Metaphors Of Spiritual Reality: Part 1: Biblical Metaphors of Purpose -- By: Ted W. Ward

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 139:554 (Apr 1982)
Article: Metaphors Of Spiritual Reality: Part 1: Biblical Metaphors of Purpose
Author: Ted W. Ward


Metaphors Of Spiritual Reality:
Part 1:
Biblical Metaphors of Purpose

Ted W. Ward

[Ted W. Ward, Professor of Curriculum Research, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan]

[Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series based on the author’s W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 9–12, 1982.]

This lectureship reflects my belief that any responsible view of education, whether Christian or secular, must deal with four matters. First is purpose. What does one assume to be the purpose and outcomes of the educational process or program? Taken in the largest sense, life-purpose itself must be a foundation of responsible educational planning.

The second foundational matter is development. What one assumes to be the nature of the development and maturational processes determines to a great extent what is and is not appropriate as education.

The third and perhaps most obvious matter is how one sees education itself. All sorts of things are called “education.” It is a commonplace of life. We all learn; we all teach; we all participate in the formal and informal institutions of society that serve to educate us. When we deliberately educate or purposefully choose educational experiences, what criteria do we use to decide what should and should not be done?

The fourth matter is perhaps less commonly associated with education, except among curriculum specialists. It is a professional issue with profound implications for the worth of an educational operation: What do we take the future to be? Every planned educational outcome reflects some sort of a view of the future. Thus we cannot talk qualitatively about education without examining assumptions and beliefs about what we cannot yet see.

As a Christian, I take by faith that there is a spiritual reality in human life, and thus there are limits to what can be determined empirically. But I reject a dichotomistic view in which spiritual reality is seen apart from the natural manifestations in which it is incarnate.

Given these presuppositions, it should come as no surprise that I would ask you to examine the ways you think about these matters. Through this series of lectures I am inviting you to examine carefully the ways you conceptualize education, development, and the purpose of spiritual development. I propose that we do this by examining the metaphors that are lodged in our thought processes, for it is the mental pictures—metaphors, analogies, parables, and images—which the human mind uses to form manageable constructs. Without these, thought would be a...

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