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Preaching Fools

The Gospel as a Rhetoric of Folly

Charles L. Campbell

Publication Year: 2012

The court jesters, clowns, foolish ones: all images of the comic, sometimes tragic, fool. Across national and cultural borders, the archetype of the fool has played a significant role in how communities interpret and ascribe identity. As Charles Campbell and Johan Cilliers remind us, the Christian preacher, tasked with delivering a paradoxical gospel, is also a fool. In a delicate exploration with enlightening results, Preaching Fools uses a diverse representation of fools and foolish actions to show how modern preaching is inseparable from the folly of the cross. Campbell and Cilliers walk the fine line between the ugliness and beauty of the gospel and challenge readers toward a deeper engagement with its unsettling message.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

The gospel is foolishness. Preaching is folly. Preachers are fools. These simple, loaded sentences wind as a refrain throughout this book. Here at the beginning, however, we need to add one more sentence: Homileticians are fools. For homileticians actually try to understand...

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pp. xv-xvii

There are many people to thank for a book like this one. Carey Newman, the director of Baylor University Press and our editor, saw the potential in this rather unwieldy project, and he guided us every step of the way, from the conception of the book to its final form. He read the manuscript several times...

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1. Don Quixote and the Cross

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pp. 1-15

The gospel is foolishness. Preaching is folly. Preachers are fools.1 And preachers of the gospel are not alone in their folly; they are in lively and colorful company. For fools are everywhere.2 From tricksters to jesters, from holy fools to clowns, fools are found around...

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2. Folly at the Heart of Preaching

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pp. 17-38

The image of the donkey on the cross, the Kongo crucifix, and Picasso’s Crucifixion (1930) point us to one of the most extended and important treatments of preaching and preachers in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 1:17-25, Paul writes...

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3. Theology between Fragment and Form

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pp. 39-66

Liminality. We have already used this concept in several ways. We have argued that the folly of the gospel interrupts the presuppositions and myths of the old age and creates a liminal, threshold space at the juncture of the ages—a space in which change...

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4. Melting the Solidity of the World

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pp. 67-102

In her classic study of the fool, Enid Welsford writes that fools engage in “melting the solidity of the world.”3 Fools, that is, “melt” those conventions, myths, and rationalities that, often unbeknownst to us, are written in stone. Or, to put that in the terms developed...

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5. Fooling the World: The Folly of Jesus

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pp. 103-126

Just as he dies a fool, parodying the parodic exaltation of the cross, so throughout his ministry Jesus plays the fool. Like the tricksters and jesters and holy fools we have discussed, Jesus is a radically liminal figure, crossing boundaries, teaching and preaching with intentional...

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6. Laughter and Lament

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pp. 127-151

Humor, as has become clear, is a primary tool of the fool, even for Jesus. But Chrysostom, the patron saint of preachers, has a point. Life can be serious business. Nothing to laugh about; enough to cry over. Especially if one becomes overwhelmed by experiences of suffering...

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7. Preaching Fools

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pp. 153-180

Preachers are fools. Preaching fools. At the deepest levels this characterization is inescapable. For preachers proclaim the foolish, disruptive gospel of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And in the face of the principalities and powers, preachers bet their lives on a Word...

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8. The Rhetoric of Folly

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pp. 181-216

The gospel is foolishness. Preaching is folly. Preachers are fools. The foolishness goes all the way down, encompassing finally the rhetoric of preaching. Preaching fools employ a rhetoric of folly. Like preaching fools themselves, this rhetoric interrupts the conventions and rationalities...


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pp. 217-235


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pp. 237-253

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781602583672
E-ISBN-10: 1602583676
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602583658
Print-ISBN-10: 160258365X

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1