I reviewed Marilynne Robinson's Home and found it wanting. But this comment on one of its scenes makes me wonder if I should take another look and see if I was wrong:
Ames, a Congregationalist minister and reader of Reformed theology, is seated on his old friend Robert Boughton's front porch. Boughton is a fellow minister, a Presbyterian, whose estranged son has recently turned up again, raking his fingers across old wounds. Jack, the son, puts the question to Ames, "Do you think some people are intentionally and irretrievably consigned to perdition?"
As the conversation unfolds, it becomes clear, if it wasn't clear from the outset, that Jack is asking about himself. Knowing how he has hurt his family, he has come back to the town where he grew up to seek—what? absolution? atonement? He wonders if people can change. Ames dodges the question, not only for its theological intractability—"I have spent a great part of my life hearing that doctrine talked up and down, and no one's understanding ever advanced one iota"—but also because giving a negative answer would mean forgiving Jack for the way he has hurt old Rev. Boughton, as well as Ames himself. And that's not something Ames, for all his wisdom and sensitivity, is quite prepared to do yet.