Buechner’s Bad News

Frederick Buechner was assigned to me in a college class years back, and admittedly I let his book sit on my shelf, mostly because I didn’t like the professor who assigned it and assumed it would be yet another book that would propagate the ideas he held that I found so insulting. I was very wrong. I am still surprised that my professor assigned it at all, but I’m thankful I picked it up, even if it took me six years. Because Buechner has quickly made it to my list of favorite authors, and I can’t read his books fast enough.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about him is his honesty, his admittance of the weakness of the human condition. He rebukes the idea that we have any strength in ourselves, and in a nation where self-fulfillment and self-worship is the norm, Buechner’s reminder is as much needed now as it was when he first penned Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale in 1977.

But, I’ll let him speak for himself.

The Gospel is bad news before it is good news. It is the news that man is a sinner, to use the old word, that he is evil in the imagination of his heart, that when he looks in the mirror all in a lather what he sees is at least eight parts chicken, phony, slob. That is the tragedy. But it is also the news that he is loved anyway, cherished, forgiven, bleeding to be sure, but also bled for. That is the comedy. And yet, so what? So what if even in his sin the slob is loved and forgiven when the very mark and substance of his sin and of his slobbery is that he keeps turning down the love and forgiveness because he either doesn’t believe them or doesn’t want them or just doesn’t give a damn? In answer, the news of the Gospel is that extraordinary things happen to him just as in fairy tales extraordinary things happen.


after the silence that is truth comes the news that is bad before it is good, the word that is tragedy before it is comedy because it strips us bare in order ultimately to clothe us.


The comedy of grace as what needn’t happen and can’t possibly happen because it can only impossibly happen and happens in the dark that only just barely fails to swallow it up.

–Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buechner

Go grab one of his books, I promise, it will be time well spent.

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