"In perfect agreement with this denial of man's right to ask why God deals with men as he does, Luther rejects every attempt to explain the counsels of God and to make them palatable to human beings. He also rejects all attempts to probe into the mind of God or to prove divine truth by use of analogy. Luther did not, it is true discountenance every use of analogy."
Luther sometimes delighted in comparing his relationship with his children to the relationship with the heavenly Father.
He often used analogy to illustrate the doctrine of the resurrection.
But "He raises the question of whether such analogies are dialectical or rhetorical arguments. While he does not give a categorical answer to his own question, he does imply that they would be rhetorical in nature. In other words, they are intended to illustrate rather than to serve as logical proof. They may therefore be used most effectively after the matter itself has first been clearly established by Scripture. Such analogies are related to allegories, which also proceed from human to divine matters. It is well known that Luther gradually drifted away from the allegorical method of biblical interpretation until, in the end he almost completely abandoned and rejected it. " p. (146)
For example: "Thus the Turks say that in one house there should be no more than one master or one host. Using this as an analogy, they are led to reject the doctrine of the Holy Trinity." (p. 147)
Thus far Becker.
The use of analogies and Christ's use of parables. The other day I had a brief, private discussion with a hugely qualified and very confessional Lutheran pastor about the parables. Since the pericope has been working through Matthew lately, we were in Matthew 13, where it says:
"Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he was will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.' In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "' You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'"
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets are righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." (Matthew 13: 10-17)
The point was made that Jesus spoke in parables as a kind of judgement, things were going to remain hidden for those who won't hear, not to make things more understandable for the simple. They were not nice illustrations to help people learn better.
Having taught Sunday Schools for decades and acted out many parables with children, it did not sit right with me that they were not meant as a teaching device for the children. Also, I did not like the fact that Jesus who is the revealed God proclaiming the kingdom, is sitting here hiding things. Certainly, more than one thing can be going on at the same time. This is perhaps similar to the law, it instructs us, accuses us and drives us to Christ all at the same time and in various measures at various times. So a parable can maybe instruct, illustrate, hide and illuminate at the same time?
I quoted from Reu, which James Swan had sent over kindly some time ago.
"For the people are greatly delighted with allegories and similitudes, and therefore Christ Himself oftentimes uses them. For they are, as it were , certain pictures which set forth things as if they were painted before the eyes of the simple, and therefore he stireth especially the simple and ignorant."
The answer I received was in line with what Becker says above, that Luther grew increasingly cold to the validity of the use of analogies and allegories.
Still, I am not really happy with this, for it is Luther's analogies about the resurrection and fatherhood which have really stuck in my mind for years and years. Also, Luther, as a pedagogue and catechist always tried to make things palatable and memorable for children and the simple.
To summarize, perhaps, analogies, allegories and parables do not convince in an apologetic sense. They will not "prove" anything to "reason" and they should not. Those who already have faith in God' revelation will be built up by an appropriate use, but for those who will not believe the illustrations only further distance them.
From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern Publishing House (www.nph.net). All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.