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Conversations with Barth on Preaching Paperback – May 1, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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About the Author

Feeling most at home behind a pulpit, Will Willimon’s deepest calling is to be a preacher and truth-teller of Jesus Christ. He is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University Divinity School and retired Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, after serving for 20 years as faculty member and Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Will Willimon has published many books, including his preaching subscription service on MinistryMatters.com, Pulpit Resource, and Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, both published by Abingdon Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0687341612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0687341610
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
If you are a well-versed student of Barth, you will find much in this book that will resonate, as the author (who must be one of the world's experts on the 20th century theologian by virtue of his lifelong love for the man and his message) provides skillful observations about what approach the preacher should take when preaching. If you are somewhat new to Barth, then do not fret, Willimon gives much background about his life and work to help you along at every page.

Dr. Willimon is used to addressing a well-educated audience and in this book we find him taking the high road of theological thinking and are glad of it. The book presents the main arguments supplemented in each case by indented additional material (all well worth reading--but the author says from the outset that one can read the book omitting these and have the whole thought presented). He also intersperses some of his own sermons to serve as illustrations of his hope to adhere to the precepts of Barth in moving from scripture to homely.

It is easy to draw ideas but hard to draw conclusions about this book because the reader is apt to return again and again to it, to see what else might be worthy of consideration for the preaching moment of next Sunday. This reader hopes to incorporate ideas expressed in this book in future, and looks forward to the feedback from the people in the pews. Other readers will probably want to do the same.

I only wish that Dr. Willimon had included some of Dr. Barth's sermons in translation that have not appeared in English heretofore. What an added treat that would have been.

Not long ago I watched contestants on a travel reality show as they tried to eat more than their share of a long link of sausage. This book reminds me of that.
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I have been a pastor for 17 years and on a yearly basis try to read a collection of sermons (usually classic sermons from the Church Fathers), and a contemprary voice on preaching. This year I chose Willimon's book. Early in my calling, I was influenced by Barth's teaching on the Word of God as it was presented in His Dogmatics (I.1). I have long been an admirer of William Willimon as a preacher, and as he was writing on an early influence upon what I believe I am doing on a weekly basis, it seemed like a good fit. I have not been disappointed.

Willimon is an appreciative reader of Barth, but he is not uncritical. At many points he delares what Barth has to say, and then states where, in his view, Barth has gone to far. He is up front with his own theological inclinations, and does not hesitate to point out where Barth has mis-stated the case. Still, he is very much in agreement with what that great mind has to say about the task of speaking for God. I felt as if I was going on an intelectual journey of a great preacher being taught by a great theologian. Wonderful! I encourage all pastors and preachers who have an affinity to the thought of Karl Barth to pick this up.
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Format: Paperback
Written by one of the best preachers in the US about one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, this book is an outstanding contribution to Barth studies. Too often thought of as a "theologian" in the negative sense of being too academic, Barth is often read only by "academics" who are interested in esoteric and obscure matters. The problem is, Barth's writing, although meaty and dense at times, is filled with a passion for the task of preaching. Much of Barth's life was spent wrestling (and often failing) at preaching and was the goal for his entire theological project.

This book centres around the practice of preaching in light of Barth's theology and makes the point that a good preacher is a good theologian. That is to preach is to bear witness faithfully to the gospel as God's free act in toward his creatures, not eloquent rhetoric (although Barth is good at that too, despite his dislike of it!).

Read and enjoy!
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"Every Sunday we are issuing a declaration of war against some of the most cherished idols of our culture. The world in which we live is adamantly set against the gospel--and always has been. This culture in which we work is arranged, in all sorts of subtle but powerful ways, against the claims that Jesus Christ is Lord--and always has been. The world is a world at war--and always has been. Sovereignty is under dispute--and always has been. Thus the Bible is full of violence and war, for there was something about Jesus that brought out the worst in the world. Christians are contentious. It is not because we want to be critical and contentious, but rather it is because of the inability of the presumptive world to relinquish its tight, imperialistic grip upon the imagination, that there is conflict. "Common sense," always a great foe of gospel foolishness, is really social consensus."
Please forgive the long quote from this book. But if the above quote went from your ears, through your brain, and ended up in your gut because of what you see as its singular, forceful, clear-sighted explanation of what you know preaching really SHOULD BE, not what it is from week to week, than this book is for you. It's not an easy, quick read--but Will Willimon has written a great book, one that will challenge preachers who take the time to digest its insights. Highly recommended.
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