Typology and Political Discourse

People notice patterns. We interpret the world in light of archetypes, repetitions, and symbols. The biblical authors made massive use of typological interpretation as they interpreted earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they were either narrating (in the Gospels, for instance) or addressing (in the letters, for example).

Have you noticed how often this happens in political discourse? Just this morning Victor Davis Hanson blogged on “Our New Cold War.” He’s comparing the War on Terror to the Cold War between the United States and Russia.

It happens all the time. Those who like President Obama might regard him as the “new FDR,” while those who don’t like him might refer to him as the “new Jimmy Carter.”

Have you heard anyone refer to a current war as a “new Vietnam quagmire”?

Consider the “Tea-Party” movement. These people are identifying with early Americans who protested against what they thought was tyranny. Do you see the implications of their claims? They’re claiming to be on the side of freedom and American patriotism, and they’re identifying their political opponents with tyrants who practice taxation without representation.

My point here is not to engage these political issues.

The point I’m trying to make is that typological thinking is not some far-fetched, outlandish, bizarre activity that is foreign to the way people think today.

Why do I say that?

Because in biblical interpretation some people avoid typology as though it’s a gateway to allegory. Typology and allegory are not the same thing. People use allegory today, too, but for it to work the allegorical connections have to be understood.

Anyway, listen to the way people talk and you’ll hear typology all the time, though they might not use that word to describe what they’re doing.

If we want to understand the Bible, we have to understand typology.

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