Nightlife Notes on Religion: Against Symbolism
posted by July 27 at 12:41 PMon
We can separate Christians into two great camps: on one side, those who read the events in the New Testament as having literally happened; on the other side, those who read the events as symbolic. We can also determine those in the former category as tending to be politically conservative, and those in the latter as tending to be liberal. But, ultimately, Christian symbolists have a much weaker theological position than literalists. Why? Because symbolism reduces the bible to picture-thinking, a lower order of language that speaks to those in the lower orders—the poor, the uneducated, the great unwashed. To grasp the complexity of God, they need a simple and symbolic explanation. In short, symbolism is snobbish.
Also, if you don’t take Jesus’ death and resurrection literally, it means that God could have told the story of salvation in another way. Meaning, it empties the real life of Jesus of its peculiarity and makes it nothing more than an expression of a universal language. Meaning, the story is not fixed but is rewritable. Meaning, God could easily have used different characters and locations and not lost the substance of His message—salvation. But the victory and significance of Christianity is that it transforms God’s infinity into a particular, an individual. It humanizes the spirit.
Christian symbolists hold onto the New Testament by its tail; Christian literalists ride the feral book on its back.