Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rhetoric in Defense of Truth

Since rhetoric is used to give conviction to both truth and falsehood, who could dare to maintain that truth, which depends on us for its defense, should stand unarmed in the fight against falsehood? This would mean that those who are trying to give conviction to their falsehoods would know how to use an introduction to make their listeners favorable, interested, and receptive, while we would not; that they would expound falsehoods in descriptions that are succinct, lucid, and convincing, while we would expound the truth in such a way as to bore our listeners, cloud their understanding, and stifle their desire to believe; that they would assail the truth and advocate falsehood with fallacious arguments, while we would be too feeble either to defend what is true or refute what is false; that they, pushing and propelling their listeners’ minds towards error, would speak so as to inspire fear, sadness, and elation, and issue passionate exhortations, while we, in the name of the truth, can only sit idle along sounding dull and indifferent. Who could be so senseless as to find this sensible? No; oratorical ability, so effective a resource to commend either right or wrong, is available to both sides; why then is it not acquired by good and zealous Christians to fight for the truth, if the wicked employ it in the service of iniquity and error, to achieve their perverse and futile purposes?
—Augustine, On Christian Teaching

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