Monday, July 02, 2007

Metaphors Qua As-If Structures and Scripture

Metaphors deployed in Holy Writ and corporate worship express spiritual truths by means of reality depicting terminology.[1] Biblical nomenclature is evidently “reality depicting” in that it mediates ultimate states of affairs by means of literary similitudes (Hosea 12:11). Additionally, it appears that scriptural imagery delineates reality insofar as it postulates a veridical context of being between God and the world.[2] Tropes or conceptual domains such as King or Father assume personal agency; personal agency in turn furnishes a logical basis for affirming God’s legitimate rapport (= a relationship founded on mutual understanding and trust) with the rational created order.[3] It seems that God authentically interacts with rational creatures as “Father” (Matthew 6:9) “King” (1 Timothy 1:17) or “Friend” (James 2:23). Whether God’s relation to the created order is real or mixed (according to the language of Thomism),[4] each of the foregoing appellations for God appear to be metaphorical “as-if” (als ob) constructs[5] that mediately portray God’s affinity for and sovereignty over rational finite entities subsisting in both the material and spiritual realm of being, namely, angels and humans.

[1] Fretheim, The Suffering of God, 5-12.

[2] Sanders, God Who Risks, 16.

[3] Ibid. Caird discusses the role of low and high correspondence in metaphorical tropes (e.g. Aaron’s beard dripping with oil and family unity versus God being called a Father). See Psalm 133:1-3. Low correspondence restricts how far that one can press a metaphor. On the other hand, God as Father is the Source of life, cares for His people as does a parent, has affection for his people (Hosea 11:3-4), exercises authority and metes out discipline. This metaphor thus emphasizes familial unity (Ephesians 3:14) and the mutual love that obtains between God and Christians. See Biblical Imagery, 153-154. There is a very high correspondence between God and human fathers in Caird’s estimation.

[4] Piet Schoonenberg, The Christ: A Study of the God-Man Relationship in the Whole of Creation and in Jesus Christ (New York: The Seabury Press, 1971), 83-86, note 16.

[5] See Bernhard Debatin, Die Rationalität der Metapher: eine sprachphilosophische und kommunikationstheoretische Untersuchung (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), 124-126.

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