I applaud Peter Leithart's case in "Rhetoric and the Word" (May) for a revival of rhetoric in theological discourse. We should never suppose that Truth is conveyed most appropriately in arid Thomistic parlance. The Bible itself is anything but a textbook in systematic theology, and it never invites us to fashion one. In short, as Mr. Leithart indicates, if rhetoric is good enough for the Bible, it should be good enough for theologians.
I have mixed feelings, however, about the evangelical preoccupation with "textuality." The problem is that preoccupation with the text can often lead (and often has led) to an under-emphasis on the reality to which the text points. Christianity, after all, is not so much a text-religion as it is an event-religion--or, more accurately, it is an event-religion one of whose events was, and remains, a text. The Bible is not a stand-alone proposition that elicits fastidious attention to its literary dimension, but rather the enumeration, attestation, and interpretation of redemptive events centering on the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth. Text, though vital, is ancillary and instrumental.
Andrew P. Sandin
Center for cultural Leadership
La Grange, California
Among the many complementary practices that signal the working of God in the world, there is the balance between scientific theology as perfected by Thomas Aquinas and the more rhetorical and Augustinian approach that Peter Leithart recommends.
We need both. A philosophically informed theology operates at the level of the universal, while rhetorical theology (if such I may call Mr. Leithart's alternative) would return us to the historical specificity from which we universalize in the first place. Human knowing inevitably involves a tension between particular and universal, between the multiplicity...