The plausibility factor

May.10. 2017

So how do we decide what is literal and what is metaphor when it comes to the teachings of this great teacher?

To answer this question, we first establish that metaphors are a part of his language.

In this regard, we don’t have to go far.

In the Gospel of Thomas, he said, I have thrown fire on the world.

A clear use of metaphor–fire to represent the revolutionary ideas he was teaching and not real physical fire.

Similes are closely related to metaphors and his teachings abound with them.

The most famous one–the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.

The difference between simile and metaphor lies in the word “like.” Take out the word “like” and it becomes a metaphor.

I can go on but those will suffice.

Once we establish that metaphors are indeed a part of his language, the next step is to determine which of his teachings is to be taken literally and which metaphorically.

For this, we rely on the plausibility factor.

At one level, this may seem to be a matter of personal opinion. Plausibility, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

But at another level, it’s pretty clear cut.

Take Santa again.

Is it plausible that there’s a workshop up in the North Pole where a bunch of elves are making toys to keep young kids happy during a festive season?

Is it plausible that there’s an old guy riding around on a sled drawn by reindeers dropping down chimneys with a bag of gifts during that season?

If that doesn’t sound plausible, how about this?

There’re 18 levels of hell and each one is filled with a special torture chamber?

Not too plausible? How about this?

There’s a place somewhere where people are being burned 24/7 for eternity in a fire that never goes out?

And on the other side where other people are living in a paradise dressed in white robes and being serenaded by angels?

There’s one common denominator in all these imaginative scenarios–they all point to the physical realm.

And therein lies the source of the confusion.

Physical metaphors are often used to explain spiritual concepts.

Unfortunately, these physical metaphors often take on a life of their own and what was meant to be spiritual has now become physical.

Ultimately, we come back to the plausibility factor.

We have the freedom to choose what to believe.

If a flat earth is plausible to you, you have every right to continue believing in it.

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