Spirit and Flesh – 6
Another great example of a natural metaphor to explain a supernatural phenomenon is evidenced by the manifold answers to the following question:
What, exactly, did Jesus accomplish on the Cross?
It is cast as ransom for a prisoner, as redemption of a slave, as rescue from behind enemy lines, as a jailbreak from the gates of Hell, as vicarious suffering of a punishment, as repayment of a debt, as a lamb being led to slaughter, as a new Passover (itself somewhere between physical/historical and spiritual)…and this is just off the top of one’s head.
What is interesting is that one is often taught that no single metaphor captures it. In fact, some are downright scornful for some scholars, except that they appear in Scripture, and so must be addressed. The redemption of a slave received this treatment recently.
I am personally of the view that we should not be so quick to judge Scripture, and that whatever the case may be just is the case. If God Himself would tell us to imagine we were slaves (to sin) and that He came to redeem us for a price (His suffering and death), what exactly is my objection? That He did not order the Universe properly so as to avoid a slave analogy? That He did, in fact, redeem me? Nonsense.
Anyway, this great spiritual reality strains all analogies, which is a lesson that the spiritual realm is truly a different realm. Just as new formulas and rules govern 2D geometry and 3D geometry (and beyond), so are there new rules in the spiritual which we can hardly begin to imagine by way of the physical.
One of the more acute ways of demonstrating this point follows: Imagine you are speaking to a man who has been blind since birth. How would you describe a beautifully cut, flawless diamond?
You could approach it – perhaps some exquisite smell, like a rose, with an almost geometric perfection – or perhaps by means of heat and texture, as well as construction that might be conveyed by touch. You see the point, though.
In no way have you shown this man the diamond. And we left you the benefit of four senses.
Likewise, in no way do we really understand what Jesus accomplished by His Passion and death. Yet even a child can understand it was marvelous, miraculous work, and precious to possess.
Nota bene: Naturally, these metaphors do not refer to purely physical phenomena. The social construct of slavery, for example, does not appear to have any parallel in the animal kingdom, and relies on abstractions such as dignity (or lack thereof) and power. The spiritual analog is, therefore, a next-level abstraction.