Fred Craddock, In Memoriam
On Saturday morning, I received an email from a student asking me if I had heard that Fred Craddock had died. He thought I would like to know. Upon reflection, it seems fitting that news of his death should travel this way. Casually . . . by word of mouth . . . among members of the family of Christ, for Fred Craddock was a towering figure in homiletics who had the ability to speak in a way that made you feel at home.
Dr. Craddock was an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who served from 1979-1993 as the Bandy Professor of Preaching and New Testament at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He is most famous for his focus upon the inductive experience in preaching, developed in his book As One Without Authority. His homiletics text, Preaching, has survived our consumerist desire for the latest in preaching, recently celebrating its 25th anniversary edition.
Fred Craddock was a major figure among 20th-century homileticians by anyone’s estimation . . . and, yet, when you listened to him preach, his words evoked the character of a trusted friend, a faithful guide, a well-seasoned companion in this pilgrimage on earth. In preaching, he would talk with you rather than at you. His inductive style and homespun wisdom would help you meditate on the intersection between Scripture and life until suddenly you were thinking things you did not know you were capable of thinking. For a moment, daily life would look beautiful because you were seeing it through the eyes of God.
I still remember when Dr. Craddock came to Concordia Seminary to speak at the Day of Homiletical Reflection (2006). A participant at the event asked him how he came up with so many illustrations. Fred smiled and said that he had developed a habit of journaling. He would sit down every day and write for 30 minutes, reflecting on the things of life and the things of God. Such a habit, developed over the years, opened his eyes to see God at work in the lives of people and perhaps that is what you really hear when you listen to his sermons: a preacher who values the experiences of God’s people as he weaves together text and teaching and the lives of God’s people in the event of a sermon.
For this gift to preachers, we remember Fred Craddock and we give God thanks!