Sunday, September 9, 2012

Keep It Simple

There have always been church leaders and teachers who desire the attention of men, honing their rhetorical skills to influence people, but this is not what they were called to do, as Paul stated of himself:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:1-2)
Arnobius of Sicca recognized this same distinction and rightly related that fine speech accomplishes nothing in spiritual matters, but we are to communicate the truth plainly and apply it as balm to the sick soul.
Let that pomposity of style and strictly regulated diction be reserved for public assemblies, for lawsuits, for the forum and the courts of justice, and by all means be handed over to those who, striving after the soothing influences of pleasant sensations, bestow all their care upon the splendor of language.

But when we are discussing matters far removed from mere display, we should consider what is said, not with what charm it is said, nor how it tickles the ears, but what benefits it brings on the hearers, especially since we know that some even who devoted themselves to philosophy, not only disregarded refinement of style, but also purposely adopted a common plainness when they might have spoken with greater elegance and richness, lest perhaps they might impair the stern gravity of speech and revel rather in a pretentious show of sophistry.  For indeed it demonstrates a worthless heart to seek enjoyment in matters of importance; and when you have to deal with those who are sick and diseased, to pour into their ears pleasurable sounds, instead of applying a remedy to their wounds.
From Case against the Pagans, I.59

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