Explain religious language as analogy, with reference to Aquinas and RamseyWatch this thread
Some scholars argue that religious language cannot be cognitive. We cannot make factual statements about God because we don’t fully understand the nature of God. We don’t have direct theological ideas from God as God is a divine mystery. Thus, we cannot speak about God in cognitive terms. This led Aquinas and Ramsey to argue that God can be understood in non-cognitive, analogical terms.
Aquinas pointed out that God is ineffable. We cannot use our human language to make factual statements about God. We don’t really understand God and so speaking in terms of cognitive language is meaningless. Aquinas identifies that human language is univocal and equivocal. Both these ideas/features of human language are inadequate when speaking about God. Univocal language is the idea that words can be used in the same sense, for example, the meaning of a word is the same in all contexts. This cannot be applied when speaking about God. For example, in the Bible, it says that God is like a rock. However, we realise that God is not a hard, inanimate lump. Furthermore, equivocal language is the idea that words can be used in different senses/contexts. For example, take the word ‘bat’; this can be used to describe a cricket bat or a vampire bat. This use of language is inadequate when speaking about God. When we say ‘God is Father’ we are not suggesting that He is our father literally but that He does have some likeness/resemblance to that of a father. If we understand language in equivocal terms, it takes away the meaning of God as father.
Thus, Aquinas proposed that we can speak about God in terms of analogy. He developed two ideas to explain his view – the analogy of attribution and proportion. The analogy of attribution is the idea that God is universally perfect and the source of all qualities in the universe. He argued that human beings in some way imitate God. He uses the analogy of the bull’s urine to further explain this point. If the urine of the bull is healthy, the bull can also be said to be healthy. The bull can also be said to be healthy. However, a greater understanding of the bull’s health can be found within the bull. In the same sense, humans can understand the concept of God’s love because it is similar to the concept of God’s love is universally perfect. However, we can understand God’s love in some sense as it is similar to human love. We cannot understand God’s love fully enough; it is only found within God Himself.
The analogy of proportion is the idea that humans are made in God’s likeness; we bear some similarities to God and his abilities. We have qualities like intelligence and morality because we ae made in God’s image. However, humans are inferior to God as we such qualities in much less proportion to God. This idea was developed by John Hick. He said to consider the faithfulness of a married couple of fifty years and the faithfulness pets to their owner. The faithfulness of the pet to its owner is a pale reflection of the faithfulness of a married couple. In the same sense, whilst we understand God’s as it is similar to human love, human love is a pale reflection of God’s love.
Bishop Ramsey extends analogy and developed the idea that religious language is non-cognitive and is analogical. He developed the idea of ‘models’ and ‘qualifiers. Take the statement: ‘God is good’, ‘good’ is the model. Human goodness for understanding God’s goodness. However, we can get a greater depth of understanding God’s goodness by adding ‘qualifiers. We can add the qualifier – God is ‘infinitely’ God. This allows us to get a greater understanding of the nature of God. This allows us to make disclosures about God. It allows us to get a greater understanding of God so that we can speak meaningfully about God. As such, we can speak to those without faith in a meaningful way about God in a way that they understand God’s nature even though they don’t believe themselves