Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2009


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Richard Thames

Committee Member

Calvin Troup

Committee Member

Janie Fritz


Augustine, Chrysostom, Church Decline, Origen, Richard Niebuhr, Roman Empire


In light of the perceived and demonstrable decline of the church's presence and voice in American culture, this dissertation proposes to examine and to discuss the dynamic viewpoints and tensions within the church over her presence and voice in the American culture by examining the various interpretations over the rhetoric of Christianization in the Roman Empire and how those viewpoints surface in the positions of Origen, Chrysostom and Augustine. The objective of this approach is to continue the discussion first articulated by H. Richard Niebuhr's 1951 work, Christ and Culture, by showing that the way one understands the rhetoric of Christianization in the first five centuries as crystallized in the writings of Origen, Chrysostom and Augustine will reveal not only one's position concerning the church's place and presence in the American culture, but also the inner tensions that exists within many American churches today over the role she plays in a pluralistic society.

In light of this perceived and demonstrable decline, some church leaders are suggesting a fresh examination of the Christianization within the Roman Empire (the first five centuries) in order to learn pertinent principles in rhetorical presence and voice that can find application today. Chapter one discusses the varying "viewpoints" (Niebuhr's understanding of "motifs") that surface over this fresh examination. Chapters two, three and four discuss and align these viewpoints as they appear in the writings of Origen, Chrysostom and Augustine, arguably the three greatest church fathers/rhetors in the first five centuries of the church. Chapter five summarizes the discussion, offers current critiques and conclusions over Niebuhr's Christ and Culture and presents preliminary considerations for a new hermeneutical axis that is needed for understanding the rhetorical presence and voice of the church in America today--the understanding and praxis application of the principles surrounding the knowledge and presence of the Kingdom of God.