Religious Language - Using analogy to understand God

Analogy: an approach to religious language that compares the normal use of a word to its religious use. To say God is good means a similar thing as saying that John is good.

Anthropomorphism: conception of God as having the form, personality or attributes of man.

What is analogy?

  • Analogies are something that we use frequently in everyday speech.
  • To describe strawberry ice cream to someone who had never tasted it, you might say something like this, 'its like vanilla ice cream but it tastes like strawberries'.
  • An analogy is describing something that is unfamiliar to us by making a comparison with something that we already know.
  • Sometimes the analogy drawn may seem odd when we reflect on the language literally.
  • Yet a phrase such as 'her face was like thunder' does communicate something to us.
  • Hopefully low rumbling sounds are not coming from her face but nevertheless the phrase conveys something of the 'storminess' of the anger she has.

Why analogy?

  • Hence analogies are comparisons that are helpful to point.
  • We find ourselves saying, 'it is like.....but.....'.
  • Religiously, analogies are the only option available given the difficulties of making univocal or equivocal statements about God.

Types of analogy

  • Aquinas argued that language cannot be used literally of God.
  • The writers of scripture certainly do use analogies but thinkers such as Aquinas suggest that even terms such as 'God is good' should be understood analogically.
  • When I say that 'God is good' I cannot mean exactly the same as when I say that 'Gemma is good'.
  • God's goodness must be on a different scale.
  • Aquinas uses analogy in two different ways:
  • analogy of attribution
  • analogy of proportion.

Analogy of attribution

  • The qualities that we ascribe to eachother are a reflection of the qualities of God.
  • Davies - uses the example of the baker and bread.
  • If we say that the bread is…


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