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    Book Club: Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker{Chapter 2}

    November 14, 2012 by Brandy Vencel
    This post is a week overdue. In addition to Math Week, I also had the stomach flu last week. As proof of my good fortune, three of my children have come down with the chicken pox in the last 24 hours. I considered skipping this chapter, but decided I’d rather be behind than skipping an integral part of the conversation. After all, I don’t really know what I think until I’ve written it down.


    Ahem.

    This whole chapter is really focusing on the idea of analogical knowledge. I could probably spend much time meditating upon the quote from Aquinas on the opening page, which include this striking idea:

    [W]e arrive at the knowledge of God from other things.

    He’re referring here to analogy, and he uses as his example the names of God, which help us to know more about Him…by analogy.

    A few years ago, Cindy somehow convinced me that analogy and metaphor {and thus, I assume, the dreaded simile} were important. Even though I didn’t quite grasp why, I allowed them to gain ground in our schooling, and we even developed a bit of a family game in which we try to say that one thing is like another. Bonus points are earned for being funny.

    I’m sure the it’s as itchy as the chicken pox line is only a few days out.

    Ahem.

    So basically metaphor and analogy are important. They are how we come to know things. We rarely know things–especially important things–directly.

    Oh. And I’m not exactly sure why. I hope to find out when I read the entries of the others, which I haven’t done because I usually don’t read until I’ve written my own post.

    I spent a bit of time deciding if I agreed with Sayers on the imago dei referring mostly to our ability to make things. Her argument hangs on the fact that when we are told in Genesis that man is made in the image of God, the only thing we know about God up to that point is that He is Maker. So Sayers jumps to this conclusion:

    The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and the ability to make things.

    I hesitate to question Sayers here because I know her brain is far superior to my brain, but the theologian in me wouldn’t let it go. It seems like a sloppy hermeneutic. Since the Dominion Mandate follows directly after the assertion that man is made in God’s image, it is more likely that it is the mandate itself that defines the image. Man is told to tend and keep, and we can consider this a reflection of the image. Later, we are also told that God breathed the breath of life into Man, and he became a living spirit. Again, we have the image of God, here seen in the idea that Man is a being much in the way that God is a being; though he appear physical, yet is he spiritual.

    With all of that said, I found myself having come full circle because, you see, many theologians call the Dominion Mandate the Cultural Mandate. They extrapolate that tending and keeping necessarily lead to all the trappings of culture. Things like government…and even art…would be a logical consequence over time. So you see that I ended up where Sayers did, but by an indirect route.

    This is proof that Sayers should be the one writing the book.

    As if there was ever any doubt.

    Ahem.

    The really important part of this chapter is when Sayers tells us what her book is about:

    [T]his book is an examination of metaphors about God…

    Her intent, then, is to remind us of the limits of metaphor using the example of God-as-Father.

    Our own common sense assures us that the metaphor is intended to be drawn from the best kind of father acting within a certain limited sphere of behavior, and is to be applied only to a well-defined number of the divine attributes.

    And then she asks that heart stopping question:

    [I]s the phrase “God the Creator” metaphorical in the same sense that “God the Father” is clearly metaphorical?

    I adored her answer. She brings up that we cannot create ex nihilo but only rearrange matter. But then she explains how our artistic endeavors do verge upon creation out of nothing:

    We spend our lives putting matter together in new patterns and so “creating” forms which were not there before. This is so intimate and universsal a function of nature that we scarcely ever think about it. In a sense, even this kind of creation is “creation out of nothing.” Though we cannot create matter, we continually, by rearrangement, create new and unique entities…Nevertheless, we perceive that this is only a very poor and restricted kind of creation.

    [snip]

    It is the artist who, more than other men, is able to create something out of nothing. A whole artistic work is immeasurably more than the sum of its parts.

    [snip]

    The poet is not obliged, as it were, to destroy the material of a Hamlet in order to create a Falstaff, as a carpenter must destroy a tree-form to create a table-form. The components of the material world are fixed; those of the world of imagination increase by a continuous and irreversible process, without any destruction or rearrangement of what went before. This represents the nearest approach we experience to “creation out of nothing,” and we conceive of the act of absolute creation as being an act analogous to that of the creative artist.

    Fascinating, no?


    Read More:
    -More posts linked at Ordo Amoris
    Buy the book and read along!
    -Get Mind of the Maker for free from Willa’s Readlist



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    8 Comments

  • Reply Naomi November 15, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Hmmmm… this is making me revisit the idea of metaphors and analogy in teaching when I should be reading CM for our meeting tomorrow night! This came up in the book The Bible and the Task of Teaching. They spoke about Comenius and his garden metaphor and how we frame education in our minds metaphorically affecting the whole of it. It’s been a while so maybe you can read it at some point and tell us what all it says 😉 I love how you have everyone come up with metaphors and analogies. I must admit I feel lacking in my ability to come up with any to use while teaching. Must be my factory thinking :/ How would one improve on that? Reading? Poetry? Practice? Time in Nature?

  • Reply Cindy Marsch November 14, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Brandy, I think you have an important theological point with just what the image of God in us is. Perhaps it is EXPRESSED or worked out in what we create, just as God worked out who He is by creating us and our surroundings. But God says the most fundamental thing about Himself is that He IS. Don’t we make the pro-life argument based on the sanctity of human life inherent in the person, not in what he or she can contribute or create?

    • Reply sara November 15, 2012 at 2:58 am

      Cindy, I had the same issue. We say that all human life is valuable because all are made in the image of God, but if the image of God is only in the creating, then what about disabled persons?

  • Reply Crunchy_Conservative November 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    There is at least one important distinction between “creator” and “caretaker.” A creator is free to destroy or abandon his work at any time. (Perhaps not destroy – would that go against the nature of a creator?) A caretaker is involved, invested in the well-being of his charge(s). Throughout Scripture, I think we clearly see God portrayed as both creator and caretaker, and certainly mankind is given the same role. In fact, in the Garden, his role as caretaker is more emphasized than that of creator.

    I agree with Sara, that Sayers’ assertion seems to be “based on just a few verses and we might deduce a great deal about the character of God from elsewhere in the bible.” Perhaps she will deal more with other aspects as the book moves along?

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      I like your distinction between “creator” and “caretaker”–and so was God acting more as Creator when he “destroyed” the earth in the time of Noah? As He will indeed “destroy” it again someday? It is interesting that both times the destruction is not whole, but rather more akin to cleansing or refining. Maybe this is because of what you say, that complete destruction is not in the nature of a creator?

      I really am curious where she goes with this. I am very resistant to the idea of learning more about God by looking inward. For instance, that is what has bothered me about the books by John Eldredge. He begins with man and says that since we carry the divine image, and since we are like x, then God must be like x, too. There is, of course, some extent to which this is possible, but we must be very, very careful, and usually it is safer to stick to revelatory knowledge. I do think that because we carry the Image, we can see similarities–metaphorical, as Sayers says–between man and God. I’m hoping she sticks to that. I don’t want to swallow a bad hermeneutic just because she is Sayers and brilliant and eloquent and all that. 🙂

  • Reply sara November 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I think we can only know things by analogy, because if something is completely outside our frame of reference, it is unknowable to us. In a sense, we cannot think outside the box. The best (flawed) example I can think of is trying to describe color to a person who’s been blind since birth. Orange is like….. what? But if you can see, then orange is a combination of red and yellow.

    I too wonder about Sayer’s assertion about the image of God. Firstly, she seems to be assuming that if it is not explicitly written, then it isn’t true. There’s a phrase for that kind of interpretation, but I forget the name for it. Secondly, it’s based on just a few verses and we might deduce a great deal about the character of God from elsewhere in the bible . For example, he is “slow to anger and abounding in love.” I think it’s silly to think that all of the story is told to us in just those few verses. It’s like assuming that all there is to know about the narrator in Moby Dick is that he wants to be called Ishmael. Of course there’s more to the story. We just don’t know it yet. The entire Word of God is a revelation of God’s character, intentions, etc. Is that different from his image?

    But still, I’m willing to go along because I’m curious about where she’s taking this. I’m sort of suspending my disbelief for a short time to try to get to the point she is making.

    I’ve been wondering about the creating done by writers, poets, and musicians. I only JUST realized that they do not create something out of nothing. Perhaps they do not destroy in order to create, but they must use words, and notes and sounds and even ideas that they did not create.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Your example of blindness and describing orange was very helpful! Thank you.

      I think that our artist expression *is* an expression of the divine image, but it is sort of that “through the mirror, dimly” sort of expression. It’s not exact, but then again that is her exact point about metaphor, hm?

    • Reply sara November 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Did you notice that I used analogy to explain the need for analogy? 🙂

      Yeah, I’m good at taking metaphors too far.

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