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Civility and Rhetoric

Civility, rhetoric, dialogue, common ground

They Say / I Say

Go Even as a writer, writing teacher, and rhetorician, I could not see how many gaps I left in my writing until this book. So much of the writing process was just flung at me in public school that I was fortunate to absorb dribs and drabs. Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst dismantle writing into a system, based on the most recent rhetorical research, and lay the process out in short chapters, plain language, and a scheme of templates that students can use to kick-start their own writing. The authors' thesis is that writing is an uncomplicated process which can be reduced to a handful of rhetorical components. If students see writing as a social act, joining a larger conversation already in process, they will produce engaging writing which both they and their teachers will enjoy. Since the book is laced with examples of effective and ineffective writing, there is no doubt as to which the authors aim for, making evaluation a simple, somewhat objective process. ~ Kevin L. Nenstiel at Amazon.com

Concepts of God

Go Using terms acceptable to each religious tradition, Professor Ward considers the doctrine of ultimate reality — God — within five world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. By closely studying a definitive, orthodox writer in each tradition, Ward builds a series of "pictures" of God and uncovers a common core of belief. "An invaluable introduction to the religious traditions which have helped shape human culture through the ages. Indispensable lot a comparative religions library."

Finding Common Ground

Go In a world that’s growing more hostile to the gospel, what can Christians do?  How can we communicate with our unbelieving friends and coworkers in a way that won’t seem pushy, intolerant, or judgmental? In a world that’s heard it all before and no longer seems to care, where do we begin? By sowing. In Finding Common Ground, Tim Downs reminds us of the forgotten biblical art of sowing and shows us practical and effective ways to: Bring up spiritual subjects with busy and distracted people; Use secular movies and book to talk about biblical ideas; Overcome prejudice and stereotypes in our listeners; Keep open doors of communication with even hostile opponents; Move everyone we meet a step closer to the gospel. ~ Back Cover

James McCosh on “Oblique Expression”

Go It is used by the courtier and the flatterer, who keep within the limits of truth in their statement, but intend that their words should suggest much more to those whom they address. It is employed by the calumniator when he does not bring a direct accusation — which might be met; but he hints and insinuates certain dark charges fitted to raise our worst suspicions. We see it exhibited by the guilty man when he puts on a look of injured innocence; or affects a virtuous indignation because such an offence could be charged against him. There are certain speakers guilty of it in every sentence, and certain writers exhibit it in every page, for they can say nothing clearly and plainly. It has been said of Hume, as a historian, that, "without asserting much more than can be proven, he gives prominence to all the circumstances which support his case, or glides lightly over those which are unfavorable to it."

Faith in the Halls of Power

Go Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University who has previously worked with pollster George Gallup Jr., looks at the rise of evangelical Christian influence in the spheres of power of American public life: political, intellectual, cultural and economic. Based on interviews with 360 leaders from these spheres, including two former presidents, as well as a command of what everybody else has heretofore written, Lindsay demonstrates how over the past two decades evangelicals have moved into positions of great influence. From a sociological point of view, their path to power is easy to discern through networks of relationships or institutions that have seeded larger political and economic institutions. This growing network has produced new leaders whose ideas and actions are motivated by their Christianity. The interviews allow Lindsay to cite numerous examples that make his point persuasively. He is a sympathetic observer who understands that evangelicalism is as reformist as any other movement that has ascended to power in America. Yet he also understands that evangelicalism has made accommodation to the larger public life it seeks to reform, a tension he calls elastic orthodoxy. This important work should be required reading for anyone who wants to opine publicly on what American evangelicals are really up to. ~ Publishers Weekly

Faith In Dialogue

Go What happens when the immovable object of faith meets the irresistible force of sophisticated unbelief? Too often, says Dr. Jerry Gill, the believer either retreats out of earshot, saying that faith is "better felt than told," or he tries to build a "foolproof" logical system too airtight even for God. This book suggests a third option: risking an open-minded "dialogue" with challenges to faith, examining presuppositions on both sides and acknowledging valid contributions of other views while maintaining responsible religious commitment. "As I understand it, a dialogical posture is one that takes the matters of religious reality and truth so seriously as to require extreme openness to and growth toward them, as well as radical sincerity and commitment to them. Thus, all sides and aspects of an issue must be explored with humble thoroughness, and whatever is deemed worthy of commitment must be incorporated into one's life with integrity." ~ Quote

To Change the World

Go The call to make the world a better place is inherent in the Christian belief and practice. But why have efforts to change the world by Christians so often failed or gone tragically awry? And how might Christians in the 21st century live in ways that have integrity with their traditions and are more truly transformative? In To Change the World, James Davison Hunter offers persuasive — and provocative — answers to these questions. Hunter begins with a penetrating appraisal of the most popular models of world-changing among Christians today, highlighting the ways they are inherently flawed and therefore incapable of generating the change to which they aspire. Because change implies power, all Christians eventually embrace strategies of political engagement. Hunter offers a trenchant critique of the political theologies of the Christian Right and Left and the Neo-Anabaptists, taking on many respected leaders, from Charles W. Colson to Jim Wallis and Stanley Hauerwas. Hunter argues that all too often these political theologies worsen the very problems they are designed to solve. What is really needed is a different paradigm of Christian engagement with the world, one that Hunter calls "faithful presence" — an ideal of Christian practice that is not only individual but institutional; a model that plays out not only in all relationships but in our work and all spheres of social life. He offers real life examples, large and small, of what can be accomplished through the practice of "faithful presence." Such practices will be more fruitful, Hunter argues, more exemplary, and more deeply transfiguring than any more overtly ambitious attempts can ever be. Written with keen insight, deep faith, and profound historical grasp, To Change the World will forever change the way Christians view and talk about their role in the modern world. ~ Product Description

Tactics

Go In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to get in the driver’s seat, keeping any conversation moving with thoughtful, artful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to maneuver comfortably and graciously through the minefields, stop challengers in their tracks, turn the tables and — most importantly — get people thinking about Jesus. Soon, your conversations will look more like diplomacy than D-Day. Drawing on extensive experience defending Christianity in the public square, Koukl shows you how to: Initiate conversations effortlessly; Present the truth clearly, cleverly, and persuasively; Graciously and effectively expose faulty thinking; Skillfully manage the details of dialogue; Maintain an engaging, disarming style even under attack. Tactics provides the game plan for communicating the compelling truth about Christianity with confidence and grace. ~ Back Cover

Letter from Birmingham Jail

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My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Nonviolent Provocation

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Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

C.S. Lewis on God is Love

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St. John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougement) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God. I suppose that everyone who has thought about the matter will see what M. de Rougemont meant. Every human love, at its height, has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God Himself. It tells us not to count the cost, it demands of us a total commitment, it attempts to over-ride all other claims and insinuates that any action which is sincerely done “for love’s sake” is thereby lawful and even meritorious. That erotic love and love of one’s country may thus attempt to “become gods” is generally recognised. But family affection may do the same.

Miguel de Unamuno on Winning But Not Convincing

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This is the temple of intelligence and I am its hight priest. I have always been, despite the words of the proverb, a prophet in my own country. You will win but you will not convince. You will win because you have more than enough brute force; but you will not convince because to convince means to persuade. And to persuade you need something which you lack: right and reason.

Wilberforce and Huxley on ‘Yo Momma’ and Ape Ancestry

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In the course of a debate between Bishop Wilberforce and Huxley, in which Huxley defended the doctrine of evolution, the Bishop said: “I should like to ask Professor Huxley as to his belief in being descended from an ape. Is it on his grandfather’s or his grandmother’s side that the ape ancestry comes in?” Then, in a graver tone, he asserted that the views of Huxley were contrary to the revelations of Scripture. In the course of his refutation Huxley said: “I asserted — and I repeat — that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were any ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling, it would rather be a man who plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and to distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.”

Françoise Demore on Politeness, Deference, Kindness

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There is, therefore, a difference between civility and politeness, a sort of gradation from the first to the second. To be polite means more than to be civil. A polite person is necessarily civil; but a person simply civil is not polite. Politeness, therefore, not only supposes civility, but adds to it. The latter is by communication with men what public devotion is in regard to God, an exterior and sensible testimony of the interior sentiments that ought to animate us; and even in this it is precious as inspiring exterior deference and kindness. It is an open confession of the esteem and benevolence that ought to reign within.

Michael Ferrebee Sadler on Incarnation and Humility

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If the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, as it is set forth in the Scriptures, be a truth of God — if the Divine Person Who had glory with the Father, having taken upon Him the nature of His creature, really condescended to go through the humiliation and pain and distress which is written of Him, it stands to reason that the loving humility and abnegation of self displayed in such endurance, must be the chief feature in the character of the God-man, which we must in our degree possess, if, in the words of the Holy Ghost, Christ is to be " formed in us."

On Civility

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The well-being of society would be greatly promoted, if the nature and use of this Christian virtue were more generally known. We take this to be, in personal intercourse, the observance of the command, Do to others as you would that others should do to you. The most rapid glance at any community, shows this: That some of its members are brought into contact in matters of business, necessarily; others meet, incidentally, who have no particular connexion; others meet for social purposes, in various forms; and that there is a large proportion who know, of each other, very little beyond the fact, that they are of the same country; and perhaps, not even that. There must be a best rule of deportment for all these classes; and no one will deny, that if this rule were defined, and faithfully applied, there would be much more of every day comfort, and complacency in the world, than there is well known to be. If we rightly understand the meaning of civility, it is the manifestation of kind feelings, and of a desire to do all things which are to be done, under the influence of such feelings, in a becoming and agreeable manner.

Thomas Carlyle on Irony and Sarcasm

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Often, notwithstanding, was I blamed, and by half-strangers hated, for my so-called Hardness, my Indifferentism towards men; and the seemingly ironic tone I had adopted, as my favorite dialect in conversation. Alas, the panoply of Sarcasm was but a buckram case, wherein I had striven to envelope myself; that so my own poor Person might live safe there, and in all friendliness, being no longer exasperated by wounds. Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the Devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it. But how many individuals did I, in those days, provoke into some degree of hostility thereby! An ironic man, with his sly stillness, and ambuscading ways, more especially a young ironic man, from whom it is least expected, may be viewed as a pest to society.

John Stuart Mill on Teachability and a Slowness to Condemn

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We desiderate in it somewhat more of what becomes all men, but, most of all, a young man, to whom the struggles of life are only in their commencement, and whose spirt cannot yet have been wounded, or his temper embittered by hostile collision with the world, but which, in young men especially, is apt to be wanting — a slowness to condemn. A man must now learn, by experience, what once came almost by nature to those who had any faculty of seeing; to look upon all things with a benevolent, but upon great men and their works with a reverential spirit; rather to seek in them for what he may learn from them, than for opportunities of showing what they might have learned from him; to give such men the benefit of every possibility of their having spoken with a rational meaning; not easily or hastily to persuade himself that men like Plato, and Locke, and Rousseau, and Bentham, gave themselves a world of trouble in running after something which they thought was a reality, but which he Mr. A. B. can clearly see to be an unsubstantial phantom; to exhaust every other hypothesis, before supposing himself wiser than they; and even then to examine, with good will and without prejudice, if their error do not contain some germ of truth…

Samuel Drew on Thomas Paine’s Rhetoric

Go Upon what peculiar excellency, the popularity of your book is founded, I will not presume to determine; but, in the perusal of its pages, I could plainly discover, that, in many places, you had substituted ridicule in the room of argument; while epithets of abuse were introduced, to dazzle the mind with their superficial glare; as though your design were rather to excite contempt than to produce conviction. Instead of meeting with demonstrative evidence, I have seen idle declamation, calculated rather to delude than to inform; I have met with premises of your own creation, which you have assumed, and from which you have argued conclusively: while in many places, from premises which would not be disputed, your reasonings are inconclusive, and your inferences unjust. You have blended together, in one common mass, the Heathen mythology, Mahometanisrn, Christianity, Popery, and Priestcraft, with all the errors, and all the vices, all the dissensions, and all the cruelties, which, by a departure from the pure principles ot Christianity, have disgraced the human character; and, with an effrontery hardly to be paralleled, have thrown the whole on Revelation. Is this fair? You have made comparisons, which are as invidious as they are unjust; but it will be only in those, who are disposed to place in the scurrility of your language, that confidence, which nothing but legitimate proof has a right to claim, that those effects will be produced, for which your book seems calculated. To yourself you seem to have arrogated the exclusive appropriation of rationality; and, in the excess of triumph, you appear to tell the world, that the barbarism and mental shackles, in which it had been held for ages, have been reserved, to be torn away by the superior genius of Thomas Paine. From this mode of procedure, it is easy to infer, in what estimation you hold the intellectual discernment, and the reasoning powers of others.

Benjamin Franklin on Humility and Disagreement

Go My list of virtues contained at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud, that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation, that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing and rather insolent, of which he convinced me by mentioning several instances, I determined to endeavor to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest; and I added humility to my list, giving an extensive meaning to the word. ¶ I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it. I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion; such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted instead of them, I conceive, I comprehend, or I imagine, a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but that in the present case there "appeared" or "seemed to me" some difference, etc. The conversation I engaged in went on more pleasantly; the modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.

Edmund Burke on Dissension for its Own Sake

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It is somewhat remarkable that this reverend divine should be so earnest for setting up new churches, and so perfectly indifferent concerning the doctrine which may be taught in them. His zeal is of a curious character. It is not for the propagation of his own opinions, but of any opinions. It is not for the diffusion of truth, but for the spreading of contradiction. Let the noble teachers but dissent, it is no matter from whom or from what.

Edmund Burke on Politics in the Pulpit

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Supposing, however, that something like moderation were visible in this political sermon; yet politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character, to assume what does not belong to them, are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave, and of the character they assume. Wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with so much confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they excite. Surely the church is a place where one day’s truce ought to be allowed to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.

A Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments

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In 1784, a bill was before the House of Delegates of Virginia for a publick Act, “establishing a provision for the teachers of the Christian religion,” which had for its object the compelling of every person to contribute to some religious teacher. The bill was postponed to the next session of the legislature and ordered to be printed, and the people were requested to signify their opinion respecting its adoption. Among the numerous remonstrances against the passage of this bill, the following one drawn by Mr. Madison, stands pre-eminent. It is certainly one of the ablest productions of that great statesman, and deserves to be widely circulated. To use the language of the authour of the work from which it is extracted — Benedict’s “General History of the Baptist denomination in America,” — its “style is elegant and perspicuous and for strength of reasoning and purity of principle, it has seldom been equalled, certainly never surpassed, by anything on the subject in the English language.” It is hardly necessary to say that the bill never passed the House. ~ Hartford Times

An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom

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Thomas Jefferson drafted The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779 three years after he wrote the Declaration of Independence. The act was not passed by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia until 1786. Jefferson was by then in Paris as the U.S. Ambassador to France. The  Act was resisted by a group headed by Patrick Henry who sought to pass a bill that would have assessed all the citizens of Virginia to support a plural establishment. James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments was, and remains, a powerful argument against state supported religion. It was written in 1785, just a few months before the General Assembly passed Jefferson’s religious freedom bill.

David Hume on Enemies of Liberty

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In all ages of the world, priests have been enemies to liberty; and it is certain, that this steady conduct of theirs must have been founded on fixed reasons of interest and ambition. Liberty of thinking, and of expressing our thoughts, is always fatal to priestly power, and to those pious frauds, on which it is commonly founded; and, by an infallible connexion, which prevails among all kinds of liberty, this privilege can never be enjoyed, at least has never yet been enjoyed, but in a free government.