@e-b-raulands great thoughts. Thanks for thinking this out so carefully and precisely. You’re right. I agree entirely that the ultimate Truth of God’s existence, love, and redemption can be clearly and beautifully portrayed in a story with great effect. It can be tricky, but it can definitely be done.
I’d like to offer a few little thoughts on the difference between allegory and symbolism though, and see what you think. The way you’re looking at it, as I gather, is that because symbolism is more vague than allegory it can be less powerful. If a heart hasn’t been opened by the truth of the Gospel, how can it find any of God’s beauty or eternal nature elsewhere? In a sense, this is true— only with the truth of the Gospel can all the pieces ultimately fit together. But I’m not quite sure that because symbolism neglects to spell out the Gospel in so many words, it has no power to move a rebellious heart towards God.
It isn’t only those who are saved that can see His handiwork and glory in it. Only those who know Him personally recognize what they see, but that doesn’t mean the unsaved aren’t also touched by it without understanding it, and moved to want to know more. In the same way that a Christian and an atheist can be moved to tears by the same symphony or sunset, a symbolic story beautifully done can touch the heart of the unsaved just as profoundly as the heart of a believer.
I think this is because saved and unsaved alike all have something in them looking for God— something He put there to remind us that we’re destined for an eternal home, and to thrill us with a deep sense of awe and belonging when we glimpse little bits and pieces of eternity, even if we don’t recognize it for what it is. We all respond to these glimpses with the same sense of wonder, openness, and longing.
So then, you might ask, if we need an open heart and the truth of the Gospel, even setting aside all that touchy-feely eternity stuff… how is a symbolic story adequate?
While the truth of the Gospel, spelled and acted out to completion, is a powerful ingredient in any story when done well, I don’t think it’s always necessary. The aim of a story is merely to open the heart and be used by the Holy Spirit to convict. I say ‘merely’ because it’s a little arrogant to assume that even a story that included the truth of the Gospel in full could save a man’s soul just like that, all on its own. That isn’t our job. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit to help us with that bit, and He isn’t confined by the limits of human experience and expression. It’s our stories He uses, not the other way ’round.
Setting aside that, men looking for salvation never go to storybooks. They seek out intellectual and moral proofs, and well they should. The most a story can hope to attain (and it seems so belittling to phrase it as though it was something small and unimportant) is open a heart the way music does, and touch the pieces of the man’s life that already have God’s fingerprints on them, and wake him up to start looking for the truth.
INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.