THE GIVENNESS OF THINGS by Marilynne Robinson


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A sober, passionate defense of Christian faith.

In these 17 essays, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Robinson (Iowa Writers’ Workshop; Lila, 2014, etc.) returns to themes she considered most recently in her memoir, When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012): ethics, morality, reverence, and her own convictions as a Christian. “My Christology is high,” she writes, “in that I take Christ to be with God, and to be God. And I take it to be true that without him nothing was made that was made.” Much scientific thinking, she believes, draws conclusions from only a “radically partial model of reality” that excludes the marvelous and the improbable. She criticizes, for example, “the reductionist tendencies among neuroscientists” to propose a material model for the human mind; instead, she finds the soul “a valuable concept, a statement of the dignity of a human life and of the unutterable gravity of human action and experience.” Robinson is an astute critic of self-righteousness among some who identify as Christians: “a harshness, a bitterness, a crudeness, and a high-handedness” has entered political life, she maintains, causing some in the “religious monoculture” to be self-serving, self-congratulatory, and insular. This kind of American Christian identity, she sees, is “rooted in an instinctive tribalism” that incites resentment, rage, and bigotry. Contemporary America, she writes, “is full of fear,” but fear “is not a Christian habit of mind.” This fear “operates as an appetite or an addiction. You can never be safe enough.” Fear also leads to rash actions, such as increased gun sales, which are often justified by misreadings of the Second Amendment. As she notes, “gun sales stimulate gun sales—a splendid business model.” Besides offering close readings of biblical texts, Robinson also considers the works of Calvin, Shakespeare, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and William James.

Deeply thoughtful essays on troubling and divisive cultural—and spiritual—issues.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-374-29847-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2015


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