Pathetical Narrative as a Persuasive Strategy in Protestant Sermons

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Abstract

One of the common denominators that underlie Protestant sermons is their narrative character. Storytelling of different genres with different phases and culminations seems to serve the needs of the church for teaching through preaching. The storyline of sermons may include biblical stories (Gospel as well as other stories, such as parables), a story from a different source (lyrics, a poem, a joke, media, fiction, etc.), or a personal story (reminiscences, experiences, and the like), which is a narrative in the broadest sense of the word. The story, as such, carries the line of narration and helps point out ideas, illustrate the doctrine, and draw conclusions. Moreover, the narrative line in sermons naturally includes all three Aristotelian persuasive appeals. The linguistically oriented, corpus-driven article strives to look at narrative, especially its pathetic aspect, as a tool of persuasion. I aim to demonstrate how stories take believers by the hand and lead them to persuasion, conviction, and belief. The article argues that the narrative line in Protestant sermons appears to be a constitutive feature: not only does such a sermon attract the attention of listeners more easily, it enables the preacher to construe the intended structure of the message gradually and to conclude the sermon with a true (typically pathetic) punchline, in other words, a message that aims directly at the hearts and minds of the audience.