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Speaking in Parables: A Study in Metaphor and Theology by Sallie McFague


Sally McFague is Carpenter Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Speaking in Parables was published in 1975 by Fortress Press, Philadelphia. This book was prepared for Religion Online by Dick and Sue Kendall.


Chapter 2: Forms of Religious Reflection and the Traditon


Amos Wilder has written that "the language of a people is its fate."

Any human language represents a special kind of order superimposed upon existence. Generations live in it as a habitat in which they are born and die. Outside of it is nescience. . . . Perhaps one can say that nothing affects the significance of human existence more than the range and resource of our articulation, vocabulary, syntax and discourse.1

It is almost a common assumption now that human beings are linguistic -- this, and not our reason (understood abstractly, non-linguistically) is what is most distinctive about us We are the ones who speak (reason or conceptualization is dependent on linguistic symbolization), who name all things and thus give order to our world and give ourselves a past and a future. George Steiner has written:

That articulate speech should be the line dividing man from the myriad forms of animate being, that speech should define man’s singular eminence above the silence of the plant and the grunt of the beast is classic doctrine well before Aristotle. . . . Possessed of speech, possessed by it, the word having chosen the grossness and infirmity of man’s condition for its own compelling life, the human person has broken free from the great silence of matter. Or, to use Ibsen’s image: struck with the hammer, the insensate ore has begun to sing.2

 

It is not only a philosopher such as Martin Heidegger who speaks of language as "the house of being," but almost universal notion that human beings are linguistic through and through.2b If one notices the way an animal looks at something as against the way we do, the difference is language -- we can do something other than smell things and decide whether they are good to eat or dangerous. We can remember, generalize, hope, particularize, compare, contrast, wish, and so on, all because the object before us is also a "word," a symbol, that can enter into all sorts of relations with other symbols.

Moreover, we have become highly self-conscious about language. As Iris Murdoch says, "We can no longer take language for granted as a medium of communication. Its transparency is gone. We are like people who for a long time looked out of a window without noticing the glass -- and then one day began to notice this too."3 While our self-consciousness about language is in many ways a contemporary phenomenon, the Judaic-Christian tradition, being strongly verbal, has always been self-conscious about language. Contrasted with nature cults, mystic religions, liturgical and ritualistic traditions, Judaism and Christianity are "logos" religions: human beings are constituted by the Word as well as by words, or by the Word as made known to them -through words. The Hebraic tradition is not visual but aural: Hear the word of the Lord, saith the prophet. And Protestant theology is agonizingly, painfully verbal and linguistic. Since the eighteenth century and particularly since the historical and biblical criticism of the late nineteenth century, Protestant theology has been nothing if not linguistic -- a battle over words and what they mean.

Theologians during this entire century have been consumed by the problem of the Word and its relation to words: Karl Barth’s thundering Word, plunging us all into biblical repetition or holy silence; Rudolf Bultmann’s demythologizing program, highly suspicious of symbolic and mythological language, opting instead for the likewise metaphorical language (even though it was not recognized as such) of the early Heidegger; Paul Tillich’s extensive work on symbolic language; the "new hermeneutic," which is linguisticality epitomized, and so on. Like it or not, ours is a linguistic era; the word may be dying, as Marshall McLuhan claims, or debased, as George Steiner asserts, but all fields are obsessed by it, most especially those closest to religious studies -- literary criticism, anthropology, and philosophy.

Moreover, a particular kind of language has emerged as of crucial importance. In the post-Cartesian world there was a trend toward scientific precision in language but there has been for some time now a gradual reawakening to what is lost in language where "sign" replaces symbol. In such language the world dwindles unnecessarily. The life story of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is an interesting case in point here: he moved from a position where each word points to or pictures a thing to one in which there are many "language games"; that is, language does many things, some of which cannot be verified empirically. To put the matter over-simply, those convinced of the centrality of imagistic language to all human discourse will say that language in all areas (the sciences as well as religion and the arts) does not

only describe -- also, especially when it is trying to speak of the new, evokes and intimates. Children’s language is highly imagistic, but scientists also use models to serve as metaphors for what they cannot describe directly. Poets and religious folk need not be embarrassed by the indirection and metaphorical nature of their language -- all profound human discourse is of such a character as attestëd to by a mighty company: Plato, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Barth, Tillich, Whitehead, Heidegger, not to mention Jesus and Paul. Either we accept the necessity of metaphorical language for what might be called "the mysteries of life" or we sink into silence or speaking in tongues or a kind of literal mindedness which is very difficult for a contemporary educated person to defend. Augustine realized that it was either silence or metaphor, either the blinding Light of the rare mystical moment or talking in terms of loving "light and melody and fragrance and food and embrace when I love my God."4 Edwyn Bevan makes a similar point:

There is the old story of someone born blind having explained to him what the color scarlet was by his being told that it was like the sound of a trumpet. Whether that was a happy analogy or not, it is plain that the only possible way in which a person born blind could be given any information regarding color is by the use of some things within his experience, as symbols working through analogy.5

What we have been talking about -- the metaphorical nature of the language of revelation and insight -- has been called elsewhere the hermeneutical circle. The days of supposing we are free of finite limitations, of supposing that we have some direct access to "Truth," that there might be words that correspond to "what is," that "clear and distinct ideas" can be many or very interesting -- such a time is over (if it ever existed except in the most rationalistic circles). The most sensitive and perceptive poets, theologians, philosophers, and scientists have always known better. What we have and all that we have is the grid or screen provided by this metaphor and by that metaphor. The metaphor is the thing, or at least the only access that we highly relative and limited beings have to it. That such a situation leaves us feeling uneasy is an understatement. We grasp after certainty, after direct access to the way things "really are." As Frederick Ferré asks, "Is not the religious believer entitled to care about what reality is ‘really’ like behind the unmovable veil of his images?" 6 But caring does not of itself bring satisfaction; the acceptance of the necessity of metaphorical language means also the acceptance of risk, of openendedness, of skepticism.6c To live in this language milieu is to live in faith and hope, not in the certainty of knowledge, but it is also, not incidentally, where Jesus’ parables, with their images and stories, insist we must live.

The Near Tradition: Contemporary Theology

The problem of the directness and certainty of our words about the word of God is clearly seen in the giants of contemporary theology, Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. Both Barth and Bultmann, for all their differences, focus on preaching the word of God to today’s people. The question is: How can our words be appropriate to today’s people so that God's action can take place through them? To say, as Gerhard Ebeling does, that hermeneutic is the whole of theology may sound like esoteric reductionism, but when one realizes that "hermeneutic" means translating the word spoken in the Bible into the word for today it seems neither esoteric nor reductionistic; it is simply what theology -- that helpmeet of the preacher -- always has been about when it has been about its proper business. How this translation is to occur is what divides Barth from Bultmann, and divides what I have called intermediary theology from both of them. It is the form of religious or theological reflection that is crucial.

For Barth that form must be an objective spelling out of the word of God in Scripture, resulting in a dogmatics or system of theology. We are the hearers of the word, a word that God spoke in primal history and which determines secular or ordinary history. God alone sets the conditions for hearing and the theologian need not trouble him- or herself about contemporary idioms or events. It is not that Barth is unconcerned with concrete events of contemporary life -- his own actions during the two World Wars and in relation to Eastern Europe have revealed his deep personal concern -- but they are not determinative for hearing and responding to the gospel. God’s action in Jesus Christ -- the man judged and saved in our place -- creates its own possibility of response and the job of the theologian is to meticulously spell out that action, not to worry about its results.

For Bultmann the form of translation must be a subjective appropriation of the good news in Scripture, issuing in a critique of the mythological categories of the New Testament in contrast to perennial "existential" categories of human self-understanding. Whereas Barth focuses on the word of God to which faith responds, Bultmann focuses on faith that responds to the word. Bultmann moves inward and thus hopes to overcome cultural and historical relativity -- we no longer understand ourselves and our world in nonscientific, mythological terms -- because subjectively human beings are always the same. "Inauthentic" and "unfulfilled" existence is the same for our biblical brothers and sisters as for us, and in fact, their myths were about inauthentic versus authentic existence. Bultmann translates the myths not into metaphysics (which is still quasi-objective) but into existentialist categories. Thus we find his solution to the Kantian limit -- there is no way to talk about things "out there" -- in terms of limiting the good news to the pro nobis; one does not talk about the New Testament as Historie (objective, factual history) but as Geschichte (the meaning of the events for the persons who encounter them).

It may be an oversimplification to put the distinction between Barth and Bultmann in terms of objective versus subjective; yet it is, I believe, not only accurate but essential, for this is the shoal on which they founder. If the question is how the people of today are to hear the good news, what form theological reflection should take to help this to happen, it seems to me that we are driven back, in a religion such as Christianity that has put all its eggs into the verbal basket to the nature of language itself If one takes metaphor to be the crucial constitutive of language, the subjective-objective split is false.

Biblical language, as we shall see shortly, is not of the subjective-objective variety but speaks to us deeply, as does poetry, precisely because it overcomes the split, or better yet does not recognize it. It is metaphorical language, language which in this image and in that unites the concrete and the abstract, the sensuous and the mental, the particular and the general, the subjective and the objective. How can one say that a parable of Jesus or the ancient image of the body of Christ is one or the other? Those categories are not significant. It is assumed, rather, that the familiar (Bultmann’s "pre-understanding," if you will) -- [common experiences and everyday words -- is the means for grasping the unfamiliar, but the connections between these two dimensions are rung in such a way (the way poets ring them) that the strange and unfamiliar (Barth’s action of God on behalf of his people, if you will) breaks apart and renovates the familiar. The significant categories are not subjective and objective, but old and new (old wineskins and new wine, the old man Adam and the new man Jesus, old creation and new creation, death and life) -- accepted patterns and new interpretations, clichés and new meaning, old facts and new insight into them. Metaphorical language, as the language of "a body that thinks," knows no subjective-objective split; the split, if you will, comes at the point of "what is" and "what might be."

 

This is basically what I want to say. The way we hear the good news is not through some mysterious process outside of anything we have ever encountered (the way Barth seems to believe the word of God comes to a person), nor does it require a special translation into subjective existentialist categories (the way Bultmann believes). The meaning of the gospel is generated through metaphor, through words which we know but which are now put into a new context so that we see "what is" in the light of "what might be," the ordinary emerges shaped by a new context. Thus we move, through metaphor, to meaning; metaphor is a motion from here to there. If we say, as I would want to, that Jesus of Nazareth is par excellence the metaphor of God, we mean that his familiar, mundane story is the way, the indirect but necessary way, from here to there. It also means that we take, as metaphor does, the "body," not as flesh alone but as the totality of human experiencing in the familiar and the mundane, as the way to God. The process, therefore, is by no means mainly intellectual; on the contrary, metaphoric meaning, insisting as it always does on a physical base, is inclusive meaning which overcomes the distinctions of mind and body, reason and feeling, subjective and objective. Another way to say this is that metaphoric meaning is a process, not a momentary, static insight; it operates like a story, moving from here to there, from "what is" to "what might be."

And the discrete metaphors of the New Testament -- the parables, the passion story, the images and anecdotes -- were and are for us today good metaphors for helping us to hear the good news. They are inseparable from their content -- there is no way of getting at the "essence" of Christianity apart from them; and they are both so common and so basic to human experience -- stories of fathers and sons, images of blood and bread and bodies -- that they invite prolonged contemplation and reward the reader with inexhaustible insight They are not however sacrosanct or exclusivistic. There is no reason, given this understanding of metaphor, why other stories, metaphors, and images ought not also be forms of reflection that serve to aid us in hearing the word of God. And yet, because form and content are inextricably linked, there will always be a certain priority to the biblical forms. These forms, these metaphors, were reached for in a time nearer to the event which marks the basis of Christianity and there is no way of preserving the "content" of these metaphors apart from the form. As John Dillenberger says, there is no way around formulations of the past, only a way through them, getting in on their intentionality.7

To see the form of theological reflection in metaphorical terms takes the Kantian limits seriously. There is no way around metaphors, neither an objective nor a subjective route, neither a leaving it all to God as Barth does nor a demythologizing of poetic language into existential categories as Bultmann does. We cannot accept either the subjective cul-de-sac of Bultmann (all that can be said of God must be said in terms of my own transformed life) or the objective presumption of Barth (his peculiar epistemology which recognizes the Kantian limits in all instances but one, the biblical revelation). Neither Barth nor Bultmann recognizes fully the radical limits of our language and the possibilities for dealing with those limits in metaphorical language. Bultmann’s failings here are obvious (Robert Funk says that Bultmann "appears not to have a poetic bone in his body"8 ), for apparently he believed he had found a way around imagistic language, a means of direct access, with the existential categories of Martin Heidegger. Barth knew better -- he knew that all religious language is necessarily analogical -- but in his stress on biblical language and his refusal to take seriously any other language, whether philosophical, literary, or anthropological, he, at least implicitly, placed a premium on one language and hence has fed the appetites of the literal-minded for a privileged and direct vocabulary.

In choosing to look at the failure of Barth and Bultmann to take seriously the . necessity of metaphorical language as well as its potential for insight we are suggesting types of escape from the limitations and special properties of imagistic language, one that is "objective" and the other that is "subjective." These classifications would need many qualifications to do justice to Barth and Bultmann, both of whom were far more sophisticated in their use of language than these typologies would suggest. They do not fit the types precisely, and neither would their followers. Moreover, the classic tradition in Christian theology has been continually and painfully aware of the limits of language and the necessity of imagistic language. One has only to think of Augustine’s awareness in the Confessions of the agonies of saying anything of God, Thomas’s extensive work on analogy, Calvin’s notion of the "accommodation" of God to the limits of human language, Coleridge’s treatment of the primary and secondary imagination, Kierkegaard’s method of indirect communication, Tillich’s work on symbol, and so on to get a sense of the richness of the tradition with regard to the language of the imagination.

The point in our brief analysis is only to underscore the peculiar way in which the contemporary crisis of language -- our acknowledgment of the window glass, as Iris Murdoch puts it -- has both elevated the importance of metaphorical language and, on the part of theologians as well as of others, made us painfully aware of its limitations, so much aware that the desire to escape is at times irresistible. But the Bible offers us no solace here, for it is a storehouse of the language of the imagination.

 

The Far Tradition: The New Testament

"Story" is perhaps the least complicated way of approaching that storehouse of imagistic language. "Everyone loves a good story." It is fortunate for Christianity that this is true. But the relations between the story form and Christianity are much more complex, for in a crucial sense Christianity provided the impetus for storytelling, at least for telling stories of a particular kind. Erich Auerbach in his magnificent book Mimesis credits Christianity with introducing into Western letters a type of story which, as he says, is "fraught with background."9 I would call it the story as extended metaphor. In contrast to Homer’s stories which "take place" right before the eyes, so to speak, and hence are full of surface detail and leisurely description, the stories of the Judaic-Christian tradition, from Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac to Peter’s denial, take place in both the foreground and background; more precisely, the background is the context, the new and strange context, for the foreground of ordinary life. The pregnant silences in the Abraham story; the absence of detail and the economy of language; the momentous decisions embodied in simple, everyday discourse; the dialogue form giving an immediacy and vividness to the stories -- these are the elements that "work" the metaphor for us. They are not "just stories," but stories that mean more than such stories usually mean -- after all, there have been other tales of human sacrifice and denial. These stories "mean" more because they are metaphors. Specific literary devices concentrate attention, heighten involvement and the sense of immediacy, control diffusion and "comic relief." The focus in both of these stories is on the individual both the individual in the story (Abraham and Peter) and the individual who reads the story. The sense of drama is high, for momentous decisions are being made, and the reader feels that he or she could well be that confronted human being.

The story, then, not any story but the story pregnant with meaning, the story as extended metaphor, is the key form of the New Testament. The only original literary genre in the New Testament is the gospel, which is, of course, such a story par excellence, the story of victory over death. Within the gospels are many small gospels -- the parables, anecdotes, healings, teachings of Jesus -- which in nugget form also image the good news. The gospels and parables are not histories but reenactments of good news -- dramatic narratives that say the same thing that the big story, the story of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection says. Amos Wilder in his excellent study of the literary forms of the New Testament, The Language of the Gospel, highlights the centrality of the story.

The narrative mode is uniquely important in Christianity. . . . A Christian can confess his faith wherever he is, and without his Bible, just by telling a story or a series of stories. . . . Perhaps the special character of the stories of the New Testament lies in the fact that they are not told for themselves, that they are not only about other people, but that they are always about us. They locate us in the very midst of the great story and plot of all time and space, and therefore relate us to the great dramatist and story teller, God himself.10

Other literary forms of the New Testament -- poem, prayer, confession, sermon, parable -- all have strong narrative elements. The poetry of the New Testament, such as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46--55), is personal and responsive, focused on deliverance, and concrete and commonplace in its imagery. The confession of Paul, the first Christian autobiography, is a story told to manifest the good news -- spare in form, honed to reveal in his own life the power of God’s love. A Christian autobiography ought to be a metaphor of God’s action, and even Paul’s "boasting" is for precisely that purpose. What cannot be conceptualized -- the mysteriousness of God’s love -- can perhaps be made manifest through the story of one's own life The sermon such as Peter's sermon in Acts 2, is, of course, a recounting of the story of Jesus, crucified and risen. Finally, the parable, about which we will have much more to say, is perhaps the purest biblical form of the story as extended metaphor, for the parables of Jesus are unique in their extraordinary ability to embrace the transcendent within the economic, vivid, immediate stories of human, very human beings.

In all these instances, we have the common, ordinary language and images of the people used in new ways Words such as blood, water, seed, bread, coins, sheep, and so on are used in the various literary genres of the New Testament as metaphors; that is, the "dictionary" meanings of these words are given, as Owen Barfield would say, a "speaker’s meaning," old words have taken on new meaning, the familiar has been given a new context so that new meaning is generated. 11 There are no "technical" words in the New Testament, no words with special meanings; there are only words which have been made to mean more than they usually mean This is only to say of course that as Wilder puts it, "the New Testament writings are in large part works of the imagination, loaded, charged and encrusted with every kind of figurative resource and invention."12 This may be blasphemy to the literal-minded; but it is fortunate that the New Testament writers were endowed with rich imaginations, for otherwise the New Testament would hold little chance of being revelatory.

What the New Testament writers apprehended in Jesus of Nazareth was a movement of the human -- the human in its totality -- beyond itself, in such a way that the totality of human life was itself re-created, and they did their best to suggest this apprehension through a variety of metaphors. Like their forefathers who apprehended holistically -- and like poets of all times -- the "poets" of the New Testament saw something unfamiliar and strange coming clear to them in and through the mundanity of a human life. They saw the word of God coming to them through the events and sayings and stories of the man Jesus. They saw it that way and reported it that way, not stripping the husk from the kernel or translating it into general existentialist terms or systematizing it into statements about God, but following the way it had come to them. What began to come clear to them through the life and death of Jesus, that basic metaphor, became the touchstone for creating hundreds of other metaphors -- old and new Adam, bread and wine, lost and found, free and slave, water and Spirit -- which also, they hoped, would evoke the remarkable thing they believed had occurred in and through the life of Jesus. Because they are real metaphors there is no way of testing them against some abstract assertions -- and the New Testament writers did not construct a theology of the nature of God or the person and work of Jesus Christ (though such assertions are implicit in these metaphors, as assertions are always implicit in metaphors) -- but they can and ought to be juxtaposed to the central metaphor, the life and death of Jesus. This will not "prove" they are adequate, but it will give us some hints whether or not they are. It will also, of course, serve as the touchstone for all other metaphors -- images and stories -- in all ages, including our own, which would seek to point to what is central in the Christian faith.

 

Metaphorical Language and Theological Reflection

New Testament language, then, and its principal form -- the story, both as parable and as the story of Jesus -- is metaphorical. If this is so, what are the implications for theology? What, for instance, ought the theologian to do with the New Testament stories? Ought he or she to abstract themes from the stories in rational, conceptual language and systematize the themes?

This is, in fact, what constitutes a great deal of theology. I am not attempting to negate the legitimacy or necessity of this enterprise, but I want to suggest that this is a task that depends upon and must constantly return to its source of new meaning, metaphorical language. 12b Serious attention to metaphorical language as the way to fund theology ought to change the way theological reflection is carried on. It ought, for instance, to make theological discussions of the person of Jesus and the resurrection less "anxious" about logical precision, clarity, and definiteness. This is not a call for fuzzy or sentimental thinking (or for saying nothing about difficult matters); on the contrary, to take metaphorical thinking seriously is a demand for precision and clarity, though not of the logical sort As we have seen, metaphor is the poet’s way to try and define something for which there is no dictionary meaning; it is his or her attempt to be precise and clear about something for which ordinary language has no way of talking. The poet mounts many metaphors, many ways of seeing "this" as "that," many attempts to "say" what cannot be said directly. The poet sets one metaphor against another and hopes that the sparks set off by the juxtaposition will ignite something in the mind as well. Hopkins’ poem "Pied Beauty" has to do with "creation."

Glory be to God for dappled things -- For skies of couple-

colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced -- fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.13

Is this less precise, clear, or definite than Barth’s several hundred pages on the doctrine of creation? It is surely a different sort of precision, but, I would suggest, a more basic sort than Barth’s, for Barth’s vocabulary and themes rest on similarly primal, metaphorical thinking, notably biblical sources. Moreover, if metaphor and symbol are, as Paul Ricoeur says, "food for thought," then they really ought to be utilized in just that way -- not manipulated, translated, reduced, but contemplated, probed, reflected upon. 13b Ricoeur devotes an entire four hundred-page book to probing and contemplating the symbolism of evil, starting with its most primitive and physical manifestation, "stain," and moving carefully and thoroughly through the metaphors that stain is associated with -- defilement, sin, guilt, bondage -- to more general philosophical statements.14 This impressive study does not translate the metaphors into terms supposedly more palatable to the contemporary mind but plays the metaphors off, one against the other; the reader, when finished with the book, has been led to a fuller understanding of evil, not by being told what evil is but through being shown its many faces. The process is, of course, not unlike the way in which the biblical writers deal, less systematically to be sure, with the notion of the kingdom of God. We are never given a theology of the kingdom (though theologies of the kingdom have been abstracted from the New Testament), but we are told stories about it, about people who want the kingdom and why they want it; we are shown metaphors -- pearls, seeds, camels and needles, children, hungry and thirsty strangers, maidens and a bridegroom, and so on -- which image it forth.

The point is that difficult, strange, unfamiliar matters must be approached with the utmost cunning, imagination, and indirection in order for them to be seen at all. It is one of the unfortunate assumptions that metaphor and myth belong to the childhood of the human race, or at best are mere embellishments of truth we can have, now that we are logically and technically advanced, in some more direct way, whether philosophically, scientifically, or existentially. But if new meaning is always metaphorical, then there is no way now or ever to have strange truth directly. We are always children, primitives, when it comes to new insight into such matters as love, life, death, God, hope, and faith. The point is, of course, that apart from metaphor, that is, apart from primal language, we would not "see" such matters at all but would be like the rest of creation-dumb and univocal, knowing but one reference for each sign. We would simply stay where we are with what we are; metaphor is our unique power of movement, for we alone in creation are not locked into our "place," but can move from our place to a new place. Metaphor is, I believe, the heart of the matter for theological reflection, since the task of theology is to serve the hearing of God’s word, that strange truth that disrupts our ordinary world and moves us -- and it -- to a new place.

 

NOTES

1. Amos N. Wilder, The Language of the Gospel: Early Christian Rhetoric (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), pp. 13-14.

2. George Steiner, Language and Silence: Essays on Language, Literature and the Inhuman (New York: Atheneum, 1972), p. 36.

2b. We might take only two quite disparate corroborations of this point. W.M. Urban says: "Language is the last and deepest problem of the philosophic mind. This is true whether we approach reality through life or through intellect and science. All life, as Henry James has said, comes back to the question of our speech, the medium through which we communicate. Life as it is merely lived is senseless. It is perhaps conceivable that we may have a direct apprehension or intuition of life, but the meaning of life can neither be apprehended nor expressed except in language of some kind. Such expression or communication is part of the life process itself." And the Upanishads: "If there were no speech, neither right nor wrong would be known, neither true nor false, neither the pleasant nor the unpleasant. Speech makes us understand all this. Meditate on speech." Both statements are from Urban’s Language and Reality: The Philosophy of Language and the Principles of Symbolism (New York: Macmillan, 1939), p.21.

3. Dallas High, Language, Persons and Belief: Studies in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and Religious Uses of Language (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 27.

4. Augustine, The Confessions, trans. F. J. Sheed (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1942), Bk. 10.6.

5. Edwyn Bevan, Symbolism and Belief (New York: Macmillan, 1938), p. 12.

6. Frederick Ferré, "Metaphors, Models, and Religion," Soundings, 51(1968), 344.

6b. "Surely it is meaningful for each man to hope that the metaphors he adopts as his own, for the representations of what no mind can know unclad in some sort of imagery, are not without a basis of similarity (could he but com pare them) in the referent to which they inadequately point. But all that he can know is the extent to which he and the religious community of which he is a part finds them relatively adequate and reliable when times of testing come, And no more, after all, is really needed in this life. The rest he must hold only as a hope and a constant reminder of his finitude as knower. The rest, as the metaphors of great tradition would interpret it for us, he must be content to ‘leave in God’s hands’" (Frederick Ferré, "Metaphors, Models, and Religion," Soundings, 51 [1968], 345).

6c. Relativism and skepticism are not simply the lot of religion. Ian G. Barbour, in the conclusion to a book on models and paradigms in religion and science, makes a telling remark about the ground they share: ". . . science is not as objective, nor religion as subjective, as the view dominant among philosophers of religion has held. Man the knower plays a crucial role throughout science. Scientific models are products of creative analogical imagination, Data are theory-laden; comprehensive theories are resistant to falsification; and there are no rules for paradigm choice. . . . I see a difference of degree between science and religion rather than an absolute contrast" (Myths, Models and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science and Religion [New York: Harper and Row, 1974], p. 171).

7. John Dillenberger, "On Broadening the New Hermeneutic," The New Hermeneutic, ed. James M. Robinson and John B. Cobb, Jr. (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 162.

8. Funk, "Myth and The Literal Non-Literal," p. 62.

8b. That Barth does appreciate the indirect, metaphoric language of the New Testament is evident in this comment of his on parables: "Let us consider the view of life which is expressed in the parables in the synoptic Gospels. . . . Is it not the simple way in which the kingdom of heaven is compared to the world? . . . and then follows regularly a picture of social life which in itself discloses nothing heavenly whatever. Not the moral world, nor the Christian, nor any theoretical and postulated world is described, but simply the world as one finds it. . . . The parables are pictures from life as it is, pictures that mean something" (The Word of God and the Word of Man, trans. Douglas Horton [New York: Harper and Row, 1951], pp. 303, 306).

9. Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard Trask (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1957), Chs. 1 and 2.

10. Wilder, Language of the Gospel, pp. 64, 65.

11. Owen Barfield, Speaker’s Meaning (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1967).

12. Wilder, Language of the Gospel, p. 128.

12b "The creed, and the ‘dogmatic theology’ developed from it, never lose the character of poetry. To do so would be to lose the dramatic form of expression, and with it the expression of living experience and reality. To lose the viz poetica is at the same time to lose the vis religiosa. It follows, therefore, that even theology -- that part of religion which treats systematically of the Deity, his nature and attributes -- retains this character. . . . To the question, then, whether the language of theology is also poetic language we can only answer in the following way: theological language, like metaphysical language with which it is necessarily connected, contains elements which are not poetic, but its basal elements still remain dramatic; otherwise theology would lose its touch with religion" (W. M. Urban, Language and Reality: The Philosophy of Language and the Principles of Symbolism [New York: Macmillan, 1939], pp. 575-576).

13. Poems and Prose of Hopkins, pp. 30-31.

13b. Ricoeur’s understanding of symbol is practically identical with my view of metaphor -- in both cases there is no way around the image. ". . . symbolic signs are opaque, because the first, literal, obvious meaning itself points analogically to a second meaning which is not given otherwise than in it" (The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan [Boston: Beacon Press, 1969], p. 15).

14. Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).

 

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