Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, September 24, 2018


Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…  

[Repeated intro] I have been thinking about the “hinge” books in my life, those books that open a door in a unique way. There are hinge occasions that are not books, of course—people, events, places, movies. Books have a special niche of hinge importance, though--especially to people of my generation, who did not have access to more modern forms of input when we were in our hinge years--because they take time. If a book has hinge importance, you don’t just glimpse it, you ingest it. And you may go back to it time and again. The whole list of my hinge books is at the bottom. That is too long a list to explore at one time, so I’m going to do only one book per column.

Today’s hinge book is… THE IMMENSE JOURNEY by Loren Eiseley

In my campus ministry days, I read a lot of books, including things like The Hobbit, by Tolkein, because the students were reading them for their classes, and I wanted to understand what they were talking about. That was the only reason I started skimming through a copy of The Immense Journey that some sophomore had left in the lounge. Wow!

First, I had no idea that a scientist could write so well and so interestingly. I was scared to death of science in high school, mostly because you really had to study it, rather than just get by on writing ability, and also I was bored by it, probably because our physics text book was written by the aptly but unfortunately named Charles E. Dull. The edition we used was published in 1922, already 30 years out of date. Science was just a bunch of facts and theorems—no stories. Eiseley showed me how wrong I was about that! The Immense Journey read like a novel.

Second, I got my first introduction to the theory of story, which would become the center of my own academic work, from Eiseley, a scientist, and not from theologians. [1] Eiseley said: We live in story, not in facts and theories. The story is just there. It doesn’t have to have a point or purpose.

As I began to write narrative theology I began to say: Let the story tell itself. Leave it open so that people can find their place in it. Don’t tell them what it means, because you don’t know. It will mean something different for each person. If they want to know what it means, God will tell them.

Third, I began to see God as the great story-teller, the one not so much creating the great story, from outside, but living the immense journey, creating—telling the story--from within, living/telling it with us.

I don’t think Eiseley intended my third point, but that’s okay. By opening my eyes to the wonder and immenseness of the universe, he helped me better see God, and the job of any scientist is to help us see farther, deeper, and better. Eisley did that for me.


1] I did, of course, profit from the work of many theologians, also, as I worked on narrative theology, especially folks like Hans Frei in The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative.

TRAMP, THE SHEEP DOG by Don Lang, pictures by Kurt Wiese. 9-10-18
JESUS OF NAZARETH by Gunther Bornkamm. 9-12-18
MAN’S NEED AND GOD’S ACTION by Reuel Howe 9-13-18
IDENTITY & THE LIFE CYCLE by Erik H. Erikson 9-14-18
THE IMMENSE JOURNEY by Loren Eiseley 9-24-18
GUILT, ANGER, AND GOD by C. Fitzsimmons Allison
JESUS, A NEW VISION by Marcus Borg

My novel, VETS, about four handicapped and homeless Iraqistan veterans, who are accused of murdering a VA doctor, will never be on anybody’s hinge list, but, for a limited time, it’s only 99 cents, so what have you got to lose? It’s published by Black Opal Books and is available from the publisher as well as the usual suspects--Barnes and Noble, Amazon, BOKU, Powell’s, Books on First, etc.

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