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Place of Pathos in Preaching

The critical importance of emotion in preaching

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Pathos means "feeling or emotion" (Conley 317). When used in discussions of persuasion, it is "all those materials and devices calculated to put the audience in a frame of mind suitable for the reception of the speaker's ideas" (Thonssen and Baird 358). Pathos deserves a central place in homiletical theorizing and practice—a higher place than it currently receives.

I will argue that claim in the first section of this paper and make some suggestions in the second section, but before getting into the body of the paper, I need to make a disclaimer: This paper does not pit pathos against logos. I believe that preaching must include a strong cognitive element, or else it is not preaching. Without a dominant idea derived from a biblical text, supplemented with other ideas, a sermon is merely "sound and fury signifying nothing."

However, while preaching cannot be less than the communication of a biblical idea, it should be more. De Quincey compared the two arts of rhetoric, logos and pathos, ...

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Displaying 1–5 of 7 comments

Beverly Roberts

September 08, 2014  11:02am

Very helpful to me not only for the preaching moment but for personal bible study. If I can read with fervor and intensity as the Scripture's mood calls for it, perhaps I can understand better what the original intent of the text means.

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Jeffery Anselmi

January 31, 2013  11:02pm

Great thoughts. When you are moved the audience will be moved

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Lawrence Brice

April 16, 2012  5:39am

The article gave me prespective of preaching that will help me freely share God's word from the heart and the mind. And at the same time have a better understand of how to connect with my audeience.

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dawson brooks

November 03, 2008  12:11pm

Thank you Jeffery for helping us to understand more of the balanced blending of mind and heart throughout the sermon prep and delivery experience. How can we honestly study and handle the Word of God without it affecting our whole person? How can they hear truth unless the spokesperson has experienced a genuine response to Truth that has an ongoing transformation affect on their whole being? Thank you for elevating the role of preaching in the life of pastors. Your article is worth a few more reads and a prominent place in my personal preaching skills folder.

David Skirving

April 11, 2007  9:46pm

This is an extremely helpful aid to preaching. The role of rhetoric in preaching is undervalued and underused. I am a final year theological student in Sydney, Australia, and am doing a project on "The limits and freedoms of rhetoric in preaching." This article was very instructive. If the au

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