There is a way of interpreting Scripture that is not contingent on plucking the axioms out of its pages. The answer to a Living, speaking Word, which transcends premodernism, modernism & postmodernism (making it quite metamodern), has been around all along, waiting in the wings for the time we would discover its presence.
The robust new containers for “absolute” truth are symbols.
Symbols speak on a fully human level. They embody truth in its native relationship to other truths, making it have depth and breadth. A symbol does not stand alone, it interacts and integrates with other symbols giving a rich picture of truth. Truth in this context is profound, and shows just how much axiom is two-dimensional and dichotomised from reality by comparison. Furthermore, symbols incarnate truth in a way that is relatable, affirming its validity on a personal level. If you read the post on Objective Reality, you saw my proposal that symbols import realities to us and speak on a spiritual level.
When it comes to the Bible, we already have a word for this. Everything I’m saying about symbols is actually termed prophecy.
Let’s take the concept of objective reality and symbolism and link these concepts with prophecy.
I wrote in Post 3, “Anything material, that has come into existence (i.e. had a beginning) had an immaterial origin. This is an axiom of science, not philosophy or religion,” (paraphrase of Peter Taylor, Astrophysicist) and is the perfect explanation for the power of symbols. Here’s how it works:
An immaterial creator (God who is Spirit) created the material world.
The material world now understands its immaterial origins (as well as the purpose and meaning of life) through symbols which can be simultaneously BOTH material and immaterial.
Let me restate that:
People are physical, our environment is physical. God, our source of origin is spiritual. We need a spiritual medium to communicate with God. That medium is symbolism. And the term for “a medium that communicates from God to us,” is prophecy.
Here’s a brief overview of two types of symbolism:
Are physical objects that carry a spiritual message. They allow a reversible connection between material and immaterial. For example, Scripture prescribes the taking of Communion as a practice for the believer. The wine represents Jesus’ blood and the bread His body. These are symbols of the work Jesus accomplished for our salvation, they proclaim that sacrifice until His return (the symbols speak!). Wine and bread are materially present, Jesus blood and body are immaterially present in the symbol of communion. The symbol is a pass through window between spirit and the material world. Its purpose is to provide a clear message.
Symbols are immaterial when they are housed in something that is also immaterial such as a story or metaphor. In this case they become containers for messages, carrying meaning, truth, and revelation.
Let’s look at an isolated example from the Bible. The following is my paraphrase of the major events of the book of Ruth. A prophetic message is revealed simply by assigning symbolic value to each person in the story based on their name:
Pleasant (Naomi) was sojourning in a foreign land because there was a famine. There she was widowed. Her husband, Elimelech (My God is King), died and their two sons Mahlon (Sickness) and Kilion (Weakness) also died. All that were left were her two daughters-in-law. The one, Orpah (Back of the Neck), left her. The other, Ruth (Friend), clung to her.
So Pleasant and Friend returned to the House of Bread (Bethlehem). But Pleasant changed her name to Bitter upon her return.
In the House of Bread, the Friend of Bitter performed the harvest while Bitter remained desolate in her poverty.
Then, “By His Strength (Boaz)” married the Friend of Bitter and redeemed all of Pleasant’s former inheritance – her land.
Then, “By His Strength” and Friend of Pleasant had a child. And the child was placed under the inheritance of Pleasant, and belonged to her. The child was named Servant-Worshipper (Obed).
Interpretation of the Symbols
“Pleasant” is a symbol of the nation of Israel. “Friend” is a symbol of the Church, and “By His Strength” is a symbol of Jesus. In this picture, the Church serves Israel and identifies as her friend. Jesus ultimately redeems Israel through the Church, who performed the harvest of souls on her behalf while she remained Bitter and without ownership of her land.
My favourite part is the meaning of the name Obed, which is the perfect identity of the children of God. These are born through the work of the church, in partnership with Christ, and are destined to inherit Israel’s possessions as her children.
Take a look one more time at the paraphrase with fresh eyes:
Israel was sojourning (exiled) in a foreign land because there was no food (spiritual food/manna/Jesus). There she was separated from God (My God is no longer King), and her two sons Upper Kingdom (Sickness) and Lower Kingdom (Weakness) then also died. All that was left were the gentiles. The one, The World (Back of the Neck), left her. The other, The Church (Friend), clung to her.
Both Israel and The Church turned to get their sustenance from God. But Israel changed her name to Bitter at this time.
Then the Church performed the harvest while Bitter remained desolate in the house of spiritual poverty.
When Jesus inspected the work of the Harvest and saw Friend, he gave her his food and commanded his servants (the angels) to protect her while she performed the harvest.
Later He married the Church and redeemed all of Israel’s inheritance, her land, through this marriage.
By His Strength creates children through the Church and these are considered the children of Israel (Naomi has a son). The children of True Israel are Servant Worshippers.
The above example is not meta-narrative symbolism. That is, it is not representative of the symbolic nature of the Scriptures as a whole, but is an isolated example that is useful in expressing the notion of symbolism and prophecy. Further, it illustrates how symbols work together in their native relationship, or as a group. This is important, because you can’t remove any one of the symbols and receive the same message. Likewise, you cannot change the meaning of one of the symbols because the other symbols will rise up and argue the intended message against you. In addition, this example from the book of Ruth shows how a timeless message (prophecy) could be preserved throughout centuries. God accomplished this through symbolism.
Perhaps God is ushering in a fresh layer of revelation concerning the Scriptures at this time. If so, I believe it is going to make them more mind-blowing and compelling than we ever imagined. Where modernism sought to dissect the Bible, a metamodern Christian will be humbled beneath their Bible, freshly dependent on how awesome its Author is.
For those wondering how symbolism works when it comes to morality, come back for the next post entitled Homosexuality & Symbolism. We’ll get into deep waters as we near the end of this series on Symbolism & Spirituality.