Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church

Euangelion | 8/24/2019 | Staff
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Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019.

Available at IVP.

Rhetoric - Life - Church - Wrap - Manipulation

Rhetoric in the life of the Church tends to get a pretty bad wrap. Associated with manipulation, cunning, deceit, and emotionalism, we often find it easier to quote Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and flee from ‘plausible words of wisdom’. But is this the last word on the role of rhetoric in life of the church? What happens when 1 Corinthians 2 is set in conversation with Paul’s plea to the Church in Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech be always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person’?

Such questions form the scaffold of James E. Beitler’s Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. Beitler seeks to ‘rehabilitate’ rhetoric as a practice of great significance to the Church’s life, liturgy and work – not just for academics and pastors, but even and especially for the laity. He does this through “inviting readers to consider the rhetorical artistry of five exemplars of Christians witness: C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson” (p. 6.).

Rhetoric - Place - Beitler - States - Christians

But why should we care about rhetoric in the first place? Because, as Beitler states, “Christians simply cannot avoid practicing rhetoric when witnessing. Rhetoric and truth are not opposites; rather, presentations of the truth are always rhetorical” (p. 10). We will use rhetoric whether we like it or not, and therefore Beitler believes that “All Christians should have accesses to the resources that the rhetorical tradition offers.” (p. 11). He then goes on to define rhetoric not merely as style or delivery, but also (as per Cicero) as invention, arrangement, and memory. Another element central to his conception of rhetoric is the concept of ẽthos, that is, “the appeal to one’s character or credibility [which] accounts...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Euangelion
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