Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

Preaching as art (imaging the unseen) and art as homiletics (verbalising the unseen): Towards the aesthetics of iconic thinking and poetic communication in homiletics

Daniel Louw
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 2 | a3826 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i2.3826 | © 2016 Daniel Louw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2016 | Published: 09 December 2016

About the author(s)

Daniel Louw, Faculty of Theology, University of Stellenbosch; Extraordinary professor, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


The article investigates the hypothesis that preaching implies more than merely verbalising, proclaiming and rhetoric reasoning. Preaching is fundamentally the art of poetic seeing; an aesthetic event on an ontic and spiritual level; that is, it provides vocabulary and images in order to help people to discover meaning in life (preaching as the art of foolishness). In this regard, preaching should provide God-images that open up the dimension of aesthetics and provide vistas of the ‘unseen’. The iconic dimension of preaching is about symbols and metaphors that help people to ‘see’ in everyday life (a poetic gaze) the presence of God in such a way that tragic events, the awareness of death and the anguish about the fear for loss and rejection become events for signifying life and for healing (the quest for wholeness). It is argued that practical theology should be about a liturgy of life. In this regard, the ‘ugliness of God’ becomes an aesthetic category in a Christian spiritual approach to iconography. In order to do this a critical approach to praxis thinking should probe into the realm of paradigms, especially paradigms that describe the ‘power of God’. Due to the assumption that the depiction of God’s power was predominantly influenced by the Serapis, Zeus and Roman cult (Emperor mystique), a paradigm shift from omni-categories (pantokrator) to bowel categories (passio Dei) in the homiletic depiction of God is proposed.


Homiletics; Christian spirituality; practical theological aesthetics; iconic thinking; iconography; theopaschitic preaching


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