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Analogical Thoughts

Analogy in General

In my first post explaining the Analogical Day view, I gave my presuppositions and my hermeneutic. I listed men I respect who hold to or are sympathetic to an old earth, and then men who specifically hold to the Analogical Day view. Finally, I gave the working definition from the PCA Report on Creation. Since this is known as the Analogical Day view, perhaps some words are in order on analogy.

Analogies of God Himself

Thomas Aquinas has said that we can only speak of God by way of analogy. Perhaps it he overstates things, but if he does it is not by much. God is different from us in just about every way. There are points of similarity, but rarely is it identity. Hence, most, if not all, of our speaking about God is analogy. It is no surprise then that we discover so many analogies of God in the Bible.

The Lord God pictures Himself as a shepherd, a rock, a tower, a fortress, a commander (hence the name Yahweh Tsidkenu), a man of war, a jilted husband, a great king, a dwelling place or home, a legislator, a judge, an inheritance, a teacher, a planter of a vineyard, a farmer of a field, a consuming fire, a shelter, a rider on the storm, a sun and shield, a banner, a hunter setting a snare, a singer, a crown of glory and beauty, a sleeper about to rise, and a potter who fashions a vessel. The Bible pictures Jesus Christ as a door, a road, a mother hen, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the lamb of God, the branch, the good shepherd, the true vine, the bread of life, the light of the world, the root of David, the bright and morning star, and the bridegroom.

Analogical Details of God

Consistent with these analogies of God, there are further analogical details. When God is pictured as a bird it speaks of his wings and pinions. When God is pictured as a warrior, it speaks of his mighty arm. There are many analogies of God in human roles, and as such he is said to have eyes, ears, a heart, breath, feet, back etc.

Analogical Relationship Between God and Man

It is also expected that our relationship with God will find an analogical counterpart to his. Thus, for God as a shepherd, we are his sheep. For God as king, we are his servants. He is the vine, we are the branches; he is the husband, we are the wife; he is the vinedresser, we are the vine, he is the potter, we are the clay. He is the jilted husband, we are the adulteress. He is the redeemer, we are the slave. He is the kinsman, we are the widow. He is the judge, we are the defendant.

There is not always such correspondence. Sometimes a passage simply reveals God to us without attempting to draw a corresponding relationship to mankind. God is just, holy, angry, merciful, etc. Perhaps these are univocal expressions, but it seems safer to retain them as analogical. God does get angry, but because we are so quick to let sin into our anger, we need to clarify that God is not angry the same way we are prone to anger. God is love. But we can easily mistake infatuation for love. We can mistake indulgence or enabling as love. So again, because of our proclivity to misunderstand what love is (even in its more pure manifestations) it seems better to describe God as love in a way that is similar to our understanding of love, yet is so pure that it transcends any human conception.

Analogical Actions

In some regards, this could fit in the category below titled “Supporting Analogies.” But whereas that category has primarily objects in view, this one has actions. Hence, God as a farmer is said to plant, water, grow, and trim. God as a potter is said to shape, or destroy, or form. God as a husband is said to betroth or divorce. God as a builder is said to frame or build, or set foundations or pillars.

Supporting Analogies

Further still, there are other analogous referents besides God and man. These are not referring directly to God, nor a part of God, nor man. These seem to have some other referent. For God as warrior there are the attending images of his sword, and chariot, and bow and arrows.

Sometimes it is hard to know if there is a referent, or if an image is just there for effect. For God as shepherd, there are the references to his staff. What are the “still waters” for this shepherd analogy (Ps23:2)? Is this just a supporting image, or does this have an analogy such as the peace we enjoy in him? We look at Ezekiel 16 and we see an abundance of analogies. It is not poetry, yet there is an ongoing analogy through the whole chapter which is so extensive that we classify it as allegory. Each image adds to the overall message. Some referents are easy to see, and some are more obscure.

For God as king, there are passages that speak of his scepter. But what are we to understand as the referent? It seems to vary. In Ps 45:6 the referent is uprightness, in Ps 60:7 it is Judah while Num 24:17 seems to reference Jesus.

Actual Yet Analogical

Also attending the analogy of God as king are the images of his throne and footstool, and robe, and crown. Yet in 2 Chron 18:18 what is the referent? It seems as though this is a vision of heaven itself. Is there an actual throne in heaven? Psalm 11:4 adds to this by indicating that there is also a temple. Isaiah 6:1; Heb 8:1; Acts 2:23; 7:55 seem to confirm the temple and throne (and robe?) as actual things, not just metaphors for something else. They would still be analogical. God’s temple in heaven is similar, but not necessarily identical to earthly temples. In Exodus 25:9 we have the first reference to this heavenly temple, although it is not so explicit here. In the NT Luke picks it up in Acts 7:44. The author of Hebrews gives us the most explicit reference to this heavenly temple in Hebrews 8:1-5.

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”(Hebrews 8:1-5, ESV)

These things are all very real and are not metaphors. They seem to be deemed as more real than their earthly counterparts. The temple in heaven is described as the true tent (tabernacle). This is not one that people built, but one that God himself built. Jesus, we should acknowledge, is the true high priest. All the earthly things, as real as they are, are a mere shadow of the heavenly realities. There is similarity between the earthly tabernacle and the heavenly one, they are not identical. They are analogous.

    Analogical Days

    Regarding the days specifically, it seems trivial for me to show that they are analogous. There is no sun for the first three days, therefore the days cannot be identical to ours, only analogical. Someone may object that they were days because God made light on day 1. Without going into the details of that, I’d still maintain that makes these days analogical. Consider:

    For the ancients (or moderns for that matter) we normally understand morning to be that time when the sun rises above the horizon. Day is that period during which the sun shines upon the earth. Evening is when the sun dips beneath the horizon. So to have all of these described without the sun is passing strange. This is something that people have noticed and struggled with for millennia.

    “Yes” someone says, “but the earth was spinning and God created a point source which would rise, shine and set as the earth turned; so all the essential functions were there.” Maybe. But there still was no sun. If there was no sun, then no matter how you slice it, these days were not identical to our days. They were similar, but not identical. If there is no identity, but only similarity, that is what we call analogy.

    One more objection comes in. “Ok, but you’re splitting hairs. They were still 24 hrs long” That’s the beauty. Maybe they were. The Analogical Day view doesn’t take an official position on the length of the days. If they were long periods of time, that is compatible with an analogical reading. If they turn out to be 24 hrs, that is fine too. I think there are time problems that an analogical reading would relieve, but unlike either the Day-Age or the Calendar Day views, the Analogical Day view does not require one or the other. It is compatible with both.

    At this level I am only making the trivial point that at least some of the days of creation were not identical to our days. There is nothing here about how long the days were (which is the crux of the entire controversy). So, in the next couple of posts I’ll make some exegetical observations about time indicators in the text that make the traditional view difficult. Then I’ll present a more positive exegesis for the Analogical Day view.

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