A2 Philosophy of Religion (OCR) - Tillich on Religious Language

An explanation of Paul Tillich's ideas and views on religious language. If you think anything is incorrect or missing, please let me know! Thanks and good luck :)

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Daisy
  • Created on: 26-04-12 17:19
Preview of A2 Philosophy of Religion (OCR) - Tillich on Religious Language

First 491 words of the document:

Religious Language
Describe and explain Paul Tillich's ideas about religious language
Paul Tillich proposed that religious language was not to be taken as literal, but as
symbolic. This meant it could not be proved or disproved by verification or falsification
By claiming that religious language is symbolic, Tillich thought that religious language
uses the imaginative and mythical side of human nature to convey fundamental truths
about God that we could not otherwise know. This was done through the use of a symbol,
which "opens up levels of reality which otherwise are closed to us". He wrote that a symbol
also "unlocks dimensions and elements of our souls". According to Tillich, there was no other
way than these to access truths about God. This was because God is completely beyond
human nature, and so we cannot know him or his nature through literal language, because
it is human language and (by definition) God is beyond human comprehension.
An easier way to understand this concept is to use an analogy; art. Artists use art to
create different levels of reality that we otherwise cannot access. This often causes new
appreciation and understanding in the observer. However it is important to note that this
analogy can only be used because it is analogous to Tillich's ideas, not to God. Tillich
rejected Aquinas' use of analogy, as he proposed that analogies concealed more about God
than they revealed.
Tillich also rejected the idea that you could talk literally about God. He claimed that
language used in a literal way conveyed a false impression about God. The only literal way
of talking about or referring to God is to say that God is "Being itself". By using only
symbolic language, Tillich avoided thinking of God as a super human being but retaining
God's substance. This was something praised by Hick, who said that Tillich's ideas help
guard against the idolatry of anthropomorphism. However Hick also criticised parts of
Tillich's theory, saying that he focused too much on the aesthetic aspect of religious
language, and neglected other equally valid methods of communication.
Tillich's ideas can also be confusing because they do not explain the relationship
between the symbolic expression and the reality it points to. There is no connection
between the ultimate reality (God) and the symbol used described, only stated. This does
not help understand the link between our reality and the higher reality of God. This leads
to a further complication that we cannot know how valid the symbols are about God. We
don't know anything about the ultimate reality and so we cannot judge what a `good'
symbol is, and what a `bad' symbol is.


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all resources »