Re: metaphors

Gene Dunbar Godbold (
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 13:26:24 -0400 (EDT)

According to Bill Dozier:
> Regarding metaphors, Paul Arveson wrote:
> > Dr. James Houston, in "I Believe in the Creator" emphasized that all our
> > metaphors for the Creator: as Maker, King, Designer, etc. all fall short
> >of an
> > adequate or consistent description. The whole approach is hopeless, because
> > creation and providence -- the relationship between the transcendent God and
> > physical nature -- is a total mystery.
> Yes, and the attempt to remove mystery from Christianity is a wrong-headed
> enterprise. We can all recall attempted explanations of, for example the
> Incarnation (the various "kenosis" theories) and other mysteries of the
> faith. They all fall flat for me. Perhaps as Dr. Godbold suggests, it is an
> aspect of our rationalistic age.

First, my daddy is Dr. Godbold, Gene is fine here, and anybody can use my
"Christian" name. I'm wary about being too familiar with people I only
contact by e-mail so I use their last names in these cases.

Now to the point: It appears that some metaphors for God are picked by
God Himself (as C. S. Lewis has written). These include "King" and
"Father" and (for Jesus) "Shepherd". Now these are undoubtedly inadequate
to the reality, but they seem the ones He wants us to use and contemplate.
My chief objection is using modern, mostly mechanical metaphors to speak
of Him. They do lead to a sort of "God in a Box" understanding that
reduces God to the level of *our* creations. King and Father and Lord
don't permit that sort of thing. I'm not denying the utility of certain
metaphors in illuminating certain aspects of God's operation, but
the danger in this approach is that they come to dominate our thinking of
Him. The obvious antidote is frequent bathing of the brain in the
scriptures which restore the proper perspective to our wayward selves.


Gene D. Godbold, Ph.D.                     Lab:  804 924-5167
Research Associate                         Desk: 804 243-2764
Div. Infectious Disease                    Home: 804 973-6913
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