Fables and Allegories

There was one largely unnoticed tidbit at the SBC this year in San Antonio that should be a great encouragement to all. Bob Green’s motion concerning LifeWay’s distribution of fables and allegories appeared to have fallen on a collective deaf ear. Maybe we are not a bunch of raving anti-intellectual fundamentalists, after all.

I’m not sure what Brother Green was alluding to. Since he specifically mentioned The Chronicles of Narnia, maybe he was reacting to the popular notion that Lewis was a universalist. More on that possibly in a future post. In the use of fables and allegories, Lewis was in good company. First, here’s just a bit of Bunyan’s apology to his Pilgrim’s Progress:

And thus it was: I, writing of the way
And race of saints in this our gospel day,
Fell suddenly into an allegory
About their journey and the way to glory,

Solidity, indeed, becomes the pen
Of him that writes things Divine to men;
But must I needs want solidness because
By metaphors I speak? Were not God’s laws,
His gospel laws, in olden time held forth
By types, shadows, and metaphors? Yet loth
Will any sober man be to find fault
With them, lest he be found for to assault
The highest wisdom. No, he rather stoops,
And seeks to find out what by pins and loops,
By calves and sheep, by heifers and by rams,
By birds and herbs, and by the blood of lambs,
God speaks to him; and happy is he
That finds the light and grace that in them be.

Be not too forward, therefore, to conclude
That I want solidness–that I am rude.
All things solid in show, not solid be:
All things in parables despise not we;
Lest things most harmful lightly we receive,
And things that good are of our souls bereave.

My dark and cloudy words they do but hold
The truth, as cabinets enclose the gold.
The prophets used much by metaphors
To set forth truth; yea, whoso considers
Christ, his apostles too, shall plainly see
That truths to this day in such mantles be.

Am I afraid to say that Holy Writ,
Which for its style and phrase puts down all wit,
Is everywhere so full of all these things–
Dark figures; allegories; yet there springs
From that same book, that lustre, and those rays
Of light that turn our darkest nights todays?

Art thou for something rare and profitable?
Wouldst thou see a truth within a fable?
Art thou forgetful? Wouldst thou remember
From New Year’s day to the last of December?
Then read my fancies; they will stick like burrs
And may be, to the helpless, comforters.

I can imagine that if one were to mistrust Lewis, then, perhaps one would just as likely view Bunyan with equal suspicion, even though he is considered by most to be a good Baptist boy. If that’s the case, then here is quite a different reference to the use of allegory:

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpretedallegorically : these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; shecorresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. Galatians 4:22-26 (ESV)

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