God as a wild dog…and other surprising divine metaphors


Because Jews and Christians believe that God is something different than what we know and experience in this world, the biblical authors used metaphor to paint pictures of what God was like. Some of these are familiar to many--God as shepherd or God as father. But others are less familiar, such as God as midwife. So Lauren Winner, a bestselling author and professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School, decided to explore the lesser known divine metaphors in Scripture. In "Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God," Winner explores many surprising and provocative images for God that help us experience and understand God in fresh ways. Here she gives us a sneak peek into the book, which releases next week, and the metaphors she explores.

RNS: Some have said that we can't directly speak of God but can only "get at" God through metaphor. Is this correct?

LW: We can, without metaphor, say some formal things about God: God is the One who is what God has, and so forth. But Scripture seems to like to speak of God in very ordinary figurative language. God is bread. God is clothing. This suggests that what you wear, what you eat, and how you experience the weather has something to offer you about God. God chose to reveal who God is through language of the ordinary everyday. This choice tells us, I think, of God’s desire to be intimately related to us.

RNS: Most people limit their God-talk to three or four images--shepherd, king, Father. How does this limit our understanding of the Divine?