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HTS Theological Studies

Print version ISSN 0259-9422

Herv. teol. stud. vol.64 no.2 Pretoria Apr./June 2008

 

Boekbesprekings / Book Reviews

 

 

Brueggemann, W 2006 – The word that redescribes the world: The Bible and discipleship
Publisher: Fortress. Pages 235. Price: Unknown.
Reviewer: Rev André Ungerer (Klerksdorp)

The title of the book already indicates that Brueggemann – as always – begins with the text of the Scripture. Throughout the book both the danger and the power of Scripture are emphasized and a mode of looking that is confrontational, especially between text and the world we live in, is encountered. Brueggemann, as an Old Testament scholar, uses a rich variety of texts, also from the New Testament, to confront the world we live in. The text of the world is described in various ways throughout the book: It is the text of the Enlightenment, of modernism, autonomous freedom, technical solutions to every problem, sexual emancipation, systematic violence, to name but a few. The book is about the redescription (by means of the Word) that protests against the initial description and presentation of reality (the World) which is not an adequate or trustworthy account.

The subtitle The Bible and discipleship does not imply a ten point plan as a modus operandi on how to encourage discipleship in a congregation, for in Brueggemann's own words: "Discipleship is no easy church program". Brueggemann dwells on the fundamental issues of the God who calls and the God who sends. In short God calls to discipleship, that is, to follow his presence and purpose and promise, with disciplines being needed for the project. God sends because (a) this God has compelling authority to issue imperatives that anticipate ready acceptance and (b) this God has a compelling passion for what is to be affected and enacted in the world over which this God is governor.

This book consists of a collection of essays written and published in a variety of contexts and in response to a number of different questions and invitations. The book follows a threefold arrangement organizing the contents into three sections, with a total of 11 chapters (essays), edited by Patrick D Miller.

The first section, The Word redescribing the world, occupies itself with the Biblical text and the way in which Biblical rediscription may be practiced with authority in a cultural context in which old patterns of authority have become outdated. In Proclamatory confrontations Brueggemann describes the preacher's difficult task in his/her confrontation with truth and power. He characterizes preaching as truth speaking to power – "in our postmodern world it is a power that is endlessly subtle, complex and elusive".

The second section, The Word redefining the possible, begins with Jerusalem as a general metaphor that can be applied to all our cities and Brueggemann links it to the urgent issues facing our cities today. The chapter about evangelism and discipleship provides an excellent and critical reflection on these disciplines. As Brueggemann states: "The talk makes the walk possible, and the walk is to heal, to break all vicious cycles of diminishment that violate the intention of the creator". In the next chapter the dangers of consumerism as a life of self-preoccupation are cast in the light of Biblical citizenship which is one of being truly blessed givers. The section ends with a chapter on ecumenism as the shared practice of a peculiar identity.

In the last section Brueggemann presents a vision of a community of disciples that is shaped by the Word, firstly by commissioning the disciples to fight against scarcity and then by describing how holiness becomes generosity. The book is concluded with a chapter on patriotism for the citizens of the penultimate superpower. It is perhaps apt to end this review by quoting Brueggemann's own reference to preaching as truth speaking to power. This book is indeed about truth speaking to power in such a way that it mobilizes the Christian community to participate in being the truth in such a manner that it can no longer be ignored.