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Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Tim, Feb 19, 2004.
"Don't get your theology from parables"--or so the old maxim goes. But should we?
a "para-bole" (to throw along side) is an earthly illustration to help she light on theological truth.
It is NOT the truth itself. Just some insights that will help us understand the truth.
Theology from parables? YES! and again YES!
Just think - Jesus himself decides to give a simple explanatory analogy of something. There should be nothing more important in our theology. I haven't said this on the Board yet - but I'm a former catholic. The thing that I love about being baptist is that we put the Word first. But my one criticism of the "fundamentalist" (of which I think I'm one) camp is that we tend to build entire doctrines out of a single verse in an epistle (obviously still scripture) and neglect the gospels as difinitive theology - missing the forest for the trees.
So my answer is YES parables are rich in theology - simple theology!
I agree. The problem is that we too often treat parables as if they are allegories. If I am not mistaken, the parable is a vehicle only used to teach one truth. I do admit that Chrsit did turn some parables into allegories, but he had the prerogative to do this, and we do not.
Examples are in order, brother. This will make for concrete debate!
First consider this. Jesus opens His mouth to explain something. Does it get any more relevant for theology??
Take the story of the prodigal son. What does this teach us? What is God's mindset about salvation for the individual? How many Church of Christ people, (some) catholics, or even "strict" Baptists have pontificated (based on their interpretations of scripture) on what a person must do to be saved - or even remain saved! Be baptised? Sacraments? Dress a certain way? Use a certain bible?
These all no doubt are rooted in various people's interpretation of scripture. Now here comes Jesus to make it real simple. We're saved and preserved by grace - we just have to ask! Is this theology? Yes.
Sorry, I'm at work now. Maybe more detailed examples later.
In CM's absence, I'll give an example of my own:
Probably the single scripture most influencial in making me into a "Calvinist" is the parable Jesus told His disciples in Mat. 20:1-16, the parable of the laborers.
The parable ultimately answers the questions, "who can be saved?"(Mat.19:25) and "what shall we [disciples] get for our trouble?"(Mat. 19:27). Christ's use of the parable is meant to reinforce His initial statements and teach the disciples something profound.
Jesus even ends the parable with the conclusion of "so ...", i.e. therefore(20:16). This shows that He is putting forth the parable as proof of His doctrine that the choice in these matters is solely His.
That's good theology directly from a parable!
I think the idea of the word PARABLE--"along side" refers to the indirect nature of teaching in parables--a technique not that familiar to Western minds such as our own, but very popular in Eastern thought.
Stating that "It is only a Parable" is the standard Jehovahs Witness defence on their Soul Sleep of the Dead doctrine when you bring up the Parable of the rich man and Lazuras.
Yet consider it this way, which parables could not concievably happen? Jesus did not use made up tales, he based his parables on events that did happen in daily life. He took the things that people understood and used them to relate Spiritual truths to them.
Jesus using the term "Abrahams Bosom" is enough to prove that there is such a place.
Recall that Paul (1 Corinthians 3:3-9) said not to call ourselves "followers of Paul" or "followers of Cephas" or "followers of Apollos" so do you think its okay to say "I'm a Calvin follower (Calvinist)" or "I'm a Spurgeonist" or "I'm a Wesleyan" or "I'm a Finneyite"??? Parables, Jesus used them alot to teach, but I see how you could take one too far, like the rich man and Lazarus, thinking people can talk back and forth between heaven and hell. Or is this literally true? Hmmmm....
Some parables were intended to hide things, not to make them easier (Matt 13).
You prove a point. Of course the parable of the prodigal son is NOT ABOUT SALVATION AT ALL. To apply it to salvation is really really really B-A-D theology.
He was a "son". He left home, wallowed with the pigs and came back. But I've heard many messages trying to get theology of "backsliding" or "salvation" or "losing your salvation" from this story - all bad theology sucked from a poor understanding of parables.
Evidently (as Pastor Larry said) the true message IS hidden still today . . .
Luk 20:9 "A man planted a vineyard".
I like this parable. I like how it can put a lot of stuff into a nutshell, so to speak.
God has a message. He sent his servants first to give the message and they were killed, then he sent his own son and he was also killed. The how and why of that and my subsequent responsibility, can be answered by good theology or doctrine, I think.
I can visualize this very well. It is very helpful to me.
You have to really evaluate the genre being used by the author when you interpret scripture.
My pastor likes to say, "The Bible cannot mean what it never meant"
Parables teach specific truths, or explain a concept that Jesus was trying to either more clearly describe, or possibly in some cases, to make it even more difficult for the religious leaders to understand what he was trying to say.
You have the same problem with the book of Proverbs.
For example, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it"
Is this a promise? Or a general principle. You have to evaluate the genre. Proverbs are generally true, not always true.
Originally posted by Dr Bob Griffin:
Of course the parable of the prodigal son is NOT ABOUT SALVATION AT ALL. To apply it to salvation is really really really B-A-D theology.
I didn't say the parable was specifically about salvation - but it is not unrelated. The parable should most generally be considered relating to God's forgiveness. God's willingness to forgive us is the reason Christ came in the first place. How is this relevant theologically? How is it not relevant?
You don't really think the meaning of this parable is HIDDEN do you? Now THAT would be bad theology!
We have lots of scripture - a whole bible full! Let's look at salvation. What verses come to mind? Jn 3:16? Rom 10:9? Jn 6:37? All do. But the WHOLE WITNESS of Christ in the Gospels must not be neglected! Was it not Christ who came to save us? Or are we only limited to Paul for our theology?
You ask for proof of parables being relevant! I assert that the onus is on one to prove that they are NOT!
Yes, but the very same parables that hid things from some were meant to reveal them to others. If Jesus wanted to hide the message from everyone, he could have simply said nothing. If he wanted to teach only in a clear and obvious way, He could have done so privately with His disciples.
Teaching in metaphors can be more effective than teaching more obviously, after all, it was the primary method of the Master Teacher.
"You ask for proof of parables being relevant! I assert that the onus is on one to prove that they are NOT!"
Its not about relevance in general. We would agree on that.
Parables are ONLY relavant when interpreted through a literal historical cultural context. Not as allegory, or as specific instruction for circumstances they merely illustrate truth using narrative. You have to evaluate the genre, it is not Paul teaching specific doctrinal principles (which also have to go through a historical cultural filter BTW)
What do you mean when you assert that parables must be interpreted "through a literal historical cultural context"?
I don't get the "literal" part of this--parables are metaphorical by their very nature.
If parables = sound theology, then how wrong are some of the "Baptist Distinctives" that are often referred to?
In both parables of the master distributing his 'talents' to his servants, there is loss of salvation (to the one who hid his one talent in the ground).
In the parable of the man who finds the 'pearl of great price,' he sells everything he has to buy that pearl-- can the Kingdom be bought in that way or any other way?
In the parable of the farmer who sowed his crop and his enemy came and secretly planted weeds-- the farmer knew nothing about the weeds until they sprouted and threatened his crop and it was too late to pull them up without damaging the crop. Was God ignorant of how evil came into the world?
Parables illustrate a point or a topic by bringing it down to something that is comparable and more colloquial and obvious. To try to take every element of a parable and apply it as a fine point of theology is like looking at a picture and seeing the background but not the focal point.
You're very right! To insist that the parable literally parallel the "baptist distinctives" to be relevant to an issue is to miss the point completely. The parable of the prodigal son shows God's unending forgiveness - in offering salvation, in preserving our weak souls etc. To look at it and say, "oh this doesn't jive with Romans road so it CANNOT be about salvation" is just - well silly! Jesus wants to show us how God's love in simple general ways. They do not have to line up with modern "doctrine" 100% nor must they be applied to only one thing.
Your assertions (whether serious or not) about what the parables mean are simply that--your assertions. Like anything else in Scripture, they cannot be interpreted in a vacuum. Compare scripture with scripture and you won't come to the conclusions you listed above.
Parables are not unique in that way, ALL scripture must be understood in context.
Yes, parables still do make a contribution to good theology just as do the epistles.