Can Metaphor Set Us Free?

Because I blog and talk extensively on the subject of literature as a way of inculcating virtue into our lives, I am sometimes surprised when someone questions the validity of such a stand. What seems like a no-brainer to me is not a truth universally acknowledged. With the rise of the technological society comes a growing distrust of literature. I suppose I could just agree to disagree except that I have some vague notion that posterity might just be riding on the idea that figurative language is not only how we come to know truth, but, perhaps, even more importantly, how we come to love truth. In my opinion there is no way to overstate this. We cannot begin to hear and love the truths of the Scripture if we cannot understand metaphor.

It is interesting to me that in our culture we allow people to feel things emotionally or we allow for facts but we shun the use of metaphor which brings the two together. Often we glorify our feelings to the level of truth without any propositional backing or, alternately, we rest on propositions which we do not love, all while fearing the metaphor which would illuminate our truths into our loves. Metaphor is what takes us from the known to the unknown, the heart of teaching.

Recently Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio Journal discussed this dichotomy with 2 Christian professors of literature, David Lyle Jeffrey and Gregory Maillot. These men have written the book Christianity and Literature: Philosophical Foundations and Critical Practice which delves into the idea that we cannot think Christianly if we fail to see literature as more than just an entertaining diversion.

Both professors agreed that they were seeing in their Christian students a lack of moral imagination. The willingness to interpret Scripture from a totally personal point of view has created narcissistic students living within their own constructs. This is the culmination of specialization and the death of communication.

Literature, including The Bible, is the antidote. The beauty and order of the universe as discovered in the broad perspectives of literature can free us from ourselves. Literature can introduce us to the common things not just the personal things. This truth can, metaphorically speaking, set us free.

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