Using Analogical Metaphors #3 . . . .

building blocks metaphors A “Trail Mix” Of Information

We began this three-part series by highlighting a message by John Mac Arthur (@49:26 — Link – John Mac Arthur – Testing The Spirits) which used the rhetorical technique of “analogical metaphors.”

  1. Examples and an explanation of its communicative power
  2. Thinking Backwards:  How to construct analogical metaphors.
  3. A list of events, people, things, which help generate analogical metaphors


How about a whole bunch of ideas and examples relating to “Analogical Metaphors” which may get your mind going and generating analogical metaphors.

In fact, after this three-part series, you will begin hearing more and more of them in both powerful and less powerful ways, but most all useful in communication!

Remember the strength of these analogical metaphors!*  Rather than attempting a lengthy description, explanation, series of words/adjectives or definition,** you just need to draw the analogy and the elements of that metaphor are carried to the application.***

analogical metaphors relating to the strange / bizarre

  • “Beam Me Up, Scotty”
  • Back to the Future
  • the yellow brick road
  • have a bridge to sell you too
  • Fortune Cookies


analogical metaphors relating to danger

  • High Tension Wires
  • Alligator Alley
  • Thin Ice
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Toxic Waste Sites



Okay . . . . Let’s try this — creating an analogical metaphor which you may be able to use. . . .  Here goes . . .

I will write out a paragraph which could be found in a typical sermon or lesson . . . .


“There are those who never teach certain doctrine.  If they do, they mention them very infrequently – these doctrines are neglected.  The whole counsel of God is not preached with equal weight.  Some may mention this-or-that doctrine, but they twist the meaning and/or implications for our lives.  For instance, they do not teach the return of our Lord Jesus and looking for His return in clouds of great glory (II Peter 3:11-14).  God’s inclusion of future events has very practical value, but some fail to teach and preach it.  Some have robbed God’s people from glorious knowing and understanding truths which ought to give us comfort – confidence – rest in difficult days.  But they have — without God’s people knowing — within the local church  — they have stolen that peace – comfort – confidence.”

— Ted Martens

Now let’s try to capture the paragraph with an analogical metaphor . . . . Do not begin with mentally brainstorming what kind of analogical metaphor would fit this paragraph.  Follow the three steps laid out in the previous discussion – Think backward and do not go to C: after A:.  Rather  – B – C.

A: We are aiming to go after the idea of a teacher/preacher who has withheld, twisted, or stolen something which could be of value.  As a whole, the idea of “robbed” or “stolen” stands out (We could go after the idea of “neglect,” or “twist” had we decided to go that direction).

B: Beginning with words, phrase, and maybe sentences, layout some descriptive phrases concerning what has been said in the above paragraph, revolving around “robbed” or “stolen.”

  • thief
  • without knowing
  • stolen / steal
  • to lift
  • shoplift
  • stealth bomber
  • no alarm system installed
  • house invasion
  • in clear daylight – daytime house invasion
  • forced entry
  • burglary / robbery
  • second-story robbery
  • It was an inside job
  • under the cover of darkness
  • pickpocket
  • armed robbery
  • a bank heist
  • Great Train Robbery
  • Brink’s Armoured Truck
  • Cyber Security
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Five finger discount

C: Now, what event, person, experience, specific personage, etc. is the most well known and understood analogy on our B-List, which captures the point or idea we are making?

  • Theological Thieves ??
  • Religious Robbers ??
  • They are “Spiritual Pickpockets’   (Stolen without you knowing it)



There are many so-called Bible teachers who want to predict that this-or-that is going to happen.  Or that the Lord is going to return this year, or even on a specific date.  They attempt to prove their position or prophesy by pointing to events, the rise of a nation, natural phenomena, the meaning of a country’s or a person’s name, the arrangement of the stars, etc……  They support their position by calling attention to what could be true for most of the generations since the ministry of Jesus – in fact – before the birth of Jesus.

— Ted Martens

A: As a whole, we are going after the idea of supporting a prediction by pointing to what is probably true for most – any person – period of time.

B: Now lay out a list of words, phrase, and maybe sentences, which are descriptive, which relate to what has been said in the above paragraph, and which revolve around “typical events of life.”

  • Crackpots
  • Charlatans
  • The newspaper’s astrological charts
  • A short story which “predicted” the sinking of the Titanic
  • Horoscope
  • Fortune Tellers
  • Palm Readers
  • Soothsayers
  • False Prophets
  • Jules Verne “predicted” the Apollo moon landing
  • Psychics
  • clairvoyants
  • Predictors of the Market Crash of 1930 / 2008
  • H. G. Wells
  • Nostradamus
  • Oracle of Delphi
  • Jeane Dixon
  • Alexis de Tocqueville “predicted” the Cold War


C: Now, what event, person, experience, specific personage, etc. is the most well-known and understood analogy on our B-List, which captures the point or idea we are making?

  • They are “Fortune Cookie Prophets” — (Predicting events which are generally true for everyone soon or later) . . . .
  • There is no lack of “horoscope prophets” . . . .
  • Every generation has its “palm readers” . . . .



Mind Generating Ideas Related To Music:

  • Heavy Metal
  • Acid Rock
  • Band n’ Box
  • Ragtime
  • High Hat Cymbals
  • Hard Rock
  • Acoustic
  • Elvis Pressley
  • Nashville Country Music
  • Percussion
  • Marching Band
  • Garage Band


Mind Generating Ideas Related To Pilgrims / Sojourners:

  • RV’s
  • Tent Campers
  • Winnebago
  • Mobile Home
  • Trailer
  • Airstream
  • Trailer Park
  • A foundation
  • Travel trailer
  • Tie-downs
  • Tent Pegs


Mind Generating Ideas Related To Fellow-workers / Co-workers / Ministry Assistants (Elisha / Gehazi / Timothy / Barnabas / Silas etc):

  • Police departments sometimes offer a citizen “Ride Along” for the night
  • Riding Shotgun
  • A Tagalong
  • Roy Rogers & Brady
  • Lady & the Tramp
  • Just along for the ride
  • A Hitchhiker
  • A commuter
  • Batman & Robin
  • Hobo / tramp / vagabond
  • A venturer
  • A Voyager
  • Opportunist
  • Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding
  • Mercenary
  • Companion / Comrade
  • Sidekick
  • Supporter
  • Lone Ranger & Tonto
  • Marty & Doc
  • The Seven Dwarfs
  • Stalagmites & Stalactites


i.e. — Paul & Silas were not theological equals.  It was a “Batman & Robin” relationship.

i.e. — Elisha & Gehazi were on the opposite ends of the spectrum.  Elisha had no interest in gain or profit from ministry, but Gehazi was materialistic — It was a Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding relationship.

i.e. — Each disciple was marked by distinct characteristics — They were the “Seven Dwarfs” of the Gospels.



Names / Brands / Events  / People  / Phrase Which Carries Potential Analogical Imagery:

  • Pinkerton
  • Hertz
  • Intel
  • The Titanic
  • Supreme Court
  • A Crash Course
  • Betty Crocker
  • Google
  • Head on Collision
  • Kleenex
  • First Responder
  • Handbrake Turn (180 degrees)
  • Cadillac
  • Went Off The Rails
  • Gatorade
  • A Crash Pad
  • The Lone Ranger
  • A Rockstar
  • Eveready
  • A Gag Order
  • Kangaroo Court
  • Jail Bird
  • Motel 6
  • Michelin
  • Magic – David Blane / Copperfield
  • Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
  • Dow Jones
  • Mail Order Bride
  • Wyatt Erp
  • Torpedoes of Truth
  • Grand Wizard Master
  • Houdini
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • The Mad Hatter
  • UPS
  • Rocket Fuel
  • Eliot Spitzer
  • Huge Hefner
  • Settle Out Of Court
  • An F-17 / 747 / Stealth Bomber
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty
  • Mother Teresa
  • Harvard / Yale / Princeton
  • Prudential Rock
  • Hollywood
  • The Lusitania
  • Hitler
  • Timex
  • Playboy
  • Fed-Ex
  • National Geographic Story On
  • Energizer Bunny
  • Bargain Basement
  • Fire Sale / Closeouts
  • Front Page of Time Magazine
  • Queen Mary
  • Jello
  • Left-Coast / California


These words, terms, phrases, persons, objects, events, etc. (and many other) can be called up to epitomize or summarize what would take many more words.  They can be used to create an analogical metaphor.

AGAIN: You do not want to begin with the potential analogies.  You want to begin with the characterization (B:) of what you are addressing (A:).  It will be the characterization which will lead you to your analogy.   The characterization will limit the mental options of possible analogies.

As you look at your characterizing words and phrases, you then want to ask – “NOW, what analogical metaphor best grabs that list of characteristics.



Let me go yet another direction . . . .

A speaker who is trying to build an analogical metaphor needs to list out words and phrases which characterize or mark what he is seeking to apply it to (i.e., in the original case with John Mac Arthur – The Charismatic Movement).

The descriptive list of words and phrases —  express / flesh out / elucidate . . . .

  • a situation
  • a person
  • an event
  • a decision
  • a relationship
  • a lifestyle
  • a theological position
  • believers
  • various unbelievers
  • a particular practice
  • actions
  • a behavior
  • a personality
  • a decision / path / road
  • a direction
  • etc.

. . . . of which the “characterizing words and phrases” will be seen by and in the selected analogical metaphor.

That final analogical metaphor is . . . .

an easily grasped

√ audience recognized


 says it all

 quickly visualized

 epitome of

  • Craziness, or
  • Being Hardworking, or
  • The Sensual, or
  • The Expensive, or
  • The Sacrificial, or
  • Honesty / Dishonesty, or
  • Greediness, or
  • Recklessness, or
  • The Classy
  • The Loving
  • Highly Educated
  • Founded / Firm
  • Divisiveness
  • Carefulness / Concerned
  • Sincerity / Insincerity
  • Wisdom
  • Foolishness
  • The Twisted / Crooked
  • Being Obstinate / Stubborn
  • Meekness / Reasonable
  • The Bizzare / Outlandish
  • Selfishness
  • Exploitative
  • Deceptiveness
  • Transparency / Openness
  • Selflessness
  • Being Gracious / Giving
  • etc.



Here are some “Analogical Metaphors” I just constructed for illustration.

It is an H.O.V Lane to Hell

Rahab lived on the other side of the tracks — really on the wrong side of the tracks

Paul  / John The Baptist was a “Have gun, will travel” kind of personality.

It is a “Trail Mix” of theology.

They teach a “Burger King” approach to Christian living.

Saul repeatedly went the wrong direction — He had a “Corrigan” personality.

That understanding of the passage is one which those who follow “Doc. & Marty McFly” would support.

Some who speak about the biblical prophecy in the end days also believe that you can “build a time machine out of a Delorean.”

Little did he understand that “the iceberg” was on a collision course with him, as the Pharaoh of the Egyptian bondage.  This event would be a Titanic event which would change that nation’s historical course forever.  Egypt would never again rise to a world power!

Samson was the “Eliot Spitzer” of Israel – a judge ruled by sexual passions.

David would have been on the front page of Time Magazine as the man of the year!

This was not a minor traffic violation – failed to signal a change of lanes.

Jesus moved into our neighborhood in the incarnation.  Welcome to where we live.

Jesus gave up His First Class Seat, to fly “coach” and then gave us His First Class Seat.


I will add some more to this specific short list of examples as I continue to work in my own mind with creating analogical metaphors. 

(Send us some that you use, hear, or create!)

*Their Strength:

  • Instead of using a lot of words to characterize something, which may take a minute or two, an analogical metaphor does it within seconds.   They are short and efficient ways to create strong images in the mind by connecting the familiar, along with its associated elements with what we are addressing.
  • The audience quickly “get’s it!”  If they understand the analogy being used, they pull over the analogy and its elements to the comparison.  Suddenly, the connection is made and “the light goes on!”
  • The analogical metaphor is usually very memorable.  Because it is a visual image, it sticks far better than a longer fully worded explanation.

** Along with a group of people, we were talking about the Atkins diet.  As the discussion went on, someone mentioned another diet plan – The Keto Diet.  Someone in the group then said, “What is a Keto Diet?”  I responded – An Atkins Diet On Fat.

*** In a recent article about the birth of Jesus – Inn or Family Room, I called up a fairly well-known analogical comparison when I stated . . . .

Apparently, for centuries, Bible readers never had these amazing insights into the Scriptures and were ignorant to the manners and customs of Bible times, even back to the earliest centuries. It must be that the earliest writers, closest to the time of Christ never understood what we now understand.

I well understand the temptation that allures some to be new and different. I also well recognize that there are many who “BUY INTO” the avant-garde (i.e. see the writing of Doug Greenwold, and Kenneth Bailey for examples of these new interpretive trends and tendencies to “bring new meaning to the Scriptures.”).

Next thing we might hear is that Marty McFly was there that morning in his Delorian – Back in the future!

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