The prime importance of clarity.
Augustine held that the foremost oratorical responsibility of the preacher was clarity.
He said, "The speaker should not primarily consider the beauty of his teaching, but the clarity of it." (De Doctrina Christiana 4, 12, 27)
Resonating the priority of Christian preaching over that of Classical rhetoric (See Augnet's next page),
Augustine always recommended that the preacher concentrate on intelligibility more than on his choice of beautiful words.
He wrote, "The teacher, then, will avoid all words that do not communicate; if, in their place, he can use other words which are intelligible in their correct forms, he will choose to do that, but if he cannot -- either because they do not exist or because they do not occur to him at the time -- he will use words that are less correct, provided that the subject matter itself is communicated and learned correctly." (De Doctrina Christiana ("On Christian Instruction"), 4, 10, 24)
Clarity was such a priority in his preaching that, although he was an expert orator, Augustine at times used incorrect grammar when he thought it would enhance communication to those in his audience who had no learning.
The role of the preacher, then, is not pure persuasion, but clarity.
When the preacher clarifies, Christ the Internal Teacher - the only one who truly can do so - persuades the hearer.
In De Doctrina Christiana
, Augustine wrote that good teachers have - or, at least, should have - such a desire to teach that if a particular word in good Latin is unavoidably ambiguous or obscure in relation to the intellectual or cultural capacity of a particular audience or congregation, what he called a "vulgar manner of speech" (i.e., colloquial words, or unsophisticated words used by unlearned people) should instead to be used. (De Doctrina Christiana
, 4, 9, 23).
He urged that if correct but stylish words were not the most suitable ones to communicate to the hearers, the speaker "should use words less correct, provided that the thing is taught and learned without distortion when these alternate words are used." (De Doctrina Christiana 4, 10, 24)
Even so, how clearly something is expressed is still not as important as what is to be taught: "It is the sign of good minds to love the truth within the words, rather than the words themselves." (De Doctrina Christiana 4, 11, 26)
(Continued on the next page.)