The Quest for Charisma: Christianity and Persuasion

The Quest for Charisma: Christianity and Persuasion

The Quest for Charisma: Christianity and Persuasion

The Quest for Charisma: Christianity and Persuasion


Smith examines the major canons of classical rhetorical theory by demonstrating their influence on Christian speakers. The teachings of Jesus, the Gospel narrators, St. Paul, St. Augustine, Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Buber, and Karl Jaspers are unified into one theory of authentic charisma for the first time.


In a garden behind a small home in Milan, the young teacher of public speaking looked into the eyes of his concubine and told her he could no longer live with her child but would keep their. This non-religious Sophist explained to his lover of fifteen years that he was converting to Catholicism. the young teacher wrote in his Confessions that sending away his common-law wife in this way opened a wound in him that never healed. His mother had named him Augustine after Caesar Augustus; his name would become as important to the Catholic Church as Caesar's was to Rome. in 384, however, his mother was trying to arrange a proper marriage to a wealthy Roman woman.

The early christian church

To understand the context of Augustine's conversion and contribution to rhetoric, Christianity, and charisma, we need to examine the history of the church leading to Augustine's time. the early Christians were not without their rivals nor were they immune from internal divisions. These theological disputes often required sophisticated rhetorical skills because the issues at hand were not a matter of material verification. One of the earliest dissenters from the standard church line was Macion, who was born about 85 A.D. He was admired for promoting Christianity in Rome when it was dangerous to do so. But when he advanced his theory that Jesus was not the son of the Jewish God but the son of a great God of beneficence, he was condemned as a heretic. Macion defended himself using arguments built on the Gospel of St. Luke.

Other Christians formed into Gnostic cults, which believed that knowledge was the true source of salvation. Centered in Alexandria, they participated in . . .

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