July 21: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
August 18: The River Why, by David James Duncan
Location Gear-Up Espresso: 430 McClaine Street
Time 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Meeting the third Saturday of every month, the Besides the Bible Book Club is an ongoing conversation about the really good books – the books with the power to surprise, delight, challenge, and change us. Bring your ideas for future discussion books to the July 21 gathering. That morning, we will be choosing discussion books for the next several months. I will stock two copies of each book in the church library to check out.
Questions? Feel free to email John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On July 21, we’ll discuss Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize and was included in Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the 20th century. It was also included in my book, Besides the Bible, as one of the 100 books “every Christian should read.” Here is a brief excerpt from the essay I wrote about Dillard’s masterpiece:
Christian philosophers and theologians have been saying for centuries that there are two books of God: the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. Francis Bacon called them “the book of God’s word” and “the book of God’s works.” (This passage from Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning appears as an epigram in On the Origin of Species.) St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure called them Liber Naturae and Liber Scripturae; St. John Chrysostom called them the Book of Scripture and, my personal favorite, the Book of Creatures. Theologians argue passionately about these two “books” – many Reformers rejected the existence of the second altogether – but other heroes and heroines of the faith have affirmed the Book of Nature as a source of revelation.
While American theological education is focused more on systematic theology than ecological systems, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to imagine seminaries offering classes on forest exposition and the proper exegesis of a river in flood. When they do, one of the books on the syllabus will be Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is Dillard’s close-read of her neighborhood in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains…
Dillard has said that she considers Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to be, first and foremost, a work of theology. I think her contribution to American spirituality is a call to really see. In a virtual reality culture of blogs, status updates, tweets, and memes, The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek displays an attentiveness and watchfulness of the natural world that has become increasingly difficult even as it becomes more and more essential…