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Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Marilynne Robinson is one of the most eminent public intellectuals in America today. In addition to literary elegance, her trilogy of novels (Gilead, Home, and Lila) and her collections of essays offer probing meditations on the Christian faith. Many of these reflections are grounded in her belief that the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformer John Calvin still deserves a hearing in the twenty-first century.
This volume, based on the 2018 Wheaton Theology Conference, brings together the thoughts of leading theologians, historians, literary scholars, and church leaders who engaged in theological dialogue with Robinson's published work—and with the author herself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780830853182
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Series: Wheaton Theology Conference Series
Sales rank: 800,552
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Timothy Larsen (PhD, University of Stirling) is McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an honorary fellow in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, and he has been a visiting fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and All Souls College, Oxford. He is the author of several books, including George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles, John Stuart Mill: A Secular Life, The Slain God: Anthropologists and the Christian Faith, A People of One Book: The Bible and the Victorians, and Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England.

Keith L. Johnson (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. He is author of Theology as Discipleship and Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis, and he is the coeditor of Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture.

Timothy George is the founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and serves as an executive editor at Christianity Today. He is a member of the Southern Baptist-Roman Catholic Conversation Team and has participated in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together initiative. He is the series editor for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture.

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the bestselling novels Lila, Home (winner of the Orange Prize), Gilead (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and Housekeeping (winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award). She has also written four books of nonfiction, When I Was a Child I Read Books, Absence of Mind, Mother Country, and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Robinson has been given honorary degrees from Brown University, the University of the South, Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Amherst, Skidmore, and Oxford University. She was also elected a fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford University.

Table of Contents


Introduction (Timothy Larsen and Keith L. Johnson)

1. The Theological World of the Reverend John Ames (Timothy Larsen)

2. Heart Conditions: Gilead and Augustinian Theology (Han-luen Kantzer Komline)

3. Marilynne Robinson and John Calvin (Timothy George)

4. The Metaphysics of Marilynne Robinson (Keith L. Johnson)

5. Thinking About Preaching with Marilynne Robinson (Lauren F. Winner)

6. Marilynne Robinson and the African American Experience (Patricia Andujo)

7. Space/Time/Doctrine: Marilynne Robinson's Gilead Novels (Tiffany Eberle Kriner)

8. Heaven and Earth: Reading Gilead Through the Landscape of the Fox River (Joel Sheesley)

9. Beyond Goodness: Gilead and the Discovery of the Connections of Grace (Rowan Williams)

10. The Protestant Conscience (Marilynne Robinson)

11. A Conversation Between Marilynne Robinson and Rowan Williams (Moderated by Vincent Bacote and Christina Bieber Lake)

12. An Interview with Marilynne Robinson (Philip Ryken)


Name and Subject Index

Scripture Index

What People are Saying About This

Jeremy Begbie

"Marilynne Robinson's work is saturated in theology—not only in that it is pervaded by engagement with Christian belief in general but in that it is shaped by years of deep engagement with the texts of the Protestant (especially Calvinist) tradition. We have waited a long time for a collection like this. It is certain to be a rich source of interest and delight."

W. David O. Taylor

"If the test of a good story is the kind of person it shapes, then we can only hope that Marilynne Robinson continues to write her stories. Reading her stories makes one want to be more truly alive. They also, as it happens, make one curious to read her nonfiction. In reading both novels and essays, we are introduced to a theologically dynamic vision of the world. This marvelous collection of essays is a welcomed engagement by theologians with an author who demands careful—and repeated!—reading."

Alan Jacobs

"Marilynne Robinson is perhaps the most vital of living American novelists. This collection contains essay after thoughtful essay exploring various facets of her complex and beautiful body of work. After reading them you feel that you have watched the assembling of a delightful portrait of this most theologically resonant of our writers."

David Heim

"The religious themes and insights in Marilynne Robinson's novels and essays—especially her striking fondness for Calvin—have won her a devoted Christian following. Until now, however, there has been little explicit engagement with her work by theologians. In this volume, an impressive range of thinkers opens up a conversation with the novelist about the Christian life, the Reformed tradition, and the American experience."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer

"Doing theology and reading fiction figure among my best-loved pastimes. Reading theology about fiction ranks almost as high. Yet Balm in Gilead is something better: an interdisciplinary conversation about the theological presuppositions and implications of one of America's most important living novelists. Entertaining does not come close to doing justice to Marilynne Robinson's Gilead series, though they are that. Robinson raises profound questions about the shape of Christian ministry and community and, in so doing, exposes and seeks to transform America's secular social imaginary. In similar fashion, Balm in Gilead raises profound questions about Robinson's work and theology, putting her in conversation with theologians past (Augustine, John Calvin) and present (Rowan Williams)."

Michael Bruner

"This collection of thoughtful and erudite essays is a welcome addition to the growing interest in (and admiration of) one of the church's—and culture's—preeminent voices of the last thirty years. For readers who are familiar with Robinson's writing, this collection will provide much-welcomed insight into the theological depth of her essays and novels. For those unfamiliar with her work, this volume provides a lively and accessible theological introduction to one of the major creative thinkers of our time. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the conversations and currents happening at the deepest levels between the church and culture today."

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Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LyndseyHuckaby More than 1 year ago
Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson is a unique book arising from a unique situation. Wheaton College is one of the historic institutions of higher learning for modern day evangelicalism. For over a quarter of a century, Wheaton College has held a theology conference each spring. In and of itself, that is not unusual. In fact, that is a quite common thing for a religious school to do. However, it is more unique for a theology conference at an evangelical school to focus on the work of one theologian. It is even more unique for that one theologian to still be alive and active in their vocation. It is further even more unique for that theologian to be a writer of fiction by vocation. And did I mention that theologian is a woman? Perhaps you’re beginning to understand the very special nature of this book edited by Timothy Larsen and Keith L. Johnson. The chapters in this book originated in the presentations at the 2019 Wheaton Theology Conference. Some chapters focus on specific aspects of Gilead as a literary work while others interact with Gilead through various lens of Christian theology. A couple of chapters were formed from a panel and and interview with Robinson while one chapter presents an essay from Robinson herself. You don’t have to agree with every theological conclusion of Robinson or the conference presenters in order to benefit from reading this book. Whether you’ve never heard of Marilynne Robinson and her Gilead or have devoured every page and are longing for more, read this book. If you’ve never read Robinson, you will benefit from building a strong foundation to better understand the magnificence of her books. If you are a Gilead addict, reading Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue will give you even further appreciation for Robinson and her writing. For those unexposed to more nuanced theological discussion, this book models that in many wonderful ways. For those who spend their entire lives engaged in nuanced theological discussion, this book will sharpen your thinking and give you a finer appreciation for God’s graciousness to us all in our everyday vocations.