Monday, 30 March 2009


'I look at all the shiny, optimistic little faces waiting with their parents in the playground at Grangetown school for the doors to open. And then I look at their parents and I can see at a glance who will prosper and who is doomed. It is so sad.'
Chris Mullin, A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin, p.133.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


'If we are too young our judgment is impaired, just as if we are too old.
Thinking too little about things or thinking too much both make us obstinate and fanatical.
If we look at our work immediately after completing it, we are still too involved; if too long afterwards, we cannot pick up the thread again.
It is like looking at pictures which are too near or too far away. There is just one indivisable point which is the right place.
Others are too near, too far, too high, or too low. In painting the rules of perspective decide it, but how will it be decided when it comes to truth and morality?'
Blaise Pascal, Pensees, p.7.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


'I may be wronging her, but I have an idea that she's the sort of girl who would want a fellow to carve out a career and what not. I know I've heard her speak favourably of Napoleon.'
PG Wodehouse, 'The Great Sermon Handicap' in The Inimitable Jeeves, p.99.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


'Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about "man's search for God." To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat.'
CS Lewis, Surprised by Joy, p.181.


'Evidence can never compel belief, because evidence is always interpreted.'
Dick Keyes, Seeing through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion, p.142.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


'I remember a professor saying that his brother had just died in his late twenties, leaving a wife and several children. My professor asked, "How can I look at that and say that God is good?" He continued, "I can't. But that is not all that God has given me to look at." He went on to say that he looked not to his own limited evaluation of the fairness of history for his assurance of God's character, but to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Everything else is seen in that light.'
Dick Keyes, Seeing through Suspicion: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion, p.115.


'There are many arguments that promise to be logically satisfying but which in the end miniaturize both God's transcendence and the seriousness of human agonies in the interests of somebody's idea [of] philosophical neatness. It is intriguing that the Bible itself never leads us down this road. It pictures the mystery of evil in the world not as an intellectual riddle to be solved but as a reality of inexhaustible depth that deepens even as we reflect on it.'
Dick Keyes, Seeing through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion, p.111.


'We are not honest and open-minded explorers of reality; we are alienated from reality because we have made ourselves the center of the universe.'
Lesslie Newbigin in Dick Keyes, Seeing through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion, p.106.


'The professional pessimist sees one half of the picture, the professional optimist the other. The former calls the latter superficial and is in turn pronounced defeatist. Each possesses a distorted fragment of Christian truth. The Bible's realism exceeds that of the worst cynic, for it knows what man has done to God. At the same time its hope surpasses the wildest utopian fantasy, for it has concrete experience of what this same God will do for man.'
Edmond La B. Cherbonnier in Dick Keyes, Seeing through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion, p.101.

Friday, 20 March 2009


'...politics is a peculiar area of human endeavour: a politician seldom attains a really unambiguous, clearly visible goal that he can then notch up once and for all as an unqualified success. The opposite is more likely to be true: politics is a kind of dough that one is eternally kneading; no one can almost never never say: the objective has been achieved; I can now cross it off my list and turn to other matters.'
Vaclav Havel, To the Castle and Back, p.14.

Monday, 16 March 2009


'Cynicism then works as a protection against the uncomfortable challenge that moral excellence is an actual possibility. There is a certain relief in having removed all heroes from the landscape and all the top rungs from the ladder - in case more might be expected of us than mediocrity.'
Dick Keyes, Seeing through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion, p. 84.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


'...there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of "exile."'
JRR Tolkien in Humphrey Carpenter, The Letters of JRR Tolkien, p.110.


'Of course I do not mean that the Gospels tell what is only a fairy story; but I do mean very strongly that they do tell a fairy-story: the greatest. Man the story-teller would have to be redeemed in a manner consonant with his nature: by a moving story.'
JRR Tolkien in Humphrey Carpenter, The Letters of JRR Tolkien, p.100.


'We are born in a dark age out of due time (for us). But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.'
JRR Tolkien in Humphrey Carpenter, The Letters of JRR Tolkien, p.64.


'Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgment concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably to have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the "real soul-mate" is the one you are actually married to. You really do very little choosing: life and circumstance do most of it (though if there is a God these must be His instruments, or His appearances).'
JRR Tolkien in Humphrey Carpenter, The Letters of JRR Tolkien, p.51.


'Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify & direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him - as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are aware of that - even those brought up "in the church."'
JRR Tolkien in Humphrey Carpenter, The Letters of JRR Tolkien, p.51.


'As for Eden. I think most Christians, except the v. simple and uneducated or those protected in other ways, have been rather bustled and hustled now for some generations by the self-styled scientists, and they've sort of tucked Genesis into a lumber-room of their mind as not very fashionable furniture, a bit ashamed to have it about the house, don't you know, when the bright clever young people called: I mean, of course, even the fidelis who did not sell it secondhand or burn it as soon as modern taste began to sneer. In consequence they have indeed (myself as much as any), as you say, forgotten the the beauty of the matter even "as a story."'
JRR Tolkien in Humphrey Carpenter (Ed.), The Letters of JRR Tolkien, p.109.


'But as for sermons! They are very bad aren't they! Most of them from any point of view. The answer to the mystery is prob. not simple; but part of it is that "rhetoric" (of which preaching in a dept.) is an art, which requires (a) some natural talent and (b) learning and practice. The instrument used is v. much more complex than a piano, yet most performers are in the position of a man who sits down to a piano and expects to move his audience without any knowledge of notes at all. The art can be learned (granted some modicum of aptitude) and can then be effective, in a way, when wholly unconnected with sincerity, sanctity etc. But preaching is complicated by the fact that we expect in it not only a performance, but truth and sincerity, and at least no word, tone or note that suggests the possession of vices (such as hypocrisy, vanity) or defects (such as folly, ignorance) in the preacher.
Good sermons require some art, some virtue and some knowledge. Real sermons require some special grace which does not transcend art but arrives at it by instinct or "inspiration"; indeed the Holy Spirit seems sometimes to speak through a human mouth providing art, virtue and insight he does not himself possess: but the occasions are rare. In other times I don't think an educated person is required to suppress the critical faculty, but it should be kept in order by a constant endeavour to apply the truth (if any), even in cliche form, to oneself exclusively!'
JRR Tolkien in Humphrey Carpenter (ed.), The Letters of JRR Tolkien, p.75.

Saturday, 14 March 2009


'The repetoire of evil has never been richer. Yet never have our responses been so weak. We have no language for connecting our inner lives with the horrors that pass before our eyes in the outer world. Philanthropy and protest seem empty gestures, arbitary in their choice of beneficiary or occasion. It is now commonly remarked (especially since the Cruise missile excitements of the Gulf War) that technology has carried us to the point where death by fire is indistinguisable from the puffs and crackle of a video game; and when some shocking new cruelty does sieze our attention, it is likely to be met with some consternation or annoyance. We shudder or wince; then we switch the channel.'
Andrew Delbanco, The Death of Satan: How Americans have lost the sense of evil, p.3.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


'Exile. It is not simply being homeless. Rather it is knowing that you do have a home, but that your home has been taken over by enemies.
Exile. It is not being without roots. On the contrary, it is having deep roots which have now been plucked up, and there you are, with roots dangling, writhing in pain, exposed to a cold and jeering world, longing to be restored to native and nurturing soil. Exile is knowing precisely where you belong, but knowing that you can't go back, not yet.'
Tamara Eskenazi in Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, p.48.

Friday, 6 March 2009


'Beware the presidential contender who lacks emotional intelligence. In its absence all else may turn to ashes.'
Fred I Greenstein, The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton, p.200.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


'For in self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being. For the Eternal Word also gives Himself in sacrifice; and that not only on Calvary. For when He was crucified He "did in the wild weather of His outlying provinces which He had done at home in glory and gladness". From before the foundation of the world He surrenders begotten Deity back to begetting Deity in obedience. And as the Son glorifies the Father, so also the Father glorifies the Son...From the highest to the lowest, self exists to be abdicated and, by that abdication, becomes the more truly self, to be thereupon yet the more abdicated, and so forever. This is not a heavenly law which we can escape by remaining earthly, nor an earthly law which we can escape by being saved.'
CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p.127.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


'People who live alone always have something or other that they want to get off their chests.'
Anton Chekhov, 'About Love' in About Love and Other Stories, p.159.


'We see the people who go to the market for their groceries, travelling about in the daytime, sleeping at night, the kind of people who spout nonsense, get married, grow old, and dutifully cart their dead off to the cemetry; but we do not see or hear those who are suffering, and all the terrible things in life happen somewhere off stage. Everything is quiet and peaceful, and the only protest is voiced by dumb statistics: so many people have gone mad, so many bottles of vodka have been drunk, so many children have died from malnutrition... And this arrangement is clearly necessary: it's obvious that the contented person only feels good because those who are unhappy bear their burden in silence; without that silence happiness would be unconceivable. It's a collective hypnosis. There ought to be someone with a little hammer outside the door of every contented, happy person, constantly tapping away to remind him that there are unhappy people in the world, and that however happy he may be, sooner of later life will show its claws; misfortune will strike - illness, poverty, loss - and no one will be there to see or hear it, just as thy now cannot see or hear others. But there is no person with a little hammer, happy people are wrapped up in their own lives, and the minor problems of life affect them only slightly, like aspen leaves in a breeze, and everything is just fine.'
Anton Chekhov, 'Gooseberries' in About Love and Other Stories, p.154.


'Evangelical defeatism is a failure of historical perspective. After all, the statistics are out there. It took 1,400 years for 1% of the world's population to become Christians, and then another 360 years for that to double to 2%. Another 170 years saw that grow from 2% to 4%, and then between 1960 and 1990, the proportion of the world's population made up of Bible-believing Christians rose from 4% to 8%. Now, in 2007, a third of the world's population confesses that Jesus is Lord and 11% of the world's population comprises 'evangelical' Christians. The evangelical church is growing twice as fast as Isalm and three times as fast as the world's population. South America is turning Protestant faster than continental Europe did in the sixteenth century. South Koreans reckon they can evangelize the whole of North Korea within five years once that country opens up. And then there's the Chinese church, consisting of tens of millions of Christians who have learned to pray, who have confidence in Scripture, who know about spiritual warfare, have been schooled in suffering and are qualified to rule.'
David Field, 'Samuel Rutherford and the Confessionally Christian State' in Chris Green (Ed.), A Higher Throne: Evangelicals and Public Theology, p. 86.