Mark Wynn

Religious language embraces a wide range of phenomena. Believers may use the language of religion to make statements (sentences which are true or false), to give expression to feelings, or to bring about some state of affairs in the very act of speaking (as when it is said 'I baptize you.'). Or again, believers may speak in religious terms in order to prescribe, to exhort, or to declare their intention of behaving in a certain way. Moreover, the statements of the believer may have to do with for instance putative events in human history, or with ethical norms, or they may offer (what appear to be) descriptions with a metaphysical reference. Clearly, the field of religious language is broad and complex.

For simplicity's sake, we shall concentrate on talk about God and distinguish three kinds of 'problem' which may be posed by such uses of religious language. First of all, there is a question about the relation between the sense of religious expressions and the character of the empirical world. It is clear enough that the sense of a term like 'red' is related to the conditions in which the expression 'x is red' is true. So it is natural to ask whether religious talk is also subject to some such relation, and whether any failure to tie the truth of religious utterances to specific empirical conditions would render them devoid of meaning. This issue we may call 'the problem of anchorage'. Next there is a question about the term 'God'. How does this term succeed, if at all, in identifying its referent, and what sort of reality does it pick out? This issue we might label 'the problem of reference'. Then finally, there is a question about how we ought to understand the terms which we predicate of God. Do these terms bear the same sense when used of God and of creatures? And if not, how are we to keep a grasp of their meaning? We can refer to these issues as 'the problem of predication'.

Following this simple typology, we can pose three questions of a religious sentence such as 'God is good': we can ask about the reference of the term 'God', about the sense of the predicate '.is good', and about the relation between the whole sentence and reality. I propose to address these matters by beginning with the problem of anchorage, and will proceed in turn to the problems of predication and reference.

Positive Thinking As The Key To Success

Positive Thinking As The Key To Success

Download this Guide and Discover How To Find And Monetize on Your Expertise And Strengths. Inside this special report, you'll discover: How positive thinking is one of the key factors in a successful life. Five ways and tools to help you stay positive. Use these to help you keep on track. Case studies that'll inspire you to stick to your dreams. Plus much, much more.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment