In the loose and often inaccurate usage of today, the word rhetoric has fallen into disrepair. To most people it suggests speaking or writing that is inflated, pompous, predictable, even deceptive. When we speak of “political rhetoric,” or “the rhetoric of Madison Avenue,” we convey a negative impression. This distortion is most unfortunate, for rhetoric is and has been for centuries an honorable art—the art of arranging language through the use of various options to achieve effective communication. In ancient Greece and Rome, the study of rhetoric accompanied the study of music and athletics in the training of the whole man. Some of the world’s wisest men have been teachers of rhetoric: Aristotle, Cicero, and Augustine, for example, all formulated important theories on rhetoric.

To the discerning student, rhetoric is a serious discipline that teaches more than the narrow confines of grammatical correctness and accepted usage. It insists upon a conscious effort to use the language in the manner that will best achieve the intended results. It takes into account the living situation, asking as its most important question, “Who is speaking to whom about what?” Rhetoric weighs the value of each word, looking not only for its correctness but also for its appropriateness in advancing the speaker’s statement. Furthermore, rhetoric recognizes the originality of each individual and expects that his uniqueness will demand a unique manner of expression which, when it becomes clearly identifiable in its consistency, he can claim as his style.

All this is of supreme importance to the Christian because the Lord of the universe has chosen to reveal himself not only through nature but ...

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