n Stellenbosch Theological Journal - The art of preaching : the folly of beauty and the beauty of reality

Volume 5 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0028-2006
  • E-ISSN: 2226-2385



“An orator”, Cicero famously said, “is a good man, trained in the art to speak well.” The difference between orators and actors, he continues, is that orators are “players that act real life” whereas, actors are “players who only mimic reality”.

Preaching is not only an oratorical skill but also a theological art. All of this suggests a deep awareness and sensitivity to aesthetics. Both preachers (or orators) and actors usually have, or should have, something of this sensitivity. Both preachers and actors are intent on weaving words into patterns that both make sense and stimulate the senses.

The often-quoted idea that “beauty will save the world” (from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot) feeds into a perception that somehow aesthetics in itself has some or other redemptive quality. Or translated into the context of preaching: that it will somehow by itself elevate, enhance or redeem the act of preaching. There is no doubt that this idea is a misrepresentation of what Dostoevsky had in mind.

The decisive factor in preaching is not the reality of beauty but the beauty of reality. Both preaching and beauty are deeply grounded in reality. However, preaching as a theological art is not only grounded in the reality as our senses experience it, but more so in the reality of Jesus Christ.

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