Showing posts with label Figurative Language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Figurative Language. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Literal Kings and Spiritual Kingdoms

So many failures of understanding in the Christian life are a product of conflating the metaphorical and the literal. It strikes me that the monarchy enthusiasts who gave rise to yesterday’s post serve as a fine example of the confusion that so easily results from taking figures of speech literally and from allegorizing that which was intended to speak of an immediate physical reality.

If you haven’t read it, we were discussing the origins, biblicality and implications of the popular phrase “Christ is King”. Which is totally fine, until it isn’t.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Mining the Minors: Micah (3)

A pun is a figure of speech in which similar words or different senses of the same word are associated. In English the intent is usually humorous, though effects vary. My father would drop the occasional pun in his thirties and forties, but abandoned that sort of humor as he aged, recognizing that it didn’t play as well in Canada as in his native England. (We also had a friend who punned so frequently it became excruciating; you never wanted to give him an excuse to get started.)

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (21)

Hosea uses five different similes and metaphors to describe the state of mind prevailing in Israel in the years just prior to the Assyrian invasion. The first deals with Israel in the religious sphere (adulterers) and the second to Israel in the political sphere (a heated oven).

The latter half of chapter 7 contains three further comparisons, none of which are particularly flattering.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (16)

I grew up believing that my parents owned the house we lived in and the property on which it was built. But I did not keep my illusions for long.

Shortly I discovered there was a third party involved in this arrangement, and a great big interest-bearing loan with a 20 year term that enabled Mom and Dad to keep a roof over our heads. In the early-to-mid-80s, those interest rates were often in excess of 15% for months on end.

Back then, there appeared no prospect that I would be able to do what my parents had done in the first few years of my own marriage. For me, property ownership was right out of reach.

Anyway, enough of my problems; we have plenty of Israel’s to consider in Hosea 5.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

When Analogies Fail

We do the best we can when we try to explain the word of God to others. It’s not always an easy task, and frequently we are in over our heads.

Sometimes we come up with our own illustrations to try to clarify a scriptural concept for our audience; to put it in terms to which they may find it easier to relate. I have heard the occasional helpful analogy over the years. I have also heard plenty that had the potential to leave a listener with entirely the wrong impression.

For instance, even with the best of intentions, the apostle Paul and the other writers of holy writ are not aptly compared to word processing programs or keyboards.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Worth Dying For

When King David wrote, “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” the great warrior-poet was not reaching for an apt figure of speech to describe some vigorous spiritual exercise. He meant it absolutely literally. David had men on every side who were trying to kill him with bows, arrows, swords and spears. His enemies were not looking for a bracing intellectual argument; they intended to spill David’s blood, and spill it in copious quantities.

Moreover, God was not standing aloof from David’s very physical struggles. He was right in there equipping his servant to pierce, crush, injure and maim his fellow man.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

God’s Photo Album

The Bible is full of pictures.

Now, illustrations — whether they are symbols, metaphors, or even when they come in the form of full-blown parables — are not reality, and it does us good to keep that in mind. They are useful snapshots in which we may catch glimpses of ourselves, of God, and of spiritual truths we might otherwise miss. To ensure we don’t, God has given them to us in a form we can easily process and relate to, one which often stirs an emotional reaction that can bring us to repentance, awe, appreciation or some other good state. For example, Nathan’s story about the poor man’s ewe lamb drove David into a righteous rage ... until he realized the story was all about him.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Quote of the Day (31)

It helps to know what we’re looking at.
Figures of speech in the Bible have limits, as most people who are regularly obliged to listen to sermons are well aware.

A word picture is a helpful way to describe a particular aspect of a spiritual reality. Unsurprisingly, we find the word of God to be full of them: images from the parables of the Lord Jesus, the poetic metaphors of the Psalms, the similes of Isaiah or the illustrations of the apostles — lovely, practical stuff sufficiently simple and clear to express profound truths even to our children.

Taken beyond their intended range, however, these figures quickly devolve into goofiness and bad doctrine.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Wrong Way Round

In a previous post I pointed out that Christ’s disciples, unlike many modernists, were seekers after objective truth.

But the process of discovering that truth was anything but easy or natural. The disciples made some pretty entertaining mistakes.

Not that I would’ve done any better, I assure you. But they had an uncanny knack for getting things the wrong way round.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Dreams, White or Otherwise

I had a dream.

No, not like MLK. That’s more of what we call a vision than a dream. Mine was nothing inspiring or quotable. Just a regular dream, the ordinary kind where your mind drifts randomly.

The Grand Entrance

In my dream I went to Hallowby Hall. I had heard that it had the most amazing Christmas decorations on the planet. Everyone said so. And I couldn’t wait to see them.

So I went there. And even as I approached I must say I was impressed. Rich, red carpets led the way up the front stairs. Gold gleamed from towering archways. Tall trees of blue and green framed either side, and from beneath each bough multi-coloured lights winked mischievously. Banners of satin crowned the entranceway, and from underneath gleamed the golden light of a dozen shining chandeliers. Such a glorious sight I had never seen.

Monday, August 17, 2015

When Analogies Fail

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Dreams, White or Otherwise

The most current version of this post is available here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Literal and Figurative

The most recent version of this post is available here.