Mixed Metaphors?

Zach, if you have time, I’d like your feedback on this one. In Chapter V of Above All Earthly Powers by David Wells, he mentions a metaphor he cites from Robert Wuthnow. Wuthnow is talking about postmodern spirituality and how it views its spiritual progress as a “journey” with no established end. He compares that to the metaphor of a home which he equates with enlightenment “religion.” David Wells explains Wuthnow’s metaphor this way:

A home is a fixed place with clear, unmistakable outer boundaries, and established internal routines, roles, and expectations. The spirituality of the home – what has here been called religion – is one that includes public worship, a set of doctrines, a fixed worldview in which God is unchanging, and in which truth and morality are unaltered by time and circumstance. Wuthnow saw this as a metaphor of an older kind of spirituality which, he believed, described what Christian faith was in the 1950s. What pertained then was ‘the clinging to safe, respectable houses of worship in which a domesticated God could be counted on to provide reassurance.’ Security was purchased at the price of depth. The truth is, of course, that the image of the house also captures some of the ideas essential to biblical faith, even though Wuthnow uses it only of times when that truth was superficially grasped.
David Wells, Above All Earthly Powers, pg. 120

David Wells goes on to explain why the metaphor of a journey is very appropriate. He points out that John Bunyan used this metaphor and discusses how in Bunyan’s book we see what many emergents miss, namely that regeneration is at the beginning of the journey and gives one the “right” to enter the “Gate,” and that the Christian journey rightly has a glorious end at the gates of this “Celestial City.”

It seems to me one of the weaknesses of the modern church is that people see the Christian life as a realization of their destination at salvation. People in our churches are largely content to remain in a position which avoids the “don’ts” of life as long as they are “secure.” Perhaps understanding the journey metaphor is a key to comabating this attitude? Clearly, the some emergents (maybe most?) are minimizing foundational doctrinal truths, but maybe postmodern thought can add to the church a healthy balance of humility and a recognition of its own ignorance and weakness?

What are your thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Mixed Metaphors?

  1. The “journey” metaphor is extremely popular right now, and, in some sense, is refreshing. I agree that one of the weaknesses of the modern church is its lopsidedeness to emphasize the destination over the journey. I heard this illustration secondhand last week: Would you pick your spouse soley on the basis that you wanted to share a burial plot with them? That’s the way most “Christians” choose Christ. To most, He makes a great cemetary partner, but the marriage is only a lengthy formality. However, I think that “journey” language is also dangerous. It falls dramatically short of NT teaching. Also, many who use such terminology are simply disguising their liberalism with new vocab. I’ll explain both of these concerns later.As for the house analogy, I suppose I need to read it in context. Clearly, the some emergents (maybe most?) are minimizing foundational doctrinal truths, but maybe postmodern thought can add to the church a healthy balance of humility and a recognition of its own ignorance and weakness? I totally agree. I’ll post a relevant paper soon.I’ll stop rambling now…

  2. Thanks Zach, Analogies always fall short… But Paul did use the race metaphor. What do you think of Bunyan’s application of it? Would you pick your spouse soley on the basis that you wanted to share a burial plot with them? That’s the way most “Christians” choose Christ. To most, He makes a great cemetary partner, but the marriage is only a lengthy formality. I like this.

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