Any reader who comes across the prose of Annie Dillard in Harper’s or Atlantic Monthly or in her books finds an eloquent blend of facts, theological ideas, and visual images. The power of her prose is undeniable. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, now selling widely in paperback, won the Pulitzer prize. Holy the Firm, her new book, more directly addresses theological ideas.
Annie Dillard deserves analysis. In her own words, she departs from such British rationalists as C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton; yet she firmly rejects agnosticism and worships in Christian churches. The following interview was conducted by Campus Life editor Philip Yancey at Dillard’s office on Puget Sound. Dillard speaks for herself. Assistant editor Cheryl Forbes and writer Patricia Ward evaluate Dillard’s books in Refiner’s Fire (page 28).
Question: Annie, when I mention you to my friends, I get one of two reactions: either a sign of appreciation from a fervent admirer or a puzzled “Who?” It seems most evangelicals are in the second category.
Answer: Well, I admit I am consciously addressing the unbeliever in my books, though I have great empathy for evangelicals. I was raised Presbyterian, in Pittsburgh, and during my development I had only one short fling of rebellion against God.
For four consecutive summers I had gone to a fundamentalist church camp in the country. We sang Baptist songs and had a great time—it gave me a taste for abstract thought. But I grew sick of people “going to church just to show off their clothes,” so I quit the church. Instead of quietly dropping away, I wanted to make a big statement, so I marched into the assistant minister’s office. I gave him my spiel about how much hypocrisy there was in the church. This kind man replied, “You’re ...1
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