But although its worth is again recognized, its meaningfulness is still under severe fire. Indeed, religious language is useful but neither true nor false. It expresses commitment, not correspondence. But religious language has always had its supporters. There have always been those who have held to and defended its cognitive status. Augustin, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin all defended the right of religious language to claims of truth- value. And in the history of the battle, the issue of analogy was, and is, central. Macquarrie begins a discussion of analogy noting this fact:
The problem of analogy is a very old one in theological discussion, but it seems to me that it lies very near the centre of the current debates, not only about language but about God and the meaning of the basic Christian doctrines. It is probably the case that many of those engaged in these debates do not explicitly recognize the relevance of the problem of analogy to their work, and may even think that it belongs to an older way of doing theology. In any case, the tendency nowadays is to talk of 'models' rather than 'analogues'--at least amoung British theologians, perhaps influenced by Ian Ramsey. But whatever terminology may be employed, we seem driven to something very like the problem that has been traditionally considered under the heading of analogy. (1)It is interesting to note that in the above text MacQuarrie virtually equates 'model-talk' and 'analogue-talk.' This relationship is important to note in that the trilemma of equivocity, univocity, or analogy is not transcended by any model-talk that aims at cognivity. Ian G. Barbour is even more explicit in this relationship as he gives a definition of model: "A theoretical model, then, is an imagined mechanism or process, postulated by analogy with familiar mechanisms or processes and used to construct a theory to correlate a set of observations." (2) Because of this relationship, a defense of the validity of model-language of God (or science for that matter!) rests ultimately on a defense of the validity of analogical language of God (or science). But this is often simply a defense of analogy in general, over against claims of univocity of 'other' language realms.
In Defense of Analogy
With the critical importance of analogy for religious
language in mind, a defense of analogy in all language may
prove a sufficient ploy to cause hesitation among the skeptics
long enough to allow us to pursue an investigation of the
basis of analogy in theological language. If analogy should
prove essential to most (if not all) areas of discourse, we
can question the respective areas as to their basis for analogy,
provoking them to study while we investigate our own area. This
we will attempt.
Its necessity for theology can easily be shown, but this
is of no weight to the critics, of course. Macquarrie has a
pointed statement of its importance to theology (including
non-evangelical theology): "This means that unless we can
produce some reasonable account of the logic of analogy, there
is no support for our other ways of talking of God, except the
via negativa; and, taken in isolation, this leads straight to
Science fares little better than theology does in this,
as is apparent from the dependence of scientific discovery
and explanation on theoretical models. Even though philosophers
of science are divided on the nature of scientific models, all
are agreed that they play a central role in the scientific
enterprise. (4) And given the relation of model and analogy
accepted above, science is seen to be also dependent on analogy in language and thought.
Theology and science are joined by philosophy at either the intellectual gallows or at the Royal Academy of Science, depending upon the reliability of analogy. Nothing could be more obvious in either the so-called non-metaphysical philosophies which focus on 'seeing as' (an explicit statement of simile !!!) or the deliberately- metaphysical thinkers. Obitts notes that
For those thinkers with metaphysical sensitivities, the 'seeing-as' approach typically develops into the view that metaphysical theories are analogies.(5)He goes on to quote Dorothy Emment:
As analogies of being, their metaphysical theories seek to say something about 'reality' transcending experience, in terms of relations found within experience. As co-ordinating analogies, they seek to relate diverse types of experience by extension of a key idea derived from some predominant intellectual or spiritual relation.(6)This dependence on analogy seems strangely unsuited to a discipline which claims to be so rigorous. Yet the dependence is there--acknowledged or not. In a recent article exploring this relation Paul de Man of Yale has expressed this question of dependency as a dilemma:
"It appears that philosophy either has to give up its own constitutive claim to rigor in order to come to terms with the figurality of its language or that it has to free itself from figuration altogether. And if the latter is considered impossible, philosophy could at least learn to control figuration by keeping it, so to speak, in its place, by delimiting the boundaries of its influence and thus restricting the epistemological damage that it may cause."(7)The writer examines key epistemological texts from Locke, Condillac, and Kant. Finding even the distinction between the figural and the "proper" to be expressed and discussed in these philosophers in figurative terms, de Man arrives at the conclusion that it "turns out to be impossible to maintain a clear line of distinction between rhetoric, abstraction, symbol, and all other forms of language.(8) Of striking significance is his lucid conclusion at the end of the discussion of Kant's Critique of Judgment (section 59):
"If the distinction between a priori and symbolic judgments can only be stated by means of metaphors that are them- selves symbols, then Locke's and Condillac's difficulties have not been overcome. Not only our knowledge of God, to which the passage under examination returns at the end, but the knowledge of knowledge is then bound to remain symbolic." (9)Having argued that theology, science, and philosophy are all critically dependent on analogy, let me merely note other aspects of our cognitive life that are bound up with analogy.
Quine claims that all language acquisition is dependent on recognizing analogous contexts for use of a word.(10) Mascall points out that the application of the transcendental terms (i.e. being, truth, good, life, etc.) to anything requires analogy.(11) Burrell, in an excellent treatment of the subject, points out that in actuality there is no adequate division between univocal and analogous.(12) This last point comes close to saying that all language is analogical. Indeed, more and more research is pointing in that direction.(13) A quote by Cassirer is representative of much linguistic study on the issue:
"But if this is indeed the case--if metaphor, taken in this general sense, is not just a certain development of speech, but must be regarded as one of its essential conditions--then any effort to understand its function leads us back, once more, to the fundamental form of verbal conceiving." (14)Some Observations
What emerges from this argumentative path, is that all
predication using a generic term is analogy.(16) If this is granted,
then the univocal cases of predication (N.B. not definition)
are only 'apparently univocal' cases. And once analogy is
allowed to stand as epistemologically legitimate--by default--
then no point in heaven or earth is safe from analogical description.
Whether or not this proposal could stand bears little relation
to the point that generated the above propositions. The point
was that if certainty could be mediated through analogy, then
the notion of a certain knowledge of God, cognitively mediated
through language might be possible.
The Character of Analogy
(In the light of our above observation, it is interesting
to note that the inescapability of analogy is demonstrated in
the title, or any paraphrase thereof, of this section.)
The essential elements in an analogy are the univocal definition (generic) and the specific application. These elements can be seen in relation in Geisler's statement:
"For generic concepts are univocal when abstracted but analogical when asserted of different things, as man and dog are equally animal but are not equal animals. That is, "animal" is defined the same way (say, as "a sentient being"), but animality is predicated differently of Fido and of Socrates. Socrates possesses animality in a higher sense than Fido does.(17)In this statement we see that all predication involving generics involves analogy, for all generics are, by definition, univocal. When the concept of the generic is correlated with the theory of verbal types, there does not appear to be any a priori reason to distinguish between finite and infinite as belonging to the class. (18) The class is defined only by the decisive traits, not how they are "possessed" by those objects. And if someone argues that the "how" can be placed into the generic term, then (1) a higher level generic term can be found in which that particularity can be transcended (bringing the problem up again) and (2) we can press the arguer to specify univocally the content of the "how" (without generics!).
If, then, analogy does not preclude the class of infinite typological "targets" by definition or nature, then infinite- talk is not really "extension of finite language to infinite concepts." Both finite and infinite analogical language may stand on the same ground of legitimacy. In fact, it can be forcefully argued that the finite references are parasitic on the infinite references. St. Augustin was one of the first to argue this and Aquinas defined his ascription of simple perfections to God in similar fashion.(19) Packer assets this point by arguing that such "extension" is really the function of language (and hence not extension proper):
By depicting God as the first language user, Genesis shows us that human thought and speech have their counterparts and archetypes in Him. By telling us of Adam, Eve, and their descendants listening and responding to God, Genesis shows us that references to the Creator do not 'stretch' ordinary language in an unnatural way; rather such 'stretching' is actually language's primary use.(20)(Notice that Barth's basic disavowal of analogy as being an extension of the human into the divine falls to the ground within this context. (21))
The Basis for Analogy
The basis of analogy is well-known to be similarity or
likeness. (MacQuarrie's view of affinity is not strong enough
to provide the univocal basis of the generic.(22)) But even the
basis of analogy cannot be discussed without the use of analogy. For example, in the concept of "likeness" or "similarity"
the concept is one of "possession" of identical "properties".
So it may be that in investigation of the basis we may end in
only uncovering another necessary presupposition to language
(i.e. similarity as basis for analogy).
Now the notion of "similarity" is surprisingly deceptive,
for as often as you attempt to define it, you invariably come
up with something like "the basis for analogous predication"!
Imagine the following dialogue:
The point is that similarity presupposes analogy and vice versa.
- A: "How would you define 'similarity' kind sir?"
- B: "Well...similarity is when two objects have something in common."
- A: "Oh, so it is a time period, eh?"
- B: "No, No. Similarity is a relationship. It's a relation between objects that have a common property"
- A: "Oh, like gravity. It's a relation between two objects both having mass in common, eh?"
- B: "No, no, not that kind of 'between' relation. It's more the fact that each entity has the same property."
- A: "I think I see...similarity is a proposition stating that two objects have a common property, eh?"
- B: "Not quite...similarity is not linguistic but ontological--more a state of affairs reflected by the proposition."
- A: "This is a little confusing, sir. You tell me it is an ontological state but you cannot define it other than by referring to affirmation of its reality. All it thus seems to be is a reason for making the affirmation. Try an example, instead. What is the similarity between a green leaf and a green shirt?"
- B: "The similarity is that they both possess 'greenness'."
- A: "Wait a minute...What is the last part of your statement but two disjoint, unrelated predications--'the leaf is green' and 'the shirt is green'--merged together using transformational grammar? You seem to be saying that a similarity is the reason for joining the two predications--'A has x' and 'B has x'--into the logical form 'A and B have x'. A basis for applying conjunction and the distributive law on the linguistic form? You seem to be saying only that similarity is the ontological basis for making analogical statements. Have you said anything different than this?"
- B: "I don't suppose so, but I thought I meant more than that when we began this discussion. Hmm...are you any kin to that rascally fellow Socrates...?"
If we know that we can speak analogically of x and y, then we
can posit a similarity, even if we cannot specify or conceptualize the point of identity beyond what is already stated in
the predications. To affirm 'similarity' is thus only to
affirm an analogy. But notice this important fact: similarity
is entirely independent of the other properties of the relata.
This means that the modus significandi (corresponding to the
modus essendi) in an analogy does not affect the ontological
similarity--the modi are not considered in the univocal element
of the generic.
Similarity of God and the World
The first thing to note here is an observation from the
above conclusion. Similarity can exist regardless of the
diversity of the modus essendi. That means that God can be
similar to the world even though He is infinite and archetypal
and the world finite and ectypal.
With this in mind, the acute necessity of similarity as expressed by Lyttkens need not cause alarm:
"The theological significance of analogy may be summarized by saying that some connexion between God and the world is essential. We are then speaking of the analogy based on and implying a real likeness between God and creation.(23)There have been throughout the history of Christian thought many attempts to explicate the similarity of God and the world. Lyttkens does a good job in tracing changing conceptions of this from Augustin through Anselm, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventura, Albertus Magnus and finally St. Thomas. He points out that Augustin based his analogy (i.e. affirmation of similarity) on the concept of the creature's participatio in God.(24) Anselm was the first to use analogy as a formal category and Alexander of Hales tied participatio to the cause-effect relation.(25) Bonaventura was the first to distinguish Modus from res but it was Albertus Magnus (St. Thomas' mentor) who taught that 'all that exists in anything does so in accordance with its special mode (modus) of existence.' (26).
When we arrive at St. Thomas, we see him using several types of analogy and basing the similarity squarely upon the fact that the effects pre-exist in the cause.(27) This doctrine has come under attack often, forcing a careful statement of the position. A philosopher sympathetic to Thomist thought has offered this careful and precise statement:
"In summation, the analogy between creature and Creator based on causality is secured only because God is the principal, intrinsic, essential, efficient cause of the being and perfections of the world. In any other kind of causal relationship an analogical similarity would not necessarily follow. But in an analogy of being similarity must follow, for being communicates only being, and perfections or kinds of being do not arise from an imperfect being. Existence produces only after its kind, viz. other existences. (28)In this scheme, the transcendentals (ens, res, unum, aliquid, verum, bonum) are not only in God but are God. That is, God's essence is the standard or reference point for being, truth, life, etc. Personal predicates (wise, holy-, etc.) are likewise intrinsic to God, but not just in that God is wise or holy but that His character is wisdom or holiness. As ontologically ultimate, He is the epistemologically univocal. Thus the perfections of the creature find their standard and definition in the character of God--a univocal point. But the efficient (as opposed to material) causality of God creates the differences in the modi significandi.
Whereas Thomist thought related everything back to God
as Cause, later Reformed Scholastics related everything back
to God as Intellect. We find statements like this: "The divine
ideas of the things created are forms existing in the divine
mind from eternity, not really distinct from the divine essence,
but which are actually the same as the divine essence." (29)
While this comes dangerously close to making the forms eternal
and necessary, still this does provide formal similarity
of creature and Creator. (How the problems are handled would
be of critical importance, of course.)
This idea, if placed into a Thomist frame of God's self-
knowledge, would imply that God's knowledge of Himself (and
hence of the world as pre-existing in the Cause) produced
forms in God's intellect that were structurally identical with
created reality. How could this be?
If God's intellect knows the effects (including their
form) because He knows Himself as their cause, then this
knowledge of the creation is included in but is not identical
to, God's self-knowledge. In other words God's essence includes
the potential (not potency) for ad extra works--potential for
creating (i.e. hypostasizing or reifying) relations. Since the
creature cannot be related to God's essence (or it would be
necessarily existent and hence God), it is related to God's
intellect/will as Designer/Chooser from among other possible
worlds. With an infinite number of possible worlds, God's essence
then includes the forms of all possible worlds. Thus God's
essence can be seen as including infinite potential for ad
extra works (to be distinguished from Thomist potency/act categories) and hence, self-knowledge would include the forms
(identical with essence) of this created reality. The similarity is shown to reside in the knowledge which God has of Himself--the ultimate reference point of all predication.
Although there may be better ways to configure this
situation, the point seems clear. The Thomist cause/effect
scheme provides for similarity between the essence of God and
the creature; the relation between God's intellect and nature
provides the univocal point for analogy. And the creation of
derivative subjectivities and objectivities after the pattern
existing in the divine essence and actualized by the decision
of the Intellect, created the access path of analogy by creation
of the first different modus essendi.
All language and knowledge is analogical. We are analogical
beings, ontologically and epistemologically, created by a God
who 'theomorphized'. Skeptics who would repudiate religious
language as being 'only analogical' must now try another tack.
They too use analogy in every generic statement and to provide
an ontic basis for this is very difficult in the skeptic's
anti-theist system! This relegation of all language to analogy
is not loss but gain to the believer, for although it might
seem to undermine some univocal statements, it rather guarantees
a univocal element in all discourse. A special language of God
is not required.
Similarity is seen to be the basis of analogy and only
univocal definition can orient us to the content of the
identity. The similarity of God to the world can be seen in
different perspectives, with God as Cause and Intellect providing
an adequate basis for analogical religious language.
The believer need not wear the 'persecuted minority' group feeling. Both he and his language of God fit in an analogical universe.
1. John MacQuarrie, God-Talk: An Examination of the Language
and Logic of Theology (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1967),
reprinted by Seabury Press in 1979, page 212.
2. Ian G. Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms, (New York:
Harper and Row, 1974),p. 30.
3. MacQuarrie, pp. 214-5.
4. Barbour, pp.29-48.
5. Stanly Obitts, "The Meaning and Use of Religious Language"
in Gundry and Johnson, Tensions in Contemporary Theology
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), p.133.
6. Dorothy Emment, The Nature of Metaphysical Thinking (London:
Macmillan, 1957),page 215, cited in Gundry and Johnson,
7. Paul de Man, "The Epistemology of Metaphor" in Sheldon Sacks'
On Metaphor (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978), p.11.
8. de Man, p.26.
10. William van Orman Quine, "A Postscript on Metaphor" in
Sacks, On Metaphor, p.160.
11. Eric Mascall, "The Doctrine of Analogy" in Religious Language and the Problem of Religious Knowledge, edited by
Ronald E. Santoni (Bloomington,Ind.: Indiana University
press, 1968), pp. 157-158.
12. David Burrell, Analogy and Philosophical Language (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1973) ,p.220.
13. see the entire volume referenced above in note 7.
14. Ernst Cassirer in Language and Myth, cited in the forward
to Sacks On Metaphor.
15, Mascall, pp. 161ff.
16. It could even be argued (if one were willing to tackle
Heraclitus) that proper names also were analogous when
applied to the same being who was never exactly the
same twice. Defenders of univocal predication would have
to answer Heraclitus first.
17. Norman Geisler, Philosophy of Religion, (Grand Rapids:
18. E.D.Hirsh, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1967), pp. 49ff.
19. Hampus Lyttkens, The Analogy between God and the World:
An Investigation of its Background and Interpretation
of its Use by Thomas of Aquino (Uppsala: Almquist and
Wiksells Boktwyckeri AB, 1952) ,p.120; Battista Mondin,
The Principle of Analogy in Protestant and Catholic
Theology (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1963) pp.95-96.
20. J.I. Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language" in Geisler's
(ed.) Inerrancy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), p.214.
21. This objection is summarized in MacQuarrie, P.48.
22. MacQuarrie, P.220.
23. Lyttkens, p.477.
24. ibid, pp.113-120.
25. ibid, pp.122-124.
26. ibid, pp.150,154.
27. Mondin, pp.85-87.
28. Geisler, Philosophy of Religion, P.285.
29. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House, 1978) ,p.192.
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