One cannot explain or talk about God in ordinary, literal, everyday words or language. God cannot be talked using words that are applicable to the finite things of this world or in the same way as we talk about others. Surely, “God is other than the Universe…and ‘more’…(Ramsey,1971). In fact, nothing in this heaven or earth can be adequate representation of our God, who created them all. Hence, if we are to attempt it, it will delimit God.
However, scholars have described several ways to talk about the ‘eternal’ God using ‘language that is quite stretchable’. For example, Thomas Aquinas (Astley,2013) advocated using Analogy and figures of speech to talk about God, accepting that ordinary words to describe humans or earthly things cannot be used to describe God. Similarly, Higton’s (2008) described few thoughts for ‘talking about God’ such as –
One of the ways of talking about God is to do it indirectly, through patterns of our lives; the lives that we live responding to God. This implies, to live as a Christian model, following Jesus, who ‘demonstrated’ His Holiness and love for humankind. For example, sharing experiences with others on God’s mercies, healings, or answered prayers. Additionally, demonstrating God’s love in our everyday lives will bring friends and colleagues closer to believing in our God, eventually seeking prayer assistance in times of their need.
Therefore, living a life appreciated by God, is the most direct language for talking about God. Obviously, people will see the love of God in our lives. However, reflecting the identity of God can never be accomplished.
Sometimes talking about God by using metaphors, stories or analogy will be more appropriate. Although, metaphor “is a matter not just of words but of thoughts and is most difficult to interpret” (Avis, p.85), our imaginations are shaped by metaphors, stories, analogies than any direct description or language could achieve. In fact, Jesus used similes and parables (Matt. 10:16;12:40;13:44), metaphors (Matt. 6:22, Ps.23:1) among people (Stein).
So, we can use a language that people are familiar with and can relate to it. For example, explaining that God cares or protects like a mother or like a warm blanket.
Yet another way to talk about God is by using clear statements or facts about God through unambiguous language. That is, expressing clearly about who God is and who God is not, through ‘factual or truth-claiming experiences’ (Astley, 2004). For example, God exists; His love and blessings are for all as well as free.
Further, we can involve people in our experiences of God. For instance, God sends rain on both the good and the others; blessing poor farmers for their living and others for enjoying the fruits of harvest, surplus water supply or enjoyable weather.
Now, this is using literal words used in everyday life to describe God. That is ‘we need to talk of God in a straightforward manner, in a literal sense’ (Astley). For example, saying ‘God will help me’, when working on a difficult task, sounding like ‘my Dad will help’. Similarly, walking the ethical path because ‘God is watching’ that sends a clear message to others.
Additionally, other ways of talking about God include story-form, analog models (Ramsey, 1973), myths and symbols (imagining one thing in the form of another) (Avis,1999)
In conclusion, God-talk should be expressed through our lives; people are willing to move beyond religion and look at the ‘humaneness’ in individuals. Therefore, the lives we live will be evidence enough to talk about God. Challenges will help us to remember that “God is and remains a mystery” (Bromell-McFague,1993), until we meet Him.
*The above post is a part of an assignment
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Astley, J. (2004). Exploring God-talk: Using Language in Religion. London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd..
Astley, J. (2014). Studying God: Doing Theology. London: SCM Press.
Astley, J. (2013). Describing God. Challenging Religious Issues, Issue 3, Autumn. 18-24. [Online]. [Viewed 4 June 2019]. Available from: http://www.st-marys-centre.org.uk/resources/challengingreligiousissues/Issue%203_ChallengingReligiousIssues.pdf
Avis, P. (1999). God and the Creative Imagination:Metaphor, symbol and myth in religion and theology. Taylor & Francis Group company. London. [Online]. [Viewed 1June 2019]. Available from: https://epdf.pub/god-and-the-creative-imagination-metaphor-symbol-and-myth-in-religion-and-theolo.html
Bromell, D.J. (1993). Sallie McFague’s “Metaphorical Theology”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. [Online]. [Viewed 3 June 2019]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/30962848
Evans. D. (1971). Ian Ramsey on Talk about God. Religious Studies. 7 (2). 125-140. [Online]. [Viewed 3 June 2019]. Available from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20004878?read-now=1&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Higton, M. (2008). Christian Doctrine. London. SCM Press.
Stein, R.H. (n.d). Jesus’ Use of Figurative Language Use of Figurative Language Including Notes from The Method and Message of Jesus/ Teaching. [Online]. [Viewed 4 June 2019]. Available from: http://www.eldrbarry.net/clas/gb/b26figure.pdf