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Veritas Philosophy | 2 Minutes

What Does Christian Rhetoric Really Look Like?

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
What Does Christian Rhetoric Really Look Like?

My wife Laurie and I have been involved in classical education since 1992. For much of this time, we’ve had a nagging concern. Rhetoric, what may be the model’s pinnacle discipline, has not been taught the way that it should.

We’ve seen countless students complete rhetoric courses with exceptional grades. Many remain poor communicators. Some sound mechanical and uninspired. Some don’t look you in the eye when speaking to you. Something is wrong. Answering questions about the five canons of rhetoric is commendable. It does not, of itself, make for a successful rhetoric. Becoming a successful rhetorician requires much more.

How can our children’s training in rhetoric be excellent? How can it match the extraordinary education they get elsewhere in classical schooling? We have long wondered what it would take to make that happen. At first, we thought students simply needed more practice. That may be part of the solution.

It was not the whole solution. We were convinced the problem was deeper. We had not yet grasped how to apply biblical worldview thinking to rhetoric. Augustine discusses our living in the world in terms of two cities. The City of Man symbolizes all that is worldly; the City of God, what is heavenly, eternal, and true. Until now, most Christian rhetoric curricula have merely applied Aristotle to Christian contexts. This sort of “pillaging of the Egyptians” has its places and times. Today’s rhetoric needs are not one of them. Now is a time for a clear distinction. We discussed our concerns with Doug Jones. A couple of years later, we now have the answer to our rhetoric problem.

We believe the answer lies in the seminal work before you. Jones gets it. He shows Aristotle’s work to be foundational in many ways. Yet Jones understands that Christians ought to approach rhetoric differently. Our source of motivation and our purpose in persuasion must be love of neighbor. Jones fills his text with teaching and insights which demonstrate a true Rhetoric of Love.

Jones reframes Augustine’s two cities. He sees them as two different rhetorics—one of domination, one of love. This text will train our children in classical rhetoric, but it will do more. It will give them the tools and insights needed to be rhetoricians who love and serve both God and neighbor.