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When God Is Silent (Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching) Paperback – February 28, 1998


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When God Is Silent (Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching) + An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith + Learning to Walk in the Dark
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Product Details

  • Series: Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching (Book 1997)
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Cowley Publications; 1st Paperback Edition edition (February 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561011576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561011575
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Barbara Brown Taylor’s When God is Silent is a gem of a little book. The Lyman Beecher Lectures she gave at Yale in 1997 are presented in an attractive new format from Cowley Publications which suggests that one has picked up something of an art book, something to be cherished. It is a little book both in size and in the scope of the author’s intent—but on handling and browsing through it, the reader become immediately conscious of an economy whose very modesty speaks its worth. . . . From the threads of ordinary experiences which we all can recognize, Taylor weaves something that gives voice to what we have not quite been able to say for ourselves, but something to which we find ourselves giving a deep interior assent. . . . The journey of just 130 small pages is a rich labyrinth of meditations—on music and silence, on the statistics of our broken world, on the imagination, on the writings of mystics both ancient and modern—all of them serving as gathering places for poetry and insight, reflection and prayer. . . . This book should not be left to preachers alone; it is a handbook for those who hear the whisper of God and want to listen. It is a book about the fragility of our words and the depth of God’s silence—and it is ultimately a book about the music that results from the crashing of our words against that silence of God to carry on its very failure some of the song of God’s own music. (Rev. Bruce Jenneker, Trinity Church)

Barbara Brown Taylor’s concise, pithy and challenging prose is evidence that she is practicing what she preaches: that Christian pastors take more care with the words they use and treat language with economy, courtesy and reverence. . . . All too often, Taylor insists, Christians are part of the problem rather than people who offer an alternative. It isn’t simply that the jargon of psychobabble is working its way into worship, but something deeper: a lack of trust in the essential mystery of God’s word. . . . If Taylor is eloquent in describing our misuse of language, she is even more eloquent when meditating on the value of silence, on ‘the game of divine hide and seek [which is] part of God’s pedagogy . . . [making] silence a vital component of God’s speech.’ She offers concrete and practical suggestions for ways to improve our relationship with both silence and the words God has given us. (Kathleen Norris, author of Amazing Grace)

In her 1997 Lyman Beecher Lectures, Barbara Taylor probes the question. . . : In a culture afflicted with rampant word inflation, how can preachers hope to bear effective witness to the Word? . . . “The instinctive reaction of many preachers . . . only exacerbates the problem. Perhaps, Taylor hypothesizes, instead of trying to compete with the incessant, empty chatter of the day, preachers should honor and cultivate a space for sacred silence. In broad and deft strokes she lines out the sweep of salvation history, suggesting that ‘revelation’ has always been as much (or more) a matter of what God leaves unspoken as of what God states. In this book . . . Barbara Taylor has framed a fitting space for further reflection. (David J. Schlafer, priest and consultant in momiletical formation, Bethseda, MD)

About the Author

Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest. She holds the Harry R. Butman Chair in Religion and Philosophy at Piedmont College in northeastern Georgia and serves as adjunct professor of Christian spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur. Recognized as one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English language by Baylor University in 1995, Taylor has published numerous collections of her sermons and theological reflections, including The Luminous Web, Speaking of Sin, and Gospel Medicine.

More About the Author

Barbara Brown Taylor's last book, An Altar in the World, was a New York Times bestseller that received the Silver Nautilus Award in 2012. Her first memoir, Leaving Church, received an Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association and won the Theologos Award for best general interest book of 2006. Taylor spent fifteen years in parish ministry before becoming the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College, where she has taught world religions since 1998. She lives on a working farm in rural north Georgia with her husband Ed.

Customer Reviews

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There are some really painful moments of realization for me in this book.
H Waterhouse
What Taylor does best, is allow the reader to reflect on whose word is being proclaimed on Sundays.
Gary Cyr
Barbara Brown Taylor is the kind of preacher that those of us who are, would like to be.
David B. Weber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 85 people found the following review helpful By curate@zebra.net on March 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Through her sermons, Barbara Brown Taylor has earned the reputation of speaking meaningful volumes using only a few choice words. In "When God is Silent," she lives into this reputation once again. Basing her reflections upon Hebrew Testament images of a famine in God's word, Taylor suggests that the glut of wordiness in the world of Church may really be the result not of an outpouring of God's Word upon the faithful, but of a God who is largely silent to us in this day and time. God is leading us to new and unknown discoveries by deliberately NOT speaking, thereby calling us, even requiring us, to listen intently for a new word. Our propensity to speak all the more reveals an unhealthy desire to fill the quiet void with our wordiness, thereby avoiding the real and unpredictable encounter with the God and Creator of the Universe.
A book useful for any who dares to preach the Word and exciting for all people of faith, "When God is Silent" is provacative, accessible, and... troubling. The Rev. Ms. Taylor argues that we live in a time when words are rapidly losing their power of meaning, so that it becomes increasingly difficult to say anything of substance of the Word. Nevertheless, the preacher is called to speak, and to speak faithfully. Fortunately, the Rev. Ms. Taylor's grasp of the written and spoken word remains balanced, firm and courteous, and she shares with the preacher useful insight for approaching the task.
"When God is Silent" deserves our quiet attention and humble consideration.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By David B. Weber on July 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Barbara Brown Taylor is the kind of preacher that those of us who are, would like to be. The book is dedicated to her mentor, Fred Craddock, who is also- like her- a poet first, and then a preacher. Taylor helps her listeners to anticipate, then embrace, God's silence, rather than lament it. She helps us all to understand that silence in such a way that we know we are looking over her shoulder, as she seeks to understand it herself.
As long as God has Taylor, God is not silent..
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Fred W Hood on January 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Barbara Brown Taylor is one more uniquely creative lady! When she begins Yale's Lyman Beecher Lectures her first words are, "How shall I break the silence?" After two attention grasping questions she paraphrases words from Genesis One, hints of creative silence: "The empty air is formless void waiting to be addressed...and the earth could be all ocean, a blue waterworld in space." Bringing in the first man Adam with several other metaphors, she has already captured every poet's attention! This is the same way she preaches...from Clarksville, to Atlanta, to Boston or to Washington.
...The last Chapter on Restraint is my favorite. There she quotes or refers to, Pascal, Rumi, Auden, Frost, Max Picard and then later tells a Jerry Garcia Story, of the "Grateful Dead" edited by Ken Kesey. Not only is she a Poet but an incredible story teller and knows the best from Robert Schumann to Samuel Barber. These last musical references are based upon "Jesus came among us as word. I believe God remains among us as music." How can you top that variety for sustaining interest of content?
How can anyone ever top her way of breaking silence?
Retired Chaplain Fred W Hood
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Lucas on May 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this book of lectures delivered at Yale Divinity School, Taylor states that the task of a preacher is not to give answers or advice but to "usher people into the presence of God who may or may not answer." She states if we have a God who always speaks, who's never absent or silent, perhaps we are worshipping or speaking to an imaginary God. "Only an idol always answers," she writes.

Taylor urges preachers not to cover for God's silence with numerous words but rather to employ a language that uses economy, courtesy, and reverence. "In a word-clogged world," she writes, "the only words that stand a chance of getting people's attention are simple, honest words that come from everyday life."

Taylor is unafraid to plunge into the mystery and dilemma of God's silence. Her reflections offer insight and guidance, not only to preachers but also to anyone who has struggled with unanswered prayer and the absence of a speaking God.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gary Cyr on March 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Barbara Brown Taylor demonstrates her craft as a preacher so effectively that she has earned the title of one of America's best. In her book When God is Silent, Barbara brings to light the difficulty many that preach face as they approach the Biblical text and message. In forthright honesty she gives expression to areas that both teach and frighten a preacher when they are preparing a homily: famine, silence, and restraint.

Taylor speaks to a culture that has become accustomed to its throwaway lifestyle. Words are disposable. With so many words now being assimilated into the English language, our minds are over satiated. This rich diet of fast food newsprint, magazine gluttony, and a blitzkrieg of entertainment television has numbed the ability of words to move and stir our being. In the midst of abundance, we are in a state of famine--a famine that is silent.

What do we do when we don't hear the voice of God? Taylor paints a picture of a God who has grown silent in order that we may pay attention. The canvas of silence is one we avoid with all our might. Upon the canvas, the colors are vivid primary tones that our culture tries to dull with noise and activity. Her point is well taken...God is not really silent, people have just muted God out. But she warns preachers to be wary of using too much language to fill voids of silence, for silence is the antacid to settle our indigestion caused by over feeding on our vernacular.

What Taylor does best, is allow the reader to reflect on whose word is being proclaimed on Sundays. She uses the old adage of `less is more' to articulate that holding back on word usage allows for the silence to speak, almost like a ray of sunlight peaking through a cloud covered sky.
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