The tradition of offering prolegomena in the Western intellectual canon was largely established by Immanuel Kant and in religio-rhetorical criticism in English by Walter Ong (2000), author of such works as The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History. In his work of prolegomenon, Ong moves beyond considering prolegomena as merely an introductory part (its meaning in Greek, prolegein, "to say beforehand"), to using the concept to build bridges of understanding from one field to another. In much the same way, this study will be one of prolegomenon that attempts to build a bridge across which Western scholars of rhetoric might learn about Daesoon Jinrihoe and the oral tradition of Sangje and devotees and scholars of Sangje’s teachings might learn about principles of Western religio-rhetorical criticism. To that end, this article will explore significant affinities that might be identified among The Canonical Scripture and the major traditions of Western rhetorical practice and criticism of Augustine, Aristotle, and Chaim Perelman.
Beginnings of Christian Rhetoric
Fortunately for this discussion, numerous examples abound of rhetorical elements correlative to classical principles both in the Christian tradition and in The Canonical Scripture. These examples serve well the current goal of building bridges of understanding as the Sacred Scriptures become more broadly introduced to Western audiences with the introduction of the first English translation. As that translation will be available to English-speaking scholars, our investigation here will consider the varying attitudes to scholarly work that are expressed in the Christian Bible and in the The Canonical Scripture. In the Biblical chapter Acts of the Apostles there is found one of the more noteworthy contests of rhetorical prowess recorded in the Christian New Testament. The event takes place at Athens’s Areopagus, and the interlocutors were the apostle Paul and influential local Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, Greek heirs to the oldest philosophical and rhetorical traditions of the West. The apostle Paul was no stranger to verbal sparring, even in foreign lands in front of hostile audiences. But never had he faced a challenge quite like this, answering some of the most educated people in the classical world in front of the large and sophisticated audience at the Areopagus.
Paul’s visit to Athens is introduced inconsequently enough in the text; he was waiting in the city for his helpers to catch up with him, in order that he might proceed with his journeys. But Paul was apparently had no intentions of enjoying the sights of the ancient cultural capital; what he noticed above all else was “that the city was full of idols” (Acts of the Apostles 17:16). Paul then took to the streets, to the marketplace, where his exhortations drew attention. “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him,” the text recounts, and the philosophers seemed to think Paul was “a babbler,” but then perhaps out of curiosity and a desire to get Paul out of the market, the party proceeded to a meeting of the Areopagus (17:18). A governing body during Athens’s days as a city-state, the Areopagus had, by Paul’s day, lost its official power, though it remained a vanguard of Greek culture. Paul’s distaste for the Areopagus’s purely academic function is evidenced in the rather parenthetical comment that the body spent time “doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (17:21).
At the meeting, Paul apparently ingratiated himself with some members of the court by discussing topics familiar to the Athenians. Paul mentions the religious sentiment of many people in the city, making special reference to the altar dedicated to an unknown god. He further demonstrates his knowledge of Greek culture by quoting from the poets Epimenides and Aratus. Paul’s rhetorical display was by no means a triumph; several of his listeners responded in “sneers,” but others suggested they would like to hear Paul again “on this subject,” perhaps out of genuine curiosity, perhaps in an effort to dismiss this foreigner (17:32). Nonetheless, Paul’s message had an effect on an audience accustomed to hearing accomplished disputations. The episode, as it is recorded in Acts, concludes that “[a] few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others” (17:34).
Despite his success at the Areopagus and elsewhere, the apostle Paul’s attitude to rhetoric seems to have been ambivalent, at least to the empty flattery he identified in the philosophical rhetoric of his day. Paul’s rhetoric, as the example in the Areopagus demonstrates, was message-driven and based in the needs and norms of society. Gerd Theissen (2004), for one, recognizes the social relevance of Paul’s message, and he writes: “Paul’s own analysis is informed by ‘sociological’ perceptions … The social realities are interpreted, intensified, transcended” (164–65). An example of Theissen’s claim can be found in Paul’s discussion of Athens’s temple to the unknown god, a symbol Paul utilizes, “transcends” in order to spread his message. Another scholar of the Christian New Testament, Ben Witherington (1995), writes that “Paul reflects more than a passing acquaintance with Cynic, Stoic, and Epicurean thought … Paul was clearly influenced by Greek rhetorical style” (3). But this influence is not one Paul wished to emphasize, probably because of his insistence, repeated throughout his epistles, that it was the message that was important, not the messenger. Paul demonstrates this attitude, among other such places, in his first letter to the Corinthian Church. “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants.” Paul wrote; “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants or he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (I Corinthians 3:5,6). While Paul may have benefited from rhetorical influence, his predilection for giving the “messenger” no credit for the message resulted in his downplaying any discussion of rhetorical influence.
Scriptural Attitudes Toward Learning: East and West
The early Christian Church in the West would share this ambivalent attitude toward the rhetorical tradition, largely because, as Sonja Foss, Karen Foss, and Robert Trapp write, the tradition “was condemned as a pagan art” (1995,6). Catholic Church Fathers, among them Jerome and Tertullian, found it difficult to distinguish an older rhetorical tradition, even the philosophical rhetoric of Plato, from the excesses of the Second Sophistic. By the time of the Middle Ages, when the Church’s influence had been firmly established, some Christian orators seemed to think that “possession of Christian truth was accompanied by an automatic ability to communicate that truth effectively” (6).
So, from even this very early account, the Christian New Testament’s disdain for scholarship and learning is evident. In The Canonical Scripture, however, we see a different approach. There, we read:
The commerce of a scholar is an occupation; The craftsmanship of a farmer is a job. Accordingly, the scholar's commerce and the farmer's craftsmanship are vocations. Except for that, commerce and craftsmanship of other parts stay in...(some words may be missing) All beings live based upon their vocations.” (Progress of the Order 1:44)
There are, of course, many currents of influence that inform the more generous view of learning and scholarship that appears in Sangje’s words and in The Canonical Scripture. One such stream was Confucian learning. According to Lee Gyungwon, “the Confucian scholarship of the late Joseon Dynasty pursued an increasingly practical bent and this more applied scholarship dubbed ‘Practical Learning’ or Silhak is seen as an important development in late Joseon Confucianism. In sum, Confucianism or Confucian learning was a basic subject of study in Korea beginning in ancient times and continuing on through the Joseon Dynasty. Confucian academes and educational practices were used to shape individuals’ moral characters and produce socially engaged Confucian scholars; this can be contrasted with the ‘life of faith’ emphasized in more monotheistic traditions” (Lee 2016, 173-174). The acceptance and integration of the older forms of scholarships in Daesoon and Korean New Religions provides a contrast to the early Christian tradition, which reflected Paul’s suspicion of the learned.
These examples, of course, are of rhetorical practice in action and show early, yet important, distinctions in rhetorical worldviews. In terms of first formulating, rather than only practicing, a unified rhetorical program, Augustine of Hippo was the first in the Western Christian to do so. Late in life, Augustine would lay down the precepts for what a Christian rhetoric should look like, and his focus was on the timely and practical. Augustine has long been credited for his role in legitimizing Christian rhetoric, and, in more recent years, scholarly considerations of the practical advice Augustine offered preachers has been supplemented by a fuller understanding of Augustine’s philosophy of education and culture. Because of Augustine’s massive influence on early Christian rhetoric, much of the remainder of this study will demonstrate bridges of understanding that can be built by considering Augustine’s rhetorical work in light of the new English translation of The Canonical Scripture. Rhetorical scholars familiar with Western traditions of religious rhetoric and criticism will benefit from learning the tenets and rhetorical forms of this growing New Religion in Korea.
Augustine’s Rhetoric and The Canonical Scripture
Much more than a dry list of rhetorical rules and tropes, Augustine’s major rhetorical and interpretive work De Doctrina Christiana is a commentary on how Christian believers ought to behave in society while propagating their faith. This present discussion of Augustine will consider De Doctrina Christiana as a benchmark in Christian rhetoric. From this classical text, we will draw several principles—verba, res, and caritas—that equip scholars to consider cross-cultural understandings between Christian theology and The Canonical Scripture.
While Book IV, the final book, of Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana, has been studied for its rhetorical theory, the first three books, which deal with topics such as authority and metaphor, prove to be more rhetorical than previously supposed by many critics. Since De Doctrina Christiana would remain the most influential Christian rhetoric into the early modern era, I will briefly outline its most enduring concepts and consider how those concepts became the foundation for a specifically Christian rhetoric—something new under the sun, a sacred rhetoric.
In Book I of De Doctrina Christiana, Augustine proposes that in order to understand Scripture, one must give attention to both “signs” (verba) and “things” (res). A thing is that which “is never employed as a sign of anything else,” and signs “are never employed except as signs” (J. F. Shaw 2006, 625). Words are examples of “pure signs.” Regarding “things” (res), there are three sub-categories: things to be enjoyed, things to be used, and things to be used and enjoyed. The Christian concept of the Trinity is the only “thing” that is to be enjoyed for no useful purpose. Augustine wrote: “The true objects of [Christian] enjoyment, then, are the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (625). To enjoy (without a useful purpose) any other “thing” is to commit a sin of idolatry. Daesoon would seem to have less of an “idolatrous” approach to things. For, according to Don Baker, “Daesoon philosophy combines traditional anthropocentrism and traditional anthropomorphism to create a new form of spirituality, one that is focused not just on God or just on human beings but on both, recognizing the power of God but also recognizing the power of human beings to better themselves through their own efforts” including, probably, through “things of this world” (Baker 2016, 4).
In Book II, Augustine turns his attention to the subject of “signs.” Augustine suggests that there are two categories of signs, the natural and the conventional. Augustine does not discuss natural signs “at present,” preferring to limit his discussion to conventional signs, or words (637). An understanding of signs is important for the student of interpretation, for misreading signs may lead the reader astray. Augustine suggests that confusion regarding unknown or ambiguous signs may be clarified by learning Greek and Hebrew, in addition, of course, to Latin. In addition, and of interest to the rhetorician, Augustine suggests that the student of literature attempt to understand the cultural context in which sacred texts were written. Signs, of course, work similarly in The Canonical Scripture, as a signifier of something else, something greater, as in this example: “The big fire in Sinho is a sign that the energy of earth in Japan will be pulled out" (Reordering Works 3:31).
Book III also deals with a text’s cultural context, and it provides advice for attempting to recognize the meaning of ambiguous signs. Ambiguous signs may be classified as either direct or figurative. The ambiguity of direct signs may result from by pronunciation or punctuation or “doubtful signification” of words (657). These sorts of ambiguities may be clarified by attending to the text’s cultural context, similar texts by the same or other similar authors, or by consulting other translations. The explication of figurative signs leads to the occurrence of two frequent errors: interpreting literal signs figuratively and interpreting figurative signs literally. In the discussion of figurative signs, Augustine expounds upon his notion of caritas. The teacher who helps his student understand the distinction between literal and figurative signs demonstrates “useful” love, and that “charity of mind which aims at the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor in subordination to God” (662). Sangje, too, addresses the issue of interpretation, as in this episode, when He is teaching: “Sangje, reciting the Incantation of Serving the Lord of Heaven with a specific rhythm, had the disciples recite the incantation every night. He said, ‘his sound is the same as that which people articulate while carrying a bier. The wails that mourners make while carrying a bier is eo-ro; eo (御) can also mean 'king' and ro (路) can mean 'road.' That is, it is a road upon which a king walks. Now the god of the Imperial Ultimate has been moved here.’ At that time, Emperor Guangxu passed away.” (Reordering Works 3:22) In this interesting example, the ambiguity serves as both a lesson and a sign. Scholars of rhetoric will be especially interested in the instructional potential of signs, whether they be ambiguous or unambiguous.
Book IV of Augustine’s De Doctrine Christiana was written some thirty years after its first three books, and this book, as distinguished from the others, deals with propagation rather than interpretation. In Book I of De Doctrina Christiana, Augustine began to establish his theory of caritas, or brotherly-love. Augustine made the claim that no interpretation of the New Testament that advocates a spirit of goodwill and brotherly love is incorrect or deceptive, though it may be faulty. If a reader of the Christian Bible, Augustine wrote, “draws a meaning from that may be used for the building up of love, even though he does not happen upon the precise meaning … his error is not pernicious, and he is wholly clear from the charge of deception” (635). No reading that advances a theory of brotherly love can be discounted, and the person who proposes such a “misreading” is likened to a traveler who takes a different road but reaches the “same place to which the [correct] road leads” (635). Though Augustine’s notion of caritas was more fully explicated in Books I and III, the ideals of caritas are well represented in Augustine’s advice to preachers and Christian teachers. Augustine claimed that he is writing no rhetorical handbook, but that Christian teachers should, nonetheless, familiarize themselves with the rules of eloquence. Augustine suggests that the authors of the Christian Bible themselves should be considered models of appropriateness. Augustine believed that perspicuity and clarity should, above all, mark the orations and writings of Christian teachers, though ambiguity has an important role, causing hearers and readers to pause at an important passage. Augustine recognizes three types of style, the subdued, the temperate, and the grand. The subdued style is especially appropriate for teaching. The temperate style should mark praise, and the grand style should generally be reserved for exhortation.
Augustine himself clearly defines his use of the central terms of caritas and the related cupiditas. He wrote:
I mean by caritas that affection of the mind which aims at the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor in subordination to God; by cupiditas I mean that affection of the mind which aims at enjoying one’s self and one’s neighbor, and other corporeal things, without reference to God. (De Doctrina 662)
Augustine purposefully distinguished between caritas (love, charity) and cupiditas (lust, cupidity). One author, Gerald Schlabach, suggests the straightforwardness of Augustine’s distinction between these two kinds of loves actually masks an ambiguity of definitions. Schlabach writes that “Augustine’s very definition of Christian charity in On Christian Doctrine hints that love for God itself might not be quite so straightforward,” and in order to define love of God, “Augustine had to do so in relation to other loves, including the false loves it was not” (Schlabach 2001, 30-31). Schlabach senses an uneasiness regarding Augustine’s definition by negative, defining caritas by defining what it is not. Schlabach probably overlooks, at this point, the fact that Augustine was a rhetorician, and that to define his terms was a necessary act. In any case, philosophical uneasiness aside, Augustine set up his terms, caritas and cupiditas, in a way that will be important for his rhetoric. The importance of love and charity within a community, of course, is central to the teaching of Daesoon Jinrihoe. According to Don Baker (2016), “Daesoon Jinrihoe not only offers hope that we can overcome moral weakness, it also provides specific guidelines for how to act morally. Those ‘commandments’ share the traditional anthropocentric orientation of the Korean moral perspective, which places more emphasis on harmonious interaction within the human community than on an individual’s relationship with a supernatural personality.” The community, in this sense, is both bound and defined by its acts of love toward members and others.
Hannah Arendt, whose doctoral dissertation, finally published in 1996 as Love and Saint Augustine, recognizes the importance of the terms in Augustine’s philosophy, though she grounds the terms in Augustine’s concept of Christian communitas without extending her argument to the way rhetoric functions in such a community. Arendt’s dissertation provides a discussion, relevant to an understanding of Augustine’s rhetoric, of “love understood as craving” and of “the neighbor’s relevance” to this love (Arendt 1996, 7). Considering caritas and cupiditas, Arendt made the important observation that “[t]hey are distinguished by their objects, but they are not different kinds of emotion” (18). Caritas and cupiditas, in other words, are both “craving,” the one for God, the other for the world. Given that human beings must actually live in the world, though, among other human beings, “would it not be better,” Arendt asks, “to love the world in cupiditas and be at home? Why should we make a desert out of this world?” (19). Arendt hints at the answer: “The justification … can only lie in a deep dissatisfaction with what the world can give its lovers” (19). Craving, in short, is not a “sinful” desire, and Augustine’s reason that craving for God (caritas) is superior to craving for the world (cupiditas) is a pragmatic one: in craving for God, humanity finds the fulfillment, not the repression, of its desires, while in craving for the world, humanity finds only frustration. Arendt wrote: “the reason that self-love, which starts with forsaking God, is wrong and never attains its goal is that such love” will always be outside of the person seeking love (20). In Augustine’s thought, caritas is the only way to achieve the goal of happiness, and Augustine wants humanity to achieve that goal.
Though the goal in Augustine is love of God, love of neighbor plays an integral role in a person’s attainment of love of God. Humanity’s love of neighbor is perhaps the least understood concept in Augustine’s De Doctrina, and Arendt does a good job of clarifying the love of the neighbor as an attribute of caritas. Arendt writes that “[l]ove of neighbor is man’s attitude toward his neighbor, which springs from caritas. It goes back to two basic relations: first, a person is to love his neighbor as God does; and second, he is to love his neighbor as he loves himself” (93). The topic of love of neighbor is important for an understanding of Augustine’s rhetoric, for, though Arendt herself does not pursue this rhetorical line of inquiry, loving a neighbor must include attention to how to understand and encounter a neighbor, how to communicate with a neighbor. Ideally, as Arendt suggests, “for the lover who loves as God loves, the neighbor ceases to be anything but a creation of God” (94).
This concept of all humanity as “a creation of God,” existed in Christianity before Augustine, yet Augustine provides a new emphasis, a new communicative emphasis, on loving one’s neighbor. When one loves an interlocutor as a creation of God, caritas enables an ideal level of communication. This love of neighbor, and the healing effects of that form of communication, are of course apparent in The Canonical Scripture as well. In one important example:
While staying in Seoul for a dozen days, Sangje conducted many Reordering Works. Yeong-Seon's neighbor, Oh Ui-Gwan, was suffering from severe asthma and had not slept well for the last three years. Hearing of Sangje's divinity, Ui-Gwan begged Yeong-Seon to let him have an audience with Sangje. When Yeong-Seon told Sangje about it, He allowed Ui-Gwan to meet Him and gave him a writing, saying, "Keep this in the room which you sleep in." Ui-Gwan humbly received it and did so as he was told. He was pleased because he was able to sleep from that night and his asthma was cleared up before long. (Reordering Works 1:20)
Not only is this example noteworthy for its miraculous event but for its endorsement of a communication that was initially founded in neighbor-love.
Augustine has been credited, since medieval times, for helping to establish rules of interpretation that allow allegorical readings of Scripture. Discussions of Augustine’s enormous influence in contributing to an allegorical understanding of the Christian Bible do not often address Augustine’s rhetorical preoccupations, however. While it is true that Augustine’s training as a rhetorician allowed him to recognize tropes and figures in the Bible, a recognition some critics have felt seems sometimes strained, Augustine’s influence as a rhetorician was not limited to tropological issues. Indeed, in Augustine’s establishment of an allegorical hermeneutics he hearkens back to Aristotle’s rhetoric, which sought to identify the importance of arguing by probabilities as well as reasoning by certainties, and hearkens back, too, to the perhaps “purer” sophistry of the early generations of sophists, such as Isocrates and Gorgias, who sought to teach people how to live practically in the world, how to adapt to a changing society. While Augustine, the scathing critic of the Second Sophistic, would probably not wish to be associated with any form of sophistry, his efforts to establish an allegorical tradition of Scriptural hermeneutics demonstrate his concern not only with the unchanging truth he believed was found in the Bible, but also with ways in which Biblical truth could be applied in a variety of ages and situations.
In short, Augustine believed absolutely that the Bible contained God’s truth; however, he would remain suspicious of humans who claimed to fully “know” that truth. Human nature, he felt, was simply too fraught with sinfulness. Rules could be set down, generalities proposed, and communities established that could do their best to ascertain the truth of truth, but, in the end, the human agent would always be prone to error (and this is one reason why caritas, the rule of love, becomes so important: It serves as a safeguard to those who might adopt a harmfully dogmatic hermeneutics). Here, a distinction exists between the Christian Bible and The Canonical Scripture, one that deserves additional attention from scholars. For, as we see in Augustine, sin plays a central role in Christian terminology, but in the new English translation of The Canonical Scripture, the word sin appears only twice. In one of those two occasions, we read:
When Sangje visited Jeong Nam-Gi's house, He observed Jeong’s younger brother's impolite attitude towards his parents and had him repent for this fault. The brother rebuked impolitely after being scolded by his father and he ran out of the house. Sometime later, when he tried to enter inside again, he suddenly could not move and just stood stiff in the front of the door, perspiring heavily, and screaming. The family were so surprised that they did not know what to do. After a while, Sangje turned to Jeong NamGi’s younger brother and asked, "Why are you suffering from such trouble?" Only then did he bend down and recover consciousness. When his family asked why this happened, he said that he had suddenly felt faint and had been unable to breathe in and out and felt suffocated. Sangje said, "At that time you might have been stifled, so it would have been hard for you to endure it." He severely rebuked him by saying, "When you assumed a haughty attitude towards your father, how did your parents feel in their hearts? Repent for your sin and do not thoughtlessly speak such words ever again." (Dharma 1:40)
In this passage, sin is very clearly tied to actions as well as words (“do not thoughtlessly speak such words ever again”). In this admonition of Sangje’s, a connection can be seen between Christian and Daesoon traditions that is worth exploring: that of the normative and corrective nature of their rhetorics. In the passage above, Sangje is both setting a standard (normative) for behavior (respect toward parents and elders) and a path for remedy (corrective) is admonishing that the disrespectful words not be spoken again. To further illustrate this point, in the following passage, Sangje provides normative guidance: “One day in the fall of that year, Sangje said to Ahn Nae-Seong, "Put all your efforts into farming diligently. Externally, do not neglect to serve in the Reordering Works, and internally, you shall hold a memorial rite for your ancestors with sincerity, serve your parents with respect, and raise your children with care. Then, you shall wait for Me to return" (Acts 4:44). In telling Ahn Nae-Seong how to properly behave, Sangje sets a standard to be followed. On the other hand, in the following passage, Sangje sets a corrective path:
“When Sangje asked Kim Gap-Chil, who had come over to greet Him, about how farming was going, he explained, "As the severe drought has prevented farmers from planting rice so far, the people have become rather agitated." Listening to him, Sangje said, "You have come to beg for rain. As I will send the rain god by attaching him to you. Go back immediately, but on your way, although it will rain, you should not avoid it." However, Gap-Chil did not seem to like this because he was sick. Noticing his reluctance, Sangje urged him to leave, "How can you delay even a minute when it comes to saving people's lives?" Gap-Chil hurriedly went on his way back and by the time he reached Court-Plain (Wonpyeong) Village, the rain started falling” (Acts 4:31).
Here, Sangje shows Kim Gap-Chil where he is doing wrong (delaying) and tells him how to correct his behavior. For Augustine and the Christian tradition, too, normative and corrective rhetorics are important. What prevents Augustine’s orator, dedicated though he may be, from straying too far in his extemporaneous performances; what keeps the orator grounded in Scriptural truth? The answer must be that an orator must possess caritas. The importance of caritas, here, becomes apparent. In an orally taught culture, the orator must be careful to avoid pride and error. This task would perhaps intimidate many orators, but Augustine provides assurance. Training in interpretation under respected teachers, coupled with a true spirit of caritas, will enable an orator to behave rightly, and even, after an orator has done his best, he should fail, if he acted in a spirit of love, God would forgive the failure. Thus, caritas is not simply a virtue an orator must teach, it is a safeguard against preaching error.
In terms of interpreting sacred texts and language, Augustine provided advice that has guided scholars for countless generations and can serve as another bridge of understanding, one of rhetorical interpretation and criticism, between East and West. According to scholar David Dawson: “[a]ncient Christian allegorical readings of the Bible have often been regarded as the means by which interpreters translated the unique images and stories of the Bible into the abstractions of classical metaphysics and ethics,” and, moreover, “Augustine’s recommendations concerning how to interpret Scripture suggest that nonliteral translation ought to move in the opposite direction”; that is, instead of “dissolving scriptural language into nonscriptural categories, allegorical reading should enable the Bible to refashion personal experience into and cultural ideals be reformulating them in a distinctively Biblical idiom” (Dawson 1995, 123). Dawson suggests that Augustine’s allegorical hermeneutics represents more than an attempt to make the Bible’s New Testament acceptable according to a classical standard.
That is because Augustine in his writings starts with the human condition (the rhetorical situation) and applies whatever intellectual traditions that are at his disposal to explaining and clarifying the human’s journey out of an earthly rhetorical situation toward what Arendt call “not-time,” a non-situation—salvation. For this reason, long lists of oratorical and interpretive rules should only be learned by students who are gifted in this way. Augustine writes that “the rules and precepts” of oratory and interpretation must be acquired “by those who can do so quickly” (457). Regarding this point of “acting quickly,” we see a contrast in The Canonical Scripture. There, in an instructive episode:
Shin Won-Il begged Sangje to practice the Reordering Work of Great Opening soon. Sangje said, "There is an opportunity for human affairs, and there is a time for heavenly affairs. Therefore, wait for the opportunity and the time. To use them forcibly would take all lives away by causing disaster in the world. How could I undertake this Reordering Work so lightly?" But Won-Il besought, "Now the world is so immoral that it is difficult to distinguish good from evil. I think it would be right to annihilate the current state quickly and open the new destiny of the Later World." Sangje agonized over his request. (Reordering Works 2:24)
“Timeliness” in the two traditions, Christian and Daesoon Jinrihoe, would seem to diverge on this point. “Quickness” takes precedence in the instructions of the apostle Paul and Augustine; while in The Canonical Scripture appropriate preparation, in the form of the Reordering Works, is more prominent. Thus, the Reordering Works can be understood in terms of classical rhetorical principles of kairos and prepon, as kairos refers to the appropriate and optimal moment and prepon to correct preparation for that moment.
In this way, perhaps, Augustine’s rhetoric is pragmatic: he wants his allegorical hermeneutics to illuminate the particular conditions of specific people’s lives, not necessarily to confirm eternal truths. Similarly, his advice to preachers in Book IV of De Doctrina displays this pragmatic bent; Augustine’s rules are there for guidance, but the preacher should remember that the specific situation of a church or even an individual person might cause certain rules to be altered, amended, or discarded. David Tracy recognizes Augustine’s willingness to accept arguments that are adaptable, not only eternal. Tracy considers Augustine to be “the first great rhetorical theologian,” and De Doctrina the first great statement of rhetorical theology, for in De Doctrina “one may find both a classical reformulation of ‘theology and culture’ as well as a rhetoric of both discovery and communication” (Tracy 1990, 124).
John D. Schaeffer suggests a valuable reason for Augustine’s acceptance of adaptability of interpretive rules. Augustine was, in short, “bending the rules” himself in many ways: by adapting classical rhetoric, by giving a new direction to allegorical hermeneutics, by emphasizing a law of love based on caritas. Augustine’s many efforts to “refashion” rhetoric for Christianity resulted from, in no small part, the transition from orality to literacy taking place in his lifetime. John Schaeffer suggests that Book IV of De Doctrina is probably laying out advice for preachers to deliver sermons extemporaneously. In disavowing the second sophistic, then, Augustine is “returning to the orally based rhetoric of republican Rome” Schaeffer writes, “which he is adapting to a textually based religion attended by an emerging sense of interiority” (Schaeffer 1996, 1134). In this reading, Augustine’s system of rhetoric must necessarily be highly adaptable, and this adaptability eschews rigid codification. “The paradox of Christianity in late antiquity,” Schaeffer writes, “is that people were taught to believe in a written teaching that most could not read but only heard” (1136). Though Schaeffer does not make this point—a point that would become more important in the Reformation, with attention given to individual interpretation of Scripture—Augustine’s caritas is important in an age when few people were literate. Caritas, which demands self-humility, is something any interpreter of the Scriptures must practice, for in claiming a rigid dogmatic interpretation, a preacher could easily lead his (illiterate) flock into error. But above all, extemporaneous performances demand adaptability, in order to gauge an audience’s understanding. Schaeffer correctly senses that “an orator must sense the audience’s thoughts and feelings and adjust to them” (1140).
The practice of Augustinian interpretation of a sacred text and history is, then, at last important for investigation between the Western religio-rhetorical tradition and Daesoon. As Edward Chung writes,
“I basically agree with Kim Chongsuh of Seoul National University (2005:134) that we need to explore how the similar and different aspects of influence actually ‘helped the Daesoon religion in developing a new, creative interpretation of Korean religious experience; for example, why Jeungsan became interested in Ch’oe Che-u’s Tonghak, and why Daesoon thought also addressed Western Learning (sǒhak) [also related to Catholicism] ...’ It is therefore important to study how Jeongsan became interested in Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity" (Chung 2016).
Here, Chung and Chongsuh indirectly point out the importance not only of intra-textual analysis (deep study of a single text, be it The Canonical Scripture or the Christian Bible or another) but of inter-textual analysis of interpretive traditions. The practice of interpretation, as Chung notes, enriches the intellectual life of Daesoon, and studying Daesoon in conjunction with other religions—East and West—enriches interpretive communities themselves and intercultural understanding.
Aristotelian Criticism and Religious Rhetoric
This exploration of potential interpretive affinities between Augustine’s work and a Korean New religion is not meant to suggest that rhetorical criticism must always take a religio-rhetorical text (such as De Doctrina Christiana) as its source. Much rhetorical criticism of the Christian New Testament, in fact, is Aristotelian in nature, and Aristotle’s influence over the codifying and defining of central rhetorical terms is preeminent and undisputed. Aristotle (BC c.350) begins his treatise on rhetoric by suggesting that rhetoric is the antistrophos to dialectic, and Kennedy, in a footnote, writes that “Antistrophos is commonly translated ‘counterpart’” (Kennedy 2006, 28). Kennedy also suggests that word may mean something like “correlative” or “coordinate” (28). Though the exact translation may be difficult to make, Aristotle writes that rhetoric and dialectic are common to all people and disciplines. Neither rhetoric nor dialectic is concerned with a “separately defined science” (29). Rhetoric and dialectic, then, are used by all thinking people. Dialectic seems to be the “art” of arriving at truths and first principles, while rhetoric is concerned with establishing and working within the realm of the probable.
Dialectic and rhetoric also share a similar means for establishing claims. In dialectic, the syllogism is used, and in rhetoric, the enthymeme serves as a “rhetorical” syllogism. Aristotle writes that “it is evident that artistic method is concerned with pisteis [proof, means of persuasion, belief] and pistis is a sort of demonstration,” and that the “enthymeme is a sort of syllogism” (33). Rhetoric and the enthymeme are useful for establishing probable truths. Maxims are the conclusions of enthymemes, though they can be presented independently of the enthymeme. Maxims are widely accepted “gnomes,” and are useful when communicating with the “uncultivated mind” (186). For scriptural studies, in particular, pistis is important. In the Christian New Testament, the word is what is simply translated into English as faith. The Aristotelian concept retains the fuller expression of pistis as a persuasive process rather than a stable position. A beautiful example of this kind of pistis occurs early in The Canonical Scripture with the story of the Deok-An. After almost losing his life, Deok-An arrived “at his home with joy, he believed that his way to this rebirth had been led by the light of a tiger glittering its eyes to him. Shortly after, Sangje suddenly came back to Guest-awaiting Village” (Acts 1:26). This passage well represents the persuasive process of faith because Deok-An was brought to his newfound belief through his ordeal of the night and his guiding sign.
Aristotle defines rhetoric, this time without mentioning dialectic, as the “an ability in each particular case to see the available means of persuasion” (37). These means of persuasion can take the form of two “modes” of persuasion: artistic and nonartistic. Aristotle writes that “I consider atechinic [nonartistic] those proofs that are not provided by ‘us’ but are preexisting” (37). Artistic proofs, on the other hand, consist of whatever can be prepared by method and by ‘us’; thus, one uses the former and invents the latter. An interesting example of this distinction can be found in this passage of The Canonical Scripture: “Regarding His saving the world by rectifying its faults, Sangje said, ‘It shall be completed when the Reordering Work of the Three Realms is carried out using with the new dharma outside the frame, rather than the existing dharma laws inside it’” (Prophetic Elucidations 4). In this case, Sangje’s words point to an inartistic proof (existing dharma laws) and an artistic one (the new dharma outside the frame), and both those sources can be drawn upon to make arguments and support persuasive claims.
In addition to the proofs, Aristotle lays out the three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Of these “species,” some deal with the “character [ethos] of the speaker, and some [pathos] in disposing the audience in some way, and some in the argument [logos] itself, by showing, or seeming to show something” (37). First, ethos is achieved whenever a speaker is considered to be “worthy of credence,” for “we believe fair-minded people” (38). Very early in The Canonical Scripture, Sangje is described in terms of ethos: From His youth onward, Sangje was so good-natured, generous, and unusually brilliant that He was much revered by many people. Even as a boy, He exhibited the great virtue of respecting life; for instance, he enjoyed planting trees but never broke off even a single branch or harmed any insects no matter how small” (Acts 1:11). Second, pathos is achieved “through the hearers when they are led to feel emotion” (38). An example of a pathetic episode occurs in The Canonical Scripture when:
“One day, when Sangje stopped by the tavern by chance, Goe-San wanted to treat Him to some dog-meat stew. But while he was cooking it from an earthenware pot, the pot suddenly shattered. Since his wife just stood crying in despair, Sangje took pity on them and brought her an iron cauldron. From then on, their wealth increased day by day” (Acts 3:19).
This story reveals the persuasiveness of Goe-San’s wife’s tears and their power of pathos. On the other hand, logos, third, is achieved when one “shows the truth or apparent truth from whatever is persuasive in each case” (39). Such a situation unfolds in this scene: “And He [Sangje] put out the fire by causing great winds to blow. GyeongHak was impressed by the fact that there was a way to extinguish fire with wind” (Authority and Foreknowledge 2:15).
Since a rhetor must establish which proofs will convince an audience through the modes of persuasion, and since probable truths must be established, Aristotle again emphasizes the fact that “rhetoric is a certain kind of offshoot of dialectic” (39). Aristotle distinguishes between induction and deduction. We read that in “the case of persuasion through proving or seeming to prove something, just as in dialectic there is on the one hand induction and on the other the syllogism or the apparent syllogism” (40). In rhetoric, specifically, the paradeigma [example] is an induction, the enthymema a syllogism” (40). Aristotle calls a “rhetorical syllogism” an enthymeme (40). An argument that builds a case through examples, then, is defined as induction; an argument that provides logical, rhetorical reasoning is defined as deduction. Unlike rhetoric, dialectic must be marked by a speaker’s attempt to be well understood by an audience. Not all audiences are capable of “reason[ing] from a distant starting point” (41). Aristotle defines the elements of a rhetorical situation: “a speaker and a subject on which he speaks and someone addressed” (47). If one is a hearer and must make a decision based on the speech, the hearer is the judge; otherwise, the hearer is considered a spectator.
Perelman and the Recovery of Classical Rhetoric
In the introduction to The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, philosopher Chaim Perelman (1979) clearly lays out what he is reviving from the classical tradition, as well as considering why rhetoric needs reviving at all. Perelman is anxious to revive, in The New Rhetoric and elsewhere, the Aristotelian practice of practical reasoning. Though it is true that Aristotle seemed to privilege rationalistic argument, he nevertheless left a space for practical reasoning, reasoning about that large sphere of human activity that cannot be reasoned about using a scientific method. Thinking people can still find their way to agreement, through reasonable if not rational argumentation, Perelman insists. Perelman, as other rhetoricians have done since, lays the blame for the diminishing influence of rhetoric on Descartes’s emphasis on the rational, doubtful individual. Knowledge and wisdom, after Descartes, no longer grew out of communal interaction or reasonable argument, but purely from the conviction of a single individual after witnessing some scientific demonstration. Argumentation and persuasion gave way completely to demonstration, and rhetoric declined.
Perelman’s New Rhetoric has much “new” to offer. In fact, the book was especially welcome and revolutionary in Europe, where rhetoric had declined even further than it had in the United States. Rhetoric, in departments of speech, after all, had survived in at least a limited way in the United States, and when Perelman visited the U.S. he declared his surprise at discovering departments of speech. Still, even in the United States, The New Rhetoric has helped to revive the study of rhetoric. In particular, Perelman brought something “new” to the study of rhetoric, in his discussions of epideictic rhetoric and in his utilization of philosophical rhetoric.
Perelman extends Aristotle’s notion of epideictic, and therefore extends the realm of rhetoric. While Aristotle’s epideictic mainly consisted of such things as funeral orations and other speeches of praise and blame, Perelman considers epideictic to be any sort of rhetoric that serves to increase (or decrease) adherence to cultural values. In Perelman’s definition, speeches such as those given in the U.S. on the fourth of July, and much creative literature can be examined as epideictic rhetoric. The rhetorical activities of the Re-Ordering Works can be fruitfully examined under the umbrella of epideictic rhetoric, as can a scene such as this: “After the disciples did as Sangje had ordered, He stood in the front of the offerings Himself and concluded the ceremony. He then asked, ‘To whom did you pray regarding your wishes?’ One of the disciples replied, ‘I prayed to You inwardly.’ Sangje said with a smile, ‘I received a memorial ritual alive. It shall be influential from now on. The mats made of cotton wool grass among the mats here are clean’” (Progress of the Order 1:40). In such a scene, the unity of the entire group, and its adherence to the teachings of Sangje, is strengthened: unity and adherence are hallmarks of an epideictic rhetoric.
Perelman’s New Rhetoric also helped to usher in a philosophical rhetoric, a theoretical rhetoric that could nonetheless be applied in specific situations. Perelman considers various types of arguments and categorizes them based on their philosophical impact. For example, Perelman discusses quasi-logical arguments, arguments based on the structure of reality, arguments establishing the structure of reality, and arguments from dissociation. Quasi-logical arguments gain their power from appearing to be like logical demonstration. Arguments based on the structure of reality recognize a culture’s values, their conceptions of reality, and attempts to build arguments that “identify” with those values. Arguments establishing the structure of reality rely heavily on metaphor. Perelman considers metaphor to have meaning-making potential, and when one does not share a culture or set of values with another person, arguments that establish a structure of reality, based on metaphor, are important. Finally, in dissociative arguments, Perelman’s most unique and philosophical contribution to a new rhetoric, an interlocutor must attempt to sever, not establish, a “causal link.” In this method, an argument is built by demonstrating that one’s interlocutor does not have a correct assumption, that their reality is merely appearance, and that dissociation provides “real” reality. Perelman’s new rhetoric, then, both recognizes certain aspects of classical rhetoric, yet it is not constrained by classical rhetoric, and his appreciation for a philosophical rhetoric opens avenues of discussion with religious rhetoric, both Western and Eastern.
I think it is significant that all three major rhetoricians considered here—Augustine, Aristotle, Perelman—turned (or returned) to rhetoric in order to achieve something or to solve a practical problem. Aristotle was primarily a scientist and philosopher, not a rhetorician, not a public speaker. His Rhetoric, foundational as it is to the discipline, has come down to us in the form of student notes, as Aristotle himself never published a definitive version of it. Yet he understood rhetoric’s importance for teaching all the other subjects in which he had an interest, for bridging the distances and cultivating understanding. That understanding takes place in communities of meaning-making, in close groups and families. Aristotle believed that even the earliest form of political organization, as Anselm K. Min reminds us, “was an extension of the family,” and the same can be said of most rhetorical activities, including religious ones, as an extended “family” is established in a new religious community (Min 2016, 315). The religious rhetor, to be sure, persuades through teaching as well as through elements of personality. As David W. Kim writes in Daesoon Jinrihoe in Modern Korea, "The charismatic philosophy in doctrine/ beliefs is demonstrated in the view that the god of Daesoon himself (like the Son of God in Christianity) was present in the world and directly involved in the restoration process of the corrupted universe” (Kim 2020, 5). But even before widely revealing Himself, Sangje was known to his extended community as a respected teacher. We read in The Canonical Scripture: “Everybody in the region began offering high praise for His remarkable teaching ability” (Acts 1:20). Persuasive first as a teacher, Sangje would soon travel beyond His school in Golden Ditch (Geumgu) County, and look to other methods of persuasion and propagation, though teaching within a community of believers would remain a consistent rhetorical activity for Him.
The sharing of ideas through the act of teaching is characteristic of all the figures considered here. In Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric, Foss, Foss, and Trapp note, for example, that Chaim Perelman "was an individual of action as well as ideas" (1995, 120). The "action" to which Foss, Foss, and Trapp refer involves Perelman's work, as a young man, in the Belgian resistance movement during World War II. Most students of Perelman know that he participated in the movement, but--because he did not often discuss his involvement--few details have emerged regarding this important, formative period in Perelman's life. Indeed, when Perelman was offered a medal of valor following the war, he refused the honor, insisting: "My heart was on fire. I simply picked up a pail of water to douse the flames. I want no medals" (Foss, Foss, and Trapp 1995, 120). This historical reconstruction allows us to understand Perelman's distrust of Cartesianism, which he famously addresses in The New Rhetoric. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1971) define their project as "a break with the concept of reason and reasoning due to Descartes which has set its mark on Western philosophy for the last three centuries" (1; italics original). It is no accident that The New Rhetoric addresses Cartesianism in forceful, battle-ready language. If the forces of "good" triumphed on the battlefields of Europe, the forces of "justice" were still estranged from Western philosophy and universities. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca write: "it is the idea of self-evidence as characteristic of reason, which we must assail, if we are to make place for a theory of argumentation that will acknowledge the use of reason in directing our own actions and influencing those of others" (3). "Self-evidence," as Perelman and OlbrechtsTyteca believe, has grown, since the time of Descartes into an intellectual tyrant, one which is seen as a "force to which every normal mind must yield," and one which "imposes itself" (3). Reading The New Rhetoric in its post-war context, we cannot ignore the connotations of such terms.
In The New Rhetoric and the Humanities, Perelman writes that "[i]n 1945, when I published my first study of justice, I was completely ignorant of the importance of rhetoric" (Perelman 1979, 7-8). Perelman decided in that work that the "idea of value is, in effect, incompatible both with formal necessity and with experiential universality. There is no value which is not logically arbitrary" (8). For Perelman, values must be conceived of philosophically, but such values cannot remain the object of philosophical inquiry. However, in this schema, Perelman found something missing. He writes: "I was deeply dissatisfied with this conclusion, however interesting the analysis, since the philosophical inquiry, carried on within the limits of logical empiricism, could not provide [. . .] the establishment of rules and models for reasonable action" (8). Perelman searched for a model that could analyze behavior that was reasonable rather than logical. Perelman's immediate historical context, no matter how much he attempted to downplay this motivation, fueled his quest. This question lingered: "Is it possible for us to reason about values instead of making them depend solely on irrational choices, based on interest, passion, prejudice, and myth? Recent history has shown abundantly the sad excesses to which such an attitude can lead" (8). This search led Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca to "recover" the Aristotelian tradition of dialectical reasoning, a system which is "devoted to the analysis of human reasoning" (9). One cannot have justice at all, Perelman seems to have discovered, without arguing one's way to a specific notion of justice which is not just a notion alone, but action within specific contexts and communities.
This work of justice, in the Western rhetorical tradition, is usually seen as being of two kinds: the normative and the corrective. The normative establishes rules and mores of right behavior, while the corrective points out when one has gone astray of right behavior. Similarly, we see a similar recognition of the value of the normative and corrective. In The Canonical Scripture, we read: “Instruct that which is good and rectify that which is evil” (Acts 3:44). Instruction in that which is good can be done, of course, by active example, as in acts of mutual beneficence, such acts being central to Daesoon Jinrihoe. Beneficence, we are reminded in Essentials of Daesoon Jinrihoe, is reciprocal, and “[p]romoting the betterment of others is the basic principle of the Great Dao of mutual beneficence, and the fundamental rationale behind universal salvation for all” (39). In the Western tradition, this model of mutual beneficence is one of caritas. Augustine, in adding the fourth book, emphasizes the importance of communitas and the role of caritas within that community. For interpretation is not to be an individual, philosophical enterprise; instead, one enters upon a study of Scripture in order to find the way to salvation, and brotherly love compels the exegete to share, to teach, what he has learned. Augustine wrote: “[I]t is the duty, then, of the student and teacher of the Holy Scriptures, who is the defender of the true faith, and the opponent of error, both to teach what is right and correct what is wrong” (458). Importantly, Augustine, here, identified the teacher of Scripture as always a student, as well, and the student should, likewise, always be a teacher.
Alasdair MacIntyre recognizes within Augustine a dilemma regarding the nature of teacher and student. In the Augustinian tradition, MacIntyre writes, “it seems that only by learning what the texts have to teach can he or she come to read those texts aright,” yet, and here is the paradox, “only be reading them aright can he or she learn what the texts have to teach” (MacIntyre 1994, 82). In other words, for the Christian to receive salvation, he or she must read the Bible in a spirit of truth, yet that spirit of truth can only be obtained from reading the Scriptures. MacIntyre is right to recognize a paradox here, and he is right, too, is proposing a solution for this paradox. MacIntyre writes that the “person in this predicament requires two things: a teacher and an obedient trust that what the teacher … declares to be good” (82). MacIntyre admits discomfort resulting from this paradox. MacIntyre’s discomfort could be lessened, perhaps, if he gave greater attention to the workings of caritas within a communitas. But this trust in caritas is not the something to be feared in Augustine’s rhetorical theology; it is one of Augustine’s great contributions.
Augustine saw as well as anyone the sins that burdened humankind, yet he did not give up believing in the ideal of humanity—humanity as God’s creation working toward salvation. Augustine understood sin, so he set forth precepts and advice for learning and teaching Scripture that might lessen a preacher’s “worldliness.” But the rules should be set aside whenever they conflicted with the “rule of love,” for the rule of love is the greatest lesson of the Scripture. Sandra Dixon(1999) acknowledges that “damage from the larger social and cultural environments can impinge so deeply on the psyche as to disrupt the human capacity to use the resources that remain” (214). This possibility, the lurking threat of sin, haunts humankind. Yet, as Augustine showed, believers must work toward salvation in spite of this threat and must manifest their belief through acts of brotherly. He writes that if a student of the sacred text “draws a meaning that may be used for the building up of love, even though he does not happen upon the precise meaning … his error is not pernicious, and he is wholly clear from the charge of deception” (635). Dixon, for one, recognizes the importance of Augustine’s words. She writes: “our fragile compositions of meaning in life can speak to those we love or could want to love” (215). Trusting and loving other humans can be risky, as MacIntyre fears, but Augustine, in De Doctrina, demonstrates that caritas should remain the centerpiece of human communication.
We can extend this idea, of reading in compassion and love, to our work of interpreting the new English translation of The Canonical Scripture in light of the Western (Augustinian or otherwise) rhetorical tradition. After all, even the ancient woks of Western rhetoric and the Christian Bible have only been studied in tandem, in modern times, for a generation or two. The last decade has seen a recovery of rhetorical criticism of the Bible, and that field has flourished, especially since George Kennedy published New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism in 1984. I am hopeful that the English translation of The Canonical Scripture will result in a similar project, down the road, in a sort of Interpretation of The Canonical Scripture of Daesoon Jinrihoe Through Rhetorical Criticism. This article, this brief prolegomena, hopes to open a space for such an eventuality.