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Preaching Fools
The Gospel as a Rhetoric of Folly

By Charles L. Campbell and Johan H. Cilliers

Preaching Fools
Hardback, 272 pages $29.95
Published: 15th June 2012
ISBN: 9781602583658
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Religious Studies, Preaching

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.


1. Don Quixote and the Cross
2. Folly at the Heart of Preaching
3. Theology between Fragment and Form
4. Melting the Solidarity of the World
5. Fooling the World: The Folly of Jesus
6. Laughter and Lament
7. Preaching Fools
8. The Rhetoric of Folly


"A deeply theological, multi-dimensional, and challenging portrayal of what it means to be fools in the pulpit! This book is a treasure."

—Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, Clement-Muehl Professor of Homiletics, Yale Divinity School

"Campbell and Cilliers have written a book that is at once startling in its simplicity and disturbing in its depth. Preaching Fools is both unsettling and encouraging, compelling and liberating, a marvelous tool for preachers willing to risk the rhetoric of folly to speak truth."

—Allan Boesak, Theologian in Residence, The International Institute for the Study of Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, Free State University, South Africa

"Preaching Fools invites us to an exciting journey in pictures and words through the homiletic landscape. If you participate, you will be instructed in a fundamental way by a very original approach to homiletics."

—Albrecht Grözinger, Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland

"Whoever wants to thoroughly rethink his or her theology of preaching must read this book."

—Alexander Deeg, Chair of Practical Theology and Director of the Lutheran Liturgical Institute, Leipzig University, Germany

"An incisive and discerning work—laced with examples of humor, liminality, and incongruity—that deeply unsettles perceptions of the role of the preacher."

—Denise M. Ackermann, Extraordinary Professor, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

"Campbell and Cilliers lure us into that liminal space where foolishness is itself transformed into sacred wisdom. Preaching Fools is anything buy a foolish gift!"

—Dale P. Andrews, Distinguished Professor of Homiletics, Social Justice, and Practical Theology, Vanderbilt University

"There are... examples, images, and stories that preachers will find quite compelling and helpful."

—Mike Graves, Saint Paul School of Theology, Review and Expositor (Spring 2013)

"Campbell and Cilliers have moved the conversation about ethical preaching to the next level…"

—John S. McClure, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Interpretation (67:2)

"... a rich engagement with embodied practices, particular linguistic performances, and a diverse array of cultural artifacts. Anyone interested in the ways religious language shapes identity and constructs the imaginative worlds we inhabit will find this book a helpful conversation partner."

—Lance B. Pape, Brite Divintiy School, Homeiletic (37:2)

"... a remarkable collaboration between two teachers of preaching."


Preaching Fools is a helpful contribution to the ongoing discussion of the nature of preaching. The ‘preacher as fool’ is largely unexplored territory, and Campbell and Cilliers draw deeply on rich cultural and theological resources to get the conversation started.”

—Angela Dienhart Hancock, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Theology Today 

Charles L. Campbell is Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Johan H. Cilliers is Professor in Homiletics and Liturgy at the University of Stellenbosch, Faculty of Theology. He lives in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 272 pages
 9in x 6in
10 b/w images

  LAN015000, REL070000, REL080000
 Baylor University Press

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