Metephor

Rhetoric demands that we reclaim the use of metaphor. Our mindless search for relevance and literalness has gotten us pretty lost in the cosmos. Metaphor or comparison between two ostensibly dissimilar phenomena is absolutely critical to creative problem solving. Metaphor, along with other mysteries, have been victims of 20th century pretension and pomposity.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, On Looking Into the Abyss, laments the fact that in the field of literature the great works are no longer read–and if they are there are no rules for interpreting them. In philosophy, indeed in all communication, truth and reality are considered relative. With no rules, no honor, the rhetorician is allowed to come to any conclusion he wishes. The decline of responsible rhetoric has help hasten this event. Philip Johnson calls this “the great vacuum” that has been filled with totalitarian regimes. Rhetoric ferrets out truth. If there is no Truth, can there be any sense of authority? And can a society survive if there is no authority? If there is not Truth can there be freedom? But if there is no freedom can one arrive at the Truth? Without a legitimate, honest, well considered rhetoric, will history be reduced to the “pleasure principle?” Is Truth the first casualty of slipshod, faulty, propaganda that some call “rhetoric?”

In some ways the Evangelical Christian loss of Rhetorical skills–and I think rhetoric is akin to apologetics–has presaged disaster in many arenas. Without rhetoric Christians have no tools to engage modern culture. In some ways we have lost the mainline denominations to neo-orthodoxy and we have lost the university to liberals. Today the vast majority of American, indeed, world leaders come from 12 universities and not one is a Christian university (Wall Street Journal). Where are the Jonathan Edwards? C. S. Lewis? Good thinking, good talking, may redeem the Church from both the overzealous and the skeptical. Rhetorical skills–debate–may help us regain the intellectual and spiritual high ground” (Alister McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity). George Marsden in The Soul of the American University and Leslie Newbigen in Foolishness to the Greeks both conclude that we Christians have conceded much of American culture to modernism by our inability to merge thought and communication in a cogency and inspiration that persuaded the modernist culture. Without the main tool to do battle–rhetoric–Evangelicals allowed orthodoxy to be sacrificed on the altar of relativism. David Wells in God in the Wastelands argues that evangelicals and liberals have both drunk from the trough of modernity, though from different ends. Unless the evangelicals participate in serious apologetics, God will be “weightless.”

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