The gospel can be seen as a great mystery, which man has difficulty comprehending. Speaking of it in plain terms sometimes confuses a person more than telling the gospel by using symbols and allegory. It seems strange to some of us, but if we are to see the gospel fleshed out in our daily lives, we must understand this and not give up on understanding more difficult or veiled truths.
This is one reason, I believe, that Christ’s teachings were peppered with parables and His instructions veiled with the heavy use of symbolism. Sometimes Jesus taught things in such a manner that even His disciples didn’t understand. Why did Jesus not speak in a more straightforward manner? Why did Jesus allow people to be driven away because His manner of teaching was so murky at times?
I think part of the answer lies in the concept stated at the beginning of this article. Allegory has always been a powerful way to teach truth and convey important concepts. CS Lewis knew this and because of his Chronicles of Narnia, I understand aspects of Jesus’s character as represented in Aslan. Even though some people say that the Narnian stories are too obvious, you can delve into other strongly symbolic stories to find truths about the gospel, such as the writings of Charles Williams or GK Chesterton or everyone’s favorite hobbit-maker, JRR Tolkien. In scripture we also see Nathan the prophet using a story to illustrate to David his sin with Bathsheba. Without that story, Nathan may not have been able to point his bony finger in David’s face so effectively and say “You are the one who has done this wicked thing.”
Now, if Jesus and other characters in scripture thought it best to use metaphors and symbols and God thought it proper to include those things in His word to us, shouldn’t we encourage their use in lyrics and music? Shouldn’t we indulge in the artistic expression of truths represented through symbol? Isn’t this, in fact, what good art is? To just come out and say a thing blatantly is instruction, not art. If I write lyrics that spell out the truth, isn’t that counted as academic? Art, by it’s very nature, is subtle and thoughtful. That’s part of what the term “poetic” means.
So now, tell me your favorite lyrics or poem that has a veiled truth within it. What artistic expression of some part of the gospel really speaks to you? I’ll go first:
“From tender years you took me for granted
But still I deign to wander through your lungs
While you were sleeping soundly in your bed,
(Your drapes were silver wings, your shutters flung)
I drew the poison from the summer’s sting,
And eased the fire out of your fevered skin.
I moved in you and stirred your soul to sing;
And if you’d let me I would move again.
I’ve danced ‘tween sunlit strands of lover’s hair;
Helped form the final words before your death.
I’ve pitied you and plied your sails with air;
Gave blessing when you rose upon my breath.
And after all of this I am amazed,
That I am cursed far more than I am praised.”
Thrice – Silver Wings