Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church, By James E. Beitler III alt

Seasoned Speech

Rhetoric in the Life of the Church

by James E. Beitler III

Seasoned Speech
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Published: May 07, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 7120
  • ISBN: 9780830871209

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The Christian faith depends to a great degree on persuasion. In one of his letters to early Christians, the apostle Paul wrote, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone" (Col. 4:6). Yet rhetoric—the art of persuasion—has been largely ignored by most Christians.

In this book, James Beitler seeks to renew interest in and hunger for an effective Christian rhetoric by closely considering the work of five beloved Christian communicators: C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson. Moreover, he situates these reflections within the Christian liturgical seasons for the essential truths they convey.

These writers collectively demonstrate that being a master of rhetoric is not antithetical to authentic Christian witness. Indeed, being a faithful disciple of Christ means practicing a rhetoric that beneficially and persuasively imparts the surprising truth of the gospel. It means having seasoned speech.

"It is often very hard to see the obvious—that is, something as basic as the eloquence required for the proclamation of the gospel. But Beitler helps us recognize that the simple truth has an unmistakable eloquence, which is why it matters that we take lessons from the classical rhetorical tradition. Readers of this book will discover that the rhetorical task and questions of the truth of what we believe cannot be separated."

Stanley Hauerwas, author of The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson

"In Seasoned Speech, James Beitler gives us a deep and subtle meditation on the many rhetorics of Christian witness—the enormously varied ways that the language of extraordinary and ordinary saints bear forth the gospel. To read this book is to be impressed by the author's scholarship but still more by the love with which he explores the relationship between our words and the Word."

Alan Jacobs, distinguished professor of humanities, honors program, Baylor University

"This is an enlightening and fascinating exploration of five witnesses to the Christian faith and gospel. Even more, these diverse truth bearers—C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson—function as lenses through which James Beitler III shows how the Word, liturgy, and life weave together rhetorically in faithful witness in differing contexts. Beitler's treatment is itself a keen example of seasoned speech, an embodied and intensely personal witness tinged with liturgical overtones. The effect of Beitler's evocative analysis is twofold: to encourage the reader to a self-examination of one's own Christian self, and to invite the reader to participate in the kind of embodied witness that Christian existence entails."

André Resner, professor of homiletics and liturgics, Hood Theological Seminary

"In today's toxic communication climate, the apostle Paul's admonition that our speech should 'always be gracious' (Col 4:6) seems impossibly naive. One factor that fuels our skepticism is that we have no models of what gracious persuasion looks like in practical ways. How can we be both gracious and convicted in our communication? We are indebted to James Beitler for offering us vivid examples of Christian communicators—Lewis, Sayers, Bonhoeffer, Tutu, Robinson—who spoke timely truth marked by creativity, passion, and respect. Even if you are familiar with Beitler's subjects, his insights cast them in a new and invigorating light."

Tim Muehlhoff, professor of communication, Biola University, author of Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World

"James E. Beitler's extraordinary and thoughtful book re-establishes the centrality of rhetorical theory for the practice of Christian witness. He examines the ethos of notable Christian rhetors, from C. S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson, and organizes his discussion according to seasons in the liturgical calendar, demonstrating the connection between Christian witness and worship. These deeply theological reflections remind readers that rhetoric is not merely flowery language but is grounded in wisdom and truth. This is an important book for Christian scholars of rhetoric and lay Christians alike."

Christine J. Gardner, associate professor and chair of the department of communication arts, Gordon College

"Christians not only have the responsibility to understand the gospel but also to share it with others. This task is inspired by the Spirit through human agency—lives lived, deeds done, and words spoken. All are important and complementary but each is a special charism. This book is about the charism of the spoken word and what we can learn from the masters of the craft in persuading others to follow Christ. Because the communicators discussed are all among my favorites, I am biased in commending it to potential readers. But I hope my few words will persuade you to take up and read and become better witnesses to the Word. This is a well-crafted and timely book."

John de Gruchy, emeritus professor, University of Cape Town

"Beautifully written, this book explores the diverse rhetorical strategies of five influential Christians, arguing that their different communication styles celebrate and sustain the power of Pentecost. In the process of interpreting what makes their tongues burn with illuminating power, Beitler provides a lucid introduction to the history of rhetoric, calling Christians to participate in shared liturgical practices so that communal worship might ignite new ways to speak truth into culture."

Crystal Downing, codirector of the Marion E. Wade Center, author of Changing Signs of Truth and Salvation from Cinema


Introduction: The Rhetoric of Christian Witness
1. Preparing the Way: C. S. Lewis and the Goodwill of Advent
2. Professing the Creeds: Dorothy L. Sayers and the Energy of Christmastide
3. Preaching the Word: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Epiphanic Identification
4. Calling for Repentance: Desmond Tutu and Lenten Constitutive Rhetorics
5. Hosting the Guest: Marilynne Robinson and the Ethos of Eastertide
6. Speaking in Tongues: The Church and the Heteroglossia of Pentecost
General Index
Scripture Index


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James Edward Beitler III

James Edward Beitler III (PhD, University of Michigan) is associate professor of English at Wheaton College, where he is the director of First-Year Writing and also coordinates the Writing Fellows Program. He is the author of Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church and Remaking Transitional Justice in the United States: The Rhetorical Authorization of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.