Sunday, December 2, 2012

Preaching After God -- Review

 PREACHING AFTER GOD: Derrida, Caputo, and the Language of Postmodern HomileticsBy Phil Snider.  Eugene, OR:  Cascade Books, 2012.  X + 227 pages.

We who are preachers have been trained, in one way or another, to deliver monologues to congregations who are expected to sit and listen attentively.  Apparently this traditional form of religious communication is no longer connecting with the masses.  But it’s not just the forms of delivery that are problematic; it is also the content that is being shared.  Part of the challenge is the growth of technology and the prominence of the visual over the auditory.  But that’s not the only problem facing us.  Many simply don’t buy the traditional religious message. 

So, what to do?  We could introduce more video presentations and take our communication cues from Letterman and Colbert.  After all, if the Top Ten list works for Letterman, why not in the pulpit?  But is this enough to keep the attention of a tech savvy audience?  But again, it’s not just the medium that is the problem.  The message itself – and the one to whom it points is in question.   That is, does the preacher have a word from God that connects with the lives of those she or he addresses?

Nietzsche declared God to be dead, and while many in the church pretend that Nietzsche’s pronouncement is irrelevant, for many the traditional understandings of divinity no longer make sense.  We, who preach, therefore, are faced with the prospect of speaking of God in ways that take seriously this pronouncement.  For many preachers, the dilemma of the challenge placed upon them by modernity has left them with little to share beyond “grand ethical exhortations that are more anthropological in focus than theological” (p. 3).  That is, as Phil Snider points out in Preaching After God, many progressive Christians are attracted by social justice and compassion, they find it difficult to speak of God’s agency in the world.  We’re called as preachers to declare the Word of God, but we find it difficult to speak of God in any real way.  As a result our preaching tends toward moralistic platitudes.

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