I suggested yesterday that Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead expresses deep themes that find expression also among the Emergent folk, and I’d like to record here one of those comments. It comes near the end of the book, when Pastor John Ames is about to sign off (which he never does, which too is a bit postmodern). He ruminates on human nature in the following words.

There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent,and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world,and the other is when we feel the world’s mortal insufficiency to us. Theologians talk about prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave – that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear,that previous things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is do great harm.

Marilynne Robinson,
“Pastor John Ames,”
Gilead, 245, 246.

There it is: the Eikon of God sensing both insufficient in God’s glorious world because the Eikon is cracked, and the Eikon knowing (deep inside) that what lies within is even more glorious when restored. The responsibility of Eikons is to reflect God’s glory and to govern God’s good world.

I suggested in The Jesus Creed, in the chapter on the transfiguration of Jesus, that what we see in Jesus’ transfiguration is as much about who we will be someday as it is about Jesus’ inner nature. What I was getting at there is said better by Pastor John Ames. Iowans have a way with words, you know.

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