Religious Language ALEVEL EDEXCEL

A brief look at some ideas surrounding religious language: 



via negativa 






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  • Religious Language
    • human language made up of things that only relate to the world and things within it so how can it then be used to discuss something that transcends human knowledge entirely?
    • truth claims: religious language can be used to state things about a religion 'Jesus is the Son of God'
    • emotions and feelings: religious language can be used to express feelings attached to religion.
    • via negativa: the only appropriate way to speak about God is to say what is not rather than what he is. For example, God is immortal and timeless. This is a meaningful way to speak of God because it is not ascribing human understanding of a God to it.
      • the statements that attempt to give God positive  attributes are misleading. Why? because to say 'god is good' is to apply our human goodnesses to the concept of ultimate perfection and goodness.
        • 'God is love'
          • human love is flawed inconsistent and jealous, it does not apply to a concept like God.
    • pseudo: 6th century theologian in favour of 'via negative'.
      • spoke of senses, it is counter-productive to speak of God as though he can be experienced through the senses, Because then we end up with a concept of God that s far too small.
        • Via Negativa  maintains that it is more useful to accept the mystery of God and let him come to us, instead of searching for an explanation.
          • Maimondies- research his idea of the ship through via negativa.
          • Strength: recognition of the fact that we have to go beyond our everyday language to understand God. We cannot apply equivical/univocal words to a concept like God.
            • underlines and reaffirms the belief that God is nothing like us.
            • does use figurative language and so is not open to interpretation and therefore can be used across cultures.
          • we cannot apply the process of elimination to something outside of our knowledge because how then does one ever come close to understandingGod? In the same way that if you told someone that the opposite to black is white if they have never exp white how would they know where to begin?
          • Anthony Flew in his Theology and Falsification. If we simply describe God by what he is not then what is the difference between the concept of God and the concept of nothingness?
          • Holy scripture uses positive attributes: God is a shepherd, God is a rock. How can this be wrong?
    • Analogy
      • we can use three types of language according to Aquinas: equivocal,  univocal and analogical.
        • analogy can be used in two ways : attribution and proportionality
          • attribution:  when we speak of god as living it is because he is the cause of life.
          • proportion: a dog can be clever as far as dogs intelligence goes but a scientist can be cleverer than other people. when we talk of God's love we must recognise the scale of which we are speaking of.
        • Aquinas made it clear that he thought it was important that one can never 'wholly know god'.
    • Stephen Evans:  there is nothing wrong with accepting that our knowledge of God is limited. as long as the believer understands ENOUGH to worship that is all that matters
      • Rudolph Otto: mysterium tremendum is describing the otherness of God.
    • symbol
      • Tillich: a symbol participates in the object represented.
        • national flag provokes the feeling of patriotism.
          • Tillich: all religious ideas and language is symbolic and points to something beyond itself. That Is how one understands God.
  • some people criticise using emotional language to speak of religion is just hysteria.




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