Nowadays we are beyond this: everyone accepts it as meaningful. The
question is, how meaningful, what kinds of things do we use it to
Religious language has accordingly been likened to or modeled as a variety
of "craft-bound discourse" (esp. the north American Catholic philosopher
James Ross), with the craft goal as holiness, life in the spirit, divine
sonship or daughterhood, eternal life, entrance into the reign of God,
rather than to make shoes or to play football or watch cricket. According
to James Ross, it is no more nor less strange than these others and just
as meaningful, provided it remains part of an 'anchored', 'embedded' and
seriously practiced craft. All the above have a technical language of their
own, and full comprehension is available only to insiders.
But also, and very definitely and now pretty widely acknowledged:
: to express, and such that involvement in presumes, commitment to a certain vision of life. And it is this which makes the feeling response and behaviour and the commitments we make somehow appropriate: not just for fun but because it fits in with the way things are.
In the case of religion, this latter is a vision at a very comprehensive level, like a very general theory or super-paradigm or system of metaphysics,
And it is partly validated by certain kinds of experience and the general experience of life which people standing in the tradition may have ( = 'founded' experience, in so far as standing in the tradition helps us to experience things this way).
Such a vision is not readily falsifiable. Compare the parable
of the Resistance Fighter told by the English philosopher Basil Mitchell
. But this is the same with all very general theories, paradigms etc.,
even in the 'hard' sciences. And as with such very general theories, paradigms,
research programs, traditions of enquiry, getting into them while reasonable
is not such that you could set up rules about: even philosophers of science
are not afraid nowadays to talk about an element of 'conversion'.
In order to make further progress, we will tap into the problem of religious language in three different contexts:
1) early church and medieval: culminating in medieval doctrines of analogy;
2) 20th Century Analytical Philosophy, where religious language has been a major issue since the time of the 'Logical Positivists' in the 1930's.
3) Continental Philosophy: Hermeneutics, Structuralism and Deconstruction,
as applied also to religious discourse.
For citation above, cf.. Basil Mitchell, editor, The Philosophy of Religion (O.U.P., 1971), pp. 18-19.
Proceed, as you want, to The Three Ways,
or return to Unit Outline