religious language mindmap

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  • Religious Language
    • How can we meaningfully talk about God?
      • John Hick
        • the peculiarity of religious language - usually based on faith not a statement like this table exists
        • the fact that when language is used either to describe God, or to make any mind of religious statement, it is used in ways that quickly reveal inherent difficulties of meaning. These problems have to do with the fact that while religious statements seem to have all the authority of factual statements, it is quite clearly not possible to regard them as actually being equivalent authoritative.
        • Religious statements are not factual statements in the usual sense of this term, because they are not verifiable in any of the ways that lie behind our usual, mundane usage of language
          • if this is the case, they must either be meaningless statements or factual statements of a very singular and special type
            • If we assume that at least for believers, such statements of religious fact are meaningful, we are faced with the need to consider the ways in which they may be said to differ from e.g. scientific fact
      • AJ Ayer
        • He thinks that statements are only meaningful if they can be verified by
          • 1. Empirical evidence
          • 2. Logic e.g. 2+2=4
          • 3. Tautology - a phrase or expression in which the same things is said twice in different words
    • The Via Negativa
      • Suggests that people can only talk about God in negative terms
        • God is transcendent so you cannot say what God is - However, you can clearly say what God is not: He is not a human being because, He is transcendent so cannot have a body
      • Plotinus
        • The idea of the Via Negativa Came from Plotinus
        • Plotinus was involved with a movement that renewed interest in Plato.
          • In Plato's thinking, the highest form is the Form of the Good. In Plotinus' thinking, the form of the Good is linked to God therefore completely separate to this world
        • "The One is beyond all knowing and saying. The one however emanates forth into the mind, which further emanates into the soul"
      • Language cannot describe God as he is beyond human comprehension
      • People who support it aren't saying we cannot say things about God, but our language doesn't tell people about God because our knowledge is of a human being and God is greater than our concepts that we use to describe such as good.
      • Dionysius
        • He argues that the divine names do not literally describe God, but point to God.
        • He suggests that if we talk about God being Good, we then have to say God is not Good because we do not really know what it means to say that God is Good
        • He states, God is "beyond assertion" and "beyond denial" meaning that whatever you say about God ultimately doesn't tell us about God, and you cannot say absolutely what God is not
        • "The more you don't know, the closer you are to God... The higher you go, the more you see the darkness. The higher we ascend the more our language becomes restricted until we finally arrive at a complete absence of discourse and intelligibility"
      • Strengths
        • It reminds us that language is unstable when applied to God
      • Weaknesses
        • If God is not evil, not hurtful, not malicious, not a person, not in time and so on, is God perhaps not anything?
          • Can language of this negative nature be valuable?
    • The Via Positiva
      • Analogical Language
        • Aquinas rejected the approach of the Via Negative as it doesn't say anything directly about God and because believers say "the Living God" which is more than just "God is not dead"
        • Aquinas' doctrine claims that what we are doing when we talk of God we are talking in terms, which are analogical.
          • This means that we are using words in a similar or related sense with others. This would mean id we were talking about "the love of God" we could make reference to human notions of love
        • Analogy of attribution
          • it is based on causation
            • God is good and humanity is good. Thus there is a casual relationship between the two - humanity is only good because good comes from God. However, God is good not just because He promotes goodness, but also because He in himself is Good
        • Analogy of proportion
          • beings have attributes in proportion to the kind of reality that beings possess
            • God has goodness in proportion to his goodness, just as human beings have goodness in proportion to their goodness
      • Ian Ramsey - Models and Qualifiers
        • Supports Aquinas' idea of using analogies in religious language
          • Argues that words like kind and caring cannot be used uni vocally or equivocally, so we have to qualify the model with words such as infinitely or eternally.
            • By qualifying our terms, we can use analogies to express God
              • Models = words that tell us something about God, but not the whole
                • Qualifiers = words that are able to adapt the meaning of the model
      • Strength
        • Analogy of Attribution - refers to a term applied to one thing being transferred to a second thing as the first causes the other
      • Weakness
        • The analogy of Attribution raises the problem of evil. If God is the cause of Goodness, could e also be the cause of evil?
    • Symbolic Language
      • In Christianity there are symbols that communicate beliefs about God to people such as the Crucifix. However it is not just objects that communicate beliefs about God, it can be action or clothing too.
      • Paul Tillich
        • Not all religious language is intended to convey simple factual statements; that some use of language is indeed non cognitive, in that it doesn't attempt to make assertions that can be verified or falsified
        • "Mans ultimate concern must be expresses symbolically, because symbolic language alone is able to express the ultimate"
        • Tillich was attracted to symbolic language as a means of expressing the nature of God as the "ground of being" or "that which concerns us ultimately"
          • If your ultimate concern is within the physical world, problems regarding idolatry are encountered
        • God, in Tillich's thinking, is defined as the grounds of being. For Tillich, God is the basis of all that exists and also the meaning behind all that exists. Therefore, he argues that the ground of being must be the ultimate concern of people; material possessions cannot replace God
      • Strengths
        • Immensely meaningful because it appeals to many people and can draw a variety of responses
      • Weaknesses
        • The original meaning of a symbol can become lost with interpretation. They can become overlaid with traditional and cultural elements

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