Customer Reviews: The Foolishness of Preaching : Proclaiming the Gospel Against the Wisdom of the World
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on April 27, 1998
This is an uplifting book. Capon is particularly adept at unveiling our shallow "theologies of the Cross." This stuff is Calvin with a flair. Those who preach will appreciate his lively Buechner-esque style. I enjoy the way he anticipates various protests from his reader, then answers him/her with earthy honesty. For example, to those who insist on topical over lectionary preaching, he quips: "Like topical anesthetics (topical sermons) don't go deep!" The price of the book is worth the first part. The second part, on the mechanics of the sermon, is not as fun to read, but will be helpful for those just starting out in the pulpit. --Phil Jones, pastor Ayden Christian Church, Ayden NC.
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It is odd that men are called to preach sermons, isn't it? Fallible preaching by fallible men is a dangerous affair. As Christians we hold the Bible to be infallible, our final authority for faith and life. God has used men to preach the perfect Word of God, to put into words what Scripture means. The foolishness of preaching is almost comical when viewed that way.

Capon is a writer who I love to read, partly because I disagree with him so much. His theology is wacky, his methods are unconventional, and his wit is too sharp at times. On the other hand, he is challenging in many ways and he is an amazing writer. I always come away from reading Capon having learned much more than when I read an author I already know I agree with.

If you are in the position where you have to preach a sermon in a couple of months, you could do a lot worse than this book. In the second section Capon specifically addresses preachers and gives some great advice for those who want to learn the real work of preaching sermons. His timetable and schedule is realistic, spiritually challenging, and thoughtful.

As good as the second section is for preachers, the first section (The Bedrock of Preaching) is more applicable for all believers. Capon's first chapter is his take on gospel presentation. This is something that I have reflected on many times since the first read, and will probably do so for years. This first chapter alone is worth the price of the book and will certainly provoke a lot of thought.

One of the many quotes I really like from the book, "Topical sermons are like topical anesthetics: they don't go deep." (63)

Capon also offers some great writing advice on page 131. It's a small addition to the book, but some of the best advice on writing that I have read.

This is not Capon's best, but there is plenty to glean from this work whether you are a preacher or not. Get this book after you have read, and liked, some of his other works like The Romance of the Word.
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on December 3, 2002
Capon urges those of us who preach to keep our focus on what is most important, namely Jesus Christ. It's not about keeping the rules nor about holding the right doctrine. It's about being held in love by the God who made us and wants to save us by grace through Christ. If you only read one book on preaching this year, it needs to be this one.
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on December 31, 2010
As the title might suggest, this is not a book for everyone. It is, more specifically, a book for preachers, and I would add, writers too. Though even then, the preacher or writer in question should have thick skin and a strong handle on his or her doctrine. I disagree with Capon about much: his politics, his ethics, often his theology, and sometimes even his preaching. Yet I could not put this book down.

Capon (b. 1925) is an American Episcopal priest and author who has been actively writing and publishing books for over 40 years, beginning with Bed and Board in 1965. He writes about family, money, sexuality, health, food, children, theology, and cigars with unparalleled wit.

In The Foolishness of Preaching, Capon tackles the tension between the divine force and human impotence of the act of delivering a sermon week-in and week-out. He reminds his readers, mostly pastors, of the necessity for "a passion for the Passion." He warns against the cult, creed, and conduct of religion that have lulled our congregations to sleep as we (preachers) use those "grim pills" as replacements for the jaw-dropping shocker of GRACE.

He writes, "I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills, spirituality pills, and morality pills, and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross--and then be brave enough to stick around while it goes through inevitable withdrawal symptoms" (Capon, 14).

Capon divides his book in half. Part 1 ("The Bedrock of Preaching") deals with foundational issues of Gospel-proclamation. While part 2 ("The Practice of Preaching") deals with practical issues of weekly preaching. He offers valuable helps for those who use only notes as well as for those who preach from a detailed manuscript.
Though I cannot follow Capon at each turn (at many turns!), I am deeply thankful for this book. The Foolishness of Preaching has made its way on to the (very) short list of books I recommend on the subject of preaching. Experience Capon and enjoy. You'll likely thank me later. Though you be mad as heck at him!
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on November 29, 2010
Capon is very sound, and you will see he is very, very different.

He will paint a picture to your ear that will last.

After reading several of his books, I had to talk to him. I called his church and asked him what helps you come up with great ideas to deeply communicate such difficult concepts? A gracious and warm man said, I read the Bible and it flows out.
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on June 25, 2013
This book has two sections; the Bedrock of Preaching and the Practice of Preaching. Capon lays down the Gospel in the first part, which for seasoned Caponians, is a refreshing re-acquaintance with an old friend. He shows us just how foolish the Gospel really is, and why it is so important that we actually preach the Gospel. Nothing else will do. Not the Law. Not religion. Its got to be Christ crucified for sinners. That is all we must know in the pulpit.
The Practice of Preaching lays out how he preaches, which isn't always helpful for preachers, but at least it is interesting to see how a guy who has been preaching for decades puts together a sermon. As preachers, we must never tire of honing our craft. This very readable book will hopefully be a shot in the arm for any pastor who is tired, and a word of encouragement for all who work so hard at proclaiming the foolishness of the Gospel.
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on October 29, 2014
I am not sure about this book. During the reading of the text, every now and then, the author would provide a great insight into the text. Every now and then, the author would say something that needed to be recorded, reflected, and remembered, but much of the book left me with little to add to my preaching. If I was to highlight the best elements of this text, it would be the rebuke to modern preachers. He seemed to call out preachers for the show that is put on too often in pulpits. What he means by this is that preachers are too busy attempting to impress the listener with his message, and less concerned with helping his listener transform by the text. We are too ego driven within the message. The author states that the paradigm of preachers should be powerlessness. He also highlights the blindness of ministers. He is very adamant that preachers miss the text because of the power of religiosity. Instead of allowing God to speak through the text, we preach control instead of spirit. We have a control issue, in which we need to control the people in the crowd through sermon. His chapter on the ingredients of preaching is excellent. It is a basic list of habits to provide good preaching. There is not secret step, but all of them will help. One of the hardest for preachers is securing time with God and the text to allow the text to shape you instead of you shaping the text. The last part of the book, he provides his methodology for producing a good sermon. Mostly, this section deals with fleshing out the text, and making notes on it. This section was less helpful, and already thought through. This book will not change your preaching style, but it will help you reengage the text in a fresh way. His style would line up well with a post-liberal perspective, in which the text speaks, and the otherness of the Word of God would shine through into this culture, and those who are blind spiritually will miss it. But the key is, if you are the preacher, you might be missing it too.
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on April 5, 2015
One of the Best books I've read!
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on December 2, 2010
I greatly enjoy Capon's writing & agree with much that he says. I find missing-the biblical connection that "Faith-Pisteu", (Lean on- trust in -depend on) is a living faith-a love response to the the one who loves us.. Capon's light clarification of faith is a bit casual ie believe what God has done),In my view the focus sidetracts the truth that one is to lean on -trust in-& depend on th one wh has done it.He is alive-faith is alive-I love him because he first loves me-Not cheap-but costly John 3:16 "God SO LOVES the world-that he Gave..." Essentialy faith is to be a love response, to God's love for me ie a Living faith-James clarifies this somewhat......The 500 lb elephant Capon describes-is now lopsided on the other end-Me thinks love is reciprocal-God desires me -that i might desire him...Not require-but yes desire
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on May 10, 2007
Although the author has some great insight into the need to look at Christ alone he really dismisses any use of the Law as legalism.

The law used wrongly, to make people keep trying to keep it as a means to measure their relationship to God, should be abandoned.

But the law used correctly, as a guide to point us to our need for the sacrifice of Christ, is very much still valid in preaching. All use of the law is not "relgion". The OT laws were meant to be a part of faith just as NT communion and baptism are today. If you dismiss the OT laws as legalism you must also dismiss the NT sacraments as such also. And I don't think he really means to do that.

Also to make some points he travels into speculative areas instead of those that are more scripturally clear. For instance he makes the point that God creates out of nothing. Then he makes the point that He can recreate out of nothing. And he then basically said that there was a point when you were nonexitent so whose to say that after you die you may be nonexistent again so that God may raise you up from "nothing" just as he created the world from nothing in the first place.

He equates "nothing" with nonexistence. I have a problem with that. When Jesus says. "apart from me you can do nothing" is He saying that what you do apart from Him never happened? No, of course not. He's saying it is "zero, of no account to yourself, adds nothing to you (i.e. the Work of Christ is all you really have)".

So be aware of such things if you read this book.
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