Giving Weight To A Truth
Another way to “magnify” is to point to its unique elements. Notice how Andy Stanley does that on a message on the fourth commandment. Also, make sure you read the notes at the bottom. They should be very helpful in understanding rhetorical techniques.
This fourth commandment is so strange you wouldn’t expect to find it in the 10 commandments – and here is a commandment you’ve never felt guilt about violating. I mena if you’ve stolen – you’ve felt guilty. If you’ve commited adultery – you felt guilty. If you’ve coveted maybe you felt guilty – or lusted.
I mean – if you’ve murdered somebody — you feel guilty about those things – and God – I should have done that.
But here’s a commandment I bet you’ve never ever felt guilty about. You’ve never been to a counselor about. You don’t see as the cause of any of the problems in your life. Here’s a commandment we move right on by – as if it’s not even in there, and God made it number four.
I mean, He prioritized this commandment over thou shalt not murder and thou shalt not steal.
And the other interesting thing is – you know –
“thou shalt not kill” is four words –
“thou shalt not steal” – four words
“thou shalt not commit adultery” – is five words
This commandment has more words and more explanation than any of the other commandments.
You ready — here it is — “Thou shalt take a day off.”
Now, you sort of have to love a God that prioritizes taking a day off over murder, stealing, killing, adultery, and coveting. I mean that’s it – the fourth commandment.
You know – Moses is chiseling this stuff – or you know – he’s taking notes – and here it is – we have gotten through – no idols – and I’ll be your one and only God – and don’t misuse my name – and “Thou shalt take a day off.” — What?
I mean, if you only got 10 to work with – is that really going to make the cut. Aren’t there some other important things – and if it is going to make the cut — wouldn’t it be like the 10th one – like – here’s nine really important ones and by the way- “Take a day off.”
Commandment number four – “Thou shalt take an entire 24 hour period off of work.”
Now, why in the world would God include that commandment and why would it be the fourth one.”
Andy Stanley is magnifying the importance of the fourth commandment by pointing to . . . .
- its position or placement,
- its number of words or length, and
- its inclusion among ten.
NOTE: I should point out that such a rhetorical method relies on an unstated premise. Such is typically called an enthymeme.* That is, there is an unstated major premise, which an audience is asked to accept, yet unknowingly accept since it is never made clear or stated. There is an “assumption” which lies on the surface but it is not clearly apparent to most listeners.
Whether you agree with Andy Stanley or not,** he illustrates a method magnifying the importance of the 4th Commandment. He calls up various elements which are associated with its placement and statement.
Probably, we have all used this rhetorical technique at various times. When we used it, most likely we used it unconsciously, not really understanding what was being done, or without realizing what we were assuming and/or were asking the audience to assume.
i.e. — “These are the last words of Jesus before He left this world. This is the last commandment He would give them on this earth. After three years of talking to them, and living before them, He has one more thing to say to them.”
Like I have often said, these techniques can be used and are used whether or not a speaker knows and/or understands that he is using them.
*An Enthymeme: Enthymemes are typically called “truncated syllogisms.” That will not help for most who want to understand “enthymemes.” A syllogism has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. You can “truncate” or shorten the syllogism, and operate using only the minor premise and the conclusion, or by just stating the minor premise. The audience will fill in the missing parts of the syllogism.
- If something is further up the list, it is more important – Major Premise
- This commandment is further up on the list – Minor Premise
- Therefore, it is more important than – Conclusion
Andy Stanley is going to state that “Thou shalt take a day off” is before the other commandments and is, therefore, more important. He is relying on the audience accepting the major premise, which is unstated. If it were stated, there might well be some skepticism as to its “truth.” Leaving it unstated by-passes getting into that discussion or a thoughtful response. He can just say, “It is number 4 – before number 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10” and the major premise is accepted and the point is made.
He does this again when he says when he states the minor premise — that this commandment is one of ten commandments.
(“I mean, if you only got 10 to work with – is that really going to make the cut . . . . Now, why in the world would God include that commandment“).
- If something makes the cut among 10 positions, it must important – Major Premise
- This commandment made the cut – Minor Premise
- Therefore, it must be very important – Conclusion
There is an unstated major premise which an audience is asked to accept, unknown to most of them on the surface, which they unknowingly concur with and which they might argue if it was stated or if they were consciously aware of it.
There is another enthymeme – using only the statement of the minor premise when he points to the fact that the fourth commandment has the most words.
- If something has more words, it must important – Major Premise
- This has more words – Minor Premise
- Therefore, it must be more important – Conclusion
It is like saying (and which he states later on in the message @ 4:57) . . . .
“This is the only commandment that is not repeated in the New Testament. . . . Here’s the one commandment that doesn’t show up in its Old Testament form in the New Testament.” — The conclusion is missing but is still implied. — Can you lay out the full syllogism?
Again: You have probably heard “enthymemes” similar to those below. The implication for most of these “enthymemes” or “minor premises” is that therefore / conclusion: “_____” must be important and/or very important.
“Last” / “first” / “right after” / “the only” all imply a major premise.
- “The last words are the most important words of person’s life”
- “The first miracle is a very important miracle.”
- “The first appearance of a biblical concept is the most defining.”
- “What you say right after an event is the most telling response related to that event.”
- “What you say right before you die is the most evaluative comment about life.”
Here are some parallel minor premises:
- These are His last words – His very last words to His disciples.
- It is the Lord’s first miracle
- It is the first time this is found in the Bible.
- Right after that, it is said . . . .
- This is said by the only King who was after God’s own heart, as he was about to die!
** My purpose is not to agree or disagree with the points which Andy Stanley is making. I am only pointing out how the rhetorical technique works. What is important to notice is that most listeners neither recognize nor deconstruct the technique. The listeners typically do not grasp what is being assumed by the speaker, and probably unknowingly accepted by his audience.