Symbol And God Essay

1158 words - 5 pages

Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the use of symbol as a means of expressing human understanding of god

Religious truths can be revealed in different ways such as through symbolic language, images, and statements. God is believed to be much greater than we can possibly imagine, as defined by philosopher Anselm (1033-1109) 'That which nothing greater can be conceived'. It can be difficult to use our own language as a way of describing God and his attributes. The complexity of talking about God is shown in the quote, 'God can be thought about more truly than he can be talked about, and he is more truly than he can be thought about' (De Trinitate - 'On the Trinity'). A symbol is ...view middle of the document...

Symbolic language is also used in the Bible, for example Jesus says ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger.’ This is not the only point in which Jesus compares himself to an object with symbolic language and in some cases it is not exactly clear what is meant but Macquarrie would agree with this view as he claimed that religious symbols don’t tell us about the nature of God. I think that symbols can be useful in understanding God because everybody would have a view on what a specific symbol means, therefore with the difference in opinion we can obtain a wider understanding of God’s true nature as it is meant to be beyond words and simple literacy which we use to describe him. Therefore comparing God to his own creations and also our creations in which we all have different ideas and characteristics associated with may be easier to get a concept of what God is truly like rather than applying man made words which have a fixed definition to a spiritual entity beyond our imagination. However, with the Verification Principle you would have a completely separate view point on Religious Language on the whole as A.J Ayer did, the man who created the weak form of the verification principle rules out religious and ethical language as meaningless. Like Hume, he rejected statements with no logical or empirical evidence. Both Philosophers were very logical and Ayer believed in the use of the verification principle as a means of claiming arguments are invalid unless they can be empirically tested (tested using our own senses).

Another issue with God being described through symbols is that there have been many different understandings of God. Some people think he is omnipresent, others believe he is watching us all from heaven rather than being everywhere at once. Also God is described as an entity. Therefore God must be spaceless and timeless. Another issue is if God created space and time, God has to be very different from anything in the universe which is God made e.g. God does not have a body (since bodies occupy space and time...

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