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Possession and Persuasion: The Rhetoric of Christian Faith is a rhetorical analysis of Christian history and theology initially prompted by my experience in a fundamentalist Christian sect. The story of this experience is briefly told in the prologue, "The Rhetoric of Surrender," which describes the "surrender" of my life to God through a commitment to an authoritarian Christian sect in Gainesville, Florida, in 1972, when I was a freshman at the University of Florida. I spent the following fifteen years, first, as a student recruit, trainee, and then leader in the founding church in Gainesville, and then, as a recruiter and trainer in other parts of the U.S. until I finally left the movement (now called the International Churches of Christ) in 1987. I subsequently combined graduate study in rhetoric with a continuing interest in biblical and historical scholarship in an effort to understand how my religious experience fit into the broader context of Christian history and theology. I concluded that the New Testament language of faith, originally formulated to persuade hearers of the Christian message by means of understanding, had been radically redefined and its effects rhetorically reengineered by the ecclesiastical Christianity which had gradually emerged after the first century; this process of rhetorical reinvention produced a language of faith that possessed its hearers by means of a mystical form of indoctrination, in the interest of building a religious empire. The degree to which ecclesiastical Christianity, throughout its history, has taken its faith-language seriously--my experience having been produced by a movement that took this language to its logical conclusion --is the degree to which its adherents experience a religious bondage that amounts to the antithesis of the spiritual freedom and social equality of the original experience of Christian faith. Part I, "Faith as Possession," addresses critical changes made by post-apostolic theologians in the apostolic discourse of the New Testament about the message of Jesus, specifically with reference to the rhetorics of "authority" (Chapter One), "knowledge" (Chapter Two), and "justice" (Chapter Three). This rhetorical reengineering of apostolic language facilitated the rise of the institutional Church, which rapidly replaced the apostolic message as the authorized mediator between God and humanity in general and between God and the community of faith in particular. That is, the dynamic of persuasion by an eschatological message was rapidly replaced by the dynamic of possession by an ecclesiastical system. The redefinition and reconceptualization of these apostolic terms amounted to the rhetorical invention of Christianity, a form of Greco-Roman mythology which has little in common with the faith of Jesus as it is revealed in the New Testament. The faith of Christianity became, and continues to be to varying degrees, a form of possession insofar as it consists of, in both a mystical and an institutional sense, belonging to "the Church," which relieves its members of their responsibility for their own identity and destiny. Part II, "Faith as Persuasion," explores the rhetoric of three apostolic ideals, which have generally received little more than lip service by post-apostolic Christianity: "understanding" (Chapter Four), "anticipation" (Chapter Five), and "freedom" (Chapter Six). These concepts are integral to persuasion as the modus operandi of the apostolic Christian faith. Understanding is a prerequisite to authentic persuasion in that persuasion, or belief, without understanding is the essence of possession. In that the meaning and power of the Christian message are a matter of the hope of resurrection to life in the coming kingdom of God, anticipation is the logical response to being understandingly persuaded of the truth of the message. And insofar as internal bondage characterizes life without hope.