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God, Analogies, and Art

March 30, 2018

 

A common expression in hermeneutics is, "we must read the Bible 'literarily' (in contrast to literally)."In a way this very concept is a way we can be imitators of God, as we are commanded in Ephesians 5:1. God's communication to us in human language is rich with metaphor, typology, and other figurative language. The prose of the Bible is not just eternal truth, but literary excellence. We can rejoice in the different genres and styles displayed throughout scripture. The very nature of God's use of figurative language tells us truths about His character. In the words of Aslan, there is "Deep Magic" in the words of God.

 

Let's take for example the parable of the mustard seed. Here we have a blatant literal truth about botany, indeed the mustard seed is tiny but does grow into a substantial plant. So how is this a truth about the Kingdom of God? If we take a step into the first figurative layer we have the concept of something starting small and growing. This leads us to recognizing the Kingdom starting with a few disciples and becoming the Church. But there's "deeper magic" in this parable. How does a mustard tree grow? It's seed must first be buried, it's seed must "die". Jesus is the seed, the head, the instigator, the catalyst that ushers in the Kingdom of God. His crucifixion is the sowing. And what does the Bible tell us about plant growth? "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:7). Christ's resurrection, the sprouting of the kingdom, is also confirmation of his deity. He gives the growth. But there is more, we have the second part of the analogy, the tree. The church is constantly called to assess how well it is bearing fruit, to trim, and to winnow. What's more is that the mustard tree provides a home for the birds, and shade for the beasts. Through the progressive growth of the Church, creation will be slowly reconciled to it's Creator. The parable not only tells us how the Kingdom of God will abstractly grow, but also what functions the Church will provide as God grows it.  

 

God's use of analogy an metaphor are economic uses of language. He is able to create high value messages, with low word counts. This another mystery of our infinite God. That He would give us minds to reason, search, and understand the complex beauty of His Word. It is this complexity that begs the listener become intimate not just with the words but with the speaker. The depth of scripture is a shadow of the vast depth and mystery of the Triune God. Scripture reveals the meta complexity and depth of the Speaker, and thus the multitude of facets in the given text. This packaging of truth also demands of God's children to learn and exercise wisdom, in order to gain intimacy with their Father. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). 

 

God's implied affection for language is seen in his command for us to not make graven images, or worship images. God's primary communication with man is through the word, granted we have natural revelation, and creation is rich with God's truth, but God's person-hood and promises are given in word. This intimates why our tongues are such powerful mechanisms. The act of speech and use of language is a supreme imitation of God. Language, art, and reasoning, set us apart from the rest of Creation. This acknowledgment should lead us to seek excellence. We ought not settle for ugly, unwieldy art and language. Christians should desire beautiful prose, poetry, and all manner of literature. Our art should be done with a drive and refinement that imitates the giver of creativity. Our words, art, and deeds are not our own, this world belongs to God. He is the muse, the inspiration, and the head of all that is truth, goodness, and beauty. 

 

 

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