Discuss the study of Religious Language

Authors Avatar by helenfreer7gmailcom (student)



Religious Language is about the way in which we speak about God and religious belief. Religious Language is about the way that we speak about God and religious belief. It is concerned with what people believe and why they believe and why they believe it. It includes worship, morality, dogma and practice. Religious language includes descriptions of the nature of God, descriptions of religious belief, technical religious terms and ordinary words that have a special religious meaning. The main problems with the use of Religious Language are that it is difficult to use human words to describe a transcendent God who is above and beyond all human experience. Human words are inadequate and this can cause misunderstandings. To use human language to talk about God is to anthropomorphize him. Some people believe that it is impossible to speak meaningfully about God. God is a metaphysical being, beyond the laws of science, which make him difficult to discuss. These cause some people to believe that religious language is meaningless and cannot be used as proof of Gods existence.

St Thomas Aquinas argued that we cannot speak literally about and argued that we therefore can only use religious language as analogies. He argued that univocal language couldn’t be used to speak about god, as univocal language is language where a word has exactly the same meaning at all times. When talking about god however, this anthropomorphizes him, as human language cannot be used to describe god as he is beyond human understanding.  Aquinas argued “no name belongs to God in the same sense as it belongs to humans;” Aquinas also argued that we couldn’t use equivocal language to describe God. Equivocal language is language where the same word has different meanings. For example ‘my watch is broken’ and ‘I watch the television’ the word watch here has two different meanings. In terms of God this means that the word we use to describe him have no real meaning as the nature of god is so different from the nature of humanity. Aquinas argued therefore that we couldn’t use univocal or equivocal language to talk about god only analogy can be used. He argued that analogy is a compromise and a way to solve the problem caused by univocal and equivocal language as it enables people to speak meaningfully about the transient God. He argued we could reason about god by using words in a non-literal way. Analogies use human terms but when applied to god they mean a similar but not identical thing. Aquinas called this ‘Gradation to be found in things”. Aquinas argued that there are two types of analogy. The analogy of proportionality and the analogy of attribution.  The analogy of proportionality is that all good qualities belong infinitely to god and, in proportion to humans. The analogy of attribution is that, God is the cause of all good things in humans and therefore God’s attributes are at a higher level than ours. For example human love is a pale reflection of God’s love.

Join now!

Ian Ramsey introduced a modern argument of analogy known as ‘models and qualifiers’. A model is an analogy that helps us to express something about God such as God is good, this is the model. We understand what good means in human terms and when we apply it god, it gives us a model to understand the goodness of God. We can qualify this model to improve our understanding of God’s attributes on a higher level. For example the qualifier God is infinitely good.

The argument from analogy contributes significantly to the study of religious language. It/ shows that depending ...

This is a preview of the whole essay