A few selected quotations from my commonplace book:

“Today’s western world is familiar enough with extreme Epicureanism. If the world is a random cosmic accident, why should anything be though ‘evil’ or ‘wrong’ in the first place? Would not all such categories collapse into the projection of our emotions (‘theft is wrong’ would simply mean ‘I don’t like theft’)? And is not that reduction to emotivism, in fact, what has happened to the post-Epicurean world of modern western morality? Get rid of ‘god’, and you have no longer have a ‘problem of evil’. All you have is unwelcome ‘attitudes’ or ‘prejudices’. Not that people can easily live like that. They quickly invent new ‘moralities’ around the one or two fixed points that appear to transcend that subject, emotive analysis: the badness of Adolf Hitler, the goodness of ecological activism, the importance of ’embracing the Other” and so on. Better than nothing, perhaps; but people who try to sail the moral seas with that equipment look suspiciously like a handful of survivors clinging to a broken spar as the ship goes down and the sharks close in.” – N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God

“When our moral lives are shaped by fear, and safety is worshiped as the highest good, we are tempted to make health and security the primary justifications for right action. We thus lead timid lives, fearing the risks of bold gestures. Instead of being courageous, we are content to be safe. Instead of being hopeful, we make virtues of cynicism and irony, which in turn keep us a safe distance from risky commitments. We are more likely to tell our children to ‘be careful’ than to ‘be good.’ The extravagant vision that would change the world gets traded in for the passive axion ‘do no harm.’ Our moral lives atrophy on this new diet of self-protection.” – Scott Bader-Saye, Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear

“Whereas most Americans do not really think twice about the possibility that their country might ask them to die to protect it, we Christians find it hard to imagine the church requiring anything similarly demanding of us, or responding if it did.  If so, the church has just become another institution for voluntary association that we are happy to abandon when it fails to meet our consumer needs.” – Stanley Hauerwas

“We are not here to entice you into our religion by benefits allegedly found only it.  We are here to introduce you to the true God, for whatever he can do with you – which may well be suffering and oppression.” – Robert Jenson

“Christ, taking flesh, and dwelling among men, declares that Heaven has stooped to earth.  But here a great many would stop, they would bring back Paganism through Christianity.  The Son of God, they say, has become incarnate; now fleshly things are again divine; earth is overshadowed by Heaven; it is no longer sin to worship that which He has glorified.  In the manger of Bethlehem they sink the Resurrection and Ascension: they will only look at one part of the great Redemption, not at the whole of it; at the condescension to our vileness, not at the deliverance from that vileness, which the Son accomplished when he sat down at the right hand of the Father.” – F.D. Maurice

“It is probable that in most of us the spiritual life is impoverished and stunted because we give so little place to gratitude.  It is more important to thank God for blessings received than to pray for them beforehand.  For that forward-looking prayer, though right as an expression of dependence upon God, is still self-centred in part, at least, of its interest; there is something which we hope to gain by our prayer.  But the backward-looking act of thanksgiving is quite free from this.  In itself it is quite selfless.  Thus it is akin to love.  All our love to God is in response to His love for us; it never starts on our side.” – Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple


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