Religious Language

Mind map including the Via Negativa, Analogy, Symbol and Myth

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  • Created by: JMitch
  • Created on: 31-05-13 10:56
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  • Understanding Religious Language
    • Via Negativa
      • Means you only talk of God negatively
      • Started with neo-platonic Plontinous (3rd C) who linked form of the Good to God - argued that God is separate from this world therefore separate from Language
      • Pseudo-Dionysus (5th C) argued God is 'beyond assertion' - Saying 'God is good' limits God to human goodness
      • Moses Maimonides (12th C Jew) argued that the only positive statement you could make of God was that he Exists
        • All others are negatives because otherwise they would be anthropocentric or disrespectful
      • Speaking indirectly of God because he is greater and beyond Human understanding
      • E.g. God is not Human - God is not mortal - God is not subject to life or death - They link on one to another
      • Adequately describes the transcendence of God
      • Supports mystical claims of ineffability
      • BUT - doesn't tell us anything of what God is, only what he isn't
      • Subject to Flew's 'Death by a thousand qualifications criticism
    • Analogy
      • Proposed by Aquinas who said: 'It seems that no word can be used literally of God'
      • Speaking of God in human terms can have meaning as a comparison or an analogy
      • Terms that we understand such as goodness, love, power and wisdom can analogously give an understanding of God
      • Analolgy of Proportion
        • Have different sorts of love - family, spouse, friends, school
        • When applied to God, love is the greatest - Human qualities in relation to God are in greater proportions
      • Analogy or Attribution
        • Qualities ascribed to each other are reflections of the qualities of God
        • E.g. If the Bread is good, we can say that the Baker has all the qualities to be a good baker
        • This is the same with God - we ascribed goodness as a qualitiy to each other - therefore the creator must be good - have all the qualities of a good creator
      • Scotus (13th C) argued that analogy is too vague - cannot depict God's actions by Analogy
      • Hick supports the fact it keeps the mystery of God alive, but it does assume similarities between humans and God
      • Swinburne argues 'God is good' is univocal - can be used literally but is to a greater degree
    • Symbol
      • 'Pattern or object which points to an invisible, metaphysical reality and participates in it' (Schubert)
      • E.g. a cross would be a symbol pointing to Jesus death but by having a deeper meaning that it was sacrificial
      • Paul Tillilch
        • Our main concern is the 'ground of being' or the 'ultimate reality'
        • Argued that all religious language is symbolic
        • It points to a focus (of the ground of being) and participates in it - it gives us further understanding of the ultimate reality
          • But how can something participate in something else?
        • Symbols are like music  capturing moods and communicating meaning
      • Example of symbolic language could be 'God loves me' - points to focus of Ground of being and participates in it - giving you comfort etc.
      • But - this is a vague concept - what is a symbolic 'good'?
    • Myth
      • Ideas are expressed through myth can give cognitive knowledge of God
      • Story which is not just a True/False description but conveys  truths or values of a society or a culture
      • Conveys truths about God as creator and the human place in creation
      • Rudolf Bultmann
        • 'Use of images to express the other worldly in terms of this world'
        • Tried to demythologise the Bible
        • But - what are the meanings of Jesus' miracles if they are mythical?


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