I read a quote that struck a chord from a surprising source, and I thought I’d share it:
Let no one suppose that I claim that just living can be taught; for in a word, I hold that there does not exist an art of the kind which can implant sobriety and justice in depraved natures.
A few pages later, the same author expounded on the same theme, with more words this time:
I consider that the kind of art which can implant honesty and justice in depraved natures has never existed and does not now exist, and that people who profess that power will grow weary and cease from their van pretensions before such an education is ever found.
Google can find the quote for you, if you can’t wait for my point to play out. But if you actually know who said that, I’d be very impressed! In addition to guesses, feel free to also leave your thoughts on the content of the quote.
Hint 1: The author of this quote is very far in the past.
Hint 2: The quote struck a surprising chord because I didn’t expect this author’s tradition to be concerned with typical Reformed buzzwords like “just” and “depraved”. Wesley is not a bad guess, but strike farther afield…
[UPDATE]: The answer is Greek philosopher Isocrates, writing Against the Sophists. This from The Great Tradition, a compendium of classical writing about education, edited by Richard M. Gambe, which I am reading for “Parent Academy,” an activity of my kids’ awesome school.
The very next sentence after the first quote is:
Nevertheless, I do think that the study of political discourse can help more than any other thing to stimulate and form such qualities of character.
My point is, even though that one sentence seems to be orthodoxally reformed, if you take a second, closer look, it’s really not. First off, he probably doesn’t think that everybody has a depraved nature. Second off, he’s off on his categories. What we are concerned about in the gospel is not “just living” or “implanting” sobriety and justice. That’s catlick talk. We are interested in “justified” and having justice imputed to us (around us), not implanted in us.
It just goes to show you, the gospel really is an alien concept. Accept no substitutes.