There is a way of reading and interpreting Scripture that is not contingent on plucking the axioms out of its pages. One that doesn’t give up any ground when it comes to truth. The answer to a Living, speaking Word, which transcends premodernism, modernism & postmodernism (making it quite metamodern), has been waiting in the wings all along.
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 giving it 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 reality 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 termed prophecy.
Let’s track with the concept of objective reality and symbolism as we discover their cooperative with prophecy.
“Anything material, that has come into existence (i.e. had a beginning) had immaterial origins. This is an axiom of science, not philosophy or religion.” (paraphrase of Peter Taylor, Astrophysicist)
This is the perfect explanation for the power of symbols: symbols work backwards from our created existence – they testify that:
An immaterial creator (God who is Spirit) created the material world.
He desire to communicate with His creation.
The creation (a material world) understands their immaterial origins (as well as their purpose and meaning in life) through symbols (prophecy) which can be simultaneously material & immaterial.
Let me say that one more time:
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 the two types of symbolism:
Material symbols –
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 on the cross, they proclaim His sacrifice until His return (the symbols speak!). At Communion the 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 the spirit and material worlds. The purpose is to provide a clear message.
Immaterial Symbols –
Symbols are immaterial where they are housed in something that is also immaterial such as story or metaphor. In this case they become containers for messages, importing meaning, truth, and revelation.
I propose that this is the nature of the Bible.
Let’s look at an example. 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 was 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 named 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 with her as her children.
Take a look at the paraphrase with the interpreted symbols:
Israel was sojourning 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 fed her and commanded his servants (the angels) to protect her while she performed the harvest.
Later He married the Church and redeemed 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.
Modernism’s mantra was absolute truth, the metamodern’s mantra is empirical love, or incarnation.
This generation is flocking out of the walls of the church, freely admitting that they are not satisfied with stale bread. But many are genuine seekers, hungry for a living relationship with the Living God.
Christians have a fresh opportunity to convey how deeply meaningful their salvation is to them. It is my opinion, that God is ushering in this fresh layer of revelation concerning the Scriptures at this time, and it is going to make them more mind-blowing and robust than we ever imagined – blowing our socks off, blowing our minds, making us more in awe of Him than ever before. 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 of you wondering how all of this works when it comes to morality, come back for the next post entitled Homosexuality & Symbolism. We’ll get into deep waters as we seek to transcend debate over this hot topic.