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Flashcards in Re lang - symbols Deck (20)
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sign vs. symbol

- Sign: used arbitrarily to picture something we want to acknowledge
- Symbol: participate in what they represent


tillich context

♣ Xian existentialist
♣ Wrote in the post-war years, focused on rebuilding and looking forward
♣ Thought Xian faith should be preserved
♣ Wanted to show a correlation between philosophy, the arts, psychology, history and the answers provided by theology
♣ His aim was to correlate faith and culture


view of god

The Ground of our Being
♣ Being Itself
♣ True Reality
♣ He is not terribly concerned with the doctrine of God
♣ Nor with the idea of God as a separate, supra-existent being
♣ And he says it’s impossible to say that God exists or God doesn’t exist since God is being itself

♣ Tillich argued that the very nature of God as being transcendent and the basis for all that exists means that any conventional language rooted in human experience is insufficient. Therefore, language must take on a different function in order to mean anything about God.
• There can be no doubt that any concrete assertion about God must be symbolic, for a concrete assertion is one which uses a segment of finite experience in order to say something about him. (Systematic Theology)


symbols allow language to be...

More like poetry than prose
♣ Mythical, heroic, imaginable
♣ Evocative of the experiences that it tries to describe
♣ As well as being able to say a lot more to the profound human spirit than conventional words


tillich and symbols general

♣ The language of faith is the language of symbols… it points beyond itself whilst participating in that to which it points.
♣ Symbols involve participation in the object represented e.g. national flag, evokes feelings of loyalty and patriotism whilst symbolising the country vs. sign - arbitrarily displays a concept
♣ RE symbolic language is a means of coming to terms with the meaning of human experience
♣ E.g. cross = not just a sign of Jesus’ crucifixion, but a symbol for his death, the meaning of it, his life, teaching and resurrection
♣ It evokes in Xians these feelings and touches the emotions in a way conventional language cannot
♣ Kingdom of God = not an earthly king, evokes God’s rule and authority
♣ Yet, symbols only work within particular times and places and cultures


tillich and internal reality

o Symbols express their internal reality to us
♣ RE symbols open up levels of reality which otherwise were closed to us… symbolic language alone is able to express the ultimate because it transcends the capacity of any finite reality to express it directly.
♣ Symbols can take us beyond the world available to our senses


+ Randall

- Motivation
o RE symbols e.g. the cross engage and inspire the emotions
- Social Function
o People have a shared understanding of RE symbols and their meanings
o This binds people together, strengthens social bonds and gives a common aim
- Communication
o Literal use of language cannot actually express that much
o Literal language cannot express RE faith, feelings or experiences
- Clarification
o RE symbols can clarify and disclose our experience of the divine
An artist or poet can reveal hidden depth to our word; similarly, a prophet or saint can use religious symbols to teach us how to find the divine; they show us visions of God


+ bultmann

+ Rudolph Bultmann
- Argued that writers of the NT never tried to make a record of accurate historical fact, but that they expressed their beliefs through the language of myth (considered radical, it took a non-cognitive approach to the Gospels as well as to the OT)
- Modern, literate person could not take seriously the supernatural elements of the Gospel stories
- We must ‘demythologise’ the NT


+ Robinson and van burn

Similarly argued that biblical teaching might not be fact


- general

- Religious truth, doctrine of God and God as a distinct being doesn’t really seem to matter to Tillich etc.
- It’s vague
- Tillich never explains what he means by symbols ‘participating’ in what they symbolise
- Perhaps this type of RE lang suggests RE claims are not literally true


- cupitt

- Don Cupitt in Taking Leave of God, religious language is actually about things we experience; not an external being a symbol for our own psychology and feelings



o Genesis 1 and 2
♣ Written post Babylonian Exile they carry stories and myths of the Babylonian people and reveal the ideas of God as shared by the Israelites. The idea of God creating in six days, the order in which things were created, e.g. light before sun etc. are all symbolic in that they represent ideas about God far beyond the literal meaning of the words.
o Additionally, the Psalms are hymns about the glory and majesty of God which are not meant literally. They are reflections of a people in awe of the creator and are meant to be read as such. They are not historical or scientific but are reflecting and the language is like that of a love letter, not meant to be taken literally but rather to emphasise the relationship between the two parties.


religious tradition. Tillich egs

o Tillich used examples like atonement and baptism to show how language was ultimately symbolic. The notion of baptism in literal terms is ridiculous. The thought of water washing away sin means nothing. However, within the Christian setting, carrying the beliefs about sin and the association to ritual cleansing, baptism means something far more significant and only has its meaning in symbolism.
o Lamb of God/cross itself


- hick

tillichs view suggests that there is no factual content in religious language
how does a symbol participate?


j.h. randall

• It may be that religious language is symbolic as believers use it to participate in their faith, but it does not bridge the epistemic distance between God and Man. Calling God a shepherd may be a quaint symbol but it still does not tell us anything significant about God, only that shepherds in the past used their terms to label God.

religious symbols are non cognitive and non representative - makes no sense to ask if they're true or false. e.g. music speaks to us but tells us no truths. same with religious language, it does not reveal truths about the world.



concepts such as eternal life are not about literally living forever but are more about expressing a quality of life in the present


- edwards

no factual content


+ lib xians

bible is symbolic

- fundamentalists


+ louis dupre

link between art and religion


- Macquarrie

He argues we might say “clouds are a sign of rain”, which is an example of how a sign can have an intrinsic connection withwhat it signifies, in contradiction to Tillich’s claim that this is the function of a symbol, not a sign!