The Theory Of Essential Metaphor: A Rejoinder -- By: Peter W. Macky

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:2 (Jun 1982)
Article: The Theory Of Essential Metaphor: A Rejoinder
Author: Peter W. Macky

The Theory Of Essential Metaphor: A Rejoinder

Peter W. Macky*

Anyone who has entered this discussion by reading Gordon Clark’s reply can be forgiven for drawing the following conclusions about my original article: (a) The theory presented there is my own, so that the debate is between Clark and Macky, for Clark never even mentions the name of C. S. Lewis, whose views I presented. (b) Metaphor is a secondary aspect of my article, of minor significance compared with an array of epistemological issues. (c) My article presents only bare assertions about metaphor, giving no arguments for the view there presented. (d) Indeed, I present no clear view, for at one point the theory I present is described by Clark as holding “that the Bible is entirely metaphorical and that literal language has been imposed on it by later theologians” and at a later point he suggests that the theory “at least comes close to concluding that all words are metaphorical.”

As a prelude to reading this rejoinder I invite readers to consider my original article and see if those conclusions can be reasonably reached by an attentive reader of the article.

My conclusion in reading Clark’s reply is this: He clearly is not familiar with the particular theory of metaphor that Lewis presents and argues for in numerous articles and books. My intention in writing the original article was to demonstrate that there is a coherent evangelical theory of metaphor available that differs from Clark’s in major respects. My hope was that Clark, or someone who holds to his general views, would provide a clear and detailed defense of the theory he adopts. So far he has not done so. Thus I hope that by providing this fuller elaboration and direct questions to him I may tempt him to defend his advocacy of the “ornamental” theory of metaphor in detail, since nowhere have I found him doing so.

The foundation of Lewis’ theory of essential metaphor is his suggestion that “knowing” is a very complex phenomenon. In particular he shows that we need to distinguish “spectator knowing” (detached knowing about) from “participant knowing” (knowing by personal, involved experience). Using this rough distinction he points out that our deepest knowledge of ourselves, of intimate friends and of God is participant knowledge (though of course we have a considerable amount of spectator knowledge about those subjects also). For our purposes in this discussion the major characteristic of participant knowledge is that we can know much more than we can put into words. Our speech can only express a small portion of such personal knowledge. Further, since the realities of concern here are mysterious in their depths, the best way to suggest something of those depths is by writing that is also some...

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