Don’t be afraid of metaphor

Dorothy Sayers, explaining Aquinas, remarks:

All language about God must, as St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, necessarily be analogical. We need not be surprised at this, still less suppose that because it is analogical it is therefore valueless or without any relation to the truth. The fact is, that all language about everything is analogical; we think in a series of metaphors, We can explain nothing in terms of itself, but only in terms of other things. Even mathematics can express itself in terms of itself only so long as it deals with an ideal system of pure numbers; the moment it begins to deal with numbers of things it is forced back into the language of analogy. In particular, when we speak about something of which we have no direct experience, we must think by analogy or refrain from thought. It may be perilous, as it must be inadequate, to interpret God by analogy with ourselves, but we are compelled to do so; we have no other means of interpreting anything.

-The Mind of the Maker, ch.2

Kathleen Norris is thinking along the sames lines here:

I sometimes get in trouble when I refer to the Incarnation as the ultimate metaphor, daring to yoke the human and the divine. To a literalist, I have just said that the Incarnation isn’t “real.” As a poet, I think I’ve said that it is reality at its most alive; it IS the new creation.

-The Cloister Walk, p.158

We don’t need to be afraid of this stuff. Take scripture seriously, but not always “literally”. Nothing is quite as starkly and nakedly as “literal” as you think it could be any way. That idea comes from modernity and lives in the mind of the mechanistic scientist – not in the thoughts of any of the children of promise, the prophets, or the apostles. What they have to say is even MORE true than that. You need a more powerful analogy to get even close. Christ, the incarnation, was that on earth for a while.