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  • Ed Moll

Augustine on Preaching

Why bother to preach well?

We’re all thinking afresh on how to preach and why because of the changes brought about in response to the coronavirus. I recently came across these quotes from Augustine’s On Christian teaching which I think are worth sharing.

First, Augustine reminds why we should seek skill in speaking the 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 defence, should stand unarmed in the fight against falsehood? This would mean that those who are trying to give conviction to their falsehoods 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”

On Christian Teaching Book IV.ii (Oxford’s World Classics p. 101)

Augustine does not believe the truth to be helpless without rhetoric. The so-called restrained style can drawn on the power of its arguments:

“Just because it marches into battle without embellishment or armour, and apparently defenceless, this does not prevent it from crushing the enemy with the strength of its sinewy hands and disabling its opponent and demolishing falsehood with its mighty limbs.”

On Christian Teaching Book IV.xxvi (Oxford’s World Classics p. 141)

We want Latimer Trust’s publications to serve this goal.

Here are some recommendations from our collection:

Allan Chapple, Preaching. A guidebook for beginners. 'This is a book which starts from the underlying principles and goes on to analyse the process of preaching (discovering and digesting, designing, defining and delivering) and then ways of assessing progress. Each chapter begins with a selection of quotations - sometimes amusing, always thought-provoking, which help engage the reader in the issues.'

Benjamin Sargent, As it is written, interpreting the Bible with boldness. 'This Study explores the philosophical integrity of the quest for meaning in a text, and discusses the benefits and pitfalls of the various tools we might bring to the task of interpretation. It draws inspiration from Scripture’s own methods as the Old Testament is applied in New Testament writings, to give a Christian theological account of hermeneutics.'


Ed Moll is part the Latimer Trust council and vicar at St George’s Church Wembdon in Somerset. He is the author of Anglican Elders published by this Trust.

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