Merton’s Journals: The Book of Life

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

5 thoughts on “Merton’s Journals: The Book of Life”

  1. Really great quote, Jon! That’s an interesting reversal from the standard revivalist message known in the frontier lands of America during the First and Second Great Awakenings. I say it’s a reversal because typically, the Book of Life contains the names of those who have been justified by God via faith and repentance, where a very meaningful life was particularly Left Behind. Heh. But seriously, I see this as historically true in the evangelical church. Being “fit for heaven” is all that matters, in the end, with such a message. To the contrary, Merton, by saying the Book of Life is a record of a life well-lived, it is a record, not of legal, forensic, justification shown by good deeds, but it is something more organic: a life in union with God for the love of God and his creation. I don’t know Merton well enough to understand his theory on the atonement, and I gather he’s in the mystical tradition, which of course makes appeals to the atonement, but not with the same emphasis as in the Western Church. Correct?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merton was a mystic, yes, but he was a monk in the Roman Catholic church. His views shifted quite a bit over the course of his life, as his own spiritual journey deepened, though sadly I’m not studied enough on Merton to answer your specifics on his theology of the atonement. Currently I’m just starting to work my way through a four volume collection of extracts from his journals (The Intimate Merton). Yes, you heard that right — four volumes just if extracts. He was a prolific writer….Have you read any Merton, Chris?


  2. We have Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude. Monica brought it to the marriage. It’s one of the many reasons why I married her. She was a reader of many good books, and a drinker of fine-brewed ales, and French roast coffee–black.

    Liked by 1 person

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