What do these people have in common?

open microphone collage

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama on 8 Nov 2011.


U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer on 29 Mar 2011.


Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson on July 6 2008.

Each (re)learned the hazards of open microphones:

  • Sarkozy and Obama in regard to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
  • Schumer in revealing/admitting Democratic talking points.
  • Jackson in fantasizing mutilation of Barack Obama.

“Open mike” faux pas illustrate the importance of tailoring speech to an audience– especially in terms of outsiders vs. insiders.

Thus we have a key attribute for distinguishing different types of speech.

Other attributes include . . .

      1. Who’s talking– the agent?
      2. Content?
      3. Durability?
      4. Dynamic?
      5. What’s at stake?
      6. Ground of authority?

Religious speech sorts out nicely into the four categories shown below.

four types of speech
Four Types of Speech

Type: Teaching

    Greek: “katecheo” (from which we get the word “catechesis”)

    Agent: Teacher

    Content: Doctrine

    Durability: Timeless

    Target: Insiders

    Dynamic: Edification

    At Stake: Maturity

    Authority: Common Faith?

Type: Proclamation

    Greek: “kerygma” (or “kerugma” depending upon transliteration conventions)

    Agent: Preacher

    Content: Gospel (the basic facts of Christianity as derived from the sermons in the Book of Acts plus Pauline summaries)

    Durability: Timeless

    Target: Insiders/Outsiders

    Dynamic: Declaration (performative (vice informative) speech whereby insiders express faith and outsiders are called to faith and account)

    At Stake: Identity (as insiders or outsiders)

    Authority: Common Faith?

Type: Contention “Agonistics”

    Greek: “agon”

    Agent: “Agonizer”

    Content: Rhetoric (varies from “Irenics”– making peace, to “Polemics”– making war)

    Durability: Provisional (determined by the issues of the day within the larger Christian community)

    Target: “Christian” Insiders/Outsiders

    Dynamic: Dividing/Uniting (the “brethren”)

    At Stake: Fellowship (within a community of faith)

    Authority: ? (occurs at the boundary of common faith and corporate faith)

Type: Apologetics

    Greek: “apologia”

    Agent: Apologist

    Content: Rhetoric (appeals to whatever is authoritative within the culture; e.g., evidentialist, pietistic, or presuppositional)

    Durability: Provisional (depends upon the issues of the day within the larger culture)

    Target: Outsiders

    Dynamic: Persuasion

    At Stake: Status (will Christians have a “place at the table?)

    Authority: “Common Places” of the larger culture


    The attributes of each type of communication are not hard and fast, only more or less prominent.

    Likewise, the types of speech are not hard and fast either, only more or less pronounced.

    The indicated “authorities” only suggest what the sources of authority ought to be, not what they are in practice– hence the question marks.

    Overemphasis on teaching risks corporate isolation and introversion.

    Overemphasis on proclamation risks corporate immaturity.

    Overemphasis on irenics and polemics risks corporate disorientation and division.

    Overemphasis on apologetics risks inadvertent assimilation of faulty cultural presuppositions.

    Proclamation is the only type of speech that is primarily performative in nature; i.e., it accomplishes something. All the rest are primarily informative; i.e., conveying information.


    As Obama, Sarkozy, Schumer, and Jackson re-learned, the difference between types of political speech can be huge.

    And the same is true for religious speech as well.

— historeo.com

historeo.comhistoreo 2

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