Critically Compare the Use of Symbol and the Use of Analogy to Express Human Understandings of God

Topics: Religion, Symbol, Linguistics Pages: 3 (1096 words) Published: March 7, 2013
Critically compare the use of symbol and the use of analogy to express human understandings of God The use of symbol to express human understandings of God is useful because it can hold a deeper meaning than can be described using words. The Christian symbol of the crucifix for example, reminds people of Jesus’ death on the cross, but the deeper meaning that can be gotten from this is the idea of Jesus’ as a sacrifice he made for our sins. Much language, both religious and non-religious is symbolic in the sense of being figurative. People recognise without needing to be told that when we are using words figuratively rather than literally. Religious people often use language symbolically as it helps create a short cut to understanding, however it can provide some problems with communication it is not clear whether a phrase was meant as a symbolic metaphor or whether it was meant literally. People use symbolic language to talk about God and their relationship with him, the language used is clearly metaphorical but it is effective as it can convey meanings that cannot be explained by words. These can be phrases such as ‘the Lord is my shepherd’ or ‘God is my rock’. A symbol, according to Paul Tillich, ‘participates in’ the object represented. Tillich claimed that all religious ideas and language were symbolic, pointing beyond themselves to ‘being-itself’, which was how he understood the nature of God. Tillich used the example of the lighted candle by the tabernacle in the Roman Catholic Church. Although to non-Catholics it would just be seen as a candle, to Catholics it is seen as much more. To Catholics, the candle next to the tabernacle represents the presence of God within the tabernacle and is very significant to them. Tillich said we are able to learn something of God, but our words become symbolic rather than literal. We are familiar with religious symbols such as the cross or the bread and wine of communion. What Tillich is suggesting is that even statements...
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