Wednesday, 29 July 2015


'...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 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.


'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


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


'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 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 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


'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 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.


'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 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.


'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.


'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


'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.


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

Friday, 17 July 2015


'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. 


'...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. 


'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.


'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.


'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.


'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 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 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.


'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.


'...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.


'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.


'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 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


'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.


', 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.


'...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 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


'...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.