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To Arrest the Lie

Marilynne Robinson’s campaign for truth in history.

Marilynne Robinson is on a campaign to arrest the lies and fill the gaps in American history writing. Her collection of essays and addresses, What Are We Doing Here?, takes aim at all reductionist views of history and points the way to a fuller, truer account of America’s story.

She has no patience with representations of history that make science the supreme arbiter of truth and reality, minimize or eliminate the mind and the soul, reduce beauty to the lowest common denominator, exclude theology as a credible source and contributor to the common weal, or that try to simplify everything to a form science or technology can manage. Nor will she abide those Christians who depend on politics more than Scripture, and who fail the test of love in their manner of speaking about life and the world. 

She is especially adamant to return the Puritans – and John Calvin – to their proper place in American history, and to acknowledge their true character, mission, and achievement, against the straw man of Puritanism generally represented today. This is a very fine and even important book, especially considering the venues where these addresses were given.

Marilynne Robinson has achieved something I wish more Christian thinkers would at least aspire to: she is a public intellectual, well known to be Christian in her worldview, yet widely read, heard, and accepted because of the grace of her comportment, and despite the uncompromising nature of her message.

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