What follows is part two of my interview with Alex Doherty for the New Left Project:
2. In your sermons you take biblical stories to have metaphorical but not literal truth. What is a metaphorical approach to reading the bible?
If the Bible were literally true we would not need it. We do not need symbols for things on the surface of our experience, but the more deeply we wish to speak of life, the more we need poetry and ritual. . Reason does very well at apprehending spacial affairs like matter, it is not so good at apprehending time. Symbols describe aspects of life that are invisible at any one moment but play out over time.
As I studied the stories of the Bible I realized that they were often Jewish versions of much older stories. They weren’t about actual people. They were poems about life as a human experiences it. The figures in the stories weren’t historical but allegorical representations of experiential lessons. Science and history are attempts to describe our experiences from the outside in. Art is the attempt to express those same experiences from the inside out. Religion is that intuitive act that balances those two vital concerns. As the word implies, religion is reconnecting the pieces of our experience into a meaningful whole. We never have enough information, so that effort requires faith. We never can get complete control of events, so it requires hope. We are never completely what we strive to be, so it requires forgiveness and love.
If you want to skip ahead of this series and read the whole article, it can be found here.