Differences between rhetoric and preaching.
As well as the basic difference between Classical rhetoric
and Christian preaching mentioned in a previous Augnet page, there are other differences that Augustine addressed.
Another consideration that influences Augustine's view of his listeners arises from his understanding of the kingdom of God and the changes that have occurred in culture because of it.
One of these factors was the composition of the audience.
Classical rhetoric anticipated and expected a audience that was educated, wealthy and male.
On the other hand, a group of Christians in a church had a great variety of persons in terms of social status, economic circumstances, education levels, and gender.
Even the attitude differed towards those without learning. Classical rhetoric looked down on poor people and those without learning, whereas the Christian religion preached that in the Kingdom of God there was no distinction between Jew and Greek, between a slave and a free person, or between male and female.
In the view of Classical rhetoric, the masses were discounted because they lacked learning and culture, and almost looked upon with disgust.
In the Christian religion, however, the masses were looked upon as a field ripe for harvest, or as sheep scattered and fearful. They were looked upon with respect and compassion.
In the Greco-Roman world, a sermon as part of a religious celebration was rare. There was no equivalent in pagan worship, since paganism did not have holy texts that wielded the same influence as the Bible had on Christians.
Hence there really was no pagan form of speech that corresponded to Christian preaching.
The grammarians who interpreted literary works in their classes and fulfilled a teaching role similar to that of Christian preachers were not too concerned about the rhetorical shape and delivery of their lectures.
Moreover, when they commented on a text, it was not a matter of faith to them.
Preaching, therefore, was a form of public speech, and the early Christian preachers were able to make use of the rules and methods developed in the flourishing schools of rhetoric, which were considered the climax of education in the Roman Empire.
If equipped by necessary instruction in order to do so, a Christian preacher could thus use the skills of rhetoric, and not be any the less truly a Christian preacher because of it.
Indeed, hopefully he was then a better Christian minister.
(Continued on the next page.)