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4.5 out of 5 stars
2
Living Countertestimony: Conversations With Walter Brueggemann
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on November 13, 2012
People often read the works of authors but few authors are personally read by people. In a manner that imitates the title of the book, this work offers an intimate look at one of evangelical world's most popular preachers and teachers, especially in all things Old Testament. Call it counterculture, or against the flow, or simply being himself, Brueggemann offers readers an inner glimpse of how he thinks, and his struggles with fellow scholars, and how he defends the way he does things. While the provocative questions are made by Carolyn Sharp, the book is essentially Brueggemann's. He shares with readers his deep convictions about the Old Testament texts, and how he prays through each day, to be faithful in teaching the texts according to his gifts. Designed in a more conversational style, Brueggemann responds to Sharp's questions with frankness, and at times with a measured disappointment with those who disagree with them. Using 8 of Brueggemann's talks between 2008 and 2011, Sharp brings together a wide range of conversations covering from biblical interpretations, to his interactions with scholars who disagree with Brueggemann's approach.

This book is fascinating as it offers deep insights into how the popular preacher and scholar thinks and speaks. I admire his conviction and boldness to go beyond the boundaries set by various traditions. At the risk of being labeled a heretic by some conservative scholars, Brueggemann justifies his hermeneutics by proclaiming that God needs to be allowed to speak for Himself, and that the theological community needs to engage different perspectives more, instead of huddling like-minded people together. There is value in openness and friendly conversations. I appreciate the honesty and the many revelations of Brueggemann's personal life. It is comforting to know that despite the highly regarded position Brueggemann holds, he has a very humble beginning, that like many people, also struggles with getting the grades we all want. I read that Brueggemann tries to be gracious with the people that he disagrees with. Yet, sometimes I feel like he is more frustrated rather than gracious. Perhaps, the "acrimonious exchange" can be seen in a more positive light, to see the dissent as a way to keep Brueggemann's "prophetic imagination" in check. It is natural to be upset about people criticizing his works. It is also understandable that in an environment of theological diversity, the best of each perspective can only come about through challenges and rigorous engagement. It is one thing to justify and to explain one's views. It is yet another to seek to challenge and to push the other person to be better proponents of their hermeneutic. I remember years ago, my professors telling me the three biggest criteria for theological studies: Humility, humility, and humility. In the field of biblical studies, that is most true.

This book offers me a greater appreciation of Brueggemann's theological bent. It is also a book in which I learn to be more measured with regards to his way of reading Scripture, that whatever imaginative work I want to do with the biblical text, I need a strong foundation of conservative scholarship. In other words, the creativity of Brueggemann and the rigorous conservatism of Waltke makes for a solid biblical offering.

I can see that Brueggemann is visibly upset about some of the negative remarks said by people about his works. At one point he even asks for these people NOT to be invited for his talks. Whether it is said jokingly or not, is subject to interpretation. That said, I am still intrigued by the influence of this biblical theologian. For all the criticisms of him and his works, the way he is able to connect academic work with pastoral formation of the laity, makes his works required reading for anyone desiring to connect more from pulpit to parish.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

conrade
This book is provided to me free by Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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on January 2, 2013
As an avid reader of Brueggemann it is fascinating to get a glimpse of the man behind the theology. It was at times difficult to determine if the focus of the book was in fact Brueggemann, or Sharp. It struck me that she far too frequently gave lengthy introductory comments detailing her own thoughts and opinions on a topic, that rendered little more than a 'yes' or 'indeed' from Brueggemann. Would have preferred more input from Brueggemann and much less from Sharp.
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