In Speaking of Sin, Barbara Brown Taylor brings her fresh perspective to a cluster of words that often cause us discomfort and have widely fallen into neglect: sin, damnation, repentance, penance, and salvation. She asks, "Why, then, should we speak of sin anymore? The only reason I can think of is because we believe that God means to redeem the world through us."
Abandoning the language of sin will not make sin go away. Human beings will continue to experience alienation, deformation, damnation and death no matter what we call them. Abandoning the language will simply leave us speechless before them, and increase our denial of their presence in our lives. Ironically, it will also weaken the language of grace, since the full impact of forgiveness cannot be felt apart from the full impact of what has been forgiven.
Contrary to the prevailing view, Taylor calls sin "a helpful, hopeful word." Naming our sins, she contends, enables us to move from "guilt to grace." In recovering this "lost language of salvation" in our worship and in the fabric of our individual lives, we have an opportunity to "take part in the divine work of redemption."
Reviewed in The Presbyterian Outlook (April 16, 2001) by Scott Dalgarno, First Church, Ashland, OR
"In the age just past, nationalism has brought us Hitler, science has brought us the atom bomb, and religion has brought us some really awful television programming." So quips the inimitable Barbara Brown Taylor in a new book on a topic most of us think we've heard quite enough about already: sin.
In the age just past, Brown Taylor gave us a half dozen of the best sermon collections any of us have ever read. I, for one, think of her as Barbara Emerson Fosdick, and seldom preach any gospel lesson without first consulting her. ... She has given us a wonderful reflection on science as it related to religion (The Luminous Web) and now this slim volume on transgression: Speaking of Sin.
But who needs it? All of us, especially lectionary preachers who are called upon, from time to time, to reflect honestly about a tricky subject to which our Bible is replete with references. ...
Those who look into Brown Taylor's books of sermons with an appreciation for her poetry will not be disappointed. Her section on sin in "Genesis," ch. 2, is alone worth the price of the book. ... The book is an insightful delight. There is plenty here for the preacher to glean from and any Christian concerned in the least about ethics to be instructed by. To buy such a book and not to read it would be -- well -- a sin.
Reviewed by the Rev. Dr. Wayne A. Holst, a writer and instructor in religion and culture at the University of Calgary, in Western Catholic Reporter (October 15, 2001)
In this provocative book, Taylor offers a substantive argument that some of the great words of our religious tradition cannot be replaced. There are no substitutes for them, and when we try to talk around them, we find our speech diminished. Rather than ignoring or sanitizing such words we need to go diving for the core experiences these words describe. When we do that, we may just discover that an unpopular term like "sin" may turn out to be the very one we need to reclaim.
Reviewed by the Rev. Carlton F. Kelley, priest-in-charge of St. Paulís Church in Richmond, IN, at Spirit Restoration Ministries website (November 2001)
Barbara Brown Taylor, noted author, teacher, preacher and priest of the Episcopal Church, has a gift for writing simply and profoundly. In this book she brings those gifts to bear on a subject that unfortunately receives very little balanced treatment from either the study or the pulpit. She argues convincingly that many preachers have adopted, and their listeners accepted with ease, either the "legal" or the "medical" model of sin. In so doing, the real intent of Holy Scripture has been impoverished and its more hopeful and life-giving message of pardon and repentance ignored....I highly recommend this slim yet deep volume for any Christian concerned with amendment of life.
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