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Logical Gal learns the power of a metaphor:

17 Jun

Metaphor 1

The debate centered on the gender of God.  Listening, I learned how to distinguish metaphor from analogy, a very useful distinction.

Those arguing that God should be considered just as much a ‘She’ as a ‘He’ used Jesus’ heart-felt lament as recorded by Luke in 13:34:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Clearly Jesus is using a mother-image to communicate His love for His fellow Jews.  So what about God as Father?

Here’s a representative verse from the Old Testament out of Isaiah (63:16): For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.

And from the New Testament, I offer one of many verses, this one from 1 Cor 8:6 – Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

So which is a stronger description of God?  Jesus’ own words using a mother hen’s longings for her chicks to describe His occasional maternally affectionate feelings? Or Paul’s words that God is the Father?  To help us think through the differences, we should ask:

  • Does Jesus always feel regret toward the inhabitants of Jerusalem?
  • Does God ever stop being Father?

It turns out that metaphor is weightier than analogy because it makes a statement of identity by claiming that X is Y.  To be fair, the proposition that X is Y can be false.  But we must at least understand the intent of the one making the claim before we take issue with the truthfulness of it.

The analogy of X being like Y is partial; it is NOT making an identity claim.  Do you remember Forrest Gump’s line that “Life is like a box of chocolates”?   Our question to him the first time would be to ask, “Forrest, how so? in what way(s) is life LIKE a box of chocolates?”

Box of Chocolates

Had Forrest chosen to describe life with a metaphor, he might have said:

  • Life is a journey
  • Life is war
  • Life is a tragedy
  • Life is a party
  • Life is a roller coaster
  • Life is a French movie

Or to be a bit more literary, who hasn’t been moved by Shakespeare’s use of metaphor in his monologue describing the 7 phases of life in ‘All the world is a stage’ ?

In these cases, the one making the claim has to work harder and more thoroughly to prove through multiple examples that his metaphor is accurate. He has to address any counterexamples his audience might offer.

So back to the initial debate about whether God intends us to regard Him as He/She, as Mother/Father God:

I am convinced that He describes Himself to BE Father who at times acts tenderly which is more often associated with moms.  That shouldn’t be too difficult to swallow.  My husband never stops being father to our sons AND he has shown tender affection for them at different times.  Just as I, their mom, have shown father-like decision-making, when putting my foot down with resolve.

Understanding and using language properly helps us think clearly!