touchstone archives


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

Issue: Nov/Dec 2023

The majority of men in every generation, even those who, as it is described, devote themselves to thinking, live and die under the impression that life is simply a matter of understanding more and more, and that if it were granted to them to live longer, that life would continue to be one long continuous growth in understanding. How many of them ever experience the maturity of discovering that there comes a critical moment when everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot be understood.


Nature Commonplaces #188 Nov/Dec 2023

The moral anarchy of our day may be excused, in a certain degree at any rate, on the ground that the puritanical “pretend you don’t know” morality often led to disgusting hypocrisy; as a reaction against this hypocrisy there arose not only the natural human demand to become acquainted with one’s own nature, but a contention that human beings have the right to be as Nature made them; that which is natural is good. Primitive Christianity taught on the contrary that the natural human being is not good, because he is incomplete: he has thrown away a perfection which mankind was created to possess. Only the grace of God, which does not disturb, but perfects, nature, can make man good, since it makes him complete again.

Sigrid Undset
Stages on the Road (1934)

Nature Commonplaces #189 Nov/Dec 2023

God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.

C. S. Lewis
The Case for Christianity (1943)

Christianity Commonplaces #190 Nov/Dec 2023

There is, of course, neither love nor merit in the taxes I pay for [social] services. I pay them because I have to. The governmentalization of charity affects not only the donor, but also the recipient. What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement. When I was young, there was a saying, “He thinks the world owes him a living.” But the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world does, indeed, owe him a living.

Christ’s love for the poor was attributable to one quality they possessed in abundance—meekness and humility. It is humbling to be an object of charity, which is why mendicant friars and nuns used to beg. The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia
from the lecture, “Is Capitalism or Socialism More Conducive to Christian Virtue?” (Sept. 6, 2013)

Politics Commonplaces #191 Nov/Dec 2023

The cardinal sin of capitalism is greed, but the cardinal sin of socialism is power.

Antonin Scalia
from the lecture, “Is Capitalism or Socialism More Conducive to Christian Virtue?” (Sept. 6, 2013)

Politics Commonplaces #192 Nov/Dec 2023

Human beings, in their settled condition, are animated by oikophilia: the love of the oikos, which means not only the home but the people contained in it, and the surrounding settlements that endow that home with lasting contours and an enduring smile. The oikos is the place that is not just mine and yours but ours. It is the stage-set for the first-person plural of politics, the locus, both real and imagined, where ‘it all takes place’. Virtues like thrift and self-sacrifice, the habit of offering and receiving respect, the sense of responsibility—all those aspects of the human condition that shape us as stewards and guardians of our common inheritance—arise through our growth as persons, by creating islands of value in the sea of price. . . . We must vest our love and desire in things to which we assign an intrinsic, rather than an instrumental, value, so that the pursuit of means can come to rest, for us, in a place of ends.

Roger Scruton
How to Be a Conservative (2014)

Politics Commonplaces #193 Nov/Dec 2023

When the corrosion of reason has reached a certain depth and has befallen a sufficiently large number of the people, effective leadership in terms of reason becomes difficult and perhaps impossible, even if a man at the head under more favorable conditions could exert such leadership. In a further degree of corrosion, a man of such qualities will, precisely because he possesses them, find it impossible to reach the position of leadership. And in the final degree, the society by its corruption will prevent the formation of a man of such qualities.

Eric Voegelin

Politics Commonplaces #194 Nov/Dec 2023

If one is too empiricist for any miraculous and metaphysical work of God in nature, too rationalistic for any humanly framed and contingently expressed historical account of God’s words and actions among us, too academic for the hearsay stories of common people about miraculous goings-on, then one is too epistemically proud, too inclined to worship one’s own supposedly autonomous and self-validating mind, to receive the Christian revelation. Knowledge itself, if grasped in pride and in bad faith toward God, is a sin.

Paul Tyson
A Christian Theology of Science: Reimagining a Theological Vision of Natural Knowledge (Baker Academic, 2022)

Christianity Commonplaces #195 Nov/Dec 2023

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