Christian Prose and Rhetoric
This past Sunday I was at church listening to the pastor. I’m not really into the current series: The armour of God. Kyle says that they’ve been studying Ephesians since September. That’s dense. It isn’t my intent to knock on the pastor; he’s an intelligent man. I don’t think I’m fond of his teaching style though.
Regardless, I was listening to him and I noticed his prose. It was, what I call, Christian prose. In particular, it’s one type of phrase that might summarize Christan prose: Contradictory statements. In Matthew 10:34, Jesus claims that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword.
Wow! Any knowledgable Christian would understand the meaning of that. ((I think any Christian theologian would tell you that Jesus didn’t intend for that statement to mean that Jesus would bring war, slavery, or some other form of brutality to the world. I think Jesus is getting at the fact that in order to have peace, you have to have justice. In order to have justice, Jesus had to bring it via the sword. The sword, I believe, represents God’s justice which is fully accessible through the function of the Christ.)) It’s that phrase’s — those types of phrases’ — essence that I want to highlight. They’re contradictory statements.
I think that’s one of the real beauties of Christianity. In regard to human nature, it’s such a contradictory belief. There are a number of instances where what we think would be, isn’t so in the eyes of God. The rich man will be poor, but the poor will be rich. The strong will become weak, and the weak strong. The criminal is repentent, but the centurion is proud.
This alarmed me. I think that we are all easily swayed by skilled rhetoric. If I’m not mistaken, the Greeks actually held rhetoricians in high esteem. If you can speak, you can persuade. If you can persuade, you’ve power. Is Christianity a scheme with suavely applied rhetoric?
It’s my belief that it isn’t. If Christianity is Truth (and I believe so), then it should inherently have power. If that is true, then Christianity ought to employ powerful devices like rhetoric. Accepting this, I want to now focus on the beauty of contradictory statements in Christian prose.
Contradiction might summarize the human condition. We are what we don’t want to be, and we want to be what we can’t be. We want the world to be peaceful, but we will never achieve that. We want our spouses to only love us, but that will never be possible. We want our children to live better than we did, but that dream is not foolproof.
Then we learn about Christianity. It teaches that we can achieve, make possible, and guarantee those desires. It’s so contradictory! How gripping is that? The Christian faith pierces directly into what we yearn for. I hardly think there can be anything more beautiful. The real beauty, though, is that ultimately everyone desires God.
Let me end with one of my favorite contradictions. It’s tragically, yet hopefully beautiful. Check out my contradictory statement right there.
To live is Christ, to die is gain. Philippians 1:21.
I might follow up on this entry later. I feel there is more I could clarify and explore.