Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

 biblical analogies

7/9/17

 

The Bible is a book of stories as much as anything. Many of those stories are seen as providing analogies which teach us about God and His relationship with mankind. Stories from which we try to draw a comparison with something else, present a special challenge to the reader. The immediate question is this: what aspects of the story are important to the comparison and what aspects are merely incidental to the tale. This very point has been debated endlessly in connection with many such stories in the Bible.

 

It is easy and therefore common to conclude that any aspects of a story which don't support the prevailing theology are incidental and unimportant. Those that do are the key ones, and represent a valid comparison. This approach reflects how we all handle the Bible in general. We emphasize what we know and feel comfortable with and effectively ignore anything else.

 

In pursuing this point, I'd like to consider two well known accounts from the Bible, both of which are seen as instructive by analogy. The first is OT story of Abraham's call to sacrifice Isaac. The second is the NT parable of the prodigal son.

 

The tale of Abraham and Isaac is generally seen as a foreshadowing of God's willingness to sacrifice Jesus for the benefit of mankind. Given that proposition, a number of issues arise. Abraham did not willingly offer up Isaac. Instead he was commanded by God to kill his son. Secondly, Isaac never died, because God halted the sacrifice before it was concluded. Then after Isaac was spared, God provided another sacrifice, in the form of a ram, which Abraham then dutifully killed and offered. This story is markedly different from the typical depiction of the sacrifice of Jesus. Number one, Jesus actually died, and not at the hands of his Father but the Romans and at the instigation of the Jews. Secondly, in the case of Jesus, we see no secondary sacrifice which substitutes for his. Finally, in the case of Abraham, God promised blessings on the Abraham and his descendants for his willingness to sacrifice. In the case of Jesus, the Romans and Jews were supposedly deemed wicked for having sacrificed Jesus (John 18:14) even though all was in accordance with God's will and purpose. One must wonder if the sacrifice of Jesus would have been effective if God had simply struck him dead personally like Abraham was directed to do.

 

In the parable of the prodigal son we have a father and two sons. One son is rebellious and one is obedient. Oddly, the father, who is generally taken to be God, lavishes gifts on the rebellious son and is condemned for that by the obedient one. The rebellious son is often seen as a type of every human, a rebellious sinner who must make a commitment to return to the God the Father. Exactly who or what the obedient son depicts is less emphasized in the normal interpretation. What symbolic family has two such components, one disobedient and then repentant and the other outwardly obedient but inwardly consumed by smoldering resentments and jealousy. The rebellious son can not represent the situation of everyone when there is another son who has a prominent place in the story.

 

I propose no answers here to these implied questions. I simply ask them to demonstrate that biblical symbolism and analogies make understanding the Bible a lot more than simply reading words on the page and saying I believe it. Until one considers issues like these, proclaiming allegiance to the Bible means very little.  

 

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