Book Review: Passion In The Pulpit

Passion In The Pulpit:  How To Exegete The Emotion Of Scripture, by Jerry Vines and Adam Dooley

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers/Net Gallery.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Like many readers of this book, I come to this volume having read the author’s previous two books on important qualities speakers need with regards to homiletics [1].  It should be noted, though, that this particular book focuses much more on the concern of rhetoric than previous books did.  If previous books were all about the rhetorical approach of speakers, it was done in a way that did not require a great deal of knowledge or interest in the forms of classic Greco-Roman rhetoric.  In this book, though, it is clear that the author wishes to focus on Christian pathos in giving sermon messages and its connection to ethos and logos.  Obviously, these are matters of great importance, in that emotionally fraught manipulation is all too common in our present world and that all too many people give sermon messages without an understanding or appropriate use of pathos, including the biblical pathos that exists in passages.  By and large, though, I must admit that as a student and occasional practitioner of rhetoric that I certainly came to this volume with a great deal of sympathy and understanding of the authors’ aims.

In terms of its structure and contents, this book is about 200 pages, of similar length to the first two books in the trilogy.  The book consists of twelve chapters that show a similar structure and a unified intent to encourage the use of biblical pathos among preachers in their exegetical messages.  The authors begin with three chapters that examine the context and dangers of pathos in spiritual communication, by pointing out that pathos is a missing dimension in many messages (1), that we have to be aware of personality-driven preaching that draws attention to us rather than communicating the truths of scripture to our audience (2) and avoiding emotional manipulation but rather motivating our audience to repentance and obedience (3).  The next five chapters discuss various approaches that help a speaker to better understand the emotional pathos of a text, such as knowing genre (4), probing the vocabulary and syntax of a given passage (5), examining the world behind (6) and in front of (7) the text, and gauging the reactions one has to reading the text (8).  A transition chapter discusses the issue of authenticity and hypocrisy in heartfelt preaching (9) before the authors conclude with three chapters that discuss verbal (10), vocal (11), and visual (12) strategies to move the audience.  In the book as I read it the supplementary material like the foreword and acknowledgements were missing.  Moreover, each chapter ends with a section by co-author Jerry Vines.

Although I was sympathetic to the authors in reading this book, I found much about the book that was unnecessarily irritating.  For one, almost all of the sections from Jerry Vines focused on himself as a great expert of biblically driven pathos.  I found it somewhat off-putting for the author to consider himself an expert on rhetoric and wished for a more humble approach that sought to bring more glory to God.  The authors’ attempt to portray themselves as experts on biblical pathos was greatly hindered by their deliberately antinominan approach–where they deliberately denigrated the importance of God’s laws to contemporary believers, except for their passion to receive the tithes of their brethren.  Apparently the only laws of God that they are passionate about defending are the laws that give them money.  The fact that the authors approach the intersection of logos and pathos from a Southern Baptist perspective means that those who have a very different understanding of the Bible from the authors are left in a position of being critical of the authors and of their self-confidence in their own mastery of biblical truth and its proper emotional expression from the pulpit.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Book Review: Passion In The Pulpit

  1. Pingback: How To Appeal To Nathan Albright: A Case Study In Logos, Ethos, And Pathos | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Words To Winners Of Souls | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Words And Witnesses | Edge Induced Cohesion

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