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New Books from Duke Divinity Faculty

Stations of the Heart: Parting with a Son 

By Richard Lischer, James T. and Alice Mead Cleland Professor of Preaching

Knopf, 2013

272 pages, Hardcover, $25.00

This poignant love story of a father for his son is at once funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful. In it a young man teaches his entire family “a new way to die” with wit, candor, and, always, remarkable grace. This emotionally riveting account probes the heart without sentimentality or self-pity. As the book opens, Richard Lischer’s son, Adam, calls to tell his father that his cancer has returned. Adam is a smart, charismatic young man with a promising law career who seems an unlikely candidate for tragedy. That his young wife is pregnant with their first child makes the disease’s return all the more devastating. Despite the crushing magnitude of his diagnosis and the cruel course of the illness, Adam’s growing weakness evokes in him an unexpected strength. This is the story of one last summer and the young man who lived it as honestly and faithfully as possible. We meet Adam in many phases of his growing up, but always through the narrow lens of his undying hope, when in the final season of his life he becomes his family’s (and his father’s) spiritual leader. Honest in its every dimension, Stations of the Heart is an unforgettable book about life and death and the terrible blessing of saying good-bye.

Art, Imagination and Christian Hope: Patterns of Promise

Edited by Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology and Director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, Trevor Hart, and Gavin Hopps

Ashgate Publishing Company, 2012

193 pages, Hardcover, $99.95

In hope, Christian faith reconfigures the shape of what is familiar in order to pattern the contours of God’s promised future. In this process, the present is continuously re-shaped by ventures of hopeful and expectant living. In art, this same poetic interplay between past, present, and future takes specific concrete forms, furnishing vital resources for sustaining an imaginative ecology of hope. This volume (part of the Ashgate Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts) attends to the contributions that architecture, drama, literature, music, and painting can make. It explores how artists trace patterns of promise, resist the finality of modernity’s despairing visions, and generate hopeful living in a present which, although marked by sin and death, is grasped imaginatively as already pregnant with future.

Preaching Fools: The Gospel as a Rhetoric of Folly

By Charles L. Campbell, professor of homiletics, and Johan H. Cilliers

Baylor University Press, 2012

272 pages, Hardcover, $39.95

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.

The Eloquence of Grace: Joseph Sittler and the Preaching Life

Edited by Richard Lischer, James T. and Alice Mead Cleland Professor of Preaching, and James M. Childs Jr.

Cascade, 2012

340 pages, Paperback, $40.00

Joseph A. Sittler (1904–1987) was one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, distinguished for his pioneering work in ecology and for his preeminence as a preacher. He gave both the Beecher Lectures at Yale and the Noble Lectures at Harvard. As the “preacher’s theologian,” Sittler approached the interpretation of Scripture with a clear understanding of current critical scholarship, but also in the freedom of the gospel at the center of Scripture and with the humility of a theologian of the cross. In following the trajectory of the text into the preaching situation he gave a lively, timeless, and eloquent expression to the fact that the interpretation of texts is in the service of proclamation. This collection of readings from Sittler’s rich legacy contains a great many presentations and sermons that have never before appeared in print. Theologically serious preaching, close attention to language, engagement with the best of sacred and secular culture, and a deep respect for the text, all characteristics of Sittler’s work, are the sort of features that continue to edify. They remain as benchmarks for good preaching even as styles and contexts evolve.

The Works of John Wesley Volume 12: Doctrinal and Controversial Treatises I

Edited by Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies

Abingdon Press, 2012

504 pages, Hardcover, $58.00

The first of three theological volumes and part of The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley, this volume is devoted to four of Wesley’s foundational treatises on soteriology. These treatises include, first, Wesley’s extract from the Homilies of the Church of England, which he published to convince his fellow Anglican clergy that the “evangelical” emphasis on believers experiencing a conscious assurance of God’s pardoning love was consistent with this standard of Anglican doctrine. Next is Wesley’s extract of Richard Baxter’s Aphorisms of Justification, aimed more at those who shared his evangelical emphasis, invoking this honored moderate Puritan to challenge antinomian conceptions of the doctrine of justification by faith. This is followed by Wesley’s abridgement of the Shorter Catechism issued by the Westminster Assembly in his Christian Library, where he affirms broad areas of agreement with this standard of Reformed doctrine—while quietly removing items with which he disagreed. The fourth item is Wesley’s extended response to the Dissenter John Taylor on the doctrine of original sin, which highlights differences within the broad “Arminian” camp, with Wesley resisting a drift toward naively optimistic views of human nature that he discerned in Taylor.


By Will Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry

Cascade, 2012

266 pages, Paperback, $29.00

This novel features Hope Church—its clergy and its people—who are an unforgettable cast of saints and sinners. While serving a heavenly realm, they also have their feet plainly planted in the muck and mire of the real world. Here is an Easter story of ordinary folk caught in the gracious grasp of an extraordinary God. In this rollicking, hilarious, sometimes pathetic, fast-paced, and always entertaining journey through a month of Sundays at Hope Church, we meet a wild set of characters in church people who are surprised to be the body of Christ. Sex, violence, greed, grunge, lust, and lies—all in church! Saints and sinners all, caught within the embrace of a God who refuses to make proper distinctions.

Thank God It’s Thursday: At the Table with Jesus

By William H. Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry

Abingdon Press, 2013

120 pages, Paperback, $13.99

This prequel to Thank God It’s Friday follows the Gospel of John to focus on Jesus’ teaching of his disciples prior to his own death but also before their own hour of decision. The climax of the Gospel is when Jesus pours out his life on the cross—surely an enactment and demonstration of the power of God’s self-sacrificial love. To sustain and fortify his followers for the difficulties ahead, Jesus prepares them by teaching and offering sacraments of self-giving, through which they (and we) experience the grace and presence of the risen Lord. This book can equip Christians to face their hardships as they humbly serve with the promise of God’s abiding presence already made good by his outpouring of sacrificial love.