What does it do?
- means of communicating about religion
- 3 contexts:
1) to describe/express religious experience
2) to communicate religious experience/content & describe beliefs
3) liturgy (formal acts of worship)
- Wittgenstein: language games
- sees religous language as anti-realist & dependent on context
2 biggest issues:
- how can words be used to accurately describe God (=> issues with univocal/equivocal language)
- is religious language meaningless (cognitive/non-cognitive language)
- if we use other forms of lanuguage, how can they be meaningful or comprehensible
- should religious language be understandable to those outside the religious community
- does religious language depend on making factual assertions
- based on principle of negation - saying what God isn't
- supporters argue lang. when applied to God = equivocal as he is metaphysical & physical lang. cannot describe him
- avoids anthropomorphism
- comes from ideas of Plato....
- Form of the Good = metaphysical & perfect, this world = physical & imperfect
- Plotonius: God is beyond description with ordinary lang. - we need to use the apophatic way
- Maimonides: God is 'wholly other'
- to make positive statements is improper & disrespectful -> we can know THAT God is but not WHAT God is
- Pseudo-Dionysius: God is beyond assertion
- 3 states of knowledge:
1) state of affirmation
2) the 'beyond' state
3) the via negativa/apophatic way
- Cole: 'by denying all descriptions of God, you get insight & experience rather than unbelief & scepticism'
- arguments/statements are meaningful ONLY if they can be verified
- any statement that can't be = meaningless
- Hume: only a sense of experience leads to real knowledge & a meaningful statement -> therefore religious statements = meaningless (EMPIRICIST)
- Vienna Circle - logical positivists - put forward strong verification
- ONLY statements that can be verified by sense experience are meaningful, excludes religious & historical statements
- A.J.Ayer -> weak verification
- statements can be proven 'in principe' or 'in practice'
- historical statements can now be seen as meaningful BUT religious statements = still meaningless
- Hick: argues for eschatological verification - statements may be verifiable in future
- example of Celestial City (life after death)
SWINBURNE: statements can still hold meaning for the believer!
Verification principle cannot itself be verified!!
- aims to determine which statements are scientific
- only scientific if they can be falsified
- Popper: developed theory -> only falsifiable statements are meaningful
- Flew: explorers in the jungle story - God-talk = meaningless
- God dies 'a death of a thousand qualifications' -> will always try to qualify their belief in face of contradictory evidence
- Wisdom: similar story of explorers in the garden BUT comes to a different conclusion - falsification cannot be applied to religious language
- Hare: argues religion is a Blik -> a way fo viewing the world - not open to falsification
- story of the crazy university student
- Mitchell: partisan & stranger story -> demonstrates how theists are able to maintain their faith, there is no need to qualify beliefs
- Swinburne: toy cupboard story - there are statements which we cannot falsify yet we are still able to understand the meaning behind them
- Ayer/Hick: maintain their views on verification
- comparison of 1 more & 1 less complex item to held understanding
- e.g. God is like a rock
- univocal vs. equivocal language issue -> Aquinas argues analogy = middle way
- Aquinas: analogy of proportion & analogy of attribution....
- proportion = all good qualities belong infinitely to God & also proportionately to humans
- attribution = God is the cause of all good things in humans -> 'upwards' analogy of attribution
- therefore we can gain insights into nature of God using analogy
- Ferre: argues analogy of proportion leaves us with 2 unknowns - no improved understanding of God
- also argues that proof of God is unattainable - how far will we go in comparing God to other things?
- Ramsey: models & qualifiers
- model = words & titles attrubuted to God
- qualifier = gives model further meaning; qualifies the belief
- Ross: analogy is not meant to logically prove God - it aims to enhance our understanding only
- 'object or person which points to an invisible, metaphysical reality & participates in it' -> Tillich
- sign = 1 dimensional
- symbol = meaning
- Tillich: religious language is largely symbolic
- symbols communicate key beliefs & values -> hold meaning & are difficult to change (e.g. national flag)
- God = 'ground of being'
- meanings of symbols CAN be changed though - e.g. Virgin Birth or Swastika (reinterpretation)
- Dinker-von-Schubert: symbols are important in normal language, therefore it's natural for them to occur in everyday language
- they identify matters we may not otherwise be able to express/conceive
- Stephens: our entire perception of the world is symbolic & so we only ever get some information -> religious symbols face same problem
- Randall: religious language is non-cognitive & non-representative - therefore it may cause confusion
- to overcome - should focus on FUNCTION not MEANING
- Edwards: symbols are non-cognitive & therefore meaningless
- Miller Burrows: 'approximate expression of truth, which the human mind cannot perceive sharply or completely'
- purpose = to communicate relationship with God, to interpret ultimate reality & to help people gain an insight into diffcult to express concepts
- origins in Greek/Hellenistic myths
- Bultmann: myths are outdated & irrelevant in today's society
- argues Bible should be 'demythologised' to reveal the true 'kerygma'/real truth
- Max Miller: 'myths are poetic descriptions of natural phenomena' -> idealistic, exaggerated statements
- De Wette: 'kernel of truth is hidden within myths' - useful for 'historical knowledge' about relationships with God - contextual
- Strauss: we need to move away from true/false scrutiny....
- move from a 'story of a MIRACULOUS OCCURENCE' to a 'STORY of a miraculous occurence'
- i.e. we need to looks at the meaning, not whether the event actually took place