"Metaphor" + "symbol" + "model" = Gnostic Nonsense

This article from the National Catholic Reporter, recently critiqued by Fr Z at WDTPRS.com, has a paragraph which perfectly demonstrates my abhorence of the words “metaphor”, “symbol” and “model” when used in discussions of Christian dogma:

But rather than reject a lifetime spiritual path, perhaps I need to get more comfortable with the idea of metaphor in Catholic doctrine and look beyond the literal pronouncements; then it becomes easier to see Christ as a symbolic son of God, as a presence that helps me find the divine spark (God) within myself, and more importantly serves as a model for truly compassionate living.

Simply amazing how all three concepts can be used in such a short paragraph to express such Gnostic nonsense.

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0 Responses to "Metaphor" + "symbol" + "model" = Gnostic Nonsense

  1. Past Elder says:

    Judas that stuff’s been around forever, just keeps changing labels — Old Errors, New Labels, as Bishop Sheen used to say (if his books aren’t yet on the Index of Prohibited Books from the Intergalactic Congregation for the Implementation of Vatican II).

    In Luther’s time it was called “enthusiasm” from the literal Greek meaning of the word.

  2. matthias says:

    Next we will see great use of the word “myth” and then great pains taken to show that it is not in the same context as the old greek mythologies but it means the use of allegory,metaphor etc however
    the answer still comes down to that.Thanks to Bultmann and Robinson etc

  3. Schütz says:

    I don’t mind the word “myth” in the discussion of Christian faith – as long as it is, as Lewis realised, recognised as “TRUE myth” – or “myth that really happened”.

  4. matthias says:

    Yes Schutz but with those who use it to hide their laco of faith in the revelation of Scripture,Lewis’ ‘true myth” becomes ” myth by that much!!!”or is it “near myth”

  5. matthias says:

    that should be Lack of faith and not a new theological term.Sorry -not enough Guiness,hope no wowsers are reading

  6. Anonymous says:

    As is all too common with purveyors of woolly pseudo-sophistication, the NCR author seems unaware of centuries of hard thinking on this subject. Aquinas’s treatment of metaphor and analogy and their role in talk about God is as pertinent today as the day it was written.

  7. Schütz says:

    I think the Holy Father’s Christmas message is relevant here, Anon. You (or another anon) have commented on this before. I find that scholastics are always rather prone to theorise God – and, if I may take a wild stab here – I reckon that our modern liberalism would have been impossible without the neo-scholasticism that preceded the present post-V2 age. The personalism of JPII and BXVI (see the opening paragraph of said Xmas Homily) is a more certain antidote to such gnosticism than more scholastic theology.

  8. Past Elder says:

    Yeah right, a little more phenomenology is just what is needed to clear up the mess those bad old scholastics made before Vatican II.

    Guess what — the “personalism” of JPII and BXVI is just “our modern liberalism” with mitres and crosiers.

    Those with no particular need for mitres and crosiers take their liberalism straight, no mythic chaser.

  9. Joshua says:

    Now David, don’t confuse Aquinas with scholasticism – why don’t you join Pr Cooper, who I hear is reading from the Summa in the original at the moment, with the aid of an expert Latinist to consult on nuances of meaning? Sounds fun!

    Dr Rowland is vastly learned and most praiseworthy, but I think a bit overcritical of the (neo)scholastics. Without an adequate philosophy, one’s theological wanderings will be confused and confusing. The vacuousness of liberalism stems from its extremely poor (not to say inimical) philosophical basis. Ite ad Fides et Ratio!

  10. Schütz says:

    I’ve no argument with your assertion that “without an adequate philosophy, one’s thoelogical wanderings will be confused and confusing”. That’s not really my problem.

    And you are probably right that I should not confuse Aquinas with Scholasticism, and more than one should confuse Plato with Platonism or Luther with Lutheranism. That point is well taken.

    My point is this: (Neo)Scholastic Christianity seems (historically) to be a breeding ground for reactionary movements that are inimical to the Faith. Eg. Following the scholastics of the late middle ages, we got the Reformation (which could be read as an anti-scholastic movement following upon the Via Moderna tradition); following the scholasticism of Lutheran and Reformed Orthodoxy on the Continent, we got the Enlightenment (leading to Modernism). Following the neo-scholasticism of early 20th Century Catholicism, we got the Post-Vatican II liberalism (it has NEVER ceased to amaze me that liberal dissent did not so much “develop” as “burst” onto the scene in the late 1960’s in full flower).

    I think there is a connection here – at least on an historical level – which should make one stop and think: what sort of theology does scholasticism encourage that it should provide a seed-bed for such movements?

  11. Joshua says:

    Well, the Reformation was the fruit of Nominalism, not scholasticism, so far as I’d been told.

  12. Past Elder says:

    Joshua has the Catholic take here — it was the confusion of Nominalism with the real thing scholasticism that led to the poor training of clergy that led to a poorly trained clergy finding a heterodox way out.

    And David, really, if you think liberal dissent did not “develop” but “burst” on to the scene in the 1960s full flower, you just either weren’t there or aren’t paying attention.

    The dissent was developing before there was a Vatican II to dissent from, for decades. The “Vatican II” of Wojtyla and Ratzinger and the “Vatican II” of Kung, Coyne et hoc genus omne are simply varying shades and hues of the same dissent from Catholicism that had been developing for decades before I got there.

  13. Schütz says:


    Do you think though, and this is the main question, I am right in supposing the liberal dissent to be a reaction against a rather dry and impersonal theological scholasticism?

    And Josh,

    Nominalism was a subset of scholaticism (as was Realism), not something other than scholasticism. And really the Reformation was, as I pointed out, as much a reaction against the nominalist scholastics as it was against the realist scholastics. It was the Via Moderna that gave life to a new kind of spirituality from which the Reformation emerged – rather like the Pietism that emerged from Protestant Orthodoxy.

  14. Past Elder says:

    No, then; you are wrong in supposing liberal dissent to be a reaction against a rather dry and impersonal theological scholasticism.

    Liberal dissent and post-conciliar Catholic orthodoxy are both dissent from Catholicism, grew up to-gether and are one thing, differing in degree but not kind.

    It’s like looking at two wings of the Labour Party and thinking one is Tory and the other Labour — they’re both Labour, David, and the heat is about did the one go to far or the other not far enough. But they are neither of them Tories.

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