touchstone archives


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

Issue: Sept/Oct 2020

The greatest obstacle in the way of acceptance [of one's lot in life] is the appearance of acceptance. The greatest obstacle to virtue is the appearance of virtue. The greatest obstacle to humility is the appearance of humility. The greatest obstacle to faith is the appearance of faith. The greatest obstacle to love is the appearance of love. What I say here in regard to celibacy is true of every kind of trial, of infirmity, and of frustration. Whatever our life and its burdens—there is no life that does not have to carry some burden—we never find fulfillment except in living it with conviction. And to live one's life with conviction is to live it in a spirit of adventure, as an adventure.

Paul Tournier
The Adventure of Living (1965)

Christianity Commonplaces #55 Sept/Oct 2020

"You can't just twist Scripture as if it were a rubber nose!"

Carl E. Braaten
(recalled from a conversation with S. M. Hutchens, ca. 1985)

Christianity Commonplaces #56 Sept/Oct 2020

Those who by insincerity and falsehood close their deeper eyes, shall not be capable of using in the matter the more superficial eyes of their understanding. . . .

A man may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood. . . . Doubt must precede every deeper assurance, for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed.

George MacDonald
from "The Last Farthing" and "The Voice of Job," Unspoken Sermons, second series (1885)

Christianity Commonplaces #57 Sept/Oct 2020

Our intellects stammer and boggle when they try to reach the truth about Divine things, not because the other world is a reflection of ours, but because ours is a reflection, and how pale a reflection, of the other. That was what our Lord wanted us to see when he turned our metaphors, even, inside out for us, as you may read in St. John. The water in Jacob's well isn't real water; the real water is the living fountain of grace which he will unseal for the woman of Samaria, if she will only stop to listen. The vine that grows on yonder wall is not a real vine; the only real Vine is his own mystical body. The things we see and touch are only the shadows cast by eternal truth. What marvel if we, to whom shadow is substance, cannot raise our minds to contemplate the substance by which the shadow is cast?

Ronald A. Knox
The Hidden Stream, chapter 4, "Our Knowledge of God by Analogy" (1953)

Christianity Commonplaces #58 Sept/Oct 2020

The defendant in this case [Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker] orders you to stay home and pronounces that, if you leave the state, you are putting people in danger [of contracting Covid-19], but his family members traveled to Florida and Wisconsin because he deems such travel essential. . . .

When laws do not apply to those who make them, people are not being governed, they are being ruled. Make no mistake, these executive orders are not laws. They are royal decrees. Illinois citizens are not being governed, they are being ruled.

Clay County, Illinois Judge Michael McHaney
ruling in Mainer v. Pritzker, a suit challenging Gov. Pritzker's lockdown orders (May 22, 2020)

Politics Commonplaces #59 Sept/Oct 2020

With respect to the Church as a whole, all her aspects are centered on the presence of the Lord in her midst. This presence of God is the Church's core and center, the protected concentration of her being. This living center is made up of the Divine Mysteries: the confessed and unaltered Faith once given to the saints, the integrity of her sacraments, the canon of her Scriptures, the inviolable purity of the Tradition by which she is defined. The Church lives from that precious nucleus, which is to be safeguarded at all costs.

If that living and life-giving center does not "hold," we are no longer the people of God. It may appear, for a while, that we are more "successful" in some respects. If we abandon, for instance, certain components of our inherited worship in order to make the worship more accessible to our contemporaries, it is possible that our membership will initially grow, because we make better contact with the religious aspirations of the world around us.

This experience of success, however, is deceptive, and even dangerous. In due course we will learn that we have betrayed our identity in the Lord by permitting the world to change the Church, whereas it is the vocation of the Church to transform the world. It is impossible for the people of God to transform the world by giving up its own form. . . .

Some have remarked that apologetics is the most dangerous part of Christian thought, and the reason for this is simple. Apologetics is the discipline of making the Gospel accessible to the world's understanding. This discipline is a necessary and important aspect of evangelism. There remains the ongoing danger however, that our efforts to make the Gospel more accessible to unbelievers may, if only by inadvertence, alter some important and essential dimension of the Gospel. . . .

Virtually every major heresy condemned by the early Church took its rise in the effort to render the Gospel accessible to unbelievers. To return to the image of our metaphor, this activity directed to the world outside the Church runs the constant danger of putting the core of the Divine Mysteries in peril.

Patrick Henry Reardon
excursus on Numbers 3, from Out of Step with God (2019)

Christianity Commonplaces #60 Sept/Oct 2020

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