describing god: facts vs. metaphors

i was doing some thinking last night, instead of going to sleep, after i had gone to bed.

sometimes my brain just won’t shut off.

sometimes that’s fun. 🙂

so last night i was thinking about how it is we go about thinking about god. i was thinking about revelation, spirit, the supernatural and the natural, and how it is all of this might interact.

it occurred to me that we often speak of god as if we know facts, but really we do not.

we can have faith, we can hold beliefs, we can be fairly sure, we can be unsure but we can not know, in the same sense that we can know some other things.

example: i can know that i am sitting here as i type this. the evidence is overwhelming.

but when it comes to knowing something about god, the evidence is somewhat less than overwhelming.

there are times when we can become convinced of something about god, however.

assuming god really exists, and we come to some understanding of who god is in any real way, i believe this is when things have been revealed to us.


but even in such cases where we become convinced that god has revealed some of “himself” to us, do we still refer to such things as “facts” ?

god is light.

so, what does that mean? is it a fact? or is it a metaphor?

in 1 john, the author refers to god as “light, in whom there is no darkness”. is this a “fact” or a “metaphor” ?

is the statement “god is light” meant to reveal the physical nature of god? or is it meant to reveal something about god that does not necessarily mean god is made up of photons. (it also seems unlikely that john understood photons anyway)

i think i have pretty much always such statements are facts, but i think perhaps that is not the intent by the authors — and not at all what they had in mind when they write such things.

it seems to me that god is light is john’s way of communicating something about the creator that is not easily put into words.

what could he have meant, then, if he didn’t mean god was actually, you know, light?

let’s discuss another phrase: god is love.

we have all experienced what love is.

but to say god is equal to love is a little odd.

again, i think this is metaphor, not fact.

it’s meant to tell us something about god but does not mean it ought be taken as fact.

you might be thinking chris is stupid as you read this.

is that fact?

or is it metaphor?

am i really stupid?

or is saying such a thing merely revealing something about me that can not be communicated any other way?

and so when the texts about god describe him in certain ways, is it not reasonable that maybe such descriptions of him are anthropomorphic metaphors, and not “facts” per se?

when we talk about god as “father”.

when we discuss god as “eternal”.

when we call him “loving” or “forgiving”.

are not all these things simply vocab words attached to concepts, and limited concepts at that?

surely we have very little in the way of “facts” about god.

surely at best what we have is conjectures.

even that which god reveals to us is very much limited by our own understanding.

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