Religious Language ~ Philosophy of Religion ~ Continuation (EVALUATION of…
Religious Language ~ Philosophy of Religion ~ Continuation
and symbolic language:
argues that religious statements are not literally true. Almost all religious language that attempts to express ideas about God is to be understood symbolically.
For TILLICH, there is a difference between signs and symbols; symbol participates in to which it points.
TILLICH argued that metaphors and symbols help us to a better understanding of God and religious experience; they
'open up levels of reality which were otherwise closed to us.'
He argued that symbols take us beyond the world available to our senses. For TILLICH, religious language should seen more as poetry than prose, more like art than a diagram.
in asserting that ordinary human language is inadequate to convey ultimate truth and, like those who support the via negativa, TILLICH claimed that to use literal language of God is unhelpful and conveys a false impression of the nature of God.
TILLICH reasoned that we cannot speak literally of God. God is not part of the empirical world and so cannot be represented by the literal language. The only statement that can be applied to God is that he is the
'Ground of Being,'
the source of everything. All other statements must be understood symbolically.
The symbolic words we ascribe to God cannot be random or invented.
A symbol opens up levels of reality that would otherwise be closed to us. They also unlock
'hidden depths of our own being.'
EVALUATION of TILLICH'S SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE:
[-] It has been argued by
that TILLICH places an over-emphasis on the aesthetic artistic nature of religious symbol, making it appear very subjective and open to every kind of interpretation. TILLICH'S view seems to suggest that there is no factual content in religious language and open to appeal to the emotional response rather than a means of conveying knowledge,
[-] It could be argued that symbols leave us with no means of knowledge as to what is a valid insight into ultimate reality and what is not. We may not even know if we are interpreting a symbol correctly and we may even miss important aspects that the symbols convey to us.
[-] Symbols can also be very dependent on cultural and historical contexts in order to carry its meaning. For example, the symbol of a butterfly can have various meanings. It can represent love and life whereas in Christianity, resurrection.
[-] Symbolism is can be misinterpreted by someone from a different culture. For instance, the connotations of God as a Father can mean leniency or authoritative which can be influenced by upbringing, the absence of a fatherly role and their background.
[+] The ways in which symbols are open to interpretation is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Not only can the symbol carry personal meaning to the individual but allowing them to have a relationship with the symbol and providing them with new levels of meaning when they look or hear the symbol.
[+] The symbolic view of religious language perseveres the transcendence and mysterious nature of God, unlike analogy. To say that God is 'good' using analogy has a similar meaning to everyday use, risking reducing God to our level whereas the application of the term 'good' symbolically avoids this.
[+] TILLICH'S insight is that symbols are able to communicate deeply in a way that ordinary language cannot. This insight seems to accurately reflect our sense that the most important things in life are beyond words. For instance, ordinary language cannot coherently and thoroughly explain the altitude when a person has a religious experience.
[-] The fact that symbolic objects and symbolic language are culturally dependent and can be changed with time may mean that our ideas of God can change over time or to be misinterpreted. However, it can be argued that symbolic language can be changed with time may in fact be a strength as it ensures the message remains relevant to its changing cultural contexts.
The apophatic way (via negativa) and the cataphatic way (via positva) are very different approaches to religious language. The apophatic way aims to provide opportunities for saying things that are literally true of God. It tries to avoid the need for people to guess what an analogy or symbol might mean. Saying that God is 'invisible' doesn't require interpretation as it means the same thing today as it meant for the writers of the Bible. It does not imply something else or to figure out what it might mean.
Analogy and symbol, as examples of the cataphatic way, also has its advantages, in that it leaves open the possibility for different people to have their own individual understanding of God without necessarily judging one interpretation as right or wrong. This openness allows freedom for people to believe in their own way. However, it can also be possible that too much diversity of understanding can lead to conflict and inconsistent beliefs.