Thursday, March 08, 2007

Aquinas on religious language

I. The problem of religious language
When we say, for example “God is good,” what do we mean? Are religious terms univocal, equivocal or analogical?

II. Do the terms mean the same things?
If the terms are univocal, that means God-talk means exactly the same thing that it means when we apply it to human beings. But God’s goodness is different from human goodness.

III. Do they mean completely different things?
A soda, a pancake, and a trumpet’s pitch can all be flat, but the words mean different things in each case. Does the term “good,” when applied to God, mean something completely different from goodness as applied to a friend?
Aquinas says no. The meaning of all our terms, even those we apply to God, are based on experience. There has to be some similarity between the concept as applied to God and the concept as applied to humans, otherwise we would not be created in the image of God.
IV. The Negative Way
The negative way claims that we speak of God’s properties by negating the properties applied to finite creatures.
But we cannot assert anything positive about God.
V. Analogy
Terms applied to God are similar to the terms applied to humans.
Starts with an object we know and say that what we do not know is like what we do know.

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