The metaphorical Father

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“We have, then, various analogies by which we seek to interpret to ourselves the nature of God as it is known to us by experience. Sometimes we speak of Him as a king, and use metaphors drawn from that analogy. We talk, for instance, of His kingdom, laws, dominion, service and soldiers. Still more frequently, we speak of Him as a father, and think it quite legitimate to argue from the analogy of human fatherhood to the “fatherhood” of God. This particular “picture-thought” is one of which Christ was very fond, and it has stamped itself indelibly on the language of Christian worship and doctrine: “God the Father Almighty”, “like as a father pitieth his own children”, “your Father in Heaven careth for you”, “the children of God”, “the Son of God”, “as many as are led by the spirit of God are sons of God”, “I will arise and go to my father”, “Our Father which art in Heaven”. In books and sermons we express the relation between God and mankind in terms of human parenthood; we say that, just as a father is kind, careful, unselfish and forgiving in his dealings with his children, so is God in his dealings with men; that there is a true likeness of nature between God and man as between a father and his sons; and that because we are sons of one Father, we should look on all men as our brothers.

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When we use these expressions, we know perfectly well that they are metaphors and analogies; what is more, we know perfectly well where the metaphor begins and ends… Our own common sense assures us that the metaphor is intended to be drawn from the best kind of father acting within a certain limited sphere of behaviour, and is to be applied only to a well-defined number of the divine attributes.” – Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker

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