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Creation is not a Rubik’s Cube

An evening with Marilynne Robinson, and thoughts on jet bridges

Creation is not a Rubik’s Cube

Marilynne Robinson (Gary Doak/Writer Pictures via AP)

A New York moment: 

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Marilynne Robinson (Gilead) last Wednesday came to speak at Redeemer Presbyterian Church at the invitation of Redeemer’s Center for Faith & Work. The large sanctuary was full for the author, who noted in her initial comments that she is a “lapsed Presbyterian.” Robinson grew up in a Presbyterian family, but is now part of the mainline United Church of Christ. She spoke at length about her academic passion for reformed theologian John Calvin and revivalist Jonathan Edwards. 

Robinson read from her new book of essays, What Are We Doing Here?, and then David Kim, the Center for Faith & Work’s executive director, interviewed her for the rest of the evening. He lobbed questions on Calvinism and the definition of America (yes, that was one question). Robinson answered eloquently without much of a pause, showing a mind that has immersed itself in ancient books—14th-century economics is her current passion—and emerged with its ability to communicate with humans intact.

Kim tried to pin her down a few times about the details of her own faith, asking how she came to faith and what influences have kept her in Christianity. While genial, Robinson remained elusive on the subject. Her remarks on nonpersonal topics were more interesting. Here’s a taste of her concluding answer to Kim’s question on the role of grace in work:

“We participate in being at a radical level that is utterly unique to us. It’s interesting that Darwinists and people of that mode, they’re always trying to make reality into a kind of Rubik’s Cube of mutually dependent segments, mutually perpetuating, mutually reinforcing. But that’s not what it’s like. What it’s like is, given the fact of a strangely and beautifully functioning ecosystem, we exist. Who are, if we’re going to take a cold look, the greatest threat to the ecosystem. No other need be imagined. …

“The fact that we can create, and that we can create things that are profoundly positive, that affect the way that we can see things forever afterwards and so on—that I think is simply a part of how God made the world. That is grace. That’s a dignity and a freedom that God gave to human beings in a singular way. It has no analogies. In other words, every best thing that anyone does I think is a pure manifestation of the grace of God.”

The crowd lingered at Redeemer for several hours after, wrestling over her remarks and munching on waffles from the food truck outside.

Worth your time: 

A thoughtful piece on how evangelical author Eric Metaxas became a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump.

This week I learned: 

Back in the 1960s, JFK Airport had multiple jet bridges for one plane. I’ve often wondered how much additional jet bridges would speed up boarding and deplaning. My guess is that airports jettisoned the extra jet bridges to make room for more planes at each terminal. The boarding and deplaning process seems like a problem ripe for some innovative mind to solve. 

A court case you might not know about: 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a major case concerning public sector unions. The question in the case is whether a union can require workers to pay an agency fee, which the worker challenging the fee argues is compelled speech. New York—keeping the “metro” in “Metro Minute” here—has the highest level of public sector unionization in the country. 

Culture I am consuming: 

This NBC announcer’s call of the finish where the United States won its first ever cross-country skiing medal at the Olympics: “It’s not just a medal! It’s the gold!” The announcer is Chad Salmela of Duluth, Minn., a college cross-country skiing coach who has known Minnesotan Jessie Diggins—the come-from-behind winner—since she was 15.

Postscript: Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at


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  • Amy G's picture
    Amy G
    Posted: Tue, 02/27/2018 06:53 pm

    Emily, my commercial pilot husband told me that some air lines still use multiple jet bridges at certain airports for large planes like the 777. Just fyi! :)

  • Caminho
    Posted: Wed, 02/28/2018 02:30 am

    Yes, in Doha, Qatar, where I live, almost all large-ish planes use multiple jet bridges.

  • RC
    Posted: Wed, 02/28/2018 10:01 am

    “What it’s like is, given the fact of a strangely and beautifully functioning ecosystem, we exist. Who are, if we’re going to take a cold look, the greatest threat to the ecosystem. No other need be imagined. …”

    The only threat humans pose to the ecosystem, concerns humanities ability to live comfortable within it.  Any destruction humans do to the ecosystem will be erased in a few hundred, if not, a few thousand years by the natural reparative systems God built into the planet. The earth has managed to survive several ice ages and many massive caldera eruptions very nicely. Humans are only a threat to their own existence.     

  • Joe M
    Posted: Sun, 04/08/2018 01:22 pm

    Robinson is fascinating, but more fascinating still is Redeemer inviting her. Would they have invited Pearl S Buck? Maybe so. This more recent review is also interesting and expands on her insights...


  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 03/02/2018 02:03 pm

    Eric Metaxas represents one of two opposing camps, each of which feels aggrieved by the other. This reminds me of Isaiah 9:21: "Manasseh devours Ephraim; and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they devour Judah." (ESV) Maybe this is a sign of God's wrath.