The bottom line: A bright light of inspiration and hope to prophets and preachers in a world consumed by the ideology of empire.
In short, this book effectively and intelligently answers a question of critical importance in the contemporary world: How can prophets liberate believers from the enticing, powerful and dominant narrative that draws them far from God? That is, what does it actually mean to preach a prophetic word in the 21st century and fully subscribe to the idea that God is an active and effective agent in the world? If for nothing else, this book will reveal that some of the most cherished ideas that we cling to and find comfort in are exactly the things that incite God to wrath.
The Practice of Prophetic Imagination locates prophetic preaching in a world hostile to its message—a world saturated in an ethos of consumption, violence, and “totalizing exceptionalism.”
Essentially, it makes the reader aware of two narratives—the dominant narrative of the secular world and the prophetic narrative of YHWH (God)—and then illustrates the struggle to overcome the former with the latter. Brueggemann points directly to the necessity and indispensability of the prophetic imagination, the only paradigm that offers hope, fresh new possibilities, and ultimately an unwavering reliance on The Lord. Although, it is important to note that a large gulf separates prophetic preaching as described and the typical preaching of the local church. Yet, the author provokes the dormant hope within the preacher that yearns for something greater than “what’s been done.” This book is not a polemic against the world but a guidebook for preachers to remain unwaveringly candid while empowering others to see the world through YHWH’s lens.
The Practice of Prophetic Imagination starts with the thesis that the prophets viewed the world differently because they saw it through the tradition of the Torah. Thus, God becomes the defining agent by which everything else is perceived. The book details the prophetic tasks of (1) dismantling erroneous paradigms and (2) building up the new one. This process pierces the presupposed veil of invincibility and denial that enslaves many in the modern world to destructive ideas even while the world around them is collapsing. For obvious reasons, the development of the thesis clings to (mostly) the prophetic books of the Old Testament. There is a high degree of exposition and analysis of the Biblical text so in many ways this book reads like a technical commentary.
Walter Brueggemann is a prolific writer and his books always manage to whisk into shape the dormant theological imaginations of those who hunger and yearn for the Word of God. After reading The Practice of Prophetic Imagination, you will undoubtedly will be transformed and positioned to cultivate ministries of justice that embrace lament and grief and that provide a warm holding environment for sorrow through the church.
If you live in the 21st century, read this book. If you minister to others, you have to read this book. If you preach, then your sermons will be incomplete without this book. A worthy addition to any preacher’s library.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal