Communicating the Faith Indirectly: Selected Sermons, Addresses, and Prayers

By Paul L. Holmer

A selection of writings by the American theologian and Kierkegaard scholar Paul L. Holmer, united around the themes of communication, liturgy and the ministry.

ISBN: 9780227174111


In his teaching and his writing, Paul L. Holmer (1916-2004) not only made important contributions to recent American theology, but was also much in demand as a public speaker and preacher. Following his death, the Holmer family in 2005 donated his papers to the Yale Divinity School Library.

In this collection of sermons, addresses and other writings, the reader will see Holmer’s deep concern with the problems and possibilities of the sermon, liturgy, ministry, and spirituality. Inspired by Søren Kierkegaard’s reflections on “indirect communication”, and by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Holmer not only reveals his strenuous reflection on the sermon, but also gives concrete examples of his own efforts to communicate, enabling his hearers and readers to “make sense” of their lives.

In the first part of this volume, Holmer reflects upon Kierkegaard’s “indirect communication”, a communication not of knowledge but of human capacity. In other pieces Holmer turns to liturgy, ministry, and spirituality. In the second part of this volume, the reader sees Holmer’s own challenging, uncompromising practice of religious and Christian communication, in a selection of his sermons, addresses, and prayers. For anyone concerned with sermons, liturgy, spirituality, and the challenges of ministry, Holmer’s essays and addresses will prove indispensable.

Edited by David J. Gouwens and Lee C. Barrett III, Communicating the Faith Indirectly is the third volume of The Paul L. Holmer Papers, which also includes Volume 1, On Kierkegaard and the Truth (Volume 1), and Thinking the Faith with Passion: Selected Essays (Volume 2), both of which are available from James Clarke and Co Ltd.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 198

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Professor Paul L. Holmer (1916-2004) was Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School (1960-1987), having previous taught at Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. He was widely recognised as a leading authority on Kierkegaard, and was the author of books and papers on the subject, including the two-volume Kierkegaard’s Edifying Discourses.

David J. Gouwens is Professor of Theology at Brite Divinity School. He is the author of Kierkegaard’s Dialectic of the Imagination (1989) and Kierkegaard as Religious Thinker (1996).

Lee C. Barrett III is Stager Professor of Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Heidelberg Catechism (2007), Foundations of Modern Theology: Kierkegaard (2009), and co-editor of Kierkegaard and the Bible (2010).


Foreword by William H. Willimon
Editors’ Preface: Paul L. Holmer and the Religious

Part One: Holmer on the Sermon, Liturgy, Ministry, and Spirituality
1. Indirect Communication: Something about the Sermon (With References to Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein)
2. About Liturgy and Its Logic
3. The Minister, a Reconsideration: Meditatio, Oratio, Tentatio
4. Spirituality and Self-Deception
Part Two: Sermons, Addresses, and Prayers
5. Remarks on the Occasion of a Baptism
6. Remarks on the Occasion of a Marriage
7. On Speaking the Truth in Love: Remarks on the Occasion of an Ordination
8. An Advent Sermon: The Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38
9. On Worshipping God: A Meditation on Psalm 73
10. On Receiving Mercy
11. On Being Steadfast: Jesus Christ, the Same …
12. Making Sense Christianly: Baccalaureate Sermon
13. The Transforming Power of Otherworldliness
14. On Believing in Heaven
15. Selected Prayers

Afterword: Paul L. Holmer: Self-Effacing, Swaggering, Nonpareil, by David Cain
Appendix: Paul L. Holmer: A Select Bibliography

Index of Names
Index of Subjects
Scripture Index


Endorsements and Reviews

This volume is such a gift to those of us who loved Paul Holmer and were shaped by his thought. It is a thrill to hear his distinctive voice again in these pages. This book may be even more a gift to those who have never read or heard Holmer. Now you will get to see what all the fuss is about. Be forewarned, however: do not open this book casually. You might be forever changed as well.
Martin B. Copenhaver, Wellesley Congregational Church

Holmer is both philosopher and theologian, providing sage advice for anyone who loves the church. The sermons, most of which are appropriately based on some letter of St. Paul, advise the church on a variety of pitfalls on the path of the Christian life, urging steadfastness against worldliness, reminding us of the power of the consciousness of immortality, and making clear the place of thought in the Christian life.
Ronald E. Hustwit, College of Wooster

This is an intensely intellectual and spiritual work of practical theology that will particularly profit all university students interested in pastoral theology, and also clergy and those preparing for ordination, but ultimately any thinking Christian would be blessed by this book.
Christopher Villiers, in Theological Book Review, Vol 26, No 1

These collections will appeal especially to those who knew Holmer personally and sat at his feet as students and colleagues. But the main reason that the editors and publishers have taken such trouble to bring these papers together is because they believe that they deserve a wider audience. They are right.
John Saxbee, in Modern Believing, Vol 57.2