The introduction of the book The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales (See all Christianity Books) is good and thought-provoking. It sits well with me because I also believe that truth (or spiritual truths) cannot be easily encapsulated in clear, concise explanations, because such clear-cut messages tend to be subject to the preacher’s or writer’s own private interpretations. The messages may make sense only to the preacher, not to each individual in the audience. I think it also makes religious sermons dry and formulaic – there will be hardly any life, or life-transforming revelation.
Parables, on the other hand, as explained by the author, are able to deliver spiritual truths by engaging the hearers to reflect for themselves in the light of their own experiences and understanding. The author Peter Rollins put it well:
“A parable does not primarily provide information about our world. Rather, if we allow it to do its work within us, it will change our world – breaking it open to ever-new possibilities by refusing to be held by the categories that currently exist within that world. In this way the parable transforms the way we hold reality, and thus changes reality itself.”
I think that is true freedom because any teaching, or any parable, for that matter, should serve to encourage people to reflect and discover for themselves about spiritual truths, without imposing any form of boundaries or restrictions, and without trying to impose the preacher’sown interpretation upon the audience, otherwise it becomes merely brainwashing or indoctrination. Parables, as I understand it now, allow breathing space for people to ponder over their implications, and digest the nutrients for themselves and be nourished in a way that best suits and benefits them.
This is similar to what the author of “The Song of the Bird“, Anthony de Mello, shared:
“Most of the stories have a comment appended to them. The comment is meant to be a sample of the kind of comment you yourself may want to make. Make your own. Don’t limit yourself to the ones you find in this book. Why borrow someone else’s insights?”
Yup, we’ll not be confined to anyone’s theological box, but discover our own revelations of God and of ourselves, and be transformed within.