Friday, December 11, 2009

"We are never at home"

Several friends have told me that I should read Marilynne Robinson, especially Gilead and Home. I possess an irrational reluctance to accept such suggestions even when I know that my friends have tastes and interests similar to my own. "Simple Gifts" by Cheryl Miller in the current Claremont Review of Books may succeed where they have failed. It is a review of those books that makes very clear why I ought to like them. For instance, Miller on Robinson and original sin and the wages of utopianism:
.... "Gross error survives every attempt at perfection, and flourishes." Robinson may call herself a liberal Protestant, but it's not for nothing that she says "my heart is with the Puritans"—no novelist working today has a deeper understanding of original sin. For Robinson, discontent is our natural condition. "There is a wound in the flesh of human life that scars when it heals and often enough seems never to heal at all," Ames reflects in Gilead. Glory too wonders "how the soul could be put at ease, restored. At home." But such a restoration cannot be achieved: "[W]e are the Ishmael of species...while we belong in the world, we have no place in the world." We are never at home.

Robinson allows that this might seem a "harsh doctrine," but it has proven far kindlier than the belief that we can "reason our way to a code of behavior that is consistent with our survival, not to mention our dignity or our self-love." Ever the student of history, Robinson asks, "what could have been more brutal than these schemes to create happy and virtuous societies?" It is our desire to remake the world "without strain and conflict," she reminds us, that has "made most of the barbarity of our century seem to a great many people a higher philanthropy." By contrast, "the belief that we are all sinners gives us excellent grounds for forgiveness and self-forgiveness." ....
The Claremont Institute - Simple Gifts

1 comment:

  1. I hope to read Robinson's Death of Adam, it being recommended by S. Fox. I first encountered the Puritans in '61-62. Came across a whole stack of them in Amitin's book stoe in St. Louis, Mo. Purchased a 3 vol set of David Clarkson pub. in Nichol's Standard Divines in Scotland in the 1880s and a few volumes by R. Sibbes. Went to my fist church in '62 where I learned that Clarkson was right about man being totally depraved and totally disabled. Led me to realize the need for a Sovereign , irresistible Grace to save. Told a friend named Gene Spurgeon (we both had been introduced to the teachings at East Texas Bap. College ('58) and had rejected it) in '65-66 at Lincoln U in MO that I had come to believe it. He still did not believe it. He won a young lady to Christ. When he asked her why she responded so readily, She answered, "Oh, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it." He said when she said that, what I had said about it being irresistible flashed into his mind. He did not change his mind then, and was still thinking about it in 2002-3. By 2007 he had come to the persuasion that he did believe it was true. By then he had found out that he might be kin to C.H. Spurgeon the wonderful preacher of Sovereign Grace. Yes, I think grace is so wonderful one can't resist it. I went on to study the Puritans in American Social & Intellectual History and would discover that the doctrines of grace(TULIP)were the critical elements and factors and causes, if you please, of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the origins of the Great Century of Missions besides contributing religious liberty to the world. Did anyone ever hear of paradoxical interventions? Google dr. james willingham, theology, and paradoxical interventions for the comments I have made on the subject.


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