Over the last decade or so I have had an “off and on” relationship with “Touchstone” magazine.
The “on” aspect of the relationship has been the result of the sheer brilliance and perseverance of the magazine’s editors in their attempt to reinvigorate or cause to resurface, the need to be “merely Christian.” The phrase, of course originates with C.S. Lewis’ classic, Mere Christianity.
It is not only a worthy mission, it is essential. Here is the statement of purpose from the masthead:
“Touchstone” is a Christian journal, conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content, with editors and readers from each of the three great divisions of Christendom – Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. The mission of the journal and its publisher, The Fellowship of St. James, is to provide a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and summarized in the ancient creeds of the Church.
There are many people, and I count myself as one, who do not “fit.” (And the number is growing.) We have read, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Andrew Murray, Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon, Alexander Schmemann, Fr. Jonah, Theophan the Recluse, Archimandrite Sophrony, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Evelyn Underhill, Vladimir Lossky, Patrick Henry Reardon, Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dorothy Day, Olivier Clement, G.K. Chesterton, Fr. Stephen Freeman, Nikolai Velimirovic, Lev Gillet, Kallistos Ware, along with a big dose of the Church Fathers (and Mothers) and monastic elders as a result of tracking down and reading the footnotes and references noted by all of these authors. What is more, we actually believed that they were telling the truth!! (And the number of people who do so is growing.)
The problem with all of that is that they are, in fact, telling the truth!! That is costly. Reason? Because it leads those of us who desire to grown in Christ and are willing to gradually (or quickly) let go of everything but what the Truth offers to the inevitable question, “How then must I live?”
The little phrase “mere Christianity” is awe-full in its effects on the soul that has a predisposition to learning and contemplation and can’t get enough of Him who is always enough – the Lord Jesus Christ.
The result is that “we don’t fit” any more. We have inquired and taken seriously what we have been told with an intention to attempt to really live it and not just file it away on the shelf of more useless information about Christ and Christianity. What makes this more complicated is the fact that, on some occasions, those who relayed to us the Truth really didn’t expect us to take it seriously or what the ramifications it might have for daily parish life or local denominational equilibrium might be if we did so. Some of us have been labeled “trouble makers.”
Oh yeah, did I mention the fact that the number of people who fit this description is growin??
I originally subscribed to “Touchstone” because it seemed to be for someone like me. It seemed, back when I originally subscribed, to be saying to my soul, “it’s okay to ask your denominational leaders hard questions and rock the boat for the right reason and here are the right reasons.” It seemed, to be for all of us who, on our best days (those rare times when we are really courageous), are willing live out the Truth that it invites us to live, “cost what it will, lead where it may.” Of course, the editors may not think of themselves as those who are encouraging people to rock the institutional church’s boat. I can’t speak for them.
The “off” aspect of my relationship with “Touchstone” has been the accumulation of piles of copies and my own inability to discard old copies because, “I might use that article someday in a retreat.” When I think about it that was the ONLY reason I let my subscription lapse. The older I got, the more I realized that I couldn’t remember that fact that there WAS an article in an old issue of “Touchstone” that I could use!! (Yikes…) Why WAS I saving all those copies AND adding to the pile by continuing to subscribe?? So, I let the subscription lapse. Alas…
But, you know, I keep visiting the site and wishing I subscribed to the magazine. Sad… But, lo and behold, during my most recent visit to the Fellowship of St. James/Touchstone website and the subscription page I discovered that I could buy a digital subscription. They have probably been offering it for a long time and I have been too dense to notice it. Anyway, NO MORE OLD COPIES accumulating in my living room to be collected and transferred to my garage along with all the other boxes containing old copies of Christian periodicals!! And, it is cheaper than the paper copy subscription… I immediately subscribed and am halfway through the most recent issue.
The only “problem” with all of this is that the tendency to not only ask “how then must I live” but encourage others to do the same is now being encouraged even more intensely. I am a happy camper…
So, for all of you well intentioned believers who desire to take what those authors mentioned above have said or are saying seriously and are willing to suffer the real pain of getting to the point of “not fitting” into the nice neat parameters of the current institutional Church anymore but having to fit anyway and are okay with the pilgrim life “on the Way,” I recommend “Touchstone.”