Marilynne Robinson on Preaching

“The great importance in Calvinist tradition of preaching makes the theology that gave rise to the practice of it a subject of interest.  As a layperson who has spent a great many hours listening to sermons, I have an other than academic interest in preaching, an interest in the hope I, and so many others, bring into the extraordinary moment when someone attempts to speak in good faith, about something that matters, to people who attempt to listen in good faith.  The circumstance is moving in itself, since we poor mortals are so far enmeshed in our frauds and shenanigans, not to mention our self-deceptions, that a serious attempt at meaning, spoken and heard, is quite exceptional.  It has a very special character.  My church is across the street from a university, where good souls teach with all sincerity—the factually true, insofar as this can really be known; the history of nations, insofar as this can be faithfully reported; the qualities of art, insofar as they can be put into words.  But to speak in one’s own person and voice to others who listen from the thick of their endlessly various situations, about what truly are or ought to be matters of life and death, this is a singular thing.  For this we come to church.” – Marilynne Robinson, The Givenness of Things (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2015), 146

2 thoughts on “Marilynne Robinson on Preaching”

    1. Certainly Robinson, in this quote, is skeptical about the possibilities of comprehensive human knowledge in the realm of the history of the nations or in understanding the beauty of the arts. However, she does also express great faith in her expectation that in worship she may be encountered by the living voice of God which interrupts the normal human course of affairs and speaks an ultimate word into the midst our transience.

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