Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Savonarola's self-identification

It is difficult to imagine a rhetorical situation in which one’s own life is at stake. I can only wonder if Savonarola had any regrets as he was tortured, and then hanged, and then burned at the stake. That’s literally overkill. This isn’t trivializing the situation, either; this is trying to make sense of the kairos: a world where people are not only willing to kill other people for heretical disagreement, people are seemingly equally willing to die defending their disagreement.

The genre, as designated by the introduction to the sermon, is that of a “Feast of Ascension.” The holiday commemorates the 40th day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to mark the day he ascended back into heaven after his resurrected ministry. It appears that this holiday was marked by some level of frivolous extravagance, to where Savonarola felt the need to speak on that day, at that time.

When Savonarola starts: “I am oppressed in all things,” he intends to appeal to the senses of similarly minded people. He anticipates an audience who can relate to that situation, and say: “Wow, you know what? I feel pretty oppressed, myself. Let’s hear this out.”

An additional insight into Savonarola’s rhetorical stance is demonstrated by his self-identification to the story of Balaam and the ass.  This biblical reference not only reflects Savonarola’s ethos as a preacher of the Word, but he is giving theological context to his plight to evoke pathos from his audience. It is quite evident that he is appealing to a Catholic audience, people of religious circumstance. It is quite an evocative setting, then, to identify himself as a sort of humble servant, the metaphorical ass as the parallel to Biblical text. He seeks to identify himself as a very apparent opposite to the decadence that he so openly condemns before him.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Going on a Guilt Trip...

Since its rise in the sixteenth century, Calvinism has carried with it a certain connotation of doom and gloom. With the doctrine of predestination and the severity of the punishments described for the unrepentant, it is easy to see why. 

In this particular sermon, John Calvin uses clever rhetorical moves to capture the interest of his audience. The rhetorical move that he uses most in this sermon is pathos. He does this by relating himself and his audience to ancient Christians and the persecutions that they suffered, thus guilting his audience into reexamining their own lives.

He starts the sermon by quoting Paul..."Let us go forth from the city after the Lord Jesus, bearing his reproach." By starting his sermon in this manner, Calvin is grouping himself and his audience in the "us" that Paul established. He creates a tone of camaraderie with the ancient apostle and ascribes himself and his followers to his teachings.

Calvin moves away from the ancient to the present and discusses the persecution and reproaches that modern Christians ought to endure patiently. He reminds his audience that they don't even deserve the grace that God gives them, and that surely it should be no big deal to suffer some persecution. This is a move that flavors strongly of pathos--one could call it a guilt-trip. 

Calvin finishes his sermon by again returning to the ancients and their sacrifices: "In ancient times vast numbers of people, to obtain a simple crown of leaves, refused no toil, no pain, no trouble..." Again, by calling up the ghosts of ancient saints, Calvin shows his audience what is expected of them in their present time. He appeals to their emotional ties with the scriptures and with the saints to encourage them to suffer persecutions willingly.

A Look At John Wyclif Gives the Sixth Sunday Gospel after Easter

1 – “Wyclif questions papal control and favors an untraditional doctrinal position – that the Holy Ghost is not of God alone but of the Father and the Son.”

2 – The genre is focused more on discussing core doctrine and how it causes him to question the Catholic Church.

3 – The speaker is John Wyclif.  His character is very matter-of-fact, direct, and strong.  He clearly believes that what he is saying is correct.  This character is made obvious by the fact that he often states things such as “And thus the Latins are to blame…”

4 –We know that the original audience did not respond well to him.  I think audience today would respond very well to Wyclif.

5 – I think that Wyclif’s intentions were genuine, and that he sincerely thought that the church was wrong and needed to be corrected.  I think his intentions in this particular sermon were to denounce the falsehoods within the Catholic Church.

6 – The main ideas in this sermon are to question the Catholic Church by making a doctrinal correction about the Holy Ghost, and to persuade everyone to beware of the “fiend”, or Satan, and his ways of convincing everyone of false teachings.

7 – I would say that the arrangement of this particular sermon was a little haphazard, but that’s probably because it was hard for me to understand :P.

8 – Wyclif supports his ideas by using scripture very effectively, such as when he quotes Christ telling his disciples about the Holy Ghost and how it comes forth from the Father and also testifies of him (Christ).

9 – I think Wyclif does a great job appealing to emotion by telling the reader to beware of the “fiend”, or Satan.  This creates a feeling of fear and anxiety, not wanting to fall to the devil.

10 – Wyclif seems to use a very formal approach to this particular sermon, using some language that I think would be best understood by others in the church and scholarly/educated world.

11 – I think Wyclif uses a very plain style, getting to the point quickly.  I think his tone was very direct and strong, conveying confidence and that he meant and believed in what he said.

12 – I think that this message would have been strong and that it would have given off the desired effect had it been spoken or read, either way.

Proclaim Change From a Safe Distance

Though there a growing need for change being felt throughout the Church at the time John Colet gave his sermon at St. Paul's, Lutheran had not yet shook the foundations with his reformation movement. I don't know a lot of the context behind why Dr. Colet was asked to speak to the Fathers of the Church. Maybe one of the Cardinals saw need for change and asked Dr. Colet to speak on the matter, or maybe he took it upon himself. Either way, he did so from a safe distance. Imagine an Elder's quorum president who stands up in front of his quorum and say something like this:
"Elders, we need to be more virtuous. We need to strive to be worthy of the Spirit always. Let's all work on paying closer attention to the media we watch and participate in."
This is essentially what Colet did. Now, imagine an Elder's quorum president in the same situation who says this:
"Elder's, we need to be more virtuous. No more watching The Office. No more playing Halo. No more watching movies with any violence or sexual content like Lord of the Rings, or A Fault in Our Stars. No more loud music."
This is essentially what Luther did. In the first instance this is taking a very safe approach. No one feels attacked. Everyone agrees, because these are things they've heard all their lives and read in the scriptures. They can then take the message and use it (or likely disregard it) however they like.
The second example is a lot more dangerous. This causes hurt feelings, which often leads to retaliation. Or is some cases may lead to actual change.
(I only use the above media as examples of potentially popular media. I do not mean to give an opinion that any of them are right or wrong, good or bad.)
It seems to me Colet was not really trying to spark actual change, but instead, understanding his audience, preached in generalities of improving and trying to be better.

Calvin, Calling it Like it is

Calvinism was widely rejected for its strict, rigorous practices. When this sermon was given, he was banned from Paris in 1533 and 8 years later relocated to Geneva. If I were him, having been exiled would make me a bit more bitter and more determined to continue with my cause. This comes through in his open and determined tone, as explained later in the post.

As opposition to Calvinism grew, he felt the need to write this sermon on suffering persecution. This is just a sermon, its not a specific type of genre because it is just Calvins own thoughts. Calvins ethos was very straightforward and stern. He was fearless in advocating his beliefs…I imagine a more extreme take on what Paul said about being “unashamed in the Gospel of Christ.”

This reflects in his bold tone through the questions he asks, such as, "Are we so delicate to be unwilling to endure anything?” and “Since we know that unbeliever are blind, ought we not to have better eyes than they?” Words like “blind” and “so” (describing delicate) display his fearlessness to obey God at all costs. His intentions are to help followers feel the motivation and strength they need to continue true to their faith despite the persecutions they suffer. The main idea of the sermon is to help fellow Calvinists learn from the fearless Apostles of the Bible and see that they too were “counted worthy to suffer infamy and reproach” for the Christian cause. 
Calvin begins the sermon with a short introduction and a couple examples of how the Apostles also suffered, and then Calvin brings the focus to his audience. He shifts to use us and our more often so as to help the audience feel united in their cause. This in turn helps Calvins appeal to the audiences emotion. By hearing this sermon, they are able to feel his confidence in their ability to live vigilantly for God. He also appeals to their emotion of guilt when he says, If we act otherwise, our ingratitude is insupportable. In other words, their disobedience is an act of ingratitude. 

With the examples he uses and the unity he instills in his audience, Calvins sermon is a persuasive appeal to motivate his followers to continue strong in their faith as obedient and faithful Calvinists.

Caution: Slippery When Wet

            As I watch winter storm Juno (are they really naming blizzards now?) leave my friends unable to leave the house with snow reaching the roofs of cars, I can’t help but start thinking of the slippery and dangerous conditions winter always seem to bring. When the ice hits, falling is practically inevitable.
            All of this comes to mind as Jonathon Edwards begins his sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”. Through the analogy of falling on slippery ground, he strongly emphasizes in the readers mind that we really do live in a fallen world. And not only has everything around us fallen, but it’s trying to drag us down with it. We will fall. If things ran their natural course, each and everyone of us would be damned. That’s a scary thought.

The Gates of "Hell"

Do Mormons believe in a place called "hell"? A place of fire and brimstone where the devil and his demons reside? What did Christ mean when he said that "the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matthew 16:18)? I think understanding what Christ meant by that can help us understand the rhetorical strategies Johnathan Edwards used in his sermon "Hellfire and Damnation to the Sinful."

From: Die Blog, Die

Meekness and Boldness - a fitting combination

John Colet faced a peculiar situation when he addressed the clergy in 1512.  The famous 95 theses of Martin Luther had not yet been nailed to the church door and thoughts of ‘reforming the churches practices were still ‘somewhat’ tolerated.  However, if Colet had tried to give this same address after Luther posted his theses he would probably have been burned at the stake.  Luckily for Colet he found himself in more tolerant circumstances. 

Suffering For Salvation

I'm alone and I'm lost in the middle of a desert with no water. Every step that I take makes my mouth feel drier and drier. I keep telling myself that there is probably an oasis on the other side of the that sand dune but there never is. This is my worst nightmare come true and I have nothing else to do but suffer until my body withers away into nothing. This is how I feel when I read a sermon by John Calvin. Calvin gave this sermon in the streets of Genvea, "which was the center of his labor, where he hoped to establish a more rigid moral discipline and to spread the faith". 

I imagine that he often had to use fear of suffering to help convince people to follow him. Most people during this time were probably not very highly educated so he needed to focus on something that they could understand and that was the suffering of man. Of course, Calvin does quote scripture in his sermon but this was because he was highly devoted to the scriptures and it helped maintained his credibility.  

Because Calvin was a protestant, he uses an inner method to become closer to Christ instead of using an outward method like the Catholic church used. This method was through the suffering and percussion of man one could become closer to Christ. As I mentioned earlier, I think most of these people at this time knew a lot about suffering because of all diseases and other factors that made life terribly difficult during this time. Through Calvin's teachings, people felt a sense of hope in knowing that their suffering was not in vain and that someday they could receive salvation.   

John Calvin: Simple and Powerful

John Calvin's sermon on suffering and persecution is a powerful one, and becomes even more powerful when one understands the kind of life that he lived. Calvin himself was banished from France and then from Geneva at a moment in his life. Knowing this allows us to see there is sincerity in this sermon, and a sense of ethos is presented. The ideas on suffering and persecution are appropriate for the audience as well, since living the principles taught by John Calvin were definitely not easy. Sacrifice had to be taken in order to live a life of Calvinist principles. Strict laws were enforced against drinking, gambling, and inappropriate dancing or singing. I even heard a rumor that they had a Strength of Youth pamphlet lying around somewhere...

In the text, Calvin's approach is very simple and systematic. His purpose was to clearly explain his ideas so that he could persuade others to commit to be better people. He starts by quoting a scripture as the main source of his authority. While he uses a lot of his own words, his explanations do not stray from the main ideas of the scriptures he uses, showing that he is using the scriptures as his main authority. Another way that he shows simplicity is the uncomplicated but reverent language that he uses. While it is not an informal language, it is a colloquial style that connects the common members to his message. His pure and simple approach creates an environment where the audience can trust him.

Structurally, Calvin effectively uses the tool of comparison in order to explain his ideas. He shows that while pursuing the pleasures of life can be comforting at first, they will not be lasting like the eternal reward that God could give them. He also speaks of following Christ not only as a way to a better reward, but as a important duty that any person should be happy to take upon themselves.

Persecutions May Rage: Identification in Rhetoric

The great fire of Rome, 69 AD

 Early Christians were blamed for a fire in Rome and persecuted because of it. Paul tried to give them strength through his letters. Protestant reformers were burned alive by the Catholic Church at an alarming rate. John Calvin tried to bring Protestants together in his preaching on suffering persecution. Mormons were driven from their homes and tarred and feathered. Joseph Smith preached courage and faith.

The Puppeteer

“You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder,” said Jonathan Edwards, a powerful Calvinist preacher, as he began an extended metaphor to his congregation. “And there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.”

As I read these words today as a Post-Enlightenment-Middle-Class-Mormon-Woman-In-College I was struck by something tragic and something so dramatic that I laughed through my fear. This hellfire and brimstone does little to motivate me and all of my sensitivities, however it spoke powerfully to participants of the religious revival that sparked from the Great Awakening.

It was interesting to me, that in Edwards’ approach to convey the delicate eternal situation of each member of his congregation, he assumed a rhetorical role similar to the God he described. The powerful imagery and extended metaphor used by Edwards brought to mind the picture of a great puppeteer.

The emotions of his congregation were likely heightened even before the sermon, again as a product of the revival. A pathetic appeal had the desired effect, and logic was all but abandoned (allusions to serpents and Sodom aside):

“How many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell! And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons that now sit here in some seats of this meetinghouse, in health , and quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning!…

The language of Jonathan Edwards was picturesque; in his conviction (and no doubt the passion in his expression) he essentially characterized his own words, effectively motivating the congregation that embraced religious fanaticism.

And to you, Professor Burton, do we think the spider was skiwompous on God’s slender thread?

The Polemics of Persecution

    Calvinistic religious tenets included the idea of suffering and persecution as a vehicle to salvation in Christ. The strict moral code accompanying the doctrines of Calvinism angered many, and John Calvin, himself, suffered persecution and exile for defending his beliefs, yet he never backed down. In his exhortation on suffering persecution, Calvin quotes the Apostle Paul, who said that men are "called and appointed to suffer"; Calvin uses this as the foundation of his argument to persuade his audience to come to Christ through the suffering of all things.
    He further contends that true followers of Christ cannot call themselves Christians if they are not willing to suffer in whatsoever manner they are called to do so. This argument is persuasively rendered by a series of queries designed to make his audience think. These consideration include whether would-be followers of Christ have the stamina, vision, certainty of belief, gratitude for the unmeasurable blessings and condescension of God and will to put aside corruptible flesh and stand apart from the world. All are thought-provoking by their very nature, but my attention was caught by his implication that there is some will involved, as that would negate the tenet of monergism, which states that man is saved by God's sovereign will through the operation of the Spirit, with no assistance from the free will of man. This tenet is closely tied to that of predestination, where God in his omniscience knows who will and will not be saved, thus leaving the Atonement a still necessary but almost secondary act in some ways. There appears to be a slight gap in logic here, though Calvin has clearly wished to both inform and exhort both his followers and his challengers; the former, with a call to action, and the latter, with a stalwart defense of moralistic principle.

A Blazin' Vain Blazon

Girolamo Savonarola had just about the coolest name ever.

...not that kind of vanity.
But! He wasn't proud about it, because Girolamo Savonarola was all-fired against vanity--as his sermon on the Feast of the Ascension clearly shows.

Savonarola begins with the story of Balaam from the Bible and creates a detailed allegory with it. He takes upon himself the role of Balaam's donkey; to the people, he gives the role of Balaam. If you recall, in the story from the Bible, Balaam is riding down a skinny path when his donkey sees an angel in front of them and turns away, earning a ripe beating from its master. Balaam promptly gets his spiritual eyes and, seeing the angel for himself, understands what's going on.

With a crinkled brow and a cross in his pocket,
Savonarola seems to have been a pretty intense preacher.
"I've seen the angel!" Savonarola says essentially. "I know the truth! If you would give up your pride (there's the vanity he likes to talk about), stop beating me, and open your eyes, you could see it too." He goes on, creating a new and striking story in which his hearers can place themselves; in which he, the great sermon-giver, is suddenly a humble pack animal who yet knows what the "masters" do not. That's a pretty strong comparison that serves as both the ethos and pathos appeal.

Then, at the end of the sermon, Savonarola goes into a blazon--a description from head to toe--of what the people should preach to themselves. It's an interesting way to conclude his words, but powerful in its particularity and pattern. And what do you think the first thing he says is? You guessed it. "First say to thine eyes, 'Look not on vanity.'"

Savonarola then moves through the ears, tongue, palate, senses, hands, and feet. Detailing these personal mini-sermons emphasizes the need of the people to be completely reformed...and to completely avoid vanity.

It's a Hard Knock Life

In 1982, little orphan Annie introduced to the world the idea of a “hard-knock life.” But would one be willing to endure if you knew it meant glory on high? In the 1530s, John Calvin left the Catholic Church following the path of many reformers of his day and professed the importance of suffering for the salvation of the soul.

Given as one of his weekly addresses, the sermon “On Suffering Persecution” was given to Christians in the streets of Geneva to expound upon the verses in the scriptures. This particular address was given in reference to Hebrews 13:13. This passage in helps reader to understand both why we suffer persecution and how it is beneficial to Christians as it helps them become like God. Like many writers of his day, this particular writing emphasizes the field of Christian apologetics, a theological field which seeks to present the rational basis for the faith and a defense against the obligation.  This rationality comes through the use of continual scriptural references along with rhetorical questions. His mild tone as well not only shows his rational nature, but emphasizes the humility and the sensitivity that comes along with exploring new religions.

In a time of great persecution for religious exploration, proposing that suffering brings strength would provide great comfort to those who came to hear the service. Calvin’s sermons were given on the streets on a weekly basis which adds to the credibility of Calvin. The audience has an opportunity to hear Calvin’s opinions on a variety of subjects which emphasizes his knowledge. The subject of persecution also provides an emotional tie for those who listen. Everyone has suffered persecution! Calvin’s words allow Christians to see that suffering in a "hard knock life" is not in vain, but in fact, brings us closer to God.  

The Weakness of the World; On Persecution

In his sermon on suffering persecution, John Calvin uses a contrast between those in the scriptures and the ways of the world to persuade listeners to his view of the gospel. For example, near the beginning of the sermon he asks “Are we so delicate as to be unwilling to endure anything?” and then sentences later references Paul and John’s rejoicing in being “counted worthy to suffer infamy and reproach for the name of the Lord Jesus.” By making listeners contemplate what they are willing to endure and then reminding them of what the apostles were happy to bear, Calvin makes his audience more open minded to hardship as they wouldn't want to see themselves as sinful or worldly, especially because he is delivering this during the uproar of the Protestant Reformation wherein people (or the noble people at least) have a little more flexibility as to what gospel principles they are living by. 

Additionally, he also contrast how man judges things like “imprisonment, exile and evil report” to God’s own judgment of it, implying that those who do not suffer in some way are worldly and unbelieving. With the recent uproar with the Catholic Church’s sacraments being seen as worldly in nature, many people would be striving for a more godly way to worship and could therefore be more easily persuaded by his rhetoric. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that he believed in a stern moral code that grated on many people and helped to get him kicked out of France. By persuading the people that suffering was necessary to be a truly faithful follower, John Calvin would have not only soothed his current followers who might have felt their beliefs a hardship but also would have open up previously unconvinced listeners to the idea that the pain of the stricter restriction would be worth it when compared to the gain in the afterlife, in being recognized by a follower of Christ. By comparing the weakness of the world to the stalwart faith of the suffering Apostles was able to persuade many people over to his stricter interpretation of the gospel.

Two Options for the Sinner: Repent or Burn

Whilst reading Calvinist Jonathan Edwards sermon on hell fire and damnation for the sinful, it was hard not to imagine this actually happening to a sinner. The imagery painted throughout this sermon really solidifies in one’s mind the torment and suffering that comes from sinning and facing the wrath of God. This view is much different than the one that I believe in, a loving Heavenly Father, but Edwards is trying to get a single point across here, and that is the issue of committing sin and not repenting. His audience is the sinners, and those that choose not to ask for forgiveness for their wrongdoings.

His objective with this sermon is to create a branded image of what it’s like for a sinner if they die in their sins. He uses the analogy of a spider dangling over a fire to a sinner dangling over a pit of hell fire. The tone that he uses is fierce and strong. He is attempting to provoke fear into the eyes of his audience so they can see the position they could end up in. There is a repetitive pattern of discussing God’s wrath and how He will show no mercy if one does not repent and come unto Him. If this speech was given orally, I could only imagine a crowd of wide-eyed, fear stricken people wondering if they have done enough to not be like unto the spider. Reading his words did enough for me to understand his point, being in person listening to this would have taken it to the next level and made it unforgettable.

The Great Awakening was a period of time with much religious commotion, and a preacher really need to stick out among the others to get attention. This is how Edwards stuck out, and got people to listen. Although I believe in a much more loving Heavenly Father, I can see where he is coming from, and the importance of repentance only become clearer after reading this sermon.

Choose the Difficult Path

John Calvin calls for a unique, inner type of reform in his speech on suffering persecution. He was not a particularly popular preacher because of his religious zeal; however, he was a strong reformer and was brought back to Geneva, France after being banished. This sermon is a great example of his boldness. He does not seem worried about how his speech will be received; he just proclaims the need for change. The topic of this speech also runs parallel to his character. He suffered persecution for his beliefs but continued to defend them while denouncing "laid back" discipleship.

The main support for his arguments are the scriptures. Calvin begins with the quote, "Let us go forth from the city after the Lord Jesus, bearing his reproach." The idea of ad fontes is very prevalent as he looks to the examples of Paul and other Bible figures. Other scriptures are carefully chosen and woven into the progression of the speech to convince the audience to embrace the opportunity of suffering for one's God. He also appeals to logos by probing the listener to question the price of salvation. Surely a prize so great demands a high cost.

Along with logical statements, Calvin uses some emotionally charged statements. He defines ignominy and dignity as opposites between the view of the world and God's perspective and challenges the audience to decide on which side they stand. Although his tone is very direct and strong like Luther, there is no sarcasm. Calvin sticks to a seriousness for his purpose of truly motivating directional change in ideology. For him, discipleship is a serious matter that was never meant to be easy and he shows that with how he presents his sermon.

Why The Protestants Choose Death Over Life

“And in…all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ…, Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” –Joseph Smith

The Catholics were burning
many of the reformers alive.
When there is a reformation happening, there is much persecution. The early saints of the LDS Church faced a vast enemy, full of hatred for them. Those saints needed not only a strong leader, but also a leader who could inspire them through their difficult times.

The power of fear

“THE GOD THAT holds you over the pit of hell much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear you in his sight; you are ten thousand times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours.”

Jonathan Edwards get right to the point in his sermon. He is speaking to sinners or in other words all of mankind. From my 20th century perspective the genre seems to be horror. Reading through this sermon created the image of a man crying condemnation on the people. His intentions seem to scare or coerce the people into accept Christ and abstaining from sin, otherwise they will be “consumed” by fire.

It is an interesting tactic and one that seems quite ridiculous to me but when I put myself in the audience’s shoes it is a different experience. The great awakening was a time of great confusion. There was “truth” being preached everywhere. Jonathan Edwards was a popular man, he was also known for his “feeble” voice, so my original idea of a man screaming and shouting repentance at the audience was thrown out the window. I imagine there were skeptics who refused to believe him but he knew how to appeal to the pathos of the majority of the people.

He knew people were lost and confused and uneducated in the manner so he used sharp imagery that people could relate to and he appealed to their emotions of fear. I believe his intentions were good. He used fear but it was because he truly believed that if the people did not repent they would be utterly be destroyed. Which in a sense is true, he just didn't have the knowledge of the Atonement of Christ and the love of Gad like we do now.

As A Spider Over Hell

This morning I decided that I ought to read "Calvinist Jonathan Edwards Promises Hellfire and Damnation to the Sinful" before I read my scriptures (to make sure I got the post done early in the day). That was an interesting choice-- I typically feel uplifted in the mornings when I pull out my scriptures, but this religious sermon was anything but like reading a General Conference talk. Jonathan Edwards compares the saints to an awful spider that God is dangling over Hell. While the text is extremely vibrant and condemning, a deeper analysis of the text and situation sheds more light onto the situation:
First, I think the ethos plays an important role in this sermon. Jonathan Edwards was one of the most popular preachers in New England during the Great Awakening. He travelled around the colonies and gave sermons as he went. Interestingly, from what I could find out, he was a meek speaker, not one to yell or shout during his sermons. Knowing this changes the way I perceive the sermon because I initially pictured someone standing on a block of wood just yelling and cursing at the audience. 
Knowing that Jonathan Edwards was typically quiet in his sermons, I think the medium of this sermon is also important. Jonathan Edwards was likely to have given this speech orally. Therefore, while the content is condemning and filled with graphic scenes of hellfire, the oration would have most likely been a little more calming, possibly even provoking the people to change their ways. 
All of this leads to the content of the sermon. I think that the imagery is impactful because even as I read it I pictured myself swinging over a lake of fire and brimstone. I could see those listening wanting to call on God immediately to ask forgiveness and cling to His side and I think that was the goal of this sermon. Edwards seems to want the people to realize that sin is not allowed and the only thing holding them out of Hell is a string held by God. Therefore, they need to repent before the string breaks. 

A Call to Repentance

As the great awakening flew across the American colonies, many people came to realization of their deep need for salvation through a Savior. Previous worship became intensely personal and encouraged a lot of introspection and commitment to a higher standard of living. Although many people rapidly changed, this was not true however for all. To help all those realize the importance of these teachings, Jonathan Edwards, a prominent Christian preacher, stood in front of his congregation to declare repentance and was ultimately successful in motivating his intended audience to action through his persuasive appeal to pathos.

Blasphemy in Christianity

What word rings more sharply in a sermon than blasphemy?  

John Wesley, shortly after a renewal of faith in his life after hearing a reading of Luther on Aldersgate Street in London, began to travel the country by horseback and preach sermons across all of England.  Near the beginning of his preaching career in England he voiced his firm declaration that the doctrine of predestination was heresy.

To do so he began by declaring that God’s grace is “free in all” voicing that no goodness can come from man (assuring his fellow protestants he had not turned to a philosophy like Erasmus’).  He then argues that, given predestination: preaching is vain, service to fellow man is vain, and all good works are vain.  He does so in a tone of indignation as he demonstrates commandments from God to preach, serve and do good works.  This brings him to a climactic question: 

Is God a hypocrite?  He declares profane blasphemy: God is worse than the Devil, assuming predestination is true.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The God That Abhors You

How should one persuade another to repentance? Hellfire and damnation, proclaims Jonathan Edwards. In his sermon, “Sinner in the Hands an Angry God,” Edwards, an influential preacher of the Great Awakening (1741 C.E.), has a simple goal: crush the theological apathy from his audience’s mind and, as a replacement, inject an awful fear of God’s anger! Edwards makes his intentions crystal clear through his eloquent use of rhetorical devices, each device portraying his beliefs in a “retribution theology.”

Edward’s rhetorical argument builds off the concept of hell as well as the sinners who will occupy it, and he builds this argument within one consistent mode: dispraise. Edward repeatedly returns to his fiery depiction of these two concepts between his intermittent manipulations of pronouns. Every sentence and every phrase has “you” resting on the veritable chopping-block of condemnation. This preacher designed this language to engage every single audience member as a guilty perpetrator. His audience, whether they heard the sermon or read it, knows, inescapably, that Edwards is heaping his points against them. This isn’t a description of some figurative far off “sinner,” it’s clearly you.

He pricks our attention, in an inescapable way.

Then Edwards’ real work begins: abasing his attentive audience. He proceeds to persuade us to repentance by helping us see, by vivid imagery, the awfulness of our state. By dehumanizing metaphors, by exaggerated hyperbole, and by anaphoric evocations, this preacher ravages our emotions, pummels our pride, attacks our apathy, and blasts our beliefs with an exaggerated and sadistic God. Edwards’ God is depicted, quite elaborately, with an unmatched fury and a plan to devastate our heavenly tenements unless we “flee” to him with the humble outstretched hands of the supplicant.                

A Frightful Tone

As a girl who has a strong faith and belief in God, I never pictured our Heavenly Father as angry or someone we should be afraid of. I liked to think of him more as my friend, and well, my Father.

However, this is not how the famous Jonathan Edwards depicted God. In his well-known sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards compares a sinner being dangled over the gaping jaws of hell, to a spider being dangled over a fire. Edwards point was to bring the people of his day out of sin and unto Christ to be saved. He does this by inflicting fear. His tone in his sermon seems scary. I couldn’t imagine hearing this in person and hearing how God was about to drop me into hell. I think hearing this given orally would be even more frightening, but even Edwards’ written words were definitely impactful.

Edwards was a preacher at the time of the Great Awakening, when there was much religious fervor to be had throughout the nation and throughout the world. I think Edwards, who was one of the most prominent preachers at that time, was caught up in the fervor and intensity of this religious movement, and his sermons reflect this.

Edwards uses analogies and certain repetitions and pronouns to make his sermon feel more personal to the people, his direct audience, thereby making his fear tactic more intense, hopefully bringing more people to Christ. He uses the analogy of the sinners being dangled by God over the gates of hell, like a spider would be dangled over the fire. This puts a much clearer and more tangible image in his audience’s head, increasing their awareness of the severity of this matter he is preaching against – sin and damnation. He also repeats things several times in a row to add greater stress his points: “you have no interest in any mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you have ever done, nothing that you can do to induce God to spare you one moment.” His repeating of the words “you” and “yourself” seem as if he is almost very harshly pointing a finger in his audience’s face, accusing them of being sinners at the hand of this angry God who will not spare them.

To finish his sermon off, Edwards uses a Biblical analogy and compares New England with the wicked city of Sodom. Leaving this very unsettling thought in this audience’s mind, he uses this fear and severity to then invite them to come to Christ and be saved from the torments of hell.