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speech communication, ethics, Christianity, Reformed theology, public discourse, Back to God Hour, Joel Nederhood


This project develops and applies a Biblically-based Reformed theological system of ethics for speech communication.

The dissertation includes a review of literature on ethics in speech communication and indicates that: 1) ethics is a significant concern in the field of speech communication, 2) no single normative ethical theory dominates, 3} each normative ethical theory currently advocated faces significant problems, 4) critical pieces applying normative standards are few, 5) little attention is given to ethics of religious speakers or broadcasters, and 6) the normative ethical theory based in Reformed theology, which is the subject of this dissertation, is undeveloped in the present literature.

Chapter Four develops the Reformed theological ethical system for communication. Grounding the nature of man in the image of God, this position yields three basic principles which form an organic whole: a high regard for the process of communication, a person's communication should show concern for the full direction of the life of the other person, and people should be given full respect. A description of subprinciples and practices implied by this position illustrates how this system is implemented and demonstrates it to be a comprehensive ethical theory for communication. Comparison of this position with other normative ethical theories being advocated currently in speech communication shows that this theory handles many problems better than other theories and thus it should receive a commensurate place in our discipline.

Several speeches of Dr. Joel Nederhood, radio minister of The Back to God Hour which is under the auspices of the Christian Reformed Church, are examined to discover how the Reformed position for ethics operates in guiding rhetorical choices in public discourse.

It is recommended that the Reformed position for ethics be applied to other types of communication to further demonstrate its potential for communication.Also, it might be applied fruitfully to other media

preachers to determine the extent to which they are communicating ethically in this view. Questions of the relation of ethics and success in communication need further study. Finally, a suggestion is made that this perspective be further examined for its implications toward a comprehensive theory of communication in terms of the possibility of the term "normative" being broader than an ethical concept.


  • A dissertation submitted to the graduate faculty in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY, University of Nebraska
  • Dr. James F. Klumpp, Major Professor
  • © 1981 Charles D. Veenstra

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.