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Episode Summary

Miroslav Volf interviews Marilynne Robinson, author of the beloved Gilead series and numerous essays on politics, culture, and human life, about how to live faithfully in this political moment.

This is a political moment characterized by stridency, suspicion, resentment, anger, and despair—where shared commitments to truth, debate, free speech, and simple good faith in one another (these core elements of democratic society)—these are under threat of outright rejection by those in power. But the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson sees an opportunity for putting aside the resentment, suspicion of the other, and despair, and instead renewing a love of democracy, grounded in the sacredness of the person, and she sees more hope in a patriotism closer to familial love than America-first Christian nationalism.

Watch the Video of this Conversation

Show Notes

  • Pursuing theology instead of literature
  • America as a family
  • The incredible singularity of the human being
  • “When we don’t treat someone with respect, we impoverish them."
  • How does the sacredness of humanity apply to our political moment?
  • Christian Nationalism and the founding of America.
  • The crises of Christianity and democracy
  • What democracy makes possible for human beings.
  • Democracy, Education and Honoring the Sacred in Humanity
  • An anthology of the brilliance of humankind
  • Structural wrongs and personal morality
  • “I miss civilization, and I want it back."
  • Truth, trust, and being available to each other
  • "Honor everyone."
  • Truth, conspiracy, and demonism (QAnon, blood libel, and twisted fantasies that prevent rational engagement)
  • Primordial goodness, fallenness, and the bearing of original sin on democracy
  • Suspicion, twisting the truth, and returning to seeing each other with eyes of grace
  • Costly grace and Marilynne Robinson’s love of her characters
  • Our political challenges are challenges about our humanity
  • Pagan values in Trumpian politics
  • Transitioning from fighting for others’ rights to fighting for our own rights
  • The relation between Marilynne Robinson’s Christian identity and her political identity / Reformation Christianity and political progressivism
  • Retrieving the beauty of the faith
  • “The deepest kind of deep thought is sustained by Christian tradition. It’s a condescension.”
  • Jesus as moral stranger—"almost everything important to us, wasn’t important to him; almost everything important to him, isn’t important to us."

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May 15, 2023

Tolerating Doubt & Ambiguity

Is your faith a house of cards? If you were wrong about one belief would the whole structure just collapse? If even one injury came to you, one instance of broken trust, would the whole castle fall? If one element was seemingly inconsistent or incompatible—would you burn down the house? This depiction of the psychology of faith is quite fragile. It falls over to even the lightest breath. But what would a flexible faith be? Resilient to even the heaviest gusts of life’s hurricanes. It would adapt and grow as a living, responsive faith. Psychologist Elizabeth Hall joins Evan Rosa to discuss the domains of psychology and theology and what it means for each to “stay in their lane”; she introduces a distinction between implicit and explicit knowledge, and identifies the social- and self-imposed pressure to know everything with certainty; we reflect on the recent trends toward deconversion from faith in light of these pressures; and she offers psychologically grounded guidance for approaching doubt and ambiguity in a secure relational context, seeking to make the unspoken or implicit doubts explicit. Rather than remaining perched upon our individualized, certainty-driven house-of-card faith; she lays out a way to inhabit a flexible, resilient, and relationally grounded faith, tolerant of ambiguity and adaptive and secure amidst all our winds of doubt. This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of Blueprint 1543. For more information, visit

Elizabeth Hall