Schall: On Reading St. Augustine and Getting Bad Grades


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“Grades are things not to worry about. Says who? Well, I do, in a way. No one is in a university to ‘get good grades’, even though your grades may be the main concern of the good tuition payers back home… If to get a good grade a student reads St. Augustine – well, terrific. But I am also impressed by someone who reads St. Augustine and gets a D-, but who five or twenty-five years later is still reading him. It takes all one’s life to read St. Augustine, so the first dozen times through probably deserve a D- anyhow.”

– James V. Schall, “Grades,” in Another Sort of Learning (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 1988), 42.

David Brooks on Moderation


“Moderation is a generally misunderstood virtue. It is important to start by saying what it is not. Moderation is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Neither is moderation bland equanimity. It’s not just having a temperate disposition that doesn’t contain rival passions or competing ideas.

“On the contrary, moderation is based on an awareness of the inevitability of conflict. If you think that the world can fit neatly together, then you don’t need to be moderate. If you think all your personal qualities can be brought together into simple harmony, you don’t need to hold back, you can just go whole hog for self-actualization and growth. If you think all moral values point in the same direction, or all political goals can be realized all at once by a straightforward march along one course, you don’t need to be moderate, either. You can just head in the direction of truth as quickly as possible.

“The moderate can only hope to be disciplined enough to combine in one soul, as Max Weber put it, both warm passion and a cool sense of proportion. He aims to be passionate about his ends but deliberate about the proper means to realize them. The best moderate is blessed with a spirited soul and also the proper character to tame it. The best moderate is skeptical of zealotry because he is skeptical of himself. He distrusts passionate intensity and bold simplicity because he know that in politics the lows are lower than the highs are high— the damage leaders do when they get things wrong is greater than the benefits they create when they get things right. Therefore caution is the proper attitude, an awareness of the limits the foundation of wisdom.”

—David Brooks, The Road to Character (New York, NY: Random House Publishing, 2016), 69-71.

Jenkinson: Jefferson, Books, and Reading

jefferson“A Jeffersonian believes that books are at the center of any full and mature life. Thomas Jefferson approached life essentially through books…Reading was one of his favorite activities. He prepared himself for adult life with the severest possible course of reading. For a significant period of his life, from about the age of fifteen to twenty-five, Jefferson essentially read every waking minute of every day. With the possible exceptions of Theodore Roosevelt and John Quincy Adams, Jefferson was intellectually the best-prepared president in American history.

“…Jefferson’s reading habits were eclectic, but he clearly preferred non-fiction, and his immense library was essentially a reference collection. What Jefferson wanted most were information, facts, data points, and statistics. He saw books primarily as information delivery systems. He would be pleased at the size, scope, and accessibility of the public library system in the United States, and thrilled at the world wide web and the internet.”

—Clay Jenkinson, Becoming Jefferson’s People: Re-Inventing the American Republic in the Twenty-First Century (Bismarck, ND: Marmarth Press, 2004), 29-30.

Athletics and Character in the Bush Family

meacham“Competition was essential to Dorothy Walker [Bush’s mother]—not mindless competition, but competition in order to pursue, test, and exhibit excellence.”

“For families such as the Bushes, athletics were a maker and a measure of character. Sports were to be taken as seriously as one’s studies, or one’s manners, for they were perennial pursuits, permanent features of life.”

—Jon Meacham, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (New York, NY: Random House, 2015), 24-25.

The Character of Young George H.W. Bush

meacham“Markedly a gentleman.”

“Nice boy, popular, friendly, gets on well with adults, very very polite. Slow but a hard worker… Ambitious and self-confident but perhaps not self-assertive enough. Real interests are athletics…Always a gentleman, responsible, courteous, generous.”

“Other students were drawn to him; they felt protected and secure in his orbit.”

“Serene on the outside, reaching out to smooth others’ paths through life…”

–Jon Meacham, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (New York, NY: Random House, 2015), 35. The first two quotes are by Bush’s evaluating teacher at Andover Academy, where he began attending when he was 13. The second two are by the author.

Reinke: On the Need to Reflect On Our Smartphone Habits

“We all need to stop and reflect on our impulsive smartphone habits because, in an age when our eyes and hearts are captured by the latest polished gadget, we need more self-criticism, not less.”

–Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 23.

A note:

In 2017 I entered a new and much busier season of life, so it’s become harder to post as regularly as I would like and in the way that I’ve been doing since I began this blog. I still want to keep sharing what I come across in my reading, however; so, I’m going to do posts the way my pastor does them (he is a terrific reader). This means I’ll share only the quote with no commentary of my own, and I won’t include any photos. I’ll probably tinker with this new model as I go along, so bear with me. I trust that those of you who follow this blog will continue to enjoy and appreciate some, if not all, of what I share. Thanks for reading!

What Type of Saltwater Are You Sipping On?

sippingI read a lot of books in the “Christian Living” category and have read Tim Keller’s excellent book on idolatry, Counterfeit Gods (2011). Still, I think Steve Hoppe’s Sipping Saltwater (The Good Book Company, 2017) is the best treatment of idolatry out there. Hoppe combines a love for Jesus with sound theology and an incisive understanding of matters of the heart.

I found two things particularly helpful: First, his use of stories about real people to illustrate the ways we can abuse, reject, or enjoy the gifts God gives us. We can recognize ourselves in many of these stories, which help us see what it might look like to treat God’s gifts the wrong way. Second, Hoppe uses a very helpful three-fold division to show how we can treat these gifts (he deals with several, including sex, food, money, and rest). The three can be described with the terms “God,” “Garbage,” and “Gift.” With the first, we turn the good thing into a god: we invest in it our hopes and look to it for the satisfaction that only God can give. The second describes how we demonize something that in itself is good. For example, the ascetic who sees bodily pleasure or comfort as a threat to his spiritual status and vitality. Or, in the case of rest, the busy person who sees rest as something he cannot afford, which only lazy people enjoy. Finally, “gift” refers to the right treatment of something – as a gift from God to be enjoyed. Throughout, Hoppe asks good questions to help the reader identify what things he may be turning into a god or treating as garbage.

I’m grateful that Steve Hoppe wrote this book. It offers help and, more importantly, points us, in a firm and compelling way, to the one who alone can satisfy our thirst – Jesus Christ. I strongly recommend this book to all, whether Christian and non-Christian.

How TV Adultifies Children and Infantilizes Adults


“Most of us radically understate the degree to which visual media – first television, now everything – eroded thoughtful childhood. The ‘disappearance’ of childhood is traceable directly, [Neil] Postman insists, to the rise of electronic media. What separated childhood from adulthood previously was a secret or guarded knowledge about full adult reality that was understandable only by literacy. Adults knew much that children did not – things about sex and money and violence and death… If you wanted to know what those hidden secrets were, you had to be able to navigate books. Learning how to read – an act of a budding adult – was a prerequisite to acquiring the new knowledge…

“Television changed all that, because it is a ‘total disclosure medium,’ operating around the clock, demanding and broadcasting a nonstop supply of new and titillating information. Practically nothing is taboo or off limits. Because television doesn’t know or care who’s watching, the medium effectively ‘adultifies’ children while infantilizing adults; it doesn’t judge its viewers, nothing is shameful.”

-Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (New York: St. Martin’s, 2017), 51.