Marilynne Robinson: “There is no justice in love”

alice munro n marilynne robinson

Alice Munro and Marilynne Robinson in 1983

Christian women are generally not as well known as Christian men globally. I did a search in the internet recently and found some names and write-ups on some. I shall post excerpts and quotes on some of them at random. Today we read about Marilynne Robinson (born November 26, 1943), an American novelist and essayist. She has received several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 and the 2012 National Humanities Medal. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in 1977. She has been writer-in-residence or visiting professor at many universities. She currently teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Iowa City.

QUOTES AND EXCERPTS: “Robinson is a Christian whose faith is not easily reduced to generalities. Calvin’s thought has had a strong influence on her. Her novels could also be described as celebrations of the human—the characters that inhabit them are indelible creations.”

Quotes from her book: Gilead  (the novel Gilead, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize)

Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”

“These people who can see right through you never quite do you justice, because they never give you credit for the effort you’re making to be better than you actually are, which is difficult and well meant and deserving of some little notice.”  

“It all means more than I can tell you. So you must not judge what I know by what I find words for.”

“There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?”

“I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.”

“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.”

“It seems to me people tend to forget that we are to love our enemies, not to satisfy some standard of righteousness but because God their Father loves them.”

“Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.”

“Christianity is a life, not a doctrine . . . I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own.”


ON religion: “The first obligation of religion is to maintain the sense of the value of human beings. If you had to summarize the Old Testament, the summary would be: stop doing this to yourselves. But it is not in our nature to stop harming ourselves. We don’t behave consistently with our own dignity or with the dignity of other people. The Bible reiterates this endlessly. ”

ON teaching writing: “I try to make writers actually see what they have written, where the strength is. Usually in fiction there’s something that leaps out—an image or a moment that is strong enough to center the story. If they can see it, they can exploit it, enhance it, and build a fiction that is subtle and new. I don’t try to teach technique, because frankly most technical problems go away when a writer realizes where the life of a story lies. I don’t see any reason in fine-tuning something that’s essentially not going anywhere anyway. What they have to do first is interact in a serious way with what they’re putting on a page. When people are fully engaged with what they’re writing, a striking change occurs, a discipline of language and imagination.”


2 thoughts on “Marilynne Robinson: “There is no justice in love”

  1. yourprotagonist

    I am reading this book, Gilead, currently. It is so amazing that I’ve decided to buy it for reference and inspiration into the future, to remind myself that it is true observations of life that make an honest author, not the technique. Thank you for offering these insights and the world these quotes of Marilynne Robinson’s.


    1. Crosslife Spaces Post author

      Thank you for commenting. I stumbled on this book when I browsed through the audio book and large print catalogues in a community library. The narrator John, at the end of his earth life, wrote a letter of love to his very young son. It is a serious discourse about the purpose of human life based on his own true experience. The love is subtly expressed and yet is very powerfully real and transforming. Marilynne did a very profound piece of stunning art about the kind of love we are capable of because it is spiritual and originates from the Creator Himself.

      Liked by 1 person


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