letters to surfers

how does model theology relate to rhetorical analysis?

by robert brow

Dear G.,

When I first heard about Rhetorical Analysis I imagined it was like the rhetoric I used at school. Rhetoric was the technique used by lawyers (or lovers, or politicians) to persuade their hearers, by whatever means, to do what they wanted them to do. I have recently learned from Professor Greg Bloomquist of St. Paul University, Ottawa, that Rhetorical Analysis has a much wider interest. It is really the study of what a writer or speaker is trying to convey to an audience. It could be a brochure to explain a play, or how to get the most from a new appliance, or a teacher describing the French Revolution, or the plot of a Harlequin novel.

In the study of the New Testament many scholars are discovering that it is far more interesting to work at what the writers, say of the Gospels, were trying to explain than the sources they used to do it. That should not surprise us because understanding Hamlet or the Merchant of Venice is far more interesting than digging into the materials Shakespeare had at hand.

Many people know how to love or sing or drive a car without being able to understand the theory of what they are doing. But if they want a explanation, it can only be done by giving them a model: "this is how love (or wrath, or forgiveness) works"(see "What is Model Theology?"). Model Theology is therefore one of the tools Rhetorical Analysis might use to look at theological writings. For Christians it is the attempt to understand, in relation to other forms of religion, the model of Trinitarian Theism (also called Creative Love Theism) that underlies our reading of the Bible.


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