Poet of Heaven & Earth
His Thoughts Are Not Our Thoughts, Nor His Words
by David Lyle Jeffrey
My God, my God, thou art a direct God, may I not say a literal God, a God that would be understood literally and according to the plain sense of all that thou sayest? But thou art also (Lord, I intend it to thy glory, and let no profane misinterpreter abuse it to thy diminution), thou art a figurative, a metaphorical God too. . . ." So John Donne, poet and poetical preacher par excellence, addresses God in one of his intimate (yet published) Devotions. He does not mean in any way that "God" is a metaphor for something else; as is abundantly clear throughout his writings, for Donne the reality of God is the most utterly real thing in the universe. Rather, he is noticing something about God—the way God expresses himself in many parts of Scripture.
What he notices is that God often speaks in poetic language. This insight affects the way Donne prays. Does his prayerful address to God as supreme poet contain a theological or literary insight we, too, might usefully ponder? I think so.
Artist & Architect
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
David Lyle Jeffrey is Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities at Baylor University and Guest Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Peking University. Among his recent books are Luke: A Theological Commentary (Brazos 2012) and In the Beauty of Holiness: Art & the Bible in Western Culture (Eerdmans, 2018). He is the grateful father of five children. This essay is extracted and modified from his forthcoming book with Baker Academic (2019), Scripture and the Poetic Imagination.
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more on poetry from the online archives
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor