touchstone archives


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

Issue: May/June 2023

Let us begin with two grand truisms: In himself, God is the same for all. Secondly, he is beyond all the representations that men have made of him. Having knocked open these doors, let us now move onto serious things.

Rémi Brague
On the God of the Christians (2013)

Christianity Commonplaces #162 May/June 2023

God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools and He has not been disappointed. Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.

Justice Antonin Scalia
c. 2004

Christianity Commonplaces #163 May/June 2023

An authentic synodal dynamic arises precisely from the fact that the bishops and all the baptized walk together in the same faith, and converge in seeking together the most suitable forms and practices to bear witness to the same faith in the present time. I imagine that most Catholic bishops also share the desire and willingness to maintain traditional doctrine, even on issues such as marriage.

If the synodal dynamics express the path of the whole Church in the footsteps of the faith of the Apostles, they cannot be used to open divisions among the members of the Church on questions of faith or morals. Rather, the exercise of synodality also serves to maintain unity on the same path of different sensitivities, including those who wish for greater adaptation to the mentality of today’s world.

Mar Awa III
Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, in an interview released to Fides News Agency (December 5, 2022)

Christianity Commonplaces #164 May/June 2023

A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.

Charles Spurgeon

Christianity Commonplaces #165 May/June 2023

If Berkeley is right, Orion and the Pleiades, whether considered as points of twinkling light, or as celestial balls, or as whorls of flaming gas, are essentially significant, bearing an indefeasible, inalienable relation to mind, and the persistent attempts of the human mind to think away their meaning, and to resolve them, in thought, into meaningless atoms or similar entities, barely existing, are suicidal. They subsist in the mind of God, because He thought and thinks them, willed and wills them, created and conserves them, orders them, and has set them for signs. To his act and will and thought and law they owe their permanence, their subsistence, from night to night, from age to age, whether they are actually perceived by man or not. A “lost Pleiad” is a loss to man’s perception of “the flight of doves,” but is no casualty in God’s host. To say, then, that bodies subsist in the mind of God is to say that God is the home of the perceivable when it is unperceived by man.

A. A. Luce
Berkeley’s Immaterialism (1945)

Nature Commonplaces #166 May/June 2023

The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.

Nikola Tesla

Nature Commonplaces #167 May/June 2023

Light after light goes out, fire after fire is extinguished. And this gathering darkness has been the work of Science. That is the paradox. The Christians had a very clear picture of things. The simplest peasant could take it in and the subtlest schoolman could spend a lifetime interpreting it. It was simple and permanent. But then Science came along and substituted something difficult and provisional. Decade by decade the picture became more complicated and shorter lived—until now neither the learned nor the simple at all know where they stand. And it is thus that Science puts out the lamps of reason; it is thus that Science is a vast softening process, a vast clearing the way for world-wide superstition. Science offers no fixed points of belief. And Science, in the popular mind, is the sphere of the unaccountable and the marvelous.  . . . The Scientist is always there, and he is nothing more or less than the old Magician.

Michael Innes
The Daffodil Affair (1972)

Nature Commonplaces #168 May/June 2023

Beyond the necessary protection of the environment, neglected for too long by the industrial era, ecological thinking develops a real and proper philosophy of life. It does not remain at the level of the defense of the environment. There is a very specific reason for this fact. We have a whole Christian tradition of defense of nature, from St. Francis or St. Hildegard of Bingen up to, in our own day, the “philosopher farmer.”  . . .

In this tradition, nature is considered a divine creature and protected as such; the defense of nature finds a place inside faith in transcendence and a humanism that places man at the center. But when Christianity vanishes, and with it transcendence, it is inevitable that the sacred will reappear in one form or another. The moment the defense of the environment is affirmed as an urgent and evident duty, nature then sees itself sacralized, that is, put in a preserve, set above, made inviolable.  . . .

Nature becomes the object of more or less evident worship. Mother earth becomes a kind of pagan goddess, and not only among Bolivian natives, but also [in the cultured West]. So much so that Pope Francis [cf. his involvement in the Pachamama affair] speaks today of “our mother earth,” obviously in the Christian sense, but leaving open the ambiguity that allows the link with contemporary beliefs. Our contemporaries defend in all its forms the nature that has been denaturalized by man, just as they do not hesitate to hug trees. We are in a phase in which, in the vast field opened by the elimination of Christianity, new beliefs are appearing: and above all the pantheism that translates the defense of the environment into religion.

Chantal Delsol
cited in Sandro Magister, Settimo Cielo (November 18, 2022)

Nature Commonplaces #169 May/June 2023

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