Rhetoric & Homiletics: They Know We Know

  • We know!
  • They know we know.
  • We know they know we know.
  • They know we know they know we know.

I heard that on the radio while traveling on the road this week.

Apparently, it was taken from the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn [1]

“We know they are lying, they know they are lying, they know we know they are lying, we know they know we know they are lying, but they are still lying.”

. . . . .

However, what you as a speaker can do with that is interesting.  There is a way to take that interesting progression and use it in a sermon in different ways.  Being a “creative copycat” is a way to develop one’s homiletical skills.

. . . . .

We are not talking about “plagiarism” but of generating ideas, principles, concepts, ways to illustrate, phraseology, et al. from the world around us, the words and thoughts of others, and the seemingly ordinary things of life.

We all do that.

  • Sometimes it happens when reading a news or magazine article.
  • At other times, a totally unrelated comment, used in a different context, that we realize could/would describe a biblical truth or principle, comes to mind.
  • Then there is the spontaneous or serendipitous thought that suggests a unique illustration.
  • Sometimes it is an idea generated from a book title.
  • Or we improve on a “quip” we have seen or heard.

“Creative Appropriation” is what happens, over and over again, when it comes to working in the world of ideas and words!

. . . . .

Let’s give that a try with the aforementioned example . . . .

. . . . .

#1) For instance, concerning God’s Omniscience

  • God knows!
  • We know that God knows.
  • God knows, that we know.
  • We know that God knows we know He knows.

#2) Or in relationship to Bible accounts

  • David knew! (that Saul was out to kill him)
  • Saul knew that David knew.
  • David knew, that Saul knew.
  • Saul knew that David knew that he knew.

#3) Or in regards to sinful actions / behavior

  • You know (that what was done was wrong / that you were told a lie / that it was a sinful response)
  • They know you know.
  • You know they know, you know.
  • They know that you know that they know.


1. OR . . .

“The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.”

― Elena Gorokhova, A Mountain of Crumbs


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