Discuss the value of myth and symbol in Religious language

Topics: Linguistics, Jesus, Religion Pages: 2 (682 words) Published: November 20, 2013
Discuss the value of myth and symbol in Religious language

Myth and symbol are part of the complex structure and character of religious language and are used when factual statements are deemed as inappropriate in conveying a certain message. Religious language is usually non-cognitive, this is as it can be used in order to evoke emotion in someone, for example like the poppy which is used for the remembrance of the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for their country.

As symbols are non-cognitive, they are seen to not be factual. However Tillich disagreed with this view, and instead stated that religious statements were in fact symbolic and cognitive. He claimed that a symbol ‘participates in that to which it points’, whereas words and their meaning are ‘partially negated by that to which they point’. Therefore, symbols have some value when applied to religious language, this is due to the fact that words are unable to adequately express God. In addition to this point, Tillich also compared the function of symbols to one’s appreciation of the arts. Tillich believed that the arts impact on a person’s emotions; Tillich claimed that symbols did the same because ‘symbols like the arts work on a deep and powerful level’. This demonstrates that in religious language symbols are necessary to clearly convey the emotional message which accompanies the symbol. However, Tillich’s views have been heavily criticised. J. H. Randall agreed that language is symbolic but is non-cognitive. Randall argued that religious symbols function in a similar way to art, as they do not tell us anything about external reality, but do tell us about our own human experience.

Symbols may be seen as more powerful than words in religious language, this is due to the fact that both words and symbols can convey many meanings. Equivocal words exist like symbols have multiple meanings, such as the Christian symbol of the cross, which can convey the humility, sacrifice and atonement....
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