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different ways to talk about god

o Univocal 
♣ Using the same words in the same way
♣ E.g. the yellow submarine and the yellow banana
♣ Yellow used in same way 
o Equivocal
♣ Using the same words in a different way 
♣ E.g. the cricket bat vs. the bat (animal)
♣ Bat used in different way 
♣ E.g. I love God and I love my mom
•  Can grasp love for mum, cannot grasp love for God
♣ Gives God anthropomorphic characteristic – limits him (Aquinas – should use analogical language)
o Analogy – this is what Aquinas advocated. It is a mid-way between equivocal and univocal language.
♣ It has significant OT and NT basis e,g. God as father, shepherd



♣ Isaiah 44:24 - I am the Lord,
    the Maker of all things,
    who stretches out the heavens,
    who spreads out the earth by myself.
♣ John 14:6 - I am the way, the truth and the life.
♣ Matt 25 – example of analogy


aquinas half way

o Wanted a half way between equivocal and univocal language
♣ God is infinite and incomprehensible
• The same term cannot be applied to God and to creatures univocally
♣ Hence, the word ‘wise’ is not used in the same sense of God and human beings, and the same is true of all other words, so they cannot be used univocally of God and creatures.
• Words applied to God and creatures cannot always be used equivocally


aquinas general

o Aquinas felt analogy allowed us to get close to what God was like, while understanding that it is our limited human way of understanding God
o We must combine reason and faith
o Nothing can be completely effective in talking about God, he is wholly other
o When we talk about things around us, we talk about things in which we recognise God. This is us recognising the relationship between God and world.
♣ We speak via eminentiae of God i.e. we only speak. Of God in a way we understand, which is human and so limited
♣ God presupposes in himself all the perfections of creatures, being himself absolutely and universally perfect. Hence every creature represents him, and is like him, so far as it possesses some perfection: yet not so far as to represent him as something of the same species or genius, but as the excelling source of whose form the effects fall short, although they derive some kind of likeness thereto.


aquinas main argument

o 4 main points used to outline his argument
♣ Human beings name things as they know them
♣ Human beings know God from creatures
♣ God causes the existence of creatures
♣ Creatures resemble God just as an effect resembles its agent cause


analogy of attribution

♣ Analogy of attribution contains the concept of a derivation of one thing from another, and a causal link
♣ When we see the good in the world, we see the good in God
• If I say the baker is good and the bread is good, the goodness of the bread derives from the baker, but ‘goodness’ does not mean the same thing exactly in each instance. (Brian Davies’ example to explain Aquinas’ viewpoint)
♣ Gives an example of a bull
• If the bull is healthy, the bull’s urine is healthy
♣ Thus, because there is good in the world, God is good.


analogy of proportion

♣ The properties that one thing has are a smaller, more limited version of that to which they are being compared
♣ E.g. If I say that a child is a ‘good’ guitar player I mean they are good for their age. If I went to see a professional musician and they played to this standard I would be disappointed; for them, ‘good’ is a much higher standard
• Both goods have the same meaning, but one is ‘good’ to a much greater degree
• Whatever good we attribute to creatures pre-exist in God, and in a higher way… He causes goodness in things because He is good.
♣ Aquinas uses analogy of proportion in conjunction with attribution
• If we only use proportion, it implies humans are like God, albeit on a vastly different sale
• The proportion is vastly extended beyond human limitations
o If we say God has faithfulness, we can mean the same as our faithfulness, on the understanding that God’s faithfulness makes ours tiny by comparison
o H, may need both Analogy of Proportion and Attribution as it’s difficult to see how to the proportion can be meaningful unless both terms are known. Especially if we’re trying to talk about a God who is beyond human experience and the finite universe


- Stanislaw lem

• stanislaw Lem (individual) and Solaris (planet)
o The scientists on Solaris use a variety of analogies to describe the planet – a psychic ocean, a dying organism, an introverted hermit, an inorganic fluid etc.
o Yet, because Solaris is utterly beyond humans have ever experienced, none of these help, and it is never possible to know what it is, if it has purpose or a mind
I… wanted to create a vision of a human encounter with something that certainly exists, in a mighty manner perhaps, but cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images.


+ c.s. Evans

analogy is a way to explain the mysterious ‘otherness’ of God


+ hick

Hick comments that analogy enables us to make some statements about God yet still preserve mystery present in Christian theology.
o Analogy of Proportion – things on earth derived from God as he created them, thus are ‘shadows and remote approximations’ of him.

Hick argued that non-empirical claims are such that they cannot in principle be true/false. Only statements that are, in principle, empirically verifiable have cognitive meaning. However, he posits the notion of eschatological verification (allegory of the quest to the Celestial City). He would thus argue that the possibility of the analogies being eschatologically verified allows them to contribute effectively to God-talk.


+ Erich przywara

‘analogy serves to make expressible in speech the unknowable God in his unknowability’


+ davies

Analogy of Attribution – uses the analogy of bread, if we say that the bread is good, it must mean that the baker is also good, the bread is the product of the baker and so his goodness spreads to the bread.


+ taede smedes

• Taede Smedes – God is so far beyond the world that there can be no common standard to which both God and the world can be compared, thus we can only conceive of God through metaphors and analogies.


+ mcgrath

Alister McGrath – because God is expressed in the world, it is legitimate to use entities within the created world as analogies for God. This does not reduce God to the level of a created object or being, but affirms that there is a likeness between God and that being, which allows the latter to act as a signpost to God.


- st paul

St Paul suggests that we might need to wait until we see God in order to fully be able to describe him through analogy. Cannot use analogy if we do not know what we are describing. ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known’ (1 Cor 13:12)


- gamwell

A similar view is expressed by Franklin I. Gamwell in his ‘The Journal of Religion’. ‘Since we cannot have an independent understanding of what is thereby designated, we cannot understand the relation by which the application of a name to God determines its status as an analogical name.’ (p.193)


- scotus

The 13th century philosopher Duns Scotus argued that Aquinas put forward two conflicting messages. He welcomes and emphasises the use of via eminentiae to express language of God but he also accepted terms such as God is infinite, immortal etc. which are clearly opposite to this. However, some argue that they had a bad relationship and that this contributed to Duns Scotus’ criticism…
o Duns Scotus, analogy is too vague and doesn’t allow anything factual to be said of God.


- barth

Karl Barth rejected the idea that there is a common denominator between God and created beings as if they are reduced to the same genus. He described the eminentiae as the ‘Antichrist’, arguing that it removed God’s pre-eminence.

we need revelation


- ayer

A. J. Ayer would argue that analogical statements referring to God are impossible to verify and thus do not support effective expression of language about God. (However, one could respond using the views of Wittgenstein, since the use of analogy is meaningful to those within the religious language game)


- blackstone

Some such as William Blackstone have argued that Aquinas’ analogical approach is unhelpful as we have to translate the analogies into univocal language before they mean anything; we have to know how God’s love relates to human love before we understand anything.


- ahluwalia

Libby Ahluwalia: ‘It is not always clear exactly in what respects two things are being considered similar - in what respects might the love or the justice of God resemble our own, and how are they different?’


- Swinburne

Richard Swinburne argues that we don’t really need analogy at all. When we say ‘God is good’ and ‘humans are good’ we may be using good to apply to different things, but we are using it to mean the same thing i.e. using good univocally.


+ pope Francis

god can be experienced through creation, nature reveals the glory of God
in line with analogy of attribution


criticisms of combining reason and faith

♣ - Barth, Human reason is corrupt, should turn to revelation
♣ - Phillips: justifying God through reason is wrong as it does not engage with the true nature of RE belief. In P’s POV, belief in God is intelligible and acceptable on its own terms.
- augustine


+ Aristotle

based his arguments on the theory of likeness

strength of analogy relies on number of similarities


Ian ramsey

developed the disclosure situation and qualified model
- disclosure situation = when we somehow see through and beyond the reality in front of us e.g. a teacher can draw and redraw a polygon with more and more sides until it resembles a circle. but it is not a circle and we see through that as we can closely examine how it is made of lots of lines. similar moving beyond can be seen in RE lang
- qualified model = if we say god is the first cause, we recognise this is a model to make sense of how god created the universe. make assumptions from the model of an aeroplane what the real one will look like, it is analogy of the real one. when we say god is the first cause, god would not be a cause in a sense we might understand it from physics. it is simply like cause in the normal sense, it qualifies the notion.