touchstone archives


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

Issue: May/June 2021

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein

Work Commonplaces #81 May/June 2021

Theory [the hyper-modernist intellectual movement active in the universities] holds that objective knowledge—that which is true for everyone, regardless of their identity—is unobtainable, because knowledge is always bound up with cultural values. This is the postmodern knowledge principle. For Theory, the knowledge that is currently most valued is intrinsically white and Western, and it interprets this as an injustice—no matter how reliably that knowledge was produced. This is the postmodern political principle. . . .

Throughout even the most recent applications of Theory, then, we see radical skepticism that knowledge can be objectively, universally, or neutrally true. This leads to a belief that rigor and completeness come not from good methodology, skepticism, and evidence, but from identity-based "standpoints" and multiple "ways of knowing." That such an approach doesn't tend to work is considered unimportant because it is deemed to be more just. That is, this belief proceeds from an ought that is not necessarily concerned about what is.

Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay
Critical Cynical Theories (Pickstone, 2020), 79.

Society Commonplaces #82 May/June 2021

The Christian faith holds that the creation has been damaged. Human existence is no longer what was produced at the hands of the Creator. It is burdened with another element that produces, besides the innate tendency toward God, the opposite tendency away from God. . . . This paradox points to a certain inner disturbance in man, so that he can no longer simply be the person he wants to be.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
God and the World (2002)

Christianity Commonplaces #83 May/June 2021

[Some,] deceived by the atheism they bear within them, imagined the universe deprived of a guide and order, at the mercy of chance. . . .

St. Basil the Great

Christianity Commonplaces #84 May/June 2021

Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community—however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things—whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.

Pope Pius XI
Mit Brennender Sorge (1937)

Christianity Commonplaces #85 May/June 2021

To abandon Christian sexual orthodoxy is not simply to widen the canon of acceptable sexual practices. It is to revise key theological and anthropological elements of the Christian faith.

Carl R. Trueman
in an interview with Rod Dreher published November 15, 2020, in The American Conservative

Christianity Commonplaces #86 May/June 2021

When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins with toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We agree to differ, and favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them.

From this point of view error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departures from the Church's faith but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate the faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and making them skillful in combating it.

Charles Porterfield Krauth
The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (1913)

Christianity Commonplaces #87 May/June 2021

The Ten Commandments . . . are the charter and guide of human liberty, for there can be no liberty without the law.

Cecil B. DeMille
at the New York opening of his film The Ten Commandments (1956)

Christianity Commonplaces #88 May/June 2021

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