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.


(ENTIRE BOOK) This book studies the relationship of metaphor and theology. Parables, poems, novels and autobiography are examined as literary forms which address the ways in which metaphor operates in language, belief and life. Thus they are prime resources for a theologian who is attempting to serve the hearing of God’s word for our time, by keeping language, belief and life together in a meaningful and relevant way.


  • Introduction

    The author explains the plan of her book: It has a Foundational part, which looks at metaphor and parable as forms which provide for theological reflection a method of uniting life and thought; and a Constructive part, with poem, story and autobiography as sources for parabolic theology.

  • Chapter 1: A Trial Run: Parable, Poem, and Autobiographical Story

    This chapter looks at a few examples of literary forms that have been used for religious reflection, looking at the kind of religious insights that arise from these forms–Parables, Poems and Autobiographical Stories.

  • Chapter 2: Forms of Religious Reflection and the Traditon

    This chapter emphasizes the importance, even the necessity, of metaphorical language for a greater insight and understanding of “truth”: in contemporary theology, in the New Testament, and in theological reflection.

  • Chapter 3: Metaphor: The Heart of the Matter

    Metaphor, along with parable, is a prime resource for a theologian who is attempting an “intermediary” theology, which can speak to a generation that has lost much of the background and language of traditional religion.

  • Chapter 4. The Parable: The Primary Form

    This chapter analyzes the primary model of Christian language, believing and life, the parable. One major task of the theologian is to reflect theologically upon this model; and thus to help the preacher and the people hear the word of God today.

  • Chapter 5: The Poem: Language of Insight

    The second part of TeSelle’s book deals with various forms of Christian reflection: the poem, the story, and the autobiography. This chapter examines the poem as a source for parabolic theology as it attempts to integrate language, belief and life-style. Christian poets in particular have helped place the imagistic language of tradition into fresh contexts so that dead metaphors may become alive and effective once more.

  • Chapter 6: The Story: Coming to Belief

    This chapter considers the story as a form of Christian reflection, and the way in which it is a source for a parabolic theology as it attempts to bring together language, belief and life.

  • Chapter 7: Autobiography: The Unity of Life and Thought

    This chapter discusses autobiography as a source for parabolic theology, as it integrates language, belief and life. It discusses the art and content of true autobiography, then illustrates with religious and secular autobiographies the way in which they provide an important tradition, and provide a theology understandable to contemporary readers.