Augustine in church: an orator or a preacher?
Augustine was both skilled and trained in classical rhetoric (the art of public speaking and of persuasion with words).
When in the pulpit as a priest and then as a bishop, was he more a rhetor or a Christian preacher?
The answer is that he was definitely a Christian preacher.
The classical Roman writer, Cicero
, whom Augustine greatly admired, said that well chosen and well delivered words and sentences could actually sway a hearer in whatever direction the orator chose.
One of the most significant transformations that Augustine brings to classical rhetoric is found in the goal he attributes to the spoken word.
He no longer held on to the goal of pure persuasion (one of the goals of classical rhetoric).
This was because Augustine realized that the acceptance of the Christian faith by a person was not the direct result of the preacher, but as the direct work of God personally.
In his work De Magistro
("About the Teacher"), Augustine attributes to the spoken word two functions of a more limited nature than Cicero had proposed.
Augustine listed the functions as: (1) the first was to remind the hearer of what he or she already knows, and (2) the second was to help motivate the hearer to seek out what he or she did not yet know.
This motivation towards inquiry steers the hearer to Jesus, whom Augustine calls the "Internal Teacher."
But because God has opted to make use of the words of the preacher to have an effect within the souls of individuals, the spoken word is still significant.
Indeed, Augustine does not undervalue the role of the preacher as much as highlight the more central role of Christ and the Holy Spirit in following up on the preacher's prompting of the hearers.
Thus the preacher is intimately involved in the work of God.
The preacher is preparing the soil and awakening the seed to inquiry, so that Christ can enter it and bring forth a harvest.
(Continued on the next page.)