Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Conversations with Barth on Preaching

Last year I took a doctorate subject on the theology and practice of preaching at Fuller Seminary in California. The class was outstanding, the lecturer was Bishop Will Willimon.

Willimon has written many great texts, one particular is "Converstaions with Barth (Karl) on Preaching...here's my review. As one who speaks to train and equip the church and also at events to bring an evangelistic message, I found the text a great read with some good points to consider.

My Review:
This book is a wonderful read on the topic of preaching with thoughts from Karl Barth, a brilliant theologian who had a great emphasis on the Word of God. Willimon, the author is not afraid at times to disagree with Barth’s thoughts and theology. Barth exhibited a dogmatic theology that at its core suggested that ‘either God speaks or he does not” (19). Although the author would agree with this, comment is made that Barth indeed listens to Scripture, however it is to a limited range that he listens to (43). In the vein of the Word of God, Barth is referred to in chapter three as stating that preaching is the Word of God and as preachers we must preach God’s word. We must begin in faith, faith in a God who speaks (47). The text goes on to exhibit Barth as one who was critical of preachers who were more concerned with rhetorical rather than theological (84), however Barth himself developed an explosive, expressionistic style that could be labelled as simple rhetoric(84). A challenge in chapter five to preach the word so that others become aware of the new world that they are to reside in (116), believing that we are a people of God who believe in a relentless communicative God (143). Barth was so confident in a God who is still revealing Himself that he would begin a discourse with, “and God said…” (p53). One is reminded in Chapter seven that the preacher has no significance in themselves other than the fact that they have been sent forth (167). The herald of God is to communicate what God is saying, thus the listening of the herald prior to speaking is crucial (168). Preachers are reminded that conflict is unavoidable when one preaches (199) and that Jesus Himself bought a sword not peace (197). The text goes on to refer to Easter speech in chapter nine and in chapter ten the reader is reminded that you can’t pay someone to preach, a person is called to preach. (239). A faithful preacher’s job is to obediently tell what they have heard, to deliver what they have received, to conform their speaking to the demands of the word. (242).

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