Friday, 16 March 2007

Crying nonsense: on the rhetoric of controversy

One thing you can say about those 17th-century theologians: they really knew how to use rhetoric as a weapon of cruelty. Here’s a humorous example for you.

In 1690, Dr William Sherlock (who later became Dean of St Paul’s in London) wrote a book defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the Unitarians. One of Sherlock’s former friends, Robert South (Canon of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford), was also an orthodox trinitarian; but he disliked Sherlock’s defence of orthodoxy, so he wrote a book attacking Sherlock. The title was Animadversions upon Dr. Sherlock’s Book Entitled A Vindication of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity (London, 1693).

After hundreds of pages of bitter criticism, South offers this humorous depiction of Sherlock’s rhetoric (p. 370): “But above all, that beloved word, Nonsense, is always ready at hand with him; and out it flies at all Persons and upon all Occasions. And hardly can he write three or four Pages together, but, right or wrong, he throws it in his Adversary’s Face. One would think that he was Born with the Word in his Mouth, and that it grew up with him from his Infancy, and that in his very Cradle he Cryed Nonsense, before he could Speak it.”

1 Comment:

Halden said...

D.B. Hart would have loved to argue with these guys!

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