it. The Apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meet they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word. But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meet for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word.

The official Church wastes time and energy, and moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work—by which She means ecclesiastical work. The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is church embroidery, or sewage farming. As Jacques Maritain says: "If you want to produce Christian work, be a Christian, and try to make a work of beauty into which you have put your heart; do not adopt a Christian pose." He is right.

Dorothy L. Sayers
"Why Work?", in Creed or Chaos? (1949)


Work Commonplaces #19 Jan/Feb 2020


Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant; then it tries to silence good.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
(ca. 2009)


Society Commonplaces #20 Jan/Feb 2020


When we [as a church body] "study" a question to which we already know the answer it does not help the church but wounds her. I am not saying we should not restate our position over against new challenges, but a study implies that we just might come to a different conclusion, that the question is a real question without a certain answer, and that there might be hope for those who disagree with tradition. This is not merely foolish but dangerous. It is a threat to the doctrinal unity and integrity of the church and, indeed, of the faith itself, to proceed with study after study as if there were no real answer or no abiding answer to the question. It is a deception designed to placate those who want change, but it will only alienate them and make it harder to convince them of the one and always answer. Sometimes "no" is the kinder word than "let's see"—children already know that, so why don't the adults who are in charge of the structures of the church? Finally, studies hang onto exceptions as evidence against the rule and [as] presumption for changing the rule when everyone already knows that exceptions make terrible rules. Exceptions are not analogies of how we might proceed, but real exceptions. We have had tons of them in Christian history and every time we presume to use those exceptions . . . we have ended up with chaos that had to be cleaned up by the next generation (hopefully it did not last any longer).

Larry A. Peters
Pastoral Meanderings blog post (June 1, 2019)


Christianity Commonplaces #21 Jan/Feb 2020


All our modern notions and speculations have taken a bent toward individualism. In the state we have been engaged to bring out the civil rights of the individual, asserting his proper liberties as a person, and vindicating his conscience, as a subject of God, from the constraints of force. In matters of religion, we have burst the bonds of church authority, and erected the individual mind into a tribunal of judgment within itself; we have asserted free will as the ground of all proper responsibility, and framed our theories of religion so as to justify the incommunicable nature of persons as distinct units. While thus engaged, we have well nigh lost, as was to be expected, the idea of organic powers and relations. The state, the church, the family, have ceased to be regarded as such, according to their proper idea, and become mere collections of units. A national life, a church life, a family life, is no longer conceived, or perhaps conceivable, by many. Instead of being wrought in together and penetrated, to some extent, by historical laws and forces common to all the members, we only seem to lie as seeds piled together, without any terms of connection, save the accident of proximity, or the fact that we all belong to the heap. And thus the three great forms of organic existence which God has appointed for the race, are in fact lost out of mental recognition. The conception is so far gone that, when the fact of such an organic relation is asserted, our enlightened public will stare at the strange conceit, and wonder what can be meant by a paradox so absurd. My design, at the present time, is to restore, if possible, the conception of one of these organic forms, viz: the family. For though we have gained immense advantages, in a civil, ecclesiastical, and religious point of view, by our modern development of individualism, we have yet run ourselves into many hurtful misapprehensions on all these subjects, which, if they are not rectified, will assuredly bring disastrous consequences. And no where consequences more disastrous than in the family, where they are already apparent, though not fully matured. . . .

Horace Bushnell
Christian Nurture (1847, rev. ed. 1861), s.v. "The Organic Unity of the Family"


Family Commonplaces #22 Jan/Feb 2020


Post-Christian man is not the same as pre-Christian man. He is as far removed as a virgin from a widow . . . there is a great difference between a spouse-to-come and a spouse sent away.

C. S. Lewis
in a 1953 letter to Don Giovanni Calabria (as translated from Lewis's original Latin by Martin Moynihan)


Christianity Commonplaces #23 Jan/Feb 2020


"The social justice left's entire modus operandi is to implement extreme positions using the language of moderate positions."

Claire Lehmann
from a Tweet quoted by William Voegeli in "Racism Revised," Claremont Review of Books (Fall 2018 )


Politics Commonplaces #24 Jan/Feb 2020


Beware lest your religion be one of feeling merely, not of practice. Men may speak in a high imaginative way of the ancient Saints and the Holy Apostolic Church, without making the fervour or refinement of their devotion bear upon their conduct. Many a man likes to be religious in graceful language; he loves religious tales and hymns, yet is never the better Christian for all this . . . and he who does one deed of obedience for Christ's sake, let him have no imagination and no fine feeling, is a better man, and returns to his home justified rather than the most eloquent speaker, and the most sensitive hearer, of the glory of the Gospel, if such men do not practise up their knowledge.

John Henry Newman
from Parochial and Plain Sermons, Sermon XX


Christianity Commonplaces #25 Jan/Feb 2020

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