Quotations

Faith and Christianity
Interpretation and the Bible
Other Religions
Human Nature and Morality
Science and Pseudo-Science
Politics and Society
Art and Media

Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament & Mythology and Other Basic Writings, pg. 140; translated by Schubert Ogden:

God’s revelation is revelation only in actu and is never a matter of God’s having already been revealed…. God always remains beyond what has once been grasped, which means that the decision of faith is genuine only as actualized ever anew… as the one who demands my decision ever anew, God ever stands before me as one who is coming, and this constant futurity of God is God’s transcendence.

G.K. Chesterton:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks:

The idea that one can or could at any time separate out by some process of distillation a pure gospel unadulterated by any cultural accretions is an illusion. It is, in fact, an abandonment of the gospel, for the gospel is about the word made flesh…. Yet the gospel, which is from the beginning to end embodied in culturally conditioned forms, calls into question all cultures, including the one in which it was originally embodied. (pg. 4)

Murray Rae, The Gospel of John and Christian Theology (edited by Richard Bauckham and Carl Mosser):

The transformation from water to wine, from old life to new, takes place because the one through whom all things came to be is present now in the midst of his creation, but it takes place under the condition of human obedience. The promise of new creation calls for our assent and our response. (pg. 310).

C.S. Lewis, in The Grand Miracle, pg. 55:

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, “freed” from its miraculous elements… But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, which 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.

Tony Campolo, from this video:

The only description that Jesus gives of Judgment Day is [based on] how we treated the poor. On that day he’s not gonna ask you theological questions… you know “Virgin Birth: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.”… Here’s what it’s gonna be: 25th chapter of Matthew: I was hungry. Did you feed me? I was naked. Did you clothe me? I was sick. Did you care for me? I was an alien. Did you take me in? What you failed to do to the least of these, you failed to do it to me, because I’m not up in the sky somewhere, I’m waiting to be loved in people who hurt.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ:

What good does it do, then, to debate the Trinity, if by a lack of humility you are displeasing to the Trinity? In truth, lofty words do not make a person holy and just, but a virtuous life makes one dear to God. I would much rather feel profound sorrow for my sins than be able to define the theological term for it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart and the sayings of all the philosophers, what good would it all be without God’s love and grace?

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, pg. 34 (translated by Helen Zimmern):

The Christian faith from the beginning, is sacrifice: the sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of spirit…. Modern men, with their obtuseness as regards all Christian nomenclature, have no longer the sense for the terribly superlative conception which was implied to an antique taste by the paradox of the formula, “God on the Cross.” Hitherto there had never and nowhere been such boldness in inversion, nor anything at once so dreadful, questioning, and questionable as this formula: it promised the transvaluation of all ancient values.

Rowan Williams, in A Ray of Darkness: Sermons and Reflections, pg. 82:

The dark night is God’s attack on religion. If you genuinely desire union with the unspeakable love of God, then you must be prepared to have your “religious” world shattered. If you think devotional practices, theological insights, even charitable actions give you some sort of a purchase on God, you are still playing games.

Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, pgs. 44-45:

I have the impression that many of the debates within the church around issues such as the papacy, the ordination of women, the marriage of priests, homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and euthanasia take place on a primarily moral level. On that level different parties battle about right and wrong. But that battle is often removed from the experience of God’s first love, which lies at the base of all human relationships….

Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance.

Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament, pg. 68:

The divine identity is known in the radical contrast and conjunction of exaltation and humiliation–as the God who is Creator of all things, and no less truly God in the human life of Jesus; as the God who is Sovereign over all things, and no less truly God in Jesus’ obedience and service; as the God of transcendent majesty who is no less truly God in the abject humiliation of the cross. These are not contradictions because God is self-giving love, as much in his creation and rule of all things as in his human incarnation and death.

Peter Berger, The Heretical Imperative, pg. 172:

It is not given to men to make God speak. It is only given to them to live and to think in such a way that, if God’s thunder should come, they will not have stopped their ears.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, pg. 11:

Now the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it. But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it…. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgments; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

Robert Johnston, Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue, pgs. 78-79:

Christianity is, at its core, not an abstract philosophy, but a story; not pure factual reportage, but a recounting of one life in order that other lives might be transformed.

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, pg. 9:

The object of evangelical theology is God in the history of his deeds. In this history he makes himself known. But in it he also is who he is…. The God of the Gospel, therefore, is neither a thing, an item, an object like others, nor an idea, a principle, a truth, or a sum of truths. God can be called the truth only when “truth” is understood in the sense of the Greek word aletheia. God’s being, or truth, is the event of his self-disclosure, his radiance as the Lord of all lords, the hallowing of his name, the coming of his kingdom, the fulfillment of his will in all his work.

D.H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants, pg. 207:

If the Christian Tradition functions in any normative way at all, it is not simply because it lies in the past or because it is an accepted way of doing things. It has a normative role because it represents the corporate voice of the faithful, very often in moments when the faith was being tested by some controversy, proclaiming what it has received in light of what it must confront. The Tradition of the church is just that, the outcome of a testing and sharpening process by which the Spirit moved through the worshipping, praying, baptizing and confessing community of believers, or what can be aptly called a consensus of faith through time.

Laurence Stookey:

That the very Anointed One of God should die and rise on behalf of us who willfully cried “Crucify!” is a thing at which we must marvel slowly, not something we glance at for an instant.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, pg. 11:

The Christian believer is using the same faculty of reason as his unbelieving neighbor and he is using it in dealing with the same realities, which are those which every human being has to deal. But he is seeing them in a new light, in a new perspective. They fall for him into a different pattern. He cannot justify the new pattern in terms of the old; he can only say to his unbelieving neighbor, stand here with me and see if you don’t see the same pattern as I do.

Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, pg. 19:

Christian identity can be understood only as an act of identification with the crucified Christ, to the extent to which one has accepted that in him God has identified himself with the godless and those abandoned by God, to whom one belongs oneself.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pgs. 40, 46-47:

We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because he already loves us He must labour to make us lovable….

Those divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted. He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus in Milton, that human irreverence can bring about ‘His glory’s diminution’? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces…. Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the Divine life, a creaturely participation in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.

D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians:

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please.

Not too much – just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted.

I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust.

I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture

I want ecstasy, not repentance;

I want transcendence, not transformation.

I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races – especially if they smell.

I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged.

I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please. (pp. 12-13)

James Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era, pgs. xviii-xix:

We like to think that the Bible, or any other text, means “just what it says.” And we act on that assumption: we simply open up a book–including the Bible–and try to make sense of it on our own. In ancient Israel and for centuries afterward, on the contrary, people looked to special interpreters to explain the meaning of a biblical text. For that reason, the explanations passed along by such interpreters quickly acquired an authority of their own. In studying this or that biblical law or prophecy or story, students would do more than simply learn the words; they would be told what the text meant–not only the peculiar way in which this or that term was to be interpreted, but how one biblical text related to another far removed from it, or the particular moral lesson that a text embodied, or how a certain passage was to be applied to everyday life….

And so, it was this interpreted Bible–not just the stories, prophecies, and laws themselves, but these texts as they had, by now, been interpreted and explained for centuries–that came to stand at the very center of Judaism and Christianity. This was what people in both religions meant by “the Bible.”

Jon Levenson, “The Temple and the World,” Journal of Religions 64 (1984):

[T]he quest for the distinctive in Israel is a wild-goose chase…. [T]hose who apply a purist or nativist approach are obliged to overlook the implications of their method for the parts of the legacy of ancient Israel of which they approve…. Was not King Kirta of the Ugaritic epic indicted by his son for his lack of solicitude for widows, orphans, and the poor? Under nativist assumptions, must we not conclude that the injunction to uphold widows, orphans, and other oppressed people was “an invasion of Canaanite culture,” “a Canaanite-Yahwistic hybrid”? (pg. 281)

Donna Nolan Fewell and Gary A. Phillips, “Drawn to Excess, or Reading Beyond Betrothal,”Semeia 77 (1997):

[C]ommentary is always a matter of reaching out for more, for what lies beyond the text per se. (After all, how can we ever absolutely separate the biblical text from the ways it is read or the contexts of its readings?) The biblical text itself is restless as well, ever reaching beyond its own borders as it speaks to its audiences, as it draws life from its literary and cultural surroundings, as it works to answer, correct, rebuke, trope, and trump other texts, as it collides with cultures and contexts it could never have anticipated…. As readers we too are caught up in this urgent outward push, constantly reaching beyond “the text”–for reasons that are not always clear to us–for that something more that helps us make sense. (pg. 31)

JD Walters, from this post:

A G-rated Bible is a Bible that cannot speak to fallen man where he is. No one could take it seriously if it laid out a drama in which nothing bad ever happens to good people, everyone always makes the right choices and God never has to judge those who disobey Him. Like the best movies with explicit content, the Bible tells the truth about the world, but thankfully it also offers hope for a better one even as it takes this one absolutely seriously.

N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, pg. 653:

I suggest, in short, that the return of YHWH to Zion, and the Temple-theology which it brings into focus, are the deepest keys and clues to gospel christology. Forget the ‘titles’ of Jesus, at least for a moment; forget the pseudo-orthodox attempts to make Jesus of Nazareth conscious of being the second person of the Trinity; forget the arid reductionism that is the mirror-image of that unthinking would-be orthodoxy. Focus, instead, on a young Jewish prophet telling a story about YHWH returning to Zion as judge and redeemer, and then embodying it by riding into the city in tears, symbolizing the Temple’s destruction and celebrating the final exodus.

Henry Ward Beecher:

The Bible is like a telescope. If a man looks through his telescope, then he sees worlds beyond; but if he looks at his telescope, then he does not see anything but that. The Bible is a thing to be looked through, to see that which is beyond.

Richard Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, pgs. 189-90:

There is a great deal that was held in common by the earliest Christian preachers and the New Testament writers in their use of Scripture…. All treated the biblical text with some degree of freedom, believing that from among the various textual traditions then current they could do something of textual criticism on a theological basis since they knew the conclusion to which that biblical testimony was pointing. All seem prepared to employ not only biblical citations but also, to a limited extent, statements of truth found outside the canon, whether of Jewish, pagan or uncertain origin. And all of them, most importantly, worked from the same two fixed points: (1) the messiahship and lordship of Jesus, as validated by the resurrection and witnessed to by the Spirit; and (2) the revelation of God in the Old Testament as pointing forward to Jesus. Thus their perspective was avowedly christocentric and their treatment thoroughly christological.

James McGrath, John’s Apologetic Christology, pg. 73:

[A] century was just as long in the ancient world as it is today, and for this reason it is simply unjustified to assume that what was controversial in the third and subsequent centuries was controversial in the first century. Thus, in much the same way that one would be cautious in reading the Synoptics in light of John, much less in light of the council of Nicaea, so one must be cautious of reading first-century sources in light of the views held by rabbis of the third and subsequent centuries.

John Kloppenborg, Q: The Earliest Gospel, pg. 85:

In the twenty-first century we usually think of religion as a discrete and identifiable aspect of culture and distinguish it from economics, politics, education, and other cultural domains. Yet in the ancient Mediterranean languages there is no word at all that is equivalent to our abstract term “religion.” There are words for altars, sacrifices, prayers, and temples and words for attitudes towards gods (piety, impiety, fear). But there was no collective word that gathers all of these into a single domain, distinguishable from the city, the empire, the army, trade and professional associations, and other social institutions. Religion in the ancient world was embedded in these institutions.

Walter Brueggemann, Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism, pg. 8:

I assume that the biblical text is not a handbook for morality or doctrine as it is often regarded, nor on the other hand, is it an historical record, as many are wont to take it. Rather the biblical text is the articulation of imaginative models of reality in which the… readers in church and synagogue, are invited to participate.

James K.A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic, pgs. 156-57:

There is always already interpretation in every relationship, which means that there is also room for plurality, or rather, plurality is the necessary result of irreducible difference…. But if interpretation is part of being human, then its analogue is a creational diversity: a multitude of ways to “read” the world….

[I]n the end I would argue that every hermeneutic judgment is a kind of leap of faith, a certain trust or commitment, a belief that gropes beyond mere presence. Every interpretive judgment, then, should be accompanied by a corresponding hermeneutic humility or uncertainty.

James K.A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic, pg. 183:

Before knowledge there is acknowledgment; before seeing there is blindness, before questioning there is a commitment; before knowing there is faith.

While blindness is the condition for the possibility of faith, there is also a sense in which faith is blinded because it sees too much, blinded by bedazzlement, “the very bedazzlement that, for example, knocks Paul on the ground on the road to Damascus.” (quoting Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind, pg. 112)

J.B. Phillips, Letters to Young Churches, pg. xii:

The present translator who has closely studied these letters for several years is struck by… their surprising vitality. Without holding fundamentalist views on “inspiration”, he is continually struck by the living quality of the material on which he is working. Some will, no doubt, consider it merely superstitious reverence for “Holy Writ”, yet again and again the writer felt rather like an electrician rewiring an ancient house without being able to “turn the mains off”.

Alden Thompson, Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God, pg. 62:

The facts of the matter are that divine laws are no more enduring than the human situation which makes them necessary. The beauty of the divine condescension is precisely that God recognized the human condition and molded his revelation accordingly.

N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, pg. 107:

History is not about tidiness, but, most often, about the odd, the unrepeatable and the unlikely.

Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, pg. 103:

I don’t think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a “hypaethral book,” such as Thoreau talked about – a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine – which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.

Jon Levenson, Sinai and Zion, pg. 39:

[T]hose who come to the Hebrew Bible in hopes of finding a philosophical system flowing smoothly from a theorem will be disappointed. The religion of Israel was not a philosophical system; it had no such theorem. To be sure, every religion is the heritage of a particular community with a history of its own, and this element of history introduces a factor that frustrates the philosophical impulse in every religion. But in the religion of the Hebrew Bible, the philosophical impulse, if it exists at all, is stunted….

Israel began to infer and to affirm her identity by telling a story. To be sure, the story has implications that can be stated as propositions. For example, the intended implication of the historical prologue [to the Sinai covenant] is that YHWH is faithful, that Israel can rely on God as a vassal must rely upon his suzerain*. But Israel does not begin with a statement that YHWH is faithful; she infers it from a story. And unlike the statement, the story is not universal.

Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, pgs. 17-18:

Once, for a two-week period, I was snowbound in a mountain cabin in Colorado. Blizzards closed all roads and… I had nothing to do but read the Bible. I went through it slowly, page by page. In the Old Testament I found myself identifying with those who boldly stood up to God: Moses, Job, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, the psalmists. As I read, I felt I was watching a play with human characters who acted out their lives of small triumph and large tragedy onstage, while periodically calling to an unseen Stage Manager, “You don’t know what it’s like out here!” Job was most brazen, flinging to God this accusation: “Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?”

Every so often I could hear the echo of a booming voice from far offstage, behind the curtain. “Yeah, and you don’t know what it’s like back here either!” it said, to Moses, to the prophets, most loudly to Job. When I got to the Gospels, however, the accusing voices stilled. God, if I may use such language, “found out” what life is like in the confines of planet earth. Jesus got acquainted with grief in person, in a brief, troubled life not far from the plains where Job had travailed. Of the many reasons for Incarnation, surely one was to answer Job’s accusation: Do you have eyes of flesh? For a time, God did.

Martin Buber, quoted by Elie Wiesel, All Rivers Run to the Sea, pgs. 354-55:

What is the difference between Jews and Christians? We all await the Messiah. You believe He has already come and gone, while we do not. I therefore propose that we await Him together. And when He appears, we can ask Him: “Were you here before?”… And I hope that at that moment I will be close enough to whisper in his ear, “For the love of heaven, don’t answer.”

Rabi’a, the Sufi mystic:

O my Lord, if I worship you from fear of hell, burn me in hell. If I worship you from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates. But if I worship you for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, pg. 64:

Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man’s fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more.

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, pgs 199-200:

The doctrine of a universal redemption spreading outwards from the redemption of Man, mythological as it will seem to modern minds, is in reality far more philosophical than any theory which holds that God, having once entered Nature, should leave her, and leave her substantially unchanged, or that the glorification of one creature could be realized without the glorification of the whole system. God never undoes anything but evil, never does good to undo it again. The union between God and Nature in the Person of Christ admits no divorce.

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:

Any one setting out to dispute anything ought always to begin by saying what he does not dispute. Beyond stating what he proposes to prove he should always state what he does not propose to prove. The thing I do not propose to prove, the thing I propose to take as common ground between myself and any average reader, is this desirability of an active and imaginative life, picturesque and full of a poetical curiosity, a life such as western man at any rate always seems to have desired. If a man says that extinction is better than existence or blank existence better than variety and adventure, then he is not one of the ordinary people to whom I am talking. If a man prefers nothing I can give him nothing. But nearly all people I have ever met in this western society in which I live would agree to the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome.

Clark Kent, from an episode of Smallville:

Saving someone, truly saving them, is not about knocking them out and throwing them in a dark room; it’s about helping them find their way back to the right side.

Ben Byrely’s wife (from a this post):

If you journal in a notebook with pen and paper, everyone commends you for being spiritual. If instead, you blog in a more communal way, you are wasting time.

Augustine, from the City of God, Book 3 (translation from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 2.43):

[E]vil men account those things alone evil which do not make men evil…. It grieves them more to own a bad house than a bad life, as if it were man’s greatest good to have everything good but himself.

Voltaire (spurious):

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago:

If it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

John Milton, Areopagitica:

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 unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.

Robert Southwell (quoted by John Stott, Why I Am a Christian, pg. 92):

Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live.

C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, pg. 15:

It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or another of those destinations.

Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, pgs. 165-166:

When sexual lovemaking is shown in art, one can respond intelligently to it by means of a handful of questions: Are the lovers represented as merely “physical” bodies or as two living souls? Does the representation make it possible to see why Eros has been understood not as an instinct or a “drive” but as a god? Are we asked to see this act as existing in and of and for itself or as joined to the great cycle of fertility and mortality? Does it belong to nature and to culture? Can we imagine this sweetness continuing on through the joys and difficulties of homemaking, the births and upbringing of children, the deaths of parents and friends–through disagreements, hardships, quarrels, aging and death? Does it encourage us to forget or to remember that “certainly it must come to pass that the very gentle Beatrice will die.”?…

The relevance of such imagining is urgently practical; it is the propriety or justness that holds art and the world together. To represent sex without this fullness of imagination is to foreshadow the degradation and destruction of all that is not imagined. Just as the ruin of farmers, farming, and farmland may be predicted from a society’s failure to imagine food in all its meanings and connections, so the failure to imagine sex in all its power and sanctity is to prepare the ruin of family and community life and of much else. In order to expose the privacy of sex, we have made of it another industrial specialization, leaving it naked not only of clothes and of customary discretions and courtesies but also of its cultural and natural connections.

G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross:

It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles.

Leo Tolstoy:

Attack me, I do this myself, but attack me rather than the path I follow and which I point out to anyone who asks me where I think it lies. If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side! If it is not the right way, then show me another way; but if I stagger and lose my way, you must help me, you must keep me on the true path, just as I am ready to support you. Do not mislead me, do not be glad that I have got lost, do not shout out joyfully: “Look at him! He said he was going home, but there he is crawling into a bog!” No, do not gloat, but give me your help and support.

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:

Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice.

He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying….

And now I began to find that this duplex passion was the Christian key to ethics everywhere. Everywhere the creed made a moderation out of the still crash of two impetuous emotions.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pg. 58:

Different ages excelled in different virtues. If, then, you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane – if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground – ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of cruel ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov:

The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species:

There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, pg. 75:

Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known. We have already seen that if you begin by ruling out the supernatural you will perceive no miracles. We must now add that you will equally perceive no miracles until you believe that nature works according to regular laws. If you have not yet noticed that the sun always rises in the East you will see nothing miraculous about his rising one morning in the West.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov:

The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognized by him. Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith.

John Haught, “Darwin, Design and Divine Providence,” in Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (edited by William Dembski and Michael Ruse), pg. 241:

The real issue here is not whether evolution rules out a divine designer, but whether the Darwinian picture of life refutes the notion that divine Providence is essentially self-giving love. The approach of evolutionists such as Dawkins and Dennett is first to reduce the idea of God to that of a designer, then to argue that Darwinism explains design adequately, and finally to conclude that Darwinism has thus made God superfluous. It does not help things theologically, of course, that ID also – at least in its formal argumentation – implicitly reduces ultimate explanation to that of intelligent design. However, in any serious discussion of evolution and theism, there is little point in abstract references to emaciated philosophical ideas of deity, especially those that picture this ultimate reality as essentially an engineer, mechanic, or designer. Instead, scientists and scientifically educated philosophers must converse with thoughts about God that arise from actual religious symbols and teachings.

Jürgen Moltmann, Science and Wisdom, pgs. 54-55:

A theological doctrine of creation is not a religious cosmology which enters into lists in competition with the cosmologies of physics. But it has to be compatible with physical cosmologies.

The theological account of experiences of God is different from the scientific account of experiences of nature. If we bring them into dialogue with each other, two things soon emerge. First, theologians have a predilection for the ‘great scientific narratives’, with their unique and unrepeatable histories, because these narratives correspond to God’s histories…. Second, theologians have a particular interest in a natural phenomenon for which scientists have no great liking: ‘contingency’…. So in developing a theology of nature, we have to ask about God’s presence in the history of nature and in the chance events that herald a future which cannot be extrapolated from the past and present of the cosmos.

Rudolf Bultmann, in New Testament & Mythology and Other Basic Writings, pgs. 139-140, 144:

Consider a simple example. That my father is my father can apparently be objectively established and also perceived through observation. But that he is my father can finally be perceived only by a single person, namely, by me, not through disinterested observation but only in the personal encounter in which he is father to me and I allow him to be my father. Or, to take another example, were I to want to make certain of the friendship of a friend through observation, through psychological analysis, say, I would have already destroyed the relation of friendship, which can be grounded only in mutual trust. From the standpoint of objectifying seeing, such trust includes a risk. But without such a risk there cannot be any personal relation at all between one person and another. A young man who sought to learn about his (future) bride through the information provided by a detective bureau would learn nothing at all about her personal being, because it does not disclose itself to objectifying seeing but only to existential encounter….

God is not a reality that has a place within the cosmic continuum so that God could be thought of as necessary to this continuum, even if as the head thereof. God does not stand still and does not put up with being made an object of observation. One cannot see God; one can only hear God. God’s invisibility is not due to the inadequacy of our organs of perception but is God’s being removed in principle from the domain of objectifying thinking. God’s revelation is revelation only in actu and is never a matter of God’s having already been revealed. Those who believe God’s word have certitudo in the existential act of faith, but they have no securitas. For God is not to be held fast in faith in the sense that believers can look back on their faith as a decision made once and for all. God always remains beyond what has once been grasped, which means that the decision of faith is genuine only as actualized ever anew… this constant futurity of God is God’s transcendence.

Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition, pgs. 102 and 105:

Although there are indeed differences between what we call “literal” and “metaphorical” language, this does not mean that we can understand literal language as “more rational” and hence “more real” and therefore giving better descriptions of reality…. No matter how carefully we try to analyze and unwrap the meaning of the metaphor, we can never quite give a literal description that conveys the exact same sense as the metaphor. Just as an explanation of a piece of art can never quite capture the full richness of the artwork, so also every attempt to unpack the metaphor will be only partially successful….

Colin Gunton argues that because the world can be known only indirectly, metaphor is really “the most appropriate form that a duly humble and listening language should take. In all of this, there is a combination of openness and mystery, speech and silence, which makes the clarity and distinctness aimed at by the rationalist tradition positively hostile to truth.” (citing The Actuality of Atonement: A Study of Metaphor, Rationality, and the Christian Tradition, pgs. 37-38 )

G. Udney Yule, as quoted by Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek:

Failing the possibility of measuring that which you desire, the lust for measurement may result in measuring something else – and perhaps forgetting the difference – or in ignoring some things because they cannot be measured.

Jeffrey Overstreet, Auralia’s Colors (Abascar is a city-state):

Hear this: if you allow Abascar freedom, some people will choose what they shouldn’t…. But take away that freedom, and no one has opportunity to choose what they should.

Seen on a bumper sticker:

It will be a great day when our schools have all the funding they need, and the air force needs to hold a bake sale to buy a new bomber.

Bono, from this post:

It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to saved 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

Don DeMarco, New Perspectives on Contraception, pg. 9:

Lewis Lehrman was once criticized by a woman for the apparent irresponsibility he exhibited in siring five children. They will consume “precious natural resources,” she protested. “But madam,” he retorted, “don’t you understand? Those children themselves are our most precious natural resources.”

C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress:

Opposite evils, far from balancing, aggravate each other…. ‘The heresies that men leave are hated most'; widespread drunkennes is father of Prohibition and Prohibition of widespread drunkenness. Nature, outraged by one extreme, avenges herself by flying to the other.

Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, pg. 53:

The man of immediacy does not know himself, he quite literally identifies himself only by the clothes he wears, he identifies having a self by externalities (here again the infinitely comical). There is hardly a more ludicrous mistake, for a self is indeed infinitely distinct from an externality. So when the externals have completely changed for the person of immediacy and he has despaired, he goes one step further; he thinks something like this, it becomes his wish: What if I became someone else, got myself a new self. Well, what if he did become someone else? I wonder if he would recognize himself.

Sam Gamgee, in The Two Towers:

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Sean Cubitt (from an this post):

In the West today, we live in a deeply managed society. From traffic regulation to the management of crowd movements through malls and stations and airports; from statistical aggregation of behaviour to the management of supermarket stock, our societies work on probabilistic predictions that tomorrow will be pretty much the same as today – within statistical variations which themselves can be planned for. In this kind of world, action is incredibly difficult. It’s even more difficult because we are told over and over in our stories that only individuals can take action. But how can little me make an action that changes global warming? I can’t. We feel like action is impossible. In SF, action is possible, heroism, sacrifice, generosity, making a moral choice, changing the course of history.

Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin, Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts, pg. 53:

Truthfulness demands complexity. It requires that our biographies, novels and screenplays have flawed heroes. In fact it is impossible to create or portray a convincing ‘good’ character unless they do come complete with warts, failure and sheer bloody-mindedness. Equally important is to remember that even the worst villains are made in the image of God. Even murderers love their mothers, as Dead Man Walking memorably portrayed. In fact, the very best stories are those where the hero sees in his nemesis a reflection of himself, and we, the audience, see reflected in both of them the warring contradictions of our own nature.

Responses

  1. Wow! I love this idea; sharing all these thoughts from the minds of great thinkers. Very cool.

    I appreciate your linking to my blog and I have returned the favor. I expect to be back soon to do some exploring.

  2. This is just a collection of all the quotes I’ve posted to this category, except streamlined and organized into subject areas. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but couldn’t with Blogger.

    By the way, I only discovered your blog a few weeks ago, but I really like it!

  3. [...] Notable Quotations Posted by: Ken Brown | March 4, 2009 [...]

  4. [...] 5, 2009 by Susan Stabile I just read a quote on another blog by Dr. Laurence Stookey, of Wesley Theological Seminary. The quote reads: “That the very [...]


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