Thursday, 31 December 2015

TOP BOOKS OF 2015

In, as ever, no particular order (other than the rough order I read them in):
  • Annie Dillard, The Maytrees
  • Harriet Arnow, The Dollmaker
  • Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
  • Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
  • Kent Haruf, Benediction 
  • J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex 
  • David Brooks, The Road to Character
  • Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk 
  • Wendell Berry, A Distant Land  
  • Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Sunday, 27 December 2015

FAMILY

'I'm not really dying today. No person ever died that had a family.'
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, p.242.

CRYING

'"And besides, I like to cry. After I cry it's like it's morning again and I'm starting the day over."
"I heard everything now."
"You just won't admit you like crying too. You cry just so long and everything's fine. And there's your happy ending. And you're ready to go back out and walk around with folks again. And it's the start of gosh-knows-what-all! Any time now, Mr Forrester will think it over and see it's just the only way and have a good cry and then look around and see it's morning again, even though it's five in the afternoon."
"That don't sound like no happy ending to me."
"A good night's sleep, of a ten-minute bawl, or a pint of chocolate ice cream, or all three together, is good medicine, Doug. You listen to Tom Spaulding, M.D."'
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, p.206.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

TIME

'"No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now. Time hypnotizes. When you're nine, you think you've always been nine years old and always will be. When you're thirty, it seems you've always been balanced there on that bright rim of middle life. And then when you turn seventy, you are always and forever seventy. You're in the present, you're trapped in a young now or an old now, but there is no other now to be seen.'"
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, p.98.

LIFE

'"The first thing you learn in life is you're a fool. The last thing you learn in life is that you're the same fool."'
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, p.81.

PERFECTION

'...how long can you look a sunset? Who wants a sunset to last? Who wants air smelling good always? So after a while, who would notice? After that let's have something else.'
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, p.78.

HAPPINESS

'Should a Happiness Machine, he wondered, be something you can carry in your pocket?
Or, he went on, should it be something that carries you in its pocket?'
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, p.68.

Friday, 25 December 2015

WRITING

'This book, like most of my books and stories, was a surprise. I began to learn the nature of such surprises, thank God, when I was fairly young as a writer. Before that, like every beginner, I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies.'
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, p.vii.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

GOOD DISAGREEMENT

'..."good disagreement" must allow for situations where "agreeing to disagree" cannot be justified. Broadly speaking, most Christians accept that there are issues of doctrine (e.g. the uniqueness of Christ and redemption only through him ) and ethics (e.g. the rejection of injustice and sexual immorality) which are more important than issues of ecclesiastical order (e.g. ordination and infant baptism) because they reach to the heart of the good news about salvation. Applying the language of "good disagreement" in an identical way to all disputed questions, as if they are equivalent, leads to confusion and fails to distinguish their relative importance. On some issues, it may require discipline, differentiation, or even some form of separation among professing Christians - in which case its "goodness" will be evident by the continuing witness to God's grace and truth in how we walk apart: in humility and sorrow, with blessing not cursing, with gentleness not venom.' 
Andrew Atherstone & Andrew Goddard, Good Disagreement? p.18.

TRUE CHRISTIAN UNITY

'Unity obtained in this worldly fashion, by throwing overboard all disputed points, and ordering the clergy to practise a kind of doctrinal teetotalism, is simply worthless and absurd...Better a thousand times for Churchmen to disagree and be alive, than to exhibit a dumb show of unity and be dead...'
JC Ryle in 'Andrew Atherstone & Andrew Goddard, Good Disagreement? p.9.

TOLERANCE

'We need to make a distinction between the tolerant mind and the tolerant spirit. A Christian should always be tolerant in spirit - loving, understanding, forgiving and being patient with others, making allowances for them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, for true love "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" [1 Corinthians 13:7]. But how can we be tolerant in mind of what God has clearly revealed to be wrong?'
John Stott in 'Andrew Atherstone & Andrew Goddard, Good Disagreement? Grace and Truth in a Divided Church, p.9.

INDWELLING SIN

'...will be universally and always felt during our present state. It insinuates into, and mixes with all our thoughts, and all our actions. It is inseparable from us, as the shadow from our bodies when the sun shines upon us. The holiness of a sinner does not consist in a deliverance from it, but in being sensible of it. striving against it, and being humbled under it and taking occasion from thence to admire our Savior, and rejoice in him as our complete righteousness and sanctification.'
John Newton in Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life, p.122. 

GOD'S GRACE

'We seem more attached to a few drops of his grace in our fellow creatures, than to the fullness of grace that is in himself. I think nothing gives me a more striking sense of my depravity than my perseverance and folly in this respect: yet he bears with me, and does me good continually.' 
John Newton in Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life, p.114. 

THE HUMAN HEART

'My heart is like a country but half-subdued, where all things are in an unsettled state, and mutinies and insurrections are daily happening. I hope I hate the rebels that disturb the King's peace. I am glad when I can point them out, lay hold of them, and bring them to him for justice. But they have many lurking-holes, and sometimes they come disguised like friends, so that I do not know them, till they works discover them.' 
John Newton in Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life, p.110. 

THE HUMAN HEART

'My heart is like a highway, like a city without walls or gates: nothing so false, so frivolous, so absurd, so impossible, or so horrid, but it can obtain access, and that at any time, or in any place; neither the study, the pulpit, not the Lord's table, exempt me from their intrusion.' 
John Newton in Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life, p.109.

Friday, 11 December 2015

CHOOSING THE GOSPELS

'In one sense, of course, the answer to the question: "Who chose the Gospels?" is, everybody who has know something of that indemonstrable power and majesty and, like Aristides, Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, and countless others, has chosen to live by their telling of the story of Jesus. But second century Christian leaders would have said that neither individuals nor churches had the authority to "choose" which of the many Gospels they liked, but to receive the ones given by God and handed down by Christ through his apostles. 
Christianity, of course, is not the only religion to claim Scriptures which its practitioners receive as revelation from God. But when encountering claims to divine revelation, such as Christians once made and even continue to make concerning their Gospels, one faces that paradoxical necessity of choosing books which one has no authority to choose. And I think I hazard no risk in suggesting this can only be done by heeding the call once heeded by St Augustine: tolle lege, take up and read.' 
CE Hill, Who  chose the Gospels? p.246. 

THE GOSPELS

'Moreover, I would wish that all, making a resolution similar to my own, did not keep themselves away from the words of the Saviour. For they possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them. If, then, you have any concern for yourself, and if you are eagerly looking for salvation, and if you believe in God, you may -since you are not indifferent to the matter - become acquainted with the Christ of God, and after being initiated, live a happy life.' 
Justin Martyr in CE Hill, Who chose the Gospels? p.240. 

CHOOSING THE GOSPELS

'...we have no evidence that the church ever sat down collectively or as individual churches and composed criteria for judging which Gospel (or other literature) it thought best suited its needs. On the contrary, the key realization which best explains our inability to find an ultimate "chooser", which best explains why the church didn't take the easy way out with some kind of singular Gospel and why it never cobbled together a set of criteria to all the Gospel candidates, is that the church essentially did not believe it had a choice in the matter! The question "why did you choose these Gospels?" would not have made sense to many Christians in the second century, for the question assumes that the church, or someone in it, had the authority to make the choice. To many, it would be like the question, "why did you choose your parents?"' 
CE Hill, Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy, p.231. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

THE RESURRECTION

'A man really ought to say "The resurrection happened two thousand years ago" in the same spirit in which he says, "I saw a crocus yesterday." Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned.' 
CS Lewis, 'The Grand Miracle' in CS Lewis Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church, p.9. 

THE INCARNATION

'....the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle.' 
CS Lewis, 'The Grand Miracle' in CS Lewis Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church, p.3. 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

SINGING

'Let us remember that the very power of singing was given to human nature chiefly for this purpose, that our warmest affections of soul might break out into natural or divine melody, and that the tongue of the worshipper might express his own heart.' 
Isaac Watts in Bob Kauflin, True Worshippers: Seeking what matters to God, p.109. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

GENDER

'...maleness and femaleness forever defines an important aspect  of the relationship Christ has to all of us, his church. How our individual gender identities will play out in the eschaton is not revealed, but God wants us to forever think of our relationship with Jesus through a monogamous, male/female relational analogy.'  
Oliver O'Donovan in Mark A Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, p.44. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

REST

'Elton worked hard and worried hard, and he was often in need of rest. But he had a restless mind, which meant that he could not rest on his own place in the presence of his own work. If he rested there, first he would begin to think about what he had to do, and then he would begin to do it.
To rest, he needed to be in somebody else's place.'
Wendell Berry, 'Are You All Right?' in That Distant Land, p.367. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

HUMANKIND

'...how should we think of ourselves? Well, the one word that comes to mind is that we are disordered. I think this word captures the human condition. However...I do not want the word to be used to focus in on certain experiences to the exclusion of our own disorder. In other words when we speak of being disordered, it should be noted that we share with one another this essential quality; we do not focus on the disorder of the other while overlooking our own disorder before a holy God.' 
Mark A Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture , p.41.  

CREATION

'We're not committed to any particular way that God chose to create the worlds save that it was by His Word.'
Jonathan Fletcher, Dear Friends: Selected Writings, p.52. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

FRIENDSHIP

'They enjoyed working together because they did not have to waste time in explanations.' 
Wendell Berry, 'A Friend of Mine' in That Distant Land, p.327. 

A DYING MAN

'Once he woke me to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. "Andy," he said. "Listen." He said the psalm to me. I lay listening to his old, slow voice coming through the dark to me, saying that he walked through the valley of the shadow of death and was not afraid. It stood my hair up. I had known that psalm all my life. I had heard it and said it a thousand times. But until then I had always felt that it came from a long way off, some place I had not lived. Now, hearing him speak it, it seemed to me for the first time to utter itself in our tongue and to wear our dust. My grandfather slept again after that, but I did not.' 
Wendell Berry, 'That Distant Land' in That Distant Land, p.313. 

DEATH

'It was, it would be truer to say, a great weariness that had come upon him, like the lesser weariness that comes with the day's end - a weariness that had been earned, and was therefore accepted.' 
Wendell Berry, 'That Distant Land' in That Distant Land, p.310. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

THE POWER OF DESIRE

'We are controlled in our world by an implicit affirmation that our desires are worth satisfying. Christians need to make the apologetic case that not all our desires are worth satisfying and many of them are conflicting ones. The greatest and deepest desires, for significance, for security, for eternity, can be satisfied only by being found in God's redemptive grace in Christ.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.171. 

CHURCH GOVERNMENT

'Individuals do not govern the church - God does. We all need to be reminded that the major decisions facing the church have already been made.'
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.170. 

TRUE WORSHIP

'At the heart of worship is a sense of "giving yourself away" to another. Key to worship then are the questions "To whom are you giving yourself away and in what manner are you giving yourself?" Genuine worship is giving yourself to the living God in whom and for whom you have been created. Idolatry by contrast is substituting the true object of worship (God) for an imitation (idol) and re orientating the relationship from worship to possession.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.156. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

HUMANKIND

'The gaols are full of blokes we'd swear are different to us. Only difference is, they did things you and me just thought about. 
That's still a big difference, said Rose. 
Maybe. A second's difference.' 
Tim Winton, Cloudstreet, p.408. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

IDOLATRY & CONTROL

'...idolatry was not in the first instance a cognitive error (believing in other gods) but a fallacy of the heart (yearning for control).' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.86. 

IDENTITY & IDOLATRY

'Humans are made by the divine artist as his reflections. The idols were made by the human artists, and in an ironic twist, the human artist became a reflection of the idol.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.81. 

Monday, 26 October 2015

THE KEY QUESTION OF SCRIPTURE

'The key question of the Scriptures is, what will images reflect? Will the image of God (humankind) image God? It seems a simple question. Will the image of God find his or her identity in the reflection of God?'  
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.42. 

THE IDOLATRY DEFEATER

'Idolatry is unmasked not by a sheer unmitigated self-criticism. Idolatry requires a light that illuminates its true character. Throughout the canon that "light" is none other that the true and living God.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.41. 

ATHEISM

'If all claims about God, including the claim that he does not exist, derive from ulterior motives, then atheism is susceptible to the critique of ulterior motives as well.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.41. 

IDOLATRY & DESIRE

'Looking for good reasons to believe in idols is a category mistake. We are attracted to idols not on rational grounds but rather as means to gratify desires. We believe in idols because we want to, even as an alcoholic is attracted to alcohol because he wants it. There is rational consideration only in the very vaguest of senses.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.40. 

ADDICTION

'Addictions are complex, progressive and often disabling. But addictions are entered into voluntarily and often without much forethought. They do not begin with raging compulsion. But somehow mysteriously desire turns into compulsion and addicts lose a sense of their former identity. What drives the addiction is a longing for satisfaction. This desire for fulfillment runs deep in the human heart. Satisfaction, however, is not to be had simply anywhere or with anyone. It is part of the hardwiring of the human heart that satisfaction will be found in that which is finally good and true and beautiful, namely God.'  
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.40.  

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MARRIAGE

'The root metaphor for Israel's relationship to God and idols is that of the marital relationships. As husband and wife are forbidden to have sexual relations with any other partner, so Israel is forbidden from worshiping any but their true bridegroom.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.36. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

THE LAW

'Not until the law has bruised and smitten us we will admit our need of the gospel to bind our wounds. Not until the law has arrested and imprisoned us we will pine for Christ to set us free. Not until the law has condemned and killed us will we call upon Christ for justification and life. Not until the law has driven us to despair of ourselves will we ever believe in Jesus. Not until the law has humbled us even to hell will we turn to the gospel to raise us to heaven.' 
John Stott, Galatians, p.93. 

LAW & GRACE

'It is only when one submits to the law that one can speak of grace...I don't think it is Christian to want to get to the New Testament too soon and too directly.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in John Stott, Galatians, p.93.  

THE ROLE OF THE LAW

'Satan would have us prove ourselves holy by the law, which God gave to prove us sinners.' 
Andrew Jukes in John Stott, Galatians, p.90. 

IMAGE OF GOD

'The language of "image" argues for a dependence upon an "original".'
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p.29.  

IDENTITY

'The irony of identity is that by looking away from ourselves we are more likely to discover our identity.' 
Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry: The image of God and its inversion, p.11. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF APPLICATION

'We have given the first place to the doctrine in which our religion is contained, since our salvation begins with it. But, it must enter our hearts and pass along to our daily living, and so transform us into itself that it may not be unfruitful for us...'
John Calvin in Timothy Lane, Living without Worry,  p.115. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

THE LAW

'...the law is like a cage. If it has bars, it can keep a lion from eating the lamb, but it can't prevent the lion from wanting to eat the lamb.'
Thomas R Schreiner, Galatians, p.252. 

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

'A child may be born heir to a great fortune and yet never be aware of his riches; may live childish, die childish, and never know the greatness of his possessions. And so also a man may be a babe in Christ's family, think as a babe, speak as a babe, and, though saved, never enjoy a lively hope, or know the real privileges of his inheritance.' 
JC Ryle in Timothy Lane, Living without Worry,  p.84. 

WORRY

'I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of a year - to a great bundle of sticks, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole bundle at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today; and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so forth. We can easily manage our troubles, if we would only carry the trouble appointed for each day. But the load will be too heavy for us - if we carry yesterday's burden again today, and then add the burden of tomorrow to the weight, before we are required to bear it.' 
John Newton in Timothy Lane, Living without Worry: How to replace anxiety with peace, p.78. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

THEOLOGICAL DISAGREEMENT

'We learn most, it seems, from those with whom we differ. They may see what we have missed. They may see correctly what we have misperceived. And even when we are convinced that the misconceptions are theirs, the raising of fresh questions invigorates our reading of familiar texts...' 
Stephen Westerholm, Justification Reconsidered, p.vii. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

THE PULLEY

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispers├Ęd lie,
   Contract into a span.”

   So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
   Rest in the bottom lay.

   “For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
   So both should losers be.

   “Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
   May toss him to my breast.”

George Herbert. On line at: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173635

MARRIAGE & FAMILY

'Christians do not believe marriage and family exist for themselves, but rather serve the ends of the more determinative community called church. The assumption that the family is an end in itself can only make the family and marriage more personally destructive. When families exist for no reason other than their own existence, they become quasi-churches, which ask sacrifices far too great for insufficient reasons.' 
Stanley Hauerwas in Christine O Colon and Bonnie E Field, Singled Out, p.221. 

DESIRE

'It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.' 
Ronald Rolheiser in Christine O Colon and Bonnie E Field, Singled Out, p.216. 

JESUS' SEXUALITY

'Jesus gives us the perfect model for social sexuality. His gentleness and concern for the marginalizes smash the stupid stereotypes of male machismo. His strength and courage overturn the sticky sentimental notions of "Jesus meek and mild." He kept his social sexuality distinct from his genital sexuality by relating in powerfully wholesome, upbuilding, nongenital ways with persons of both sexes.' 
Marva Dawn in Christine O Colon and Bonnie E Field, Singled Out, p.214. 

SEXUALITY

'In its maturity, sexuality is about giving oneself over to community, friendship, family, service, creativity, humor, delight, and martyrdom so that, with God, we can help bring life into the world.' 
Ronald Rolheiser in Christine O Colon & Bonnie E Field, Singled Out,  p.214. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

GRIEF

'The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade, turning up things you had forgotten. Surprising things come to light: not simply memories, but states of minds, emotions, older ways of seeing the world.' 
Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, p.199. 

IMAGINATION

'We carry the lives we've imagined as we carry the lives we have, and sometimes a reckoning comes of all of the lives we have lost.' 
Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, p.129. 

FALLING IN LOVE

'Falling in love is a desolating experience, but not when it is with a countryside.'
TH White in Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, p.39. 

LONELINESS

'The cure for loneliness is solitude.'
Marianne Moore in Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, p.32. 

GRIEF

'For weeks I felt I was made of dully burning metal. That's what it was like; so much that I was convinced, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that if you'd put me on a bed or a chair I would have burned right through.' 
Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, p.15. 

BEREAVEMENT

'Here's a word. Bereavement. Or, Bereaved. Bereft. It's from the Old English bereafian. meaning "to deprive of, take away, seize, rob." Robbed. Seized. It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone.' 
Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, p.13. 

GRACE & HAWKS

'Looking for goshawks is like looking for grace; it comes, but not often, and you don't get to say when or how.' 
Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, p.5. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

SIN

'No, I thought, growing more rebellious, life has its own laws and it is for me to defend myself against whatever comes along, without going snivelling to God about my sin, my own or other people's. How would it profit a man if he got into a tight place to call the people who put him there miserable sinners? Or himself a miserable sinner? I disliked the levelling aspect of this sinnerdom, it was like a cricket match played in a drizzle, where everyone had an excuse - and what a dull excuse! - for playing badly. Life was meant to test a man, bring out his courage, initiative, resource; and I longed, I thought, to be tested: I did not want to fall on my knees and call myself a miserable sinner.' 
LP Hartley, The Go-Between, p.69. 

Monday, 28 September 2015

SINGLENESS

'The married Christian ultimately should trust that his or her survival is guaranteed in the resurrection; the single Christain ultimately must trust in the resurrection. The married, after all, can fall back on the passage of the family name to children, and on being remembered by children. But singles mount the high wire of faith without the net of children and their memory. If singles live on, it will be because there is a resurrection. And of they are remembered, they will be remembered by the family called church.' 
Rodney Clapp in Christine A Colon & Bonnie E Field, Singled Out, p.170. 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

TEMPTATION

'He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreatehed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race.' 
John Milton in Christine A Colon & Bonnie E Field, Singled Out: Why Celibacy MustBe Reinvented in Today's Church, p.108. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

PRAYER

'A friend recently described an incident with her father who suffered from progressively severe dementia, and who had almost completely lost the power to communicate. A televised act of worship was being shown and on impluse my friend said to her father, "Do you still pray, Dad?"
To her surprise he responded with a distinct "Yes".
"What do you say to God when you pray?"
"I say...(long pause)...Hello..."
No more was forthcoming, but no more needed to be said.' 
John Wyatt, Matters of Life & Death: Human dilemmas in the light of the Christian faith, p.237. 

TRUE MASCULINITY

'A real man is someone who lays down his life for the women in his life. Defining gender in terms of relationship to the other gender means that many of the things that we may think are masculine- or feminine-defining really are not. You might have a group of guys in one place who do similar things, but as soon as you go outside that group, you might find a perfectly good man who doesn't do the same thing. So that cannot be what masculinity is. The error is to think about manliness in isolation. Gender is made for relationship. Take it out of relationship - you lose what it is.' 
Sam A Andreades, Engendered, p.141.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

GENDER

'If even the Bible cannot talk about it without some inelegenace, maybe clumsiness is inherent in the matter itself. Let me suggest that this is indeed the case. Clumsiness is endemic because of what gender really is: a fundamental element of bearing the image of God. Gender is hard to understand because God is hard to understand.' 
Sam A Andreades, Engendered: God's Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship, p.37. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

FRIENDSHIP

'When I looked at him I could feel a grin coming across my soul.'
Wendell Berry, 'The Discovery of Kentucky' in That Distant Land, p.261.

CIVILIZATION

'Curbing personal dreams for a greater good is a defining mark of civilization.' 
Tony Little, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Education, p.10. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

ACCOUNTABILITY

'Let's enter into partnerships to pray together, memorize God's Word together, read and study Scripture together, and do good deeds together. That is how iron sharpens iron. The iron blade becomes dull and rusty when we simply wallow together in a losing battle of willpower or when we meet together for the sole purpose of beating each other up. Accountability is about developing spiritual disciples, not about eliminating sinful behaviors. Wouldn't you like to have an accountability relationship like that?' 
Steve Gerali, The Struggle, p.155. 

Monday, 7 September 2015

THE MODERN ECONOMY

'...the modern market economy does not mature into forms of settled relationships. On the contrary, it is a dynamic force demanding ever greater adaptability and complexity in people's lives. On the consumption side, it is in the system's self-interest to create appetities that can never be satisfied and always stand poised to switch to the next big thing. On the production side, the same self-interest demands that economic organizations show little real loyalty to the people who are working for them. In the mdoern firm's striving for operational efficiency and effectiveness, everyone and everything must be ultimately disposable. Because of their higher salaries, retirement benefits, and health costs, employess with a long-term commitment to the organization can appear as little more than a financial drain on the bottom line. Not surprisingly, today's workers have realized that to survive, they must reciprocate with the same lack of institutional loyalty.' 
Hugh Heclo, On Thinking Institutionally, p.167. 

Friday, 4 September 2015

SUBMITTING TO THE PAST

'To be willing to submit to what has been received is a distinctly unfashionable idea in contemporary society. That is why the canon of Western literary classics has aroused such controversy in modern academia. It is why in all the arts, modern critics have had a field day cutting the masters down to size and declaring "genius" to be merely a socially constructed category. Scratch below the surface and you will see that the difficulty is not really that the allegedly "great" works were created by European white males. If Shakespeare was someday discovered to be  black woman, the problem with honoring the excellence of the classics would still be the same. It would be the problem of submitting to the authority of Shakespeare and his, or her, brilliance.' 
Hugh Heclo, On Thinking Institutionally, p. 100. 

THE POWER OF HABIT

'It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all the copybooks, and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform without thinking about them.'
Alfred North Whitehead in Hugh Heclo, On Thinking Institutionally, p.97. 

SCIENCE

'To think scientifically is to trust whole-heartedly that the presumed order of the natural world is accessible to man's scientific investigation - that any truths about the nature of things expressed in empirical data can actually be grasped by the powers of the human mind. The social institution of science, with its framework of moral agency and purpose, shows that among the most incomprehensible things about the universe is the fact that there is a creature in it that should imagine it is comprehensible.' 
Hugh Heclo, On Thinking Institutionally, p.88. 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF INSTITUTIONS

'To live in a culture that turns its back on institutions is equivalent to trying to live in a physical body without its skeleton or hoping to use a language but not its grammar. A culture wholly commited to distrusting its institutions is a self-contradiction.' 
Hugh Heclo, On Thinking Insitutionally. p.38. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

HUMILITY

'Prayer is the ultimate humility, because it presents the empty cup of ourselves to God for his fullness in Christ.' 
Jared C Wilson, The Pastor's Justification, p.69. 

DISCIPLESHIP

'To be a follower of Jesus, you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life.' 
Mike Ayers in Jared C Wilson, The Pastor's Justification, p.65. 

HUMILITY

'To become humble is to have been humbled. Some choose humility; some have humility thrust upon them.' 
Jared C Wilson, The Pastor's Justification, p.65. 

THE DANGERS IN THE TRUTH

'Truth seduces us very easily into a kind of joy of possession: I have comprehended this and that, learned it, understood it. Knowledge is power. I am therefore more than the other man who does not know this and that. I have great possibilities and also greater temptations. Anyone who deals with truth - as we theologians certainly do - succumbs all too easily to the psychology of the possessor. But love is the opposite of the will to possess. It is self-giving. It boasteth not in itself, but humbleth itself.' 
Helmut Thielicke in Jared C Wilson, The Pastor's Justification, p.62. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

A PASTOR'S SELF-CONTROL

'Can he have a drink without needing  a drink? Can he surf the web without feeling the tractor pull of porn? Can he prepare for his sermon or research a writing project online without surfing the web at all? Can he spend long, unhalting periods of time reading a book or listening to sermon audio? Does he need constant stimulation? Can he take a nap? Can he read a critical letter without becoming sinfully self-defensive and self-justifying? Can he hear of the successes of others and not covet or begrudge? Will he rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? All these are issues of self-control.' 
Jared C Wilson, The Pastor's Justification,. p.52. 

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

'A pastor goes first. In groups where transparency is expected, a pastor goes first. In the humility of service, a pastor goes first. In the sharing of the gospel with the lost, a pastor goes first. In the discipleship of new believers, a pastor goes first.  In the singing of spiritual songs with joy and exuberance, a pastor goes first. In living generously, a pastor goes first. In the following of Christ by the taking up of one's cross, a pastor goes first. All I am saying is that one who talks the talk ought to walk the walk. Don't lead your flock through domineering; lead by example.' 
Jared C Wilson, The Pastor's Justification, p.48. 

MONDAY MORNINGS

'My first thoughts on Monday mornings are to my fatigue and all I must do, but I must push them into thoughts of Christ, of all he is and all he has done. There lies the vision that compels my will.' 
Jared C Wilson, The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry, p.34.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

PREACHING

'Without the help of the Holy Spirit, I believe all of us tend naturally toward being mainly warm and gentle or mainly forceful and authoritative in the pulpit. We must recognize our imbalance and seek the Lord for growth into the fullness of his holy character.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.200. 

BEING A MINISTER

'A Christian minister has three basic roles or functions - preaching, pastoring/ counselling, and leading. No one is equally gifted in all three areas, and yet we must do them all. The greatest factor in the long-term effectiveness of a Christian minister is how (or whether) the gift-deficient areas in his skill set are mitigated by the strong grace operations in his character. The leadership literature advises us to know our weaknesses, our gift-deficient area. It usually tells us to surround ourselves with a team of people with complementary gifts, and this is certainly wise if you can do it. But even if you can, that is not sufficient, for your gift deficient areas will undermine you unless there is compensatory godliness. What do I mean? 
You may not have strong public-speaking gifts, but if you are godly, your wisdom and love and courage will make you an interesting preacher. You may not have strong pastoral or counselling gifts (e.g., you may be very shy or introverted), but if you are godly, your wisdom and love and courage will enable you to comfort and guide people. You may not have strong leaderships gifts (e.g., you may be disorganized or cautious by nature) but if you are godly, your wisdom and love and courage will mean that people will respect and follow you.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.196. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

THE VALUE OF CREATIVITY

'The Lord who created must wish us to create
And employ our creation again in His service
Which is already His service in creating.'
TS Eliot, Choruses from "The Rock", IX. 

THE CHURCH TODAY

'Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her
  laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they
  like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.'
TS Eliot, Choruses from "The Rock", VI. 

THE LACK OF COMMUNITY

'What life have you if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of God.
Even the anchorite who meditates alone,
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of God,
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads.
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour...'
TS Eliot, Choruses from "The Rock", II.

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

'"Our citizenship is in Heaven"; yes, but that is the model and
type for your citizenship upon earth.'
TS Eliot, Choruses from "The Rock", II.

MODERN LIFE

'The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us  nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?'
TS Eliot, Choruses from "The Rock", I 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

ILLUSTRATIONS

'The essence of a good illustration ...is to evoke a remembered sense experience and bring it into connection with a principle. That makes the truth real both by helping listeners better understand it and by inclining their hearts more to love it.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.173. 

SIN

'Sin is the suicidal action of the human soul against itself.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.172. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

FREEDOM

'Freedom is not, then, simply the absence of restrictions, but rather consists of finding the right, liberating restrictions.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.144. 

IDENTITY

'Imagine an Anglo-Saxon warrior in Britain in AD 800. He has two very strong inner impulses and feelings. One is aggression. He loves to smash and kill people when they show him disrespect. Living in a shame-and-honor culture with its warrior ethic, he will identify with that feeling. He will say to himself, That's me! That's who I am! I will express that! The other feeling he senses is same-sex attraction. To that he will say, That's not me. I will control and suppress that impulse. Now imagine a young man walking around Manhattan today. He has the same two inward impulses, both equally strong, both difficult to control. What will he say? He will look at the aggression and think, This is not who I want to be, and will seek deliverance in therapy and anger-management programs. He will look at his sexual desire, however, and conclude, This is who I am. 
What does this thought experiment show us? Primarily it reveals that we do not get our identity simply from within. Rather, we receive some interpretative moral grid, lay it down over our various feelings and impulses, and sift them through it. This grid helps us decide which feelings are "me" and should be expressed - and which are not and should not be. So this grid of interpretative beliefs - not an innate, unadulterated expression of our feelings - is what gives us our identity. Despite protests to the contrary, we instinctively know our inner depths are insufficient to guide us. We need some standard or rule from outside of us to help us sort out the warring impulses of our interior life. 
And where do our Anglo-Saxon warrior and our modern Manhattan man get their grids? From their cultures, their communities, their heroic stories. They are actually not simply "choosing to be themselves" - they are filtering their feelings, jettisoning some and embracing others. They are choosing to be the selves their cultures tell them they may be. In the end, an identity based independently on your inner feelings is impossible.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.136.

SECULAR FAITH

'What is unique about late modernity in history's marketplace of worldviews is this. Nonsecular cultures are overt about their faith, and their members acknowledge the faith nature of their beliefs. Many late-modern secular people, however, don't see or grant the faith leaps that they are taking.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.125.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

THE SELF-INTEREST IN ATHEISM

'It isn't just that I don't believe in God and naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God: I don't want the universe to be like that...This cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition.'
Thomas Nagel in Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.108.

GOD'S LOVE

'God said to Abraham, "Now I know you love me, because you did not withold your son, your only son whom you love, from  me." Now we can say to God, "Now we know that you love us, because you did not withold your son, your only son whom you love, from us."'
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.77.

Monday, 3 August 2015

LAW VS. GOSPEL

'...both the law and the gospel are expressions of God's grace.'
Sinclair Ferguson in Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.55.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

THE PASTORAL EPISTLES

'Why has modern criticism remained so especially defensive toward the Pastorals? What about them was so offensive to modernity? Why were they singled out for some of the most unreasonable and virulent attacks and speculative pseudo-scientific treatment of all New Testament documents? Is it because they were concerned with transmission of tradition, with the ordering of the church and its leadership, and with the rigorous resistance of false teaching?'
Thomas C Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus, p.11. 

PREACHING & CULTURE

'Cultural engagement in preaching must never be for the sake of appearing "relevant" but rather must be for the purpose of laying bare the listener's life foundations.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching, p.21. 

PREACHING

'We are social-cultural beings, and our inner-heart motivations are profoundly shaped by the human communities in which we are embedded. In the course of expounding a biblical text the Christian preacher should compare and contrast the Scripture's message with the foundational beliefs of the culture which are usually invisible to people inside it, in  order to help people understand themselves more fully. If done rightly it can lead people to say to themselves, Oh, so that's why I tend to think and feel that way. This can be one of the most liberating and catalytic steps in a person's journey to faith in Christ.' 
Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Scepticism, p.21

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

PARENTING & HOSPITALITY

'...if we have had a ministry to the lost, and if our children have seen us embracing our neighbors who are struggling, or hardened, or falling under the weight of sin and tragedy, perhaps, just perhaps, our children will trust us with their deep things. Perhaps they will remember that we embraced our neighbors and strangers, that we loved them and prayed for them, and that we were not jostled or unsettled to share block parties or BBQs, our churches and our homes, with troubled people. Perhaps our love of those image bearers, all of them, especially the difficult ones, will be a pledge to our children that the mosaics of their private lives are safe with us.'
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, p.158.

HOSPITALITY

'Hospitality begins with loving the stranger. So the first reality check to do id this: if everybody at your table is on the same page and from the same side of the tracks, you aren't practicing hospitality. You may need to do a heart-check here as well. It is easier to feel safe in the company of people who are just like you, who struggle and identify with the same things you do. But creating a safe space is not the ultimate point or purpose of Christian hospitality.'
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, p.153.

CONTROVERSY OVER SIN

'It is almost incredible how much ground the devil takes when he has once made sin a matter of controversy: some are of one mind, and some of the other; you are of one opinion, and I am of another. If it were ever a controversy whether drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, swearing, stealing, or any villainy were a sin or not, it would be committed more commonly and with much less regret of conscience. By this means, good men themselves are dangerously disabled to resist sin, and are more prepared to commit it. Take heed lest the devil cast you into this sleep of carnal security.'  
Richard Baxter in Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, p.135.

Monday, 27 July 2015

IDENTITY & TEMPTATION

'Making an identity out of temptation is like putting on the opposing team's jersey at a ball game and then taking to the field: it is confusing, deceptive, and dangerous. How can we make an identity out of temptation? By collapsing what you desire with who you are. By collapsing what tempts you or what trips you up with who you will become.'
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, p.83.

TEMPTATION

'Temptation yielded to is lust deified.'
Oswald Chambers in Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, p.75.

BIBLE READING & PRAYER

'If we rush through Bible reading and prayer time, we miss the blessing and the power. Often because of misplaced priorities, we unwittingly limp along on a starvation diet of Scripture, forgetting that we have an appointment with Satan, our deceiver and accuser, the minute we rise from our reading chair. Our time in the Word and prayer should change us. Through it, we should be transformed, equipped, encouraged, and prepared. We should never neglect our Bible reading and prayer time, knowing that we do so only at our own spiritual peril.' 
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, p.57.

TEMPTATION

'Temptation patterns linger, but they do not rule your life anymore and they do not define you. Temptation patterns are outsiders to your true nature in Christ. They don't co-reign with Christ even as they remain. But if you are alive, you will struggle with temptation. And if you have become an expert in practicing a particular sin, you can bet your bottom dollar that you have body memories than can recall this well-practiced sin to mind. I sure do. It is crucial for those of us with long track records of cultivating indwelling sin to know our enemy: woe to you if you grow sentimental about these loitering temptation patterns and try to make a little room for them in your life.'
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, p.55. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

THE GOSPEL

'The gospel is a story about a king who appears as a plumber's assistant.'
Thomas C Oden, A Change of Heart, p.265.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

HERESY

'The providential reason God allows heresy among the faithful, according to the ancient Christian writers, is to challenge the worshiping community to correct its exaggerations so as to bring it back into the balanced consensus.'
Thomas C Oden, A Change of Heart, p.165.

MODERNITY VS. ORTHODOXY

'Modernity has only lasted less than a dozen generations, while orthodox Christianity has already flourished for more than four hundred generations and shows no sign of fatigue. Yet orthodoxy seems like the newcomer in the university and to the cultural elites, since that is where it has been most forgotten. 
The list of modernities since the patristic period that have been transcended by orthodoxy is too long to describe here. Tribalism, feudalism, nominalism and social utopianism provide examples.'
Thomas C Oden, A Change of Heart, p.164.

CLASSIC CHRISTIANITY

'The gift of classic Christianity will only be received when people are ready to receive it and be comforted by it. In order for that to happen, they must be willing to let modern consciousness collapse of its own weight. This recognition is happening on a person-by-person basis.'
Thomas C Oden, A Change of Heart, p.164.

THEOLOGY

'Theology is the study of God. The study of God is simply to be enjoyed for its own incomparable subject, the One most beautiful, most worthy, to be praised. Life with God delights in its very acts of thinking, reading, praying and communing with the One most worthy to be beheld, pondered and studied, not for its written artifacts or social consequences but for joy in its object.'
Thomas C Oden, A Change of Heart, p.147.

CHRISTIAN TEACHING

'What the ancient church teachers least wished for Christian teachers is that they would become focused on self-expression or become an assertion of purely private inspiration, as if those might claim to be some decisive improvement on apostolic teaching.'
Thomas C Oden, A Change of Heart, p.144.

THOMAS ODEN

'In the Epiphany of 1971 I had a curious dream in which I was in the New Haven cemetery and accidentally stumbled upon my own tombstone with this puzzling epitaph: "He made no new contribution to theology." I woke refreshed and relieved.'
Thomas C Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir, p.143.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

EMPATHY

'As if his anger had finally stripped all else away, suddenly Wheeler saw Uncle Peach as perhaps Dorie had always seen him - a poor, hurt, weak mortal, twice hurt because he knew himself to be hurt and weak and mortal.'
Wendell Berry, 'Thicker than Liquor' in That Distant Land, p.161.

LIQUOR

'Blood is thicker than liquor.'
Wendell Berry, 'Thicker than Liquor' in That Distant Land, p.150.

Friday, 17 July 2015

BEAUTY

'My grandfather had an eye for things that were "beautiful" like a sunset, but he would explain it in mostly functional terms, not abstract aesthetic ones. He seemed to love the landscape around him with a passion, but his relationship with it was more like a long tough marriage than a fleeting holiday love affair. His work bound him to the land, regardless of weather or the seasons. When he observed something like a spring sunset, it carried the full meaning of someone who has earned the right to comment, having suffered six months of wind, snow and rain to get to that point. He clearly thought such things beautiful, but that beauty was full of real functional implications - namely the end of winter or better weather to come.' 
James Rebanks, The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District, p.72. 

LIFE

'...the struggle against sin and for virtue is the central drama of life. No external conflict is as consequential or as dramatic as the inner campaign against our own deficiencies.' 
David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.263. 

GRIEF

'The safe and general antidote against sorrow is employment...Sorrow is kind of rust of the soul, which every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away. It is the putrefaction of stagnant life and is remedied by exercise and motion.'
Samuel Johnson in David Brooks, The Road of Character, p.226.

SAMUEL JOHNSON

'Johnson was a great moralist because of his deficiencies. He came to understand that he would never defeat them. He came to understand that his story would not be the sort of virtue-conquers-vice story people like to tell. It would be, ta best, a virtue learns-to-live-with-vice story. He wrote that he did seek cures for his failings, but palliatives. This awareness of permanent struggle made him sympathetic to others' failings. He was a moralist, but a tenderhearted one.'
David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.224.

LOVE

'You will be loved the day when you will be able to show your weakness without the person using it to assert his strength.'
Cesar Pevase in David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.170.

PASTORAL CARE

'We are all called at certain moments to comfort people who are enduring some trauma. Many of us don't know how to react in such situations but others do. In the first place, they just show up. They provide a ministry of presence. Next, they don't compare. The sensitive person understands that each person's ordeal is unique and should not be compared to anyone else's. Next, they do the the practical things - making the lunch, dusting the room, washing the towels. Finally, they don't try to minimize what is goin on. They don't say that the pain is all for the best. They don't search for silver linings. They do what wise souls do in the presence of tragedy and trauma. They practice a passive activism. They don't bustle about trying to solve something that cannot be solves. The sensitive person grants the sufferer the dignity of her own process. She lets the sufferer define the meaning of what is going on. She just sits simply through through the nights of pain and darkness, being practical, human, simple, and direct.'
David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.100. 

WRITING

'Writing is an act of community. It is a letter, it is comforting, consoling, helping, advising on our part as well as asking for it on yours. It is part of our human association with each other. It is an expression of our love and concern for each other.'
Dorothy Day in David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.98.

Monday, 13 July 2015

SIN

'Sin is a necessary part of our mental furniture because it reminds us that life is a moral affair. No matter how hard we try to reduce everything to deterministic brain chemistry, no matter how hard we try to reduce behavior to the sort of herd instinct that is captured in big data, no matter how hard we try to replace sin with nonmoral words, like "mistake" or "error" or "weakness," the most essential parts of life are matters of individual responsibility and moral choice: whether to be brave or cowardly, honest or deceitful, compassionate or callous, faithful or disloyal. When modern culture tries to replace sin with ideas like error or insensitivity, or tries to banish words like "virtue," character," "evil," and "vice" altogether, that doesn't make life any less moral; it just means that we have obscured the inescapable moral core of life with shallow language. It just means we think and talk about these choices less clearly, and thus become increasingly blind to the moral stakes of everyday life. 
Sin is also a necessary place of our mental furniture because sin is communal, while error is individual. You make a mistake, but we are plagued by sins like selfishness and thoughtlessness. Sin is baked into our nature and is handed down through the generations. We are all sinners together. To be aware of sin is to feel intense sympathy toward others who sin. It is to be reminded that as the plight of sin is communal, so the solutions are communal. We fight sin together, as communities and families, fighting our own individual sins by helping others fight theirs.
Furthermore, the concept of sin is necessary because it is radically true. To say you are a sinner is not to say that you have some black depraved sin on your heart. It is to say that, like the rest of us, you have some perversity in your nature. We want to do one thing, but we end up doing another.We want what we should not want, None of us wants to be hard-hearted, but sometimes we are. None of us wants to self-deceive, but we rationalize all the time. No one to be cruel, but we all blurt things out and regret them later. No one wants to be a bystander, to commit sins of omission, but, in the words of the poet Marguerite Wilkinson, we all commit the sin of "unattempted loveliness."'
David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.54.

VOCATION

'Nothing is worth doing that can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.'
Reinhold Niebuhr in David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.46.

VOCATION

'...vocations almost always involve tasks that transcend a lifetime. They almost always involve throwing yourself into a historical process. They involve compensating for the brevity of life by finding membership in a historic commitment.'
David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.46.

VOCATION

'At what points do my talents and deep gladness meet the world's deep need?'
Frederick Buechner in David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.22.

HUMANKIND

'If we acknowledge that our inclination to sin is part of our natures, and that we will never wholly eradicate it, there is at least something for us to do in our lives that will not in the end seem just futile and absurd.'
Henry Fairlie in David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.11. 

WISDOM

'...wisdom isn't a body of information. It's the moral quality of knowing what you don't know and figuring out a way to handle your ignorance, uncertainty, and limitation. 
The people we think are wise have, to some degree, overcome the biases and overconfident tendencies that are infused in our nature.'
David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.9

CHANGE

'Moral improvement occurs most reliably when the heart is warmed, when we come into contact with people we admire and love and consciously and unconsciously bend our lives to mimic theirs.' 
David Brooks, The Road to Character, p.xiii.

PROGRESS

',...one of the characteristic diseases of the twentieth century was making its way: the suspicion that they would be greatly improved if they were somewhere else.'
Wendell Berry, 'Pray Without Ceasing' in That Distant Land, p.49.

HUMILITY

'...we are as little children. Some know it and some don't.'
Wendell Berry, 'Pray Without Ceasing' in That Distant Land: The Collected Stories, p.44. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

THE PURPOSE OF MORTAL LOVE

'The supernatural purpose of mortal love, and the cause of its sweet sorrow, is to awaken in us the longing for that greater love which alone can give us all that we long for.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.142. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

EVANGELICAL GNOSTICISM

'...too often the church...has syncretized biblical theism and the modern worldview, resulting in "evangelical gnosticism" a worldview that confines God to a spiritual realm that is disconnected from the rest of creation. At its core, evangelical gnosticism fails to understand who Jesus Christ really is, replacing the the biblical Jesus with "Star Trek Jesus," who beams our souls up out of this world, a world in which He is fundamentally disinterested, a world from which He is fundamentally disconnected. "Star Trek Jesus" has nothing to do with our daily human  existence, promising one day to transport our souls out of here into some disembodied, new, nonhuman existence called heaven; an existence that, quite frankly, doesn't sound very appealing to most of us, because we are humans and can only imagine what its like to be, well, human! 
In contrast, "Colossians 1 Jesus," is the Creator, Sustainer, and Reconciler of all things, the King whose kingdom is wiping out all of our diseases and all of our poverty. "Colossians 1 Jesus" doesn't ask us to stop being humans in this world or the next. Rather "Colossians 1 Jesus" cares about our bodies, cares about our souls, and cares about the entire world that those bodies and souls are experiencing.'
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, p.248. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

TEMPTATION

'Vices are potholes in the landscape of the character, but no one is compelled to fall into them. The great thing is to keep an eye on one's feet, and watch where one is going.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.99. 

BODIES

'From time immemorial one of the meanings of the word "person" has been simply "body," for although we are more than our bodies, we are never less than our bodies.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.73. 

LOVE

'Love that is mute in the language of promises, though it might be called love, is not love but something else.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.68. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

ALL WOMEN ARE MOTHERS

'...every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother.' 
Alice von Hildebrand in J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.56. 

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SEXES

'Yes, of course, cultures try to nuance the difference between men and women in different ways, but that does not make the difference itself just a product of culture. And yes, not all women are more nurturing than all men, not all men are more assertive than women, and so on. Even so, the fact that most women are more nurturing than most men is much more than an accident. It arises from a genuine difference in the underlying reality, the difference between womanhood and manhood as such.
To say that there is a real difference between manhood and manhood as such is not at all to say that this difference is simple or all-encompassing. Because men and women are not different species, but corresponding sexes of the same species, each is defined partly in terms of the other. When called upon to dos so, they can even step outside of their roles in some ways, they can become partners in some of the same tasks, and they can even tone down some of their differences. None of this means they are the same! For even when men and women do step out of their roles, they tend to have different motives for doing so. Even when they do share tasks, they tend to view them differently. And even when they do tone down their differences down, the most common reason is they have taught each other something. How is it that they have something to teach each other? Because they are not the same.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.50. 

MEN AND WOMEN

'How many more colors there are in the world because there are two sexes and not just one! How amusing they are to each other, and yet how baffling! Mutual perplexity can be part of the fun, a fountain of mirth, making the shimmering hues of strangeness sparkle all the more. In our day, though, perplexity isn't so amusing; it has an edge to it. We see alll those colors all right, but admitting to the sight is considered shameful and offensive. Just as some ages have held it loutish to work with ones hands, so our times holds it crude to make use of one's eyes. So we make ourselves a little blind. We squint, throw dust in our eyes, and try not to look at things straight on.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.35. 

SEX & PROCREATION

'Among humans, procreation takes place within the context of a unitive relationship. To destroy the unitive meaning of the procreative act is to turn it into a different act altogether, for it is no longer procreation, but production; the child is no longer an expression of his parents' love, but an output, a product. In simple truth, he has no parents. He was orphaned before his conception. His relation to his caretaker is that of a thing bought and paid for, to the one who bought and paid for it.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.32. 

SEXUAL DIFFERENCE

'One condition that makes the mutual gift of selves possible is that the two selves have something to give - that they complement each other.' 
J Budziszewski, On The Meaning of Sex, p.28. 

OUR BODIES SPEAK

'A bodily action is like a word; we mean things to each other no less by what we do than by what we say. In fact, when the speech of the mouth contradicts the speech of the body, the body's speech reveals the mouth's. To crush your windpipe with my thumbs is to say to you, "Now die," even if I tell you with my mouth, "Be alive." To join one flesh, is to say, "I give myself to you in all this act means," even if my mouth shapes the words, "This means nothing,"' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.27. 

THE MEANING OF SEX

'Why not say that the meaning and purpose of the sexual powers is pleasure? Certainly sex is pleasurable, but there is nothing distinctive about that. In various ways and degrees, the exercise of every voluntary power is pleasurable. It is pleasurable to eat, pleasurable to breathe, even pleasurable to flex the muscles of the leg. The problem is that eating is pleasurable even if I am eating too much, breathing is pleasurable even if I am sniffing glue, flexing the muscles is pleasurable even if I am kicking the dog. For a criterion of when it is good to enjoy each pleasure, one must look beyond the fact that it is a pleasure.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.24. 

NATURAL LAW

'If it really were impossible to derive an ought from the is of the human design, then the practice of medicine would make no sense. Neither would the practice of health education. Consider the young glue-sniffer again. How should we advise him? Is the purpose of his lungs irrelevant? Should we say to him, "Sniff all you want, because an is does not imply an ought"? Of course not; we should advise him to kick the habit. We ought to respect the is of our design. Nothing in us should be put into action in a way that flouts its inbuilt meanings and purposes.'
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.22. 

THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION

'At the dawn of the sexual revolution, social scientists produced statistical studies purporting to show that children are better off when quarreling parents divorce, that broken homes are just as functional as intact ones, and that cohabitation has no influence on the stability of the consequent marriage. As anyone conversant with the field now knows, newer and more careful studies show all that to be wildly false. A young, untenured family sociologist who I know used to circulate the results of these new studies secretly among other scholars. But he asked me and his other friends never to mention his name. Why? Because calling the mirage a mirage is a good way to end a career.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.13. 

WRITING BOOKS

'Someone might say that no-one should write a book until he is in full possession of the quarry he seeks, but in that case no one should write a book, because in this life knowledge comes little by little.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.11. 

TRUE FREEDOM

'...human nature is not a master, distinct from us, reducing us to bondage. It is the deep structure of what we really are. The fact that we are not free to be other than human doesn't mean that we aren't free; how could it truly be freedom to be false to ourselves? Blue may as well demand the liberty to be red, odd the liberty to be even, vegetable the liberty to be mineral. That kind of liberty is just the liberty of self-annihilation. But if true freedom doesn't lie in being false to ourselves, then as the old adage claims, it must lie in being true to ourselves.'  
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.7. 

LIBERALS

'Liberals stand up for victims of oppression and exclusion. They fight to break down arbitray barriers (such as those based on race, and more recently on sexual orientation). But their zeal to help victims, combined with their low scores on the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations, often lead them to push for changes that weaken groups, traditions, institutions, and moral capital. For example, the urge to help the inner-city poor led to programs in the 1960s that reduced the value of marriage, increased out-of-wedlock births, and weakened African American families. The urge to empower studets by giving them the right to sue their teachers and schools in the 1970s has eroded authority and moral capital in schools, creating disorderly environments that harm the poor above all. The urge to help Hispanic immigrants in the 1980s led to multicultural education programs that emphasized the differences among Americans rather than their shared values and identity. Emphasizing differences makes many people more racist, not less.
On issue after issues, it's as though liberals are trying to help a subset of bees (which really  does need their help) even if doing so damages the hive. Such "reforms" may lower the overall welfare of a society, and sometimes they even hurt the very victims liberals were trying to help.' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.361. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY

'To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.' 
Edmund Burke in Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.359. 

SOCIETY & MORALITY

'Religions are moral exoskeletons. If you live in a religious community, you are enmeshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarily on the elephant to influence your behavior. But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to reply somewhat more on an internal moral compass, read by the rider. That might sound appealing to rationalists, but it is also a recipe for anomie - Durkheim's word for what happens to a society that no longer has a shared moral order. (It means, literally, "normlessness."). We evolved to live, trade, and trust within shared moral matrices. When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and increase in suicide, as Durkheim showed more than a hundred years ago. 
Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don't really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever know at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.313. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

HUMANKIND

'...soon there will be nothing left to subdue the pride of men. There is nothing we will not have mastered. Except, of course, ourselves.' 
Philipp Meyer, The Son, p.396.

Friday, 19 June 2015

AWE

'Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life.' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.264. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

HUMANKIND

'We humans have a dual nature - we are selfish primates who long to be part of something larger and nobler than ourselves. We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee.'
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.255. 

CHIMPANZEES

'It is inconceivable that you would ever see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.' 
Michael Tomasello in Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.237.  

HUMANKIND

'Human beings are the giraffes of altruism. We're one-of-a-kind freaks of nature who occasionally - even if rarely - can be as selfless and team-spirited as bees. If your moral ideal is the person who devotes her life to serving strangers, well then, OK - such people are so rare that we send film crews out to record them for the evening news. But if you focus, as Darwin did, on the behavior in groups of people who know each other and share goals and values, then our ability to work together, divide labor, help each other, and function as a team is so all-pervasive that we don't even notice it.' You'll never see the headline. "Forty-five Unrelated College Students Work Together Cooperatively and for No Pay, to Prepare for Opening Night of Romeo and Juliet."'
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.230.  

THE PASSION OF UNFULFILLED LOVE

'Reading in bed last night...of Emily Bronte,  was struck by Emily's knowledge of passion without apparently having experienced it. I think after all that those who have never experienced passionate love can very easily imagine it, and having read deeply can know it even better than from actual experience. After all the desires are there, and because not realized become no less poignant, rather more so. It is unfulfilled love that intensifies passion.' 
James Lees-Milne, A Mingled Measure: Diaries, 1953-1972, p.187. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

SHALLOW SOULS

'Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.' 
Leon Kass in Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.177. 

THE BRAIN

'The brain is like a book, the first draft of which is written by the genes during fetal development. No chapters are complete at birth, and some are just rough outlines waiting to be filled in during childhood. But not a single chapter - be it on sexuality, language, food preferences, or morality - consists of blank pages on which a society can inscribe any conceivable set of words.'  
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.152.  

Thursday, 4 June 2015

SEARCHING FOR TRUTH

'...each individual reasoner is really good at one thing: finding evidence to support the position she or he already holds, usually for intuitive reasons. We should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play. But if you put individuals together in the right way, such that some of the individuals can use their reasoning powers to disconfirm the claims of others, and all individuals feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system. This is why it's so important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth (such as an intelligence agency or community of scientists) or to produce good public policy (such as a legislature or advisory board).' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, p.105.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

MARRIAGE

"'Do you know, Alexandra, that I could pick out exactly the right sort of woman for Frank - now. The trouble is that you almost have to marry a man before you can find out the sort of wife he needs; and usually it's exactly the sort you are not."'
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! p.108.

FREEDOM

"'Freedom so often means that one isn't needed anywhere."'
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! p.68.

STORIES

'"Isn't it queer: there are only two or three hundred human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years."'
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! p.67.

THE HUMAN CONDITION

'...I can reconcile you to the human condition,
The condition to which some who have gone as far as you
Have succeeded in returning. They may remember
The vision they had, but they cease to regret it,
Maintain themselves by the common routine,
Learn to avoid excessive expectation,
Become tolerant of themselves and others,
Giving and talking, in the usual actions
What there is to give and take. They do not repine;
Are contented with the morning that separates
And with the evening that brings together
For casual talk before the fire
Two people who know they do not understand each other,
Breeding children they do not understand
And who will never understand them.'
TS Eliot, The Cocktail Party, p.123. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

COMPASSION

'Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer.' 
Henri JM Nouwen in Mark A Yarhouse, Sexual Identity: Understanding Sexual Identity, p. 20. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

MASTURBATION

'The folly of masturbation (as well as recreational sex) is that it silences the urge to love. The individual aborts an opportunity for growth and ends up being more empty and more lonely. Though masturbation can numb the yearning for intimacy, its satisfaction is momentary and not growth-orientated. Masturbation turns oneself inward, making one intimate with self while impeding one's true longing: authentic intimacy with another.' 
William F Kraft, Whole and Holy Sexuality, p.105. 

SEX

'The yearning for union (the spiritual dimension) is the primary but hidden reason for any sexual activity, even recreational sex.' 
William F Kraft, Whole and Holy Sexuality, p.101. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

TEMPTATION

'Alcoholics Anonymous has an acronym called HALT. It is a reminder that when one is Hungry (in whatever way), Angry, Lonely, or Tired, it is time to be careful. This advice is relevant not only to alcoholism but to any problem.'  
William F Kraft, Whole and Holy Sexuality, p.88. 

DISCIPLINE

'Discipline is both popular and unpopular today. On the one hand, discipline is glorified as the necessary condition for physical well-being, intellectual and career development, and spiritual growth. On the other hand, mass media, culture, and some individuals promote immediate gratification and a general flight from pain.' 
William F Kraft, Whole and Holy Sexuality, p.84.