The Quest for Charisma: Christianity and Persuasion by Craig R. Smith (Praeger Publishers) examines the major canons of classical rhetorical theory by demonstrating their influence on Christian speakers. The teachings of Jesus, the Gospel narrators, St. Paul, St. Augustine, Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Buber, and Karl Jaspers are unified into a theory of authentic charisma. What light does rhetorical theory throw on the enduring nature of Jesus' charismatic character? How can studying that character help us to acquire authentic charisma? To answer these questions, this book moves through several stages. The introductory chapter defines rhetoric, charisma, spirit, and power to provide readers with a vocabulary to proceed through the rest of the book. The second chapter examines the persona of Jesus as it is constructed rhetorically. The third chapter demonstrates that the Gospel narrators were effective storytellers who advance our understanding of the construction of charismatic narratives. The fourth chapter will examine the role ethos or credibility plays in St. Paul's success. Chapter 5 analyzes St. Augustine's role in bringing rhetorical theory into the Christian fold and setting out a doctrine of divine illumination. Chapter 6 examines the role pathos and word choice play in developing charisma. Chapter 7 examines the paths to responsibility and spirit that can be found in the writings of existentialists. The final chapter uses Jesus as a model to test their existential theory and to provide a more refined definition of authentic charisma. This work is likely to be overlooked because it manages several themes well. It takes religious language seriously and offers practical tools by which one can evaluate the message of such language. It also is religious taking a critical but evangelical view of Jesus and his message as present in the gospels.
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