When I first picked up Rewiring Your Preaching: How the Brain Processes Sermons (InterVarsity Press), by Richard H. Cox, I was a drawn immediately to its title. In today's day and age, where virtually every scholarly endeavor attempts to pour its topic into the new wineskin of neuroscience, my concern was that this book would fall short of the title's claim. The premise that preaching is somehow fundamentally different from all other forms of oral communication is one that the majority of people might find curious. But it could certainly resonate with many people of faith. Could it be that there is something "sacred" about active preaching? Does the brain have a unique area or cortical region that helps it make sense of religious teaching? Is it possible that pastors could use the findings of neuroscience to somehow alter their preaching and, in doing so, get the people in the pews to grasp the theological truths they are trying to communicate?
The brain scientist in me instinctively pushed back, and I found myself approaching Cox's thesis with an element of doubt. As I read through the book, however, I gained an appreciation for what the author was trying to do, the integrative process he was engaged in, the limitations of the scientific claims being made, and the eagerness of publishers to take the brain angle.
The author is a well-known and highly regarded academic and clergyman. He brings a unique perspective to this material and a refreshing sensibility. At times the text is an awkward combination of medicine and psychology, and at other times an insightful fusion of neuroscience and theology. As a result I found myself being pushed and pulled through the different chapters.
In short, the ...