Experiencing God in Words




Experiencing God in Words

M.S. Keller

dr. W. van Vlastuin, prof.dr. A.C. Neele


Faculteit Religie en Theologie



Michael Keller seeks to demonstrate the development of Jonathan Edwards’ secondary rhetorical principles across his entire written sermon corpus (divided into historical, canonical and comparative lenses) in his dissertation. Keller’s research shows that Edwards was able to utilize logic and emotion to encourage his audiences toward a sermonic religious experience. Through an analysis of word frequency, sermon word location, and emotional word content scoring, this study uses quantitative data to show that Edwards focused on his use of imagery to make scripture experiential to his audience.

From passive to active words
Edwards’ use of imagery changed over time. He moved from more passive to more active words, and from less concrete to more concrete imagery. In addition, Edwards adjusted his imagery based on the tone and descriptions within the scriptural texts from which he preached. Lastly, Edwards’ theological convictions affected the emotional content of his sermons. When comparing Edwards’ sermons to the sermons of Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) and George Whitefield (1714-1770) this is shown. The quantitative data offers evidence that Edwards adjusted his language with the motive of creating an emotional experience in his listeners.