May 16, 2023
If myth is one end of the narrative spectrum, then metaphor is the other. Myths are grand, transcendent stories which help to explain why the world is as it is. Metaphors are nuggets of meaning, comparisons which carry associations and contextual significance rather than storylines. Metaphors are true without being isolated ideas or propositions. They imply stories without being limited by them.
The transcendent is, by definition, beyond our experience and, being beyond our experience, beyond our words. We can’t describe the transcendent directly, so we use metaphor—imperfect parallels that are within our experience. Everything we say about is God is necessarily metaphor and approximation. We no more know that God is a man than that God is a bird—God is described as both a father and a mother hen, so both images are legitimate. It’s as Paul says—we see as through a glass, darkly. Not an optically perfect glass, but a first century glass that revealed the basic shape and hinted at the color but obscured the full view. We are all searching for metaphors that reveal God in the way that our experience and intuition tell us is true because, absent some revelation appearing as a bolt out the the clear blue sky, that is all we can know. I’ve already said I can’t trust scripture as an inerrant documentation of the voice of God because it’s far too human for that; however, I can trust it as a story, a library of stories, really, collected and refined by millennia of tradition and the wisdom of those who passed it on to us. It carries all their speculation, meditation, and wonder at God, as well as their love and devotion and desire to serve God and God’s creation. Did God breathe into all of this, strangely warming their hearts? Why, yes, I can believe that. And what does that mean? It’s yet another metaphor for a reality beyond my comprehension.