Fearing God in a Fear-Filled World? Homiletical Explorations


  • Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm



The presidential address introduces the 2018 conference theme through rhetorical, political, spiritual, and biblical understandings of fear as well as communicative and homiletical strategies for addressing fear in preaching. In addition to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, the prevalence of fear amid current U.S. political discourse is examined in light of the rhetorical analyses of Martha Nussbaum, professor of law and ethics at The University of Chicago. To develop an appropriately reverent fear of God while addressing the myriad anxieties around us, we may query our fears to better understand what is at stake in ignoring or addressing socio-political concerns. Beyond the rhetoric of fear, the spiritual writings of Julian of Norwich as well as numerous biblical texts (including the Book of Job and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount) suggest communicative strategies that invite a homiletical poesis of divine love and compassion, including musical and theopoetic expressions of faith.

Author Biography

Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm

Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, born 1961, is Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana – USA, and former President of Societas Homiletica (2016–2018). In addition to teaching, research interests include: theopoetics, prophetic preaching, and homiletics and conflict transformation.