Religious language Scholars

Covers: Verification and falsification principle, The via-negativa, Analogy, symbol and myth, wittgenstein's language games.


Verification principle

Strong- The vienna circle (Logical positivists).

A statement is meaningful if:

* It is a tautology


* It can be verified by sense experience

Weak- A.J. Ayer

A statement is meaningful if it can be verified in principle.

1 of 8

Falsification Principle

Flew- Parable of the Gardener

If a statement can't be falsified it is no statement at all.

Religious believers shift the goalposts so much that claims are so watered down, they are barely statements at all.

2 of 8

Criticisms of the falisification principle



Hare- Suggested Flew did not understand the nature of religious belief. "Bliks!"

Mitchell- Religious believers aren't blind to the problems of faith. Analogy of the stranger meeting the resistance fighter in the War. Religious belief does have some grounding in reason.

3 of 8

Via Negativa

Describing God by what he isn't!



*Prevents anthropomorphic statements being made about God.

*Is seen as more respectful.

*Supports the view that God is beyond decription and that experience of him is ineffable.

*It can be argued that only the via negativa adequately conveys the transcendence of God.

4 of 8

Weaknesses of via negativa

Weaknesses of the via negativa:

*result may be a very limited understanding of God at best.

*Its not a true reflection of how religious people speak of God. They seek positive knowledge of what God is.

*Claims no positive statement about God can be made.

5 of 8



Analogy of attribution - Baker and bread (Bultmann)

Analogy of proportion- Dog and faithfulness (Hick)

Avoids twin pitfalls of agnosticism and anthropomorphism.

Duns scotus- too vague

It assumes similarities between God and humans.

6 of 8

Symbol and Myth

Symbol- participates to that which it points (Tillich)

seen as vague
If religious statements are not literally truem then what content do they have?
Difficult to see what is meant by "participates" in something.


Bultmann- demythologise the Bible.

Interpretations are a matter of opinion- what is the true interpretation?

7 of 8


RABBIT DUCK- everything is a matter of perspective.

Language games and religion:

Everything has rules (Like chess). Religion is the same

Religion cannot be spoken of or analysed in a scientific way as it is not the same sort of thing.

Resembles fideism- the beliefs of religion do not have rational foundations and are removed from criticism.

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »