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

Written by Mark Farnham

On March 30, 2011

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.

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