Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Kenneth S. Zagacki


This study analyzes the symbiotic relationship between rhetoric and homiletics. The proposed interface between the two disciplines is metaphor. Contemporary research on metaphor in philosophy, rhetoric, sociology, and theology is employed to produce a rhetorical/metaphorical homiletics. A deconstruction of classical homiletics traces the basic preaching model to a Cartesian philosophical starting point. The nature of the Christian scriptures as metaphorical and of Christian liturgy as symbolic is alien to the rational, objective homiletics. An examination of Christian worship as a rhetorical event includes the elements of the theory of rhetoric developed by Michel Foucault: discursive practices, rules, roles, knowledge, and power. Through a new reading of classical sources, implicitly or explicitly impacting the homiletic tradition, a different, more positive role is suggested for rhetoric. Instead of viewing rhetoric as a tool of evil, the preacher is encouraged to accept the rhetorical nature of all preaching. On this reading homiletics is defined as a type of rhetoric and the preacher becomes a rhetor. Rhetoric is defined as contingency and probability in opposition to traditional Christian dogmas of certainty. In an extension of the rhetorical theories of Ernesto Grassi and Richard H. Brown, a rhetoric of folly is developed. By juxtaposing the views of Grassi and St. Paul concerning folly, a common goal of Christians and secularists is discovered. Both, while despairing of the rational paradigm, suggest folly as a way of survival. The characteristics of a rhetoric of folly are: identification, semantic speech, empathic communication, dialectical irony, and metaphor. Metaphor, as a creative power, is presented as the major component in a rhetoric of folly. Rather than view metaphor as an element of style, this study resituates metaphor as an element of rhetorical invention. Metaphor is capable of redescribing reality, producing a new world, and creating credibility, community, and concepts by which Christians and secularists structure reality.