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Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,061 ratings  ·  70 reviews
In Wishful Thinking, the first book in his much-loved lexical trilogy, Frederick Buechner puts the language of God, the universe, and the human spirit under his wry linguistic microscope. In his often ironic and always keen-sighted reflections on such terms as agnostic, envy, love, and sin, he invited us to look at theses everyday words in new and enlightening ways. Freshl ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 24th 1993 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 1973)
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 ·  1,061 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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May 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There are some books, like Love Wins by Rob Bell, that jolt you with their glamour and hype into thinking about familiar topics in ways you hadn't before. There are other books, like Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller that soothe you with their smooth prose and lyrical lines into thinking that you're not alone in questioning familiar topics. Then there are books like Wishful Thinking by Frederick Beuchner that grab you by the heart- simultaneously jolting and soothing (while making you laugh out lo ...more
Jill Hudson
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you like your theology wry, witty and whimsical yet as hard-hitting as a punch in the guts from Manny Pacquiao, this book is for you. I was first introduced to it by a quote from it which I came across in an article about something else entirely, and it stopped me in my tracks. It’s a sort of lexicon of religious words, which doesn’t sound too promising as an easy read, but Buechner has a rare talent for redefining his theological terms in ways which are simultaneously quirkily amusing and de ...more
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a wonder. Buechner writes entries that his own definitions of everyday terms and the result is lovely, lyrical wordplay about the mystery of all things life.

Sprinkled throughout are unexpected moments of humorous delight and punches to the guy.

For example the entry for theology: "Theology is the study of God and his ways. For all we know, dung beetles may study us and our ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes that God fee
Apr 05, 2018 marked it as to-read
Source of this great quote: "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." ...more
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
While I cannot say I embrace all of his commentary here, so much in these brief definitions are delightful and/or curmdugeonly enough to expand my understanding of the faith. Buechner provides just a fresh enough new vantage point on the familar phrases of faith to make you smile or start in wonder. Occasionally you may even disagree vehemently. That can be good for the faith as well.

"Magic is saying Abracadabra and pulling the rabbit out of the hat, is stepping on a crack to break your mother'
Cherie Palmer
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 Insightful, particularly enjoyed his comments on the Bible.
Thing Two
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wishful Thinking is sometimes subtitled as A Seeker's ABC, and sometimes as A Theological ABC, but in reality it's Frederick Buechner defining terms frequently associated with Christianity in his ironic, and thought-provoking style which cuts through much of the bull-shit propagated by the conservatively-religious of today. Some of his examples are chapter-length, some just sentences, but all are worth pondering.

I dog-eared so many pages, I've added this one to my 'must buy' list, and "Oh, my
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the cleverest thing about this book is its length. By wisely keeping his punchy theological primer brief, entries like "OBEDIENCE (see FREEDOM)" land with some force. His definitions can be profound (SACRIFICE: To sacrifice something is to make it holy by giving it away for love) or lighthearted (PRINCIPLES: Principles are what people have instead of God), but they are always thoughtful, unexpected, and enlightening. ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
I picked this up because it was the source of my current favorite quote: "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

I found it very thought provoking.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Buechner & I are worlds apart theologically, but this is the third book of his I've read in the last week, and I can't get enough -- he makes me think and feel. No wonder I find him quoted everywhere. ...more
Brock Meier
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This little book is an unexpected and whimsical look at a host of words (A through Z) having some theological association in the mind of Frederick Buechner. I especially appreciated his entry under the word "WINE," as its use related to the Eucharist. He wrote:

"Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink, especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with ginger ale. It is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble
Ryan Gray
Oct 31, 2020 rated it liked it
A book of definitions, or more accurately descriptions of some Christian/Bible words. Some good, some bad.
When it is bad it is like eating cotton wool (fluffy and hard to swallow) but when it is good it is like a bucket of cold water on your head, e.g
'Lust - Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst'.
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
Following alphabetical order, the author picks key Christian terms, as well as a few off-the-wall ones, and defines them with wit, humor, and often an incisive quest to get to the heart of the matter. Simultaneously enjoyable, thought-provoking, and painful.
Rocky Curtiss
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another gem from Frederick Beuchner who mixes subtle humor with profound depth, always approaching his faith from surprising places, and with outside-the-box thinking. This is a great book to be introduced to my favorite Christian writer.
Sara Robbert
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I save 5 stars for the ones when I 1) jotted down notes for safe keeping or, 2) will be reading many times throughout my life. This wry, profound, delightful handbook was both and I recommend it to you with my whole heart.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitions of religious terms in the context of real life. From the church library-- insightful, yet funny and telling at the same time.
Jake Slaughter
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is always a pleasure to read Buechner and there are certain moments in this volume that really shine.
Kevin Hu
Not Scripture by any means, but lots of interesting ways of framing familiar words and ideas. Something to be returned to in the future to stoke thoughts.
Stefan Grieve
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theoligy
A witty, humorous and concise look at biblical matters
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking and worth every minute I spent with it.
Will O'kelley
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it much, and yet so little to say about this book. I loved it. There were times I laughed out loud while reading this. I had heard a lot about Frederick Buechner and I wasn't disappointed. Buechner can certainly do amazing things with words, making deep thoughts simple, fencing with words in ways reminiscent of Chesterton and Lewis. I was reminded of the beauty of God in ways I had forgotten about. I was also deeply moved by what seemed to be Buechner's deep underlying conviction: the utte ...more
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The subtitle of this book is "A Seeker's ABC," you could probably replace "Seeker" with Doubter, Disenchanted, Done (with religion), or Do-er (one that believes faith is a verb) and reach the same audience and have the same impact.

A few years ago I decided my favorite quote was Buechner's on vocation - "The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." After using this quote here and there, I figured it was time to read the book from which it came and learn t
Chuck Jackson
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Vocation: It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, it means the work a person is called to by God.

There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the super ego, or self interest.

By and large a good rule for finding out is this: the kind of work god usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) the world most needs to have done. If you reall
“It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle.”

There are so many wonderful quotations in this book that it is hard to stop with one. While reading this, I would stop and think about how well Buechner had just summed up part of my faith. He is an incredible writer.

I have only four books by Buechner on my Good reads shelves. That does not indicate how important this author has been to my f
Kristian Kilgore
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've yet to read anything by Buechner that I didn't immediately love. He has a way with words and ideas that causes each page to feel intimate. Every new sentence feels like it is being told to you by a beloved grandfather or old friend. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is wonderful.

As a review in itself I'll quote a short excerpt about Zacchaeus and his encounter with Jesus:

The story goes like this. The sawed-off shyster is perched in the sycamore tree. Jesus opens his mouth to sp
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a constant reference book for me. If you've not read Buechner this is a great intro...Buechner takes words and writes his own definition or thoughts about that topic.
Two examples:
"LUST: The craving for salt by the person who's dying of thirst."

"Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who dislikes religious cliches
Actually, the first time I read this book, I would have given it 5 stars. The book hasn't changed; I have. When I first read it, Buechner's writing challenged me to think about familiar words in different ways. He still does, but the second time through, his insights no longer catch me by surprise. So - I highly recommend this book for a first reading; after that, just pick and choose when desired. ...more
Steve Hirby
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Read this in a theology book group. The short-form, topical format leads to a different kind of discussion and insight than a book-length argument. Personally, I found myself nodding in approval and scratching my head and laughing out loud in response to Buechner's material. A not-stuffy, not classical treatment of many themes from classical Protestant theology, all developed in the context of everyday life and experience. ...more
Maya Senen
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Pretty heady, at times, painfully obvious at others, Buechner has a knack for making the most confounding topics (even atheism) conversational.

For instance, here's one of the more direct and concise excerpts:

"Theology is the study of God and his ways. For all we know, dung beetles may study us and our ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes that God feels likewise."
Aug 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I want to start by saying that I cannot in any way endorse this book as reading material for those who realistically know God. The author declares that Christianity is wishful thinking. He calls the account of Zaccheus a joke. His descriptions of his definitions make it apparent that he does not hold an orthodox view of Christianity and is heavily inspired by the extreme liberal theology of the '60's and '70's. Again, this is not sound teaching or even logic. ...more
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Frederick Buechner is a highly influential writer and theologian who has won awards for his poetry, short stories, novels and theological writings. His work pioneered the genre of spiritual memoir, laying the groundwork for writers such as Anne Lamott, Rob Bell and Lauren Winner.

His first book, A Long Day's Dying, was published to acclaim just two years after he graduated from Princeton. He entere

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“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 624 likes
“It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle.” 100 likes
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