Month: August 2015

Biblical Rhetoric and our Beautiful Gospel

The Biblical Ideals of Rhetoric and the Beautiful Gospel

Our ideals for communication should flow out of our Biblical Theology of the Scripture. They should reflect the whole gospel of the whole  Bible, for the  whole person, for the whole world. Therefore, we take the wondrous gift of communication with grave sobriety, matched only by our great joy. We do not often achieve our ideals, but is it not possible to have substantial success? Sadly, we must admit, we too often communicate  in such a way that others might conclude that our God is not worthy of their  admiration or praise. It is, consequently, all the more imperative that we make every effort to rightly represent him as he truly is. To do so, our communication, our rhetoric, should accurately exemplify the character of Christ: that is, he loves perfectly, and communicates his love perfectly. As God, he loves the truth perfectly, he loves his creation perfectly, and he loves his people perfectly. As God, he communicates perfectly his character and his purposes. He communicates his holiness to unholy creatures perfectly.

Nevertheless, unlike God, in our sinful state, we can only humbly strive to represent him in our character and communication, praying that he will give us sufficiency and strength of character beyond our ability. One important aspect of our representing him in our love for him, his truth, and his creation, is that our rhetoric in all aspects should be beautiful. When our rhetoric lacks beauty, it is of course ugly. Though this is an “unscientific” assertion, lacking completely objective  definition, it can be fair to say we all know when we are being unkind, unloving, uncivil, ungracious, unforgiving, impatient, insulting, discourteous, harsh, cruel, close-minded, arrogant, pompous, cynical, and ugly. Consider even the most severe judgment texts in the Bible: they are never demeaning, degrading, insulting, impatient, or arrogant, etc. In fact, they are written in the most beautifully exalting prose and poetry known to humankind, in language that expresses all of the beautiful perfections of God’s character. Importantly, the Scriptures are the only perfect place to find a model for rhetoric, since God has given us there the most extraordinary, and perfect, balance of love and holiness, of mercy and judgment. Even where the prophets, and Christ,  most strongly excoriate there is never any degrading or demeaning of the audience/recipients since God always communicates from his holy, loving, and glorious nature. His communication is therefore always perfectly loving and perfectly just. We, on the other hand, recognize that in ourselves we are unjust and unloving, and our communication is so often corrupted by our sinful hearts. Therefore, we must all the more give careful attention to our rhetoric as a matter of obedience to Christ. In this way, we pray to be affirming, complimenting, encouraging, humble, kind, gracious, patient, courteous, civil, forgiving, gentle, open-minded, long-suffering, and loving, and thereby approximate a modest representation of his most beautiful character.

It is also true that perceptions vary from one culture and generation to another. For example, in what might be regarded as harsh at one time might be perceived  as witty and persuasive at another time. What might be insulting to one generation might be received as a powerful polemic to another. This does not mean that our biblical ideals are relative, but that we must attempt to understand our own generation to discover what best exemplifies biblical standards of rhetoric so that our communication presents Christ and his gospel with as much love and beauty as is humanly possible (by the help of his Spirit). Knowing how often we fail (when we do not depend on his help nor follow his example), should incline us to even greater humility, patience, kindness, gentleness, and love as we fervently pray to better communicate the beauty of his holiness. In our desire to follow Christ our King, whose teaching and rhetoric was unparalleled in every aspect, we must work especially hard to best communicate in our rhetoric so as to proclaim, to demonstrate, and to teach the glories of his truth with the immeasurable
and unmatched beauty of his love.

In so doing, we present him as he truly is, as the one most worthy of all love and praise.

 

 

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An Epidemic of Unreason and Nonsense

“For ordinary Americans, including those not naturally disposed toward the irrational, the menu of junk thought is as broad and accessible as its offerings of junk food. Junk thought is state of mind that is hard to avoid. Press the remote, point and click the mouse, open the newspaper, and the worlds of anti-rationalism open up.”[1]

[1] Jacoby, American Unreason, p. 212.


“There is no greater threat facing the true Church of Christ at this moment than the irrationalism that now controls our entire culture. Totalitarianism, guilty of tens of millions of murders, including those of millions of Christians, is to be feared, but not nearly so much as the idea that we do not and cannot know the truth. Hedonism, the popular philosophy of America, is not to be feared so much as the belief that logic–that “mere human logic,” to use the religious irrationalists’ own phrase–is futile. The attacks on truth, on revelation, on the intellect, and on logic are renewed daily. But note well: The misologists–the haters of logic–use logic to demonstrate the futility of using logic. The anti-intellectuals construct intricate intellectual arguments to prove the insufficiency of the intellect. The anti-theologians use the revealed Word of God to show that there can be no revealed Word of God–or that if there could, it would remain impenetrable darkness and Mystery to our finite minds.

Nonsense Has Come

Is it any wonder that the world is grasping at straws–the straws of experientialism, mysticism and drugs? After all, if people are told that the Bible contains insoluble mysteries, then is not a flight into mysticism to be expected? On what grounds can it be condemned? Certainly not on logical grounds or Biblical grounds, if logic is futile and the Bible unintelligible. Moreover, if it cannot be condemned on logical or Biblical grounds, it cannot be condemned at all. If people are going to have a religion of the mysterious, they will not adopt Christianity: They will have a genuine mystery religion. “Those who call for Nonsense,” C.S. Lewis once wrote, “will find that it comes.” And that is precisely what has happened. The popularity of Eastern mysticism, of drugs, and of religious experience is the logical consequence of the irrationalism of the twentieth century. There can and will be no Christian revival–and no reconstruction of society–unless and until the irrationalism of the age is totally repudiated by Christians.”[1]

[1] Robbins, Christ and Civilization, pp. 51-52.