Mary Ellen Ashcroft, author of "The Magdalen Gospel" and "Temptations Women Face," admits in "Dogspell" that she has learned an awful lot about God from.Cluny, her black lab. Although sometime overly colloquial and chatty, Ashcroft is making quite serious points, both about God and about religious language generally.

Following theologians like Janet Martin Soskice, Ashcroft insists that metaphor is an essential tool for talking about God. This is not something that goes without saying in an age when many Christians are stuck a hyper-rational, scientifically-verifiable, Enlightenment way of thinking about religion.

Scripture and the church have always provided lots of metaphors. But sometimes we get stuck in a metaphor-groove. While "God is King," writes Ashcroft, is a useful and true metaphor, it is neither useful nor true to think of God only as king, only as magisterial, only as an enthroned being on high before which we bow down.

Ashcroft wants us to think about God as a dog. For dogs, she say, love their people limitlessly and immediately. Your dog is always thrilled to see you when you come home, even if you've only been gone for 10 minutes. And your dog never grows weary of you. That, says Ashcroft, is exactly how God loves us: boundlessly, ceaselessly, unreasonably.

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