Fortress Press

Honest to God Preaching: Talking Sin, Suffering, and Violence

Honest to God Preaching

Talking Sin, Suffering, and Violence

Brent A. Strawn (Author)


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Old Testament scholar and interpreter Brent A. Strawn focuses on the importance of honesty in preaching, especially around three challenging Old Testament themes: sin, suffering, and violence. He makes the case that preaching honestly is critical in the church today. Without honesty regarding these topics, there is no way forward to reconciliation, health, and recovery. Further, it is imperative for today's preachers to deal with the questions of faith arising from these themes in the biblical text itself. In addition to key scripture passages, he turns to several contemporary authors and works as dialogue partners on the three themes.

Asserting that keeping secrets can lead to a kind of sickness, Strawn uses texts from the Pentateuch and the Psalms to model honesty about sin, without which there can be no reconciliation, and honesty about suffering, without which there can be no healing. He also looks at the book of Joshua and various psalms to model honesty about violence, which can serve as a way to contain, limit, and ultimately transcend violence.

Strawn frames these themes specifically for working preachers, so they can create sermons that speak to these thorny themes with depth and clarity.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506461267
  • eBook ISBN 9781506461274
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 232
  • Publication Date December 7, 2021


"If you want to be honest before, about, and to God, not only in preaching, but in your entire life, this is the book for you. Strawn is a world-class biblical theologian, a truth-teller, and if we follow his wisdom, the Christian pulpit will eventually be set free to tell the honest-to-God truth and nothing but the truth."

Luke Powery, Duke Divinity School

"Strawn brings his singular gifts to the reality and crisis of preaching. These include his deep, wide attention to Scripture, his deep reading in collateral disciplines, and his passion for the church. The church has spent too much energy being 'the friendliest place in town' and too much time being 'the happiest place in town.' And now, says Strawn, it is called to be 'the most honest place in town.'"

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Preachers: Look no farther for your next sermon series (I won't). Professors: Look no farther for your next homiletics text (I won't). This is no book to sit back and passively consume. It is an invitation to the courage necessary to risk ecclesial confession and restoration. Who's with me?"

Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology in British Columbia

"Strawn is one of our most fruitful, astute, honest interpreters of Scripture. Strawn and his Old Testament friends shake our preconceptions, rattle our cages, and boldly speak to subjects that often dumbfound the contemporary church."

Will Willimon, Duke Divinity School

"Strawn's bracing call for honesty about sin, suffering, and violence offers an important challenge to contemporary preaching. But what really sets this book apart is its close reading of some of the most difficult texts in the Old Testament. Strawn joins thoughtful exegesis with an integrative vision that illumines the whole."

Ted A. Smith, A. H. Shatford Professor of Preaching and Ethics, Candler School of Theology