The Place of Metaphor in Thinking, Writing, and Preaching, Part 1

I am the Good Shepherd.

I am the Door.

I am the Bread of Life.

How often would I have gathered you under my wings.

My beloved is a bouquet of flowers.

I have fought a good fight.

Metaphor is a powerful tool in communication; so powerful, in fact, that Jesus conveyed some of his most important self-revelations through the medium of metaphor. Solomon and his bride describe the depths of their love through metaphors. Paul’s best words on his ministry and the Christian life are metaphors of fighting, running, farming, educating, and shepherding.

What is metaphor? It is a literary device through which we describe one thing in terms of another. But metaphor’s significance is not in what it is, but in what it does. “Metaphor systematically disorganizes the common sense of things–jumbling together the abstract with the concrete, the physical with the psychological, the like with the unlike–and reorganizes it into uncommon combinations” (James Geary, I is an Other:The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World, Harper Collins, 2011, p. 2).

In part 2, we’ll expand on metaphor’s ability to shake up our thinking to create new combinations of thought.

The Amazing of Story of One Who Went to Heaven and Described It in a Bestseller

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” Paul, in 2 Cor. 12:2-4 in the Holy Bible

Oh…were you expecting this?

I would love to take the time to tell you what I think about this book that has captured the hearts of so many Christians (in the same vomit-worthy fashion of The Shack), but this review says it just like I would. Why would we be more impressed with a four-year-old’s highly dubious account of heaven when we have inspired Scripture to tell us ALL THAT GOD WANTED US TO KNOW ABOUT HEAVEN???

And notice in 2 Cor. 12:4 that Paul declares that what he saw and heard cannot be told because man is not permitted to utter it.

This leaves only two choices: believe the Bible or believe Colton Burpo (the four-year-old). You decide.

The Pastor as Theologian, 6: The Inescapably Theological Nature of Pastoral Ministry

As Piper’s comment in the previous post argued, being a pastor/theologian does not mean staying up-to-date on all the latest scholarly publications produced each year. I teach seminary full time and cannot keep up with everything published in even one of the fields I teach (apologetics, theology, church history, ethics and New Testament). So there’s no way that a pastor can do this either.

What being a pastor/theologian means, then, is that you have a inherent love for the things of God. You delight in meditating on and communicating the great truths of sound doctrine. Your preaching is saturated with substance, not fluff, not your reflections, and not mere rhetorical flair. And although you can’t read everything, you do read as much good theology as you can. Without reading something, preaching tends to become repetitious and tired, like butter spread over too much bread. Reading spurs thinking, expands your frame of reference, and supplies an ever-fresh stream of ideas, illustrations, and analogies.

Some pastors protest that theology is not their interest. It is difficult, however, to read the Pastoral Epistles without being confronted by Paul’s incessant exhortations to Timothy and Titus to be saturated with sound doctrine. This is not merely a charge to read the Scriptures. Rather it is to affirm the doctrines which the Scriptures teach, and to expand and develop the theological truths of the apostles by exploring their depths.

Al Mohler argues that no facet of ministry can be properly conceived or carried out without doctrine as its foundation:

In reality, there is no dimension of the pastor’s calling that is not deeply, inherently and inescapably theological. There is no problem the pastor will encounter in counseling that is not specifically theological in character. There is no major question in ministry that does not come with deep theological dimensions and the need for careful theological application. The task of leading, feeding and guiding the congregation is as theological as any other conceivable vocation.

Al Mohler, He Is Not Silent (Moody, 2008), 108.

So it is not just the preaching of the pastor that must be theological. Every aspect of pastoral ministry should be carried out from a truly biblical and theological viewpoint. A pastor should rigorously subject his ministry philosophy and practice to the scrutiny of the Word. It is too easy to assume that the way we do ministry is just fine because it s working for us, or we like it that way, or it fits our personality, etc. These are all man-centered justifications for not practicing ministry according to sound doctrine.

In Titus 1:9 Paul demands that Titus should be “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Holding fast the faithful word means that theology was not to be laid aside when developing a youth ministry, a philosophy of Christian education, or a model of preaching. Theology should guide the development of all aspects of congregational life.

And the evaluation of that adherence to sound doctrine should not be the exclusive privilege of one individual, but of a multiplicity of leaders who can discern faithfulness or lack thereof. Assessment of one’s own ministry is not only dangerous (because we are so easily blind to our faults and trust our own judgments more than we should), but violates the biblical principle of Proverbs 27:2: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.” And Proverbs 11:14: “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

What is the conclusion of the matter? Pastoral ministry is inescapably theological. To ignore, abandon, disdain, or downplay theology is to minister at great risk. Outward appearances may not betray a downgrade. The results may, in fact, be great. The church may grow, offerings swell, praise may reach a crescendo. But there will be no “Well done.”

Pastors, heed Paul’s words to Timothy:

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. (2 Tim. 1:13-14)




The Pastor as Theologian, 5: John Piper’s View of the Issue

If I am scholarly, it is not in any sense because I try to stay on the cutting edge in the discipline of biblical and theological studies. I am way too slow for that. What scholarlywould mean for me is that the greatest Object of knowledge is God and that he has revealed himself authoritatively in a Book. And that I should work with all my might and all my heart and all my soul and all my mind to know him through that Book and to make him known.

This is the goal of every pastor.

Read the full article here.

Where Did We Get the Idea that Saying You’re Sorry Erases All the Damage of Sin?

Sorry is not a magic formula which wipes the slate clean in every sense, and neither is God’s grace. There is a difference between, on the one hand, forgiveness and restoration to fellowship, and, on the other, going back to the way things were.   Some actions so fundamentally change relationships, reputations, and even personalities that there is no going back.  We lie to our people if we tell them otherwise.

Carl Trueman, “Why I Believe in the One Great Heresy”

The idea that past sin, no matter how bad, how destructive, how long it lasted, should be forgiven immediately and have no lasting consequences is what Westminster Seminary Church Historian Carl Trueman, a Brit, writes about in this excellent article. Read it if you dare.