The praise that pours forth from the lips of . . . [Balm in Gilead / Summer Read…Quote…Reflect Series]

Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson, edited by Timothy Larsen and Keith L. Johnson (InterVarsity Press, 2019).

The praise that pours forth from the lips of [John] Ames and Augustine, moreover, is particular. No vague thanks here. There is an earthiness to these confessions: “You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours” [Augustine, Confessions 10.27.38]. This is praise you can sense, on specific streets in specific towns.

At the end of the story Ames suggests, “To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this place is, as little regarded” [Robinson, Gilead, 241]. What does Gilead have to do with Hippo? Well, earthiness, for one. Ames and Augustine speak the language of sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch; of bodily apprehension. But if they are right, all this is the stuff of heaven too. In Gilead and Hippo we do find something truly Christlike, the earthy humility of arms outstretched in a Word of celestial praise: “Great are you, Lord, and greatly to be praised!” — Han-luen Kantzer Komline, “Heart Conditions: Gilead and Augustinian Theology,” 42.


  1. As with Healing…Fiction…Connectedness, set aside a time of “rest” to read, reflect upon, and prayerfully consider the Balm in Gilead quote.
  2. Join me in
    1. Pressing into the call to hunger and thirst for the Lord (individually and as part of the people of God in a particular place) in the mundane of study, vocation, and practice.
    2. Not losing sight of the four conditions of the human heart: the wholeheartedness of creation, brokenness of the fall, change of heart through redemption, and final peace of the future (33). Don’t forget that by the grace of God, hearts (even our own and those of our “enemies”) can change. Furthermore, as ambassadors of Christ, may we deepen as agents of grace, forgiveness, and transformation.
  3. If you have not read Augustine’s (A.D. 354-430) Confessions, prayerfully consider including in your summer reading and / or a 2019-2020 book discussion group. [1]

The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. — Numbers 6:24-26 [2]

Stay tuned for more Read…Quote…Reflect from Balm in GileadTo God be the glory!


[1] Augustine‘s Confessions won ESN’s Best Christian Book of All Time (2013).

[2] Part of the closing blessing given by Han-luen Kantzer Komline in “Chapter 2. Heart Conditions: Gilead and Augustinian Theology.”

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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