touchstone archives

Commonplaces

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

Issue: Jan/Feb 2022



The importance of the lesson which this [Holy Name] Society was formed to teach would be hard to overestimate. Its main purpose is to impress upon the people the necessity for reverence. This is the beginning of a proper conception of ourselves, of our relationship to each other, and our relationship to our Creator. Human nature cannot develop very far without it. The mind does not unfold, the creative faculty does not mature, the spirit does not expand, save under the influence of reverence. It is the chief motive of an obedience. It is only by a correct attitude of mind begun early in youth and carried through maturity that these desired results are likely to be secured. It is along the path of reverence and obedience that the race has reached the goal of freedom, of self-government, of a higher morality, and a more abundant spiritual life.

Calvin Coolidge
from a speech to members of the Holy Name Society, a Catholic men's group (September 1924)


Christianity Commonplaces #112 Jan/Feb 2022


Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men. As the voice of truth tells us, such leaders are not zealous pastors who protect their flocks; rather, they are like mercenaries who flee by taking refuge in silence when the wolf appears.

Pope St. Gregory the Great
(540-604)


Christianity Commonplaces #113 Jan/Feb 2022


C. S. Lewis points out that the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, and the founder of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ, have in common "something pretty substantial" with regard to their moral teaching. (He lists other figures too.) He then adds a footnote, explaining that he includes "the Incarnate God" alongside human teachers to emphasize that the main difference between Christ and these other figures lies not in ethics but ontology; it is Christ's "Person and Office" that are unique, not his teachings.

In his essay "The Psalms" (1958?), he contends that the Jewish and Christian traditions are not so distinct as they are sometimes held to be. He mentions that he has been reading the Old Testament and has been surprised by a verse from the book of the Proverbs (25:21): "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty give him water to drink." He confesses to being taken aback: "One rubs one's eyes. So they were saying that already. They knew that so long before Christ came." Such a concern for one's enemy has no counterpart in Greek teaching nor in Confucian morality, he says. There is a striking continuity between Old and New Testaments in terms of teaching: the wholly new thing about Christ is not the ethic he taught but who he was and what he did.

Michael Ward
After Humanity: A Guide to C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man (2021), p. 103


Christianity Commonplaces #114 Jan/Feb 2022


Beware of anger. It is the most difficult to remove of all the hindrances. But it is the alcohol of the body, you know, and the devil of it is that it deadens the perceptions.

Margery Allingham
The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)


Christianity Commonplaces #115 Jan/Feb 2022


Modern egalitarians, by failing to understand that there can be no equality except in the abstract and that inequality is the essence of the concrete, have merely displayed the extraordinary vulgarity of their minds as well as their amazing political clumsiness.

Julien Benda
The Treason of the Intellectuals (La Trahison des Clercs), ch. 3 (1927)


Culture Commonplaces #116 Jan/Feb 2022


Things had come to such a pitch in the churches, by the intensity of the revival system, that the permanent was sacrificed to the casual, the ordinary swallowed up and lost in the extraordinary, and Christian piety itself reduced to a kind of campaigning of stage-effect exercise. The spirit of the pastor was broken and his powers crippled by a lack of expectation: for it was becoming a fixed impression that effect is to be looked for only under instrumentalities that are extraordinary. . . . It was even difficult for the pastor, saying nothing of conversions, to keep alive in Christians themselves any hope or expectations of holy living as an abiding state, in the intervals of public movement and excitement left to his care; because everything was brought to the test of the revival state as a standard, and it could not be conceived how any one might be in the Spirit and maintain a constancy of growth in the calmer and more private methods of duty, patience, and fidelity, on the level of ordinary life.

Horace Bushnell
(recollections of early ministry, ca. 1870)


Christianity Commonplaces #117 Jan/Feb 2022


The church is not a community of sameness but of different peoples and cultures, of multi-giftedness, and of different forms of call and service. These differences result in unity rather than fragmentation, just as different musical instruments combine to form a symphony rather than a cacophony.

James R. Edwards
From Christ to Christianity (2021)


Christianity Commonplaces #118 Jan/Feb 2022


If it is not offensive, it is probably not worth believing.

Pr. Larry Peters
Pastoral Meanderings (October 30, 2021)


Culture Commonplaces #119 Jan/Feb 2022

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