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Summer/Fall 1999
Volume 4 Number 2


shelves logo bw.jpg (10022 bytes)On the Shelves...

On the Shelves features book recommendations from Princeton Seminary faculty and staff to help alumni/ae choose books that contribute to their personal and professional growth.

From James F. Kay, the Joe R. Engle Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics, and editor, Princeton Seminary Bulletin

The Foolishness of Preaching: Proclaiming the Gospel against the Wisdom of the World by Robert Farrar Capon. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998

There is a genre that falls into the category of "there are a few things I want to say." Robert Capon, author of twenty-four books, culinary artist, and Episcopal priest, has a few things he wants to say to other preachers. But just as he lets us have it, he trains his sights on his own prejudices, so that we can all have a good laugh at ourselves. Capon, raised an Anglo-Catholic, rails against the spirituality industry. A self-identified "liberal," he decries a persecuting political correctness focusing on the sexual sins of pastors, and he laments the "liturgical jihad" that chops displeasing passages out of the lectionary.

To his credit, Capon begins with the question of what is the Gospel. (How many preaching books do that?) He urges his preachers to have a "passion for the Passion," and to see in the cross of Christ the place where God "has torn up his membership card in the God Union" and where saving ourselves by "religion pills, spirituality pills, and morality pills" ends. Grace meets us in our sins, not after them. The scandal of the church is not that she and her ministry have a "fair share of the world’s liars, louts, and closet letches—not to mention our cadres of boozers, backbiters, and bores," but that in the face of this situation the church continually exchanges the Gospel of grace for the self-appointed role of "God’s moral cop on the beat." As Capon writes, "If a sinner can’t proclaim forgiveness, who’s left to preach?" Who, indeed?


The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Vol 2: The Patristic Period by Hughes Oliphant Old, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998

At the turn of the last century, Southern Baptist Edwin A. Dargan of Louisville authored an encyclopedic two-volume History of Preaching. Reprinted and enlarged in 1954, Dargan’s magisterial monument has remained definitive.

Now, Hughes Oliphant Old has emerged from his years of European study (a doctorate under J. J. von Allmen), of preaching to his Indiana congregation, and of writing wide-ranging books on worship to project a seven-volume successor to Dargan for the twenty-first century: The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. Notice the title. Preaching is anchored to the reading of the Scriptures in the context of worship. Two volumes are now out. Two more are announced for this year.

Preachers who delve into these volumes are in for a treat. They read beautifully. They read irenically. But they are written without apology by a Presbyterian preacher-scholar who claims the treasures of the ancient church. In volume two, he introduces us to the two Cyrils, the Cappadocian Fathers, Chrysostom, and Augustine, among many others. Old has the enthusiasm of a tour guide in the Holy Land. "Take a look at this!" we hear him say. And as we do, we are handed a wide-angle lens to see that, as hard as preaching is and has to be, we are not alone. We stand in a sweeping, often surprising, landscape peopled by fellow-pilgrims who have announced the Gospel in every age. Old navigates our terrain well, showing the paths, often overlooked, by which scriptural preaching still proceeds.


Copyright 1999 Princeton Theological Seminary
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bluediam (287 bytes) On the Shelves
bluediam (287 bytes) outStanding in the Field
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