On February 21, the Center for Faith & Work and Redeemer Churches hosted An Evening with Marilynne Robinson, the world-renowned Pulitzer Prize winning author of books like Gilead, Lila, and Housekeeping. Also a humanities scholar and avid Calvinist, Robinson is the author of countless essays of non-fiction, exploring subjects from Shakespeare to the Puritans to American identity to Scripture, theology, and more. One participant said of the event “I left inspired,” while another responded, “I LOVED this event. It was wonderful to hear Marilynne read her own work, and to witness in real-time the high degree of congruence between her written work and her beautiful, wise, thought-provoking articulation of various points.” Another church outsider remarked that they were thrilled to see CFW and Redeemer host such an “interdisciplinary, faith-and-work oriented, intellectually stimulating evening.”
Introducing the evening was best-selling author Sally Lloyd Jones (The Children’s Storybook Bible), who said of Robinson’s writing, “There are revelations on the page that ambush you with beauty. This is what it feels like to believe. A faith is lived out. The sacredness of existing. The power of blessing. The Mystery of Redemption. The ordinary suffused with the divine. Being inside these stories I have, in the words of Ames [Gilead’s main character] — ‘that same feeling in the church, that I am dreaming what is true.’”
Robinson then read from her latest non-fiction collection What Are We Doing Here?, from her prescient essay “A Theology For This Moment” where she called for the implementation of theology within secular philosophical structures and cultural institutions. “A theology for our time should help us to know that Being is indeed the theater of God’s glory,” the essay concludes, laying out the importance of an orientation to the world for all humankind that is in reverent awe of the holiness of existence.
Robinson’s talk was followed by a discussion with CFW executive director David Kim. The two covered subjects that spanned from Robinson’s personal Christian faith, to Scripture and theology, to John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, the author’s writing process, her view of our cultural and political moment, and the importance of the written word. “The fact that we can, for example, create — and that we can create things that are profoundly positive, that effect the way that people see things forever afterward and so on, that is simply how God made the world, that is grace. That’s a dignity and a freedom that God gave to human beings in a singular way. It has no analogies. In other words, every best thing that anyone does is a pure manifestation of the grace of God.”
David Kim closed the event conveying Robinson’s impact, saying “You have been God’s grace to us, in what you have brought together — arguing against the deleterious effects of positivism, to the wonder of ordinary life and the beauty that’s intrinsic to that life lived in faithful service to God — you have embodied it in ways that none of us could have anticipated, and for that reason I say you are a real grace to us. So thank you.”
After the event, a reception for the audience in attendance was held in Redeemer’s 5th floor loft, along with an array of Robinson’s books for sale from local UWS booksellers Book Culture.