The metaphor confirms the sonship
I received this message from one sincere brother. I have nothing against him, but I want to interrogate the thought process he is using. I quote him.
“The father-son image of mankind cannot be literally applied to the Divine Father-Son relationship. The term “Son” is used metaphorically it conveys the ideas of distinction of persons and the equality of nature in the context of an eternal, loving relationship.”
Basically, the brother was saying the term Son of God has nothing with being the Son of God as what a son of a man is to a man. The term son simply means there are two distinct persons and that these two distinct persons are equal and are in an everlasting loving relationship.
The problem is, it seems to me the brother is describing friendship or partnership or brotherhood not sonship. Two friends or two partners or brothers are more accurately described as two distinct equal persons in an everlasting loving relationship. The term son has much more than just being distinct, equal, and loving. One wonders why God would allow the use of the term son of God when all he meant was “two equal loving friends/partners/brothers”.
This brother is not the only one who says this. Many professed Christians say the same, including SDAs. Here is another quote.
“The term “Son” is used metaphorically when applied to the Godhead” (Angel Rodriguez, “A Question of Sonship” Biblical Research Institute (of the SDA Church) article)
With this argument, they say that Christ is actually not a Son of God. They say there is no actual father-son relationship between God and His Son. Instead, they say, God and His Son are just two equal persons with no father-son relationship. They say what seems to us as a father-son relationship is just a role-play, for the sake of our salvation.
There are so many things to discuss on this speculative conclusion but we will focus on one thing in this writing. In this writing, we want to look at what is a metaphor and how is a metaphor used in day to day communication among people.
Let us consider this example of a metaphor.
“It snowed so heavily in the night that by morning, a WHITE BLANKET COVERED THE GROUND.”
The words ‘white blanket covered the ground’ is a metaphor for ‘snow covering the ground’. But why is it a metaphor? Because it is comparing the literal covering of blanket over a bed or person with the literal covering of snow over the ground.
In other words, if snow did not literally cover the ground, the metaphor would not be possible. Again in other words, the relationship between the bed and blanket is exactly as the relationship between the ground and the snow in terms of the effect of covering and being covered.
Just to emphasise this point. A metaphor can only be possible if comparison between two literal things or situations is possible. A metaphor would not make sense where there are no literal things to compare. For example, it would not be a metaphor if I said this:
“It snowed so heavily in the night that by morning a STRING COVERED THE GROUND.”
There is no obvious comparison between a literal string and literal snow in terms of literally covering something. A string does not cover but it ties. So there is no way a string can apply metaphorically to snow.
So what we can ascertain is that a metaphor is used where two literal situations are literally comparable. It is necessary to have observable literal characteristics between two things or situations before the metaphor can be derived from the comparison. The term metaphor is an observation that what is literally happening in one situation, is comparable to what is literally happening in another. The similarity of the two literal situations is what makes a metaphor possible.
With that in mind, if the father-son relationship between God the Father and his son is a metaphor of the literal relationship between a human father and a son, then the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God must have literal aspects that reflect the literal father-son relationship of men. That means both relationships must be literal before we can compare them to make a metaphor. That’s the only way we can call it a metaphor. If the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God is not literal, then the terms ‘father and son’ do not apply even in a metaphorical sense.
Therefore, to say the relationship between God the Father and His Son (the Son of God) is metaphorical means one of two things. Those who say this either do not notice their veiled admission that the relationship between the God the Father and the Son is literal sonship, or they do not see that they misuse the term metaphor.
If that which happens literally between a human father and son is not found happening literally between the divine Father and His Son, then the words ‘father and son’ are not the correct metaphors in this case. In other words, if after studying the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God we see that it is all about being two distinct, equal, eternally loving persons, then we have to come to human relationships to find words that represents such a relationship. One thing is sure. Those words would not be ‘father and son’. They should try friends, partners, or brotherhood.
But if that which happens literally between a human father and son happens literally between the divine Father and His Son, then, yes, the Father-Son relationship between God the Father and the Son of God is literal.