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Previous: 9.5 Combining the Arguments from Being and Love Up: 9. God is Not Us Next: 10. Images of God

9.6 Analogical and literal language

The previous section has presented some analogies for how we might be related to the divine. In some traditions of religious philosophy, such as that of Aquinas, this is all that can be given. According to him, we talk about love with humans and love with God, but these are not strictly the same thing. Rather, God has something that is like the love that we know. It is sufficiently like love that we do call it love, but it is strictly distinct. Terms in his theology are not univocal, but analogous. This is not the same as the apophatic theology mentioned in Chapter 7, but it would mean that any theistic science would be difficult, since the terms we would use would not properly refer to God.

Duns Scotus (1265-1308) was one opponent of Aquinas on this issue. Scotus holds that ‘being’ is a univocal notion applicable to everything that exists without restriction. This to return to the position of Parmenides, for whom being is the central concept. According to Scotus, we should be able to unequivocally describe God with terms such as being, love and wisdom. Scotus’ view has become the dominant view in later Western history, and we will need it within theistic science. We should try to avoid using analogies at the most fundamental level of explanation. That should not blind us, however, to the crucial role of analogies in learning new ideas concerning nature and divinity.

In fact, some analogies are so important that they link not just our ideas, but also nature and divinity themselves. We call these relations correspondences. Part IV will explain how such relations are more than analogies and how they are important descriptions of structures and dynamics within theism. And, using theistic science, we will unequivocally describe things related by such correspondences and then see why the various analogies do hold. In this way we will have the univocal language of Scotus, while simultaneously agreeing with Aquinas that particular analogies are essential to understanding the relations between divinity and created things.


Previous: 9.5 Combining the Arguments from Being and Love Up: 9. God is Not Us Next: 10. Images of God

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