Marilynne Robinson's first nonfiction volume since The Death of Adam, is both de­manding and elegant. Few writers today combine such intellectual breadth and literary style. Readers expecting a de­fense of theism against the new atheist fundamentalism, however, will be dis­appointed.

Robinson engages figures who formulaically employ a crabbed account of religion as a foil to their sunny positivism, yet it's neither atheism nor positivism with which Robinson quarrels here. Her real target is aggressive reductionism, an approach that severely limits the scope of relevant experience in its account of reality and that breaks complex systems into isolated smaller units, asserting that an explanation of parts generates a comprehensive account of the whole.

The human experience that Robinson wants to rescue from reductionism is interiority. She explicitly challenges the reductionist assumption that "the experience and testimony of the individual mind is to be explained away, excluded from consideration when any rational account is made of the nature of human being and of being altogether." These allegedly rational accounts, and the extra­scientific claims extrapolated from them, are problematic not only from the perspectives of theology and philosophy but from that of science as well.