God and Figures of Speech

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[Speaking of Albert Barnes’ exegesis of the 2nd psalm] “The Bible tells us that God’s displeasure will be great. The literal expression refers to heat or burning, as when one is inflamed with anger. The Openness theologians would say that this is an expression of God’s anger and then haul it down to interpret it in terms of human anger. But Baranes also hauls it down to the creaturely level in order to interpret it in terms of a pond on a summer day — calm. One says that God’s anger is like human anger while the other says that God’s anger is like human calm. But both ignore the purpose of figures of speech. The expressions in the Bible about God, all of them together, invite us further up and further in. Symbols and figures of speech are less than what they represent, not greater. They point to something beyond themselves, and, in the case of God, to someone transcendent. Of course God does not fly off the handle like a sinful human being. His anger is far more terrible than that. It transcends anger. Of course God is not patient the way a man is patient — His serenity is everlasting and has no bounds. It transcends serenity.” [“The Loveliness of Orthodoxy” in Bound Only Once, p. 21]

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