Slides in this set
Definition of Symbolic Language
· A symbol is something that has deep
communicative power and invokes
participation in the intended meaning.
· For Christians, symbols have become
powerful ways of communicating religious
ideas, particularly the cross, baptism and the
bread and wine. A sign however is often seen
as pointing you in a certain direction.…read more
· Religious symbols serve four main
A motivational one; to fire up our emotions.
A social one; people have a common social
understanding of the symbols.
A communicative one; symbols express
religious faith better than religious language
Religious symbols clarify and disclose our
experiences of the divine; trying to explain it
would be like trying to explain the Mona Lisa.…read more
Paul Tillich- 20 Century
· Argued that religious language is symbolic and symbols communicate
something which is often difficult to put into words.
· Tillich says that symbols may be understood in two ways:
They point to something beyond themselves.
They participate in that to which they point.
Symbols open up levels of reality which are otherwise closed for us.
They also open up levels and dimensions of the soul which
correspond to those levels of reality.
· Symbols themselves are independent of empirical criticism; therefore
belief in God can only be expressed through the use of symbolic
language. As a result, symbolism opens up a depth of reality that would
otherwise remain closed.
· Religious statements are symbolic but are nevertheless cognitive
statements. A symbol `participates in that which it points'. E.g. A flag is
symbolic of the nation that it represents.…read more
· Words become symbolic rather than literal. We
are aware of religious symbols however what
Tillich is suggesting is that statements such as
`God is good' should not be taken literally but
should be used as a symbol.
· Symbols have both negative and positive
aspects as words cannot adequately describe
God but their meaning is always `partially
negated by that to which they point'.…read more
Criticisms of Tillich
· His ideas are too vague.
· If religious statements are not literally true, then it's
difficult to see what content that they may have.
· It is difficult to be clear on what is meant by the idea of
a symbol participating in something.
· John Hick argues that Tillich never really explains
how the idea of `participation' works. Tillich would
argue that the statement `God is good' is symbolic.
Hick asks how the symbol of God being good
participates in `Being itself'? Similarly, taking the
example of the flag, how does this add any power to a
king's authority? Burning a flag is an act of national
hatred but it does not mean a loss of power.…read more