Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sacred Rhetoric: Preaching as a Theological and Pastoral Practice of the Church

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sacred Rhetoric: Preaching as a Theological and Pastoral Practice of the Church

Article excerpt

Sacred Rhetoric: Preaching as a Theological and Pastoral Practice of the Church. By Michael Pasquarello III. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2005. Pp. viii, 143. $15.00 paperback.)

This volume seeks to situate contemporary homiletic practice within the Church's tradition. The author, an associate professor of practical theology at Ashbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, is catholic in his appropriation of the Christian past by calling upon the witness of Augustine, Gregory the Great, St. Benedict, Bernard of Clairvaux, Humbert of Romans, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Erasmus, Latimer, Luther, and Calvin. This is traditional church history, that is, church history as a branch of theology in the service of the Church. While there are perceptive insights into the authors discussed, the book does not claim to break new ground historicaEy. In fact, it does not claim to break new ground theologicaEy or liomileticaEy Quite the contrary, the book is itself an example of its argument: rather than look to new theories of communication to render preaching more effective, the preacher should look to the great preachers and great Christians of the past as exemplars.This approach, of course, perpetuates tradition. The ancient and medieval Church relied on the imitation of Christ, the Apostles, and the saints to form Christians. Imitation, not rules, were what worked. As the author argues, one reason is that the Holy Spirit is not confined by rules, and it is the Holy Spirit who in the end is the true speaker. The human voice is only its instrument. For Pasquarello, the preacher only becomes that instrument by first embodying the message that is to be communicated. In a sense (pace Marshal McLuhan) the message is the medium. In the end, the Gospel preaches itself. Pasquarello also hopes to recapture that tradition, at least as he saw it existing before the Enlightenment divided the theological disciplines and caused a modern homiletic poverty. …

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