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Religious Language – Negative, Analogical and Symbolic

1. Talking about God

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In this module, we locate religious language in a philosophical context, focusing in particular on (i) the nature and limits of language (ii) the distinctiveness of religious language and God-talk (iii) abstraction, classification, and comparison in ordinary language use (iv) the variation of meaning in the context of use of propositions (v) the problem of referring to God (vi) criticisms of religious language from logical positivism (v) A.J. Ayer’s verification principle (vi) the survival of religious and metaphysical language.


In this course, Professor Simon Oliver (University of Durham) explores negative, positive, analogical and symbolic religious language. In the first module, we consider the problem of talking about an infinite God as finite creatures. In the second module, we examine the apophatic tradition, and how negative language can provide a sense of transcendent divine attributes. In the third module, we look at the cataphatic tradition and its relationship with the apophatic. In the fourth module, we explore Aquinas’ analogy as a way of talking about God, before moving on to look at Paul Tillich on sign and symbol in the fifth module. In the sixth module, we examine further theological and philosophical implications of religious language, paying special attention to the metaphysics of ontology.


Professor Simon Oliver is a lecturer of Theology and Religion at Durham University. His research interests are in Christian theology and metaphysics, in particular the doctrine of creation. His published works include Creation: A Guide for the Perplexed (2017) and Philosophy, God and Motion (2005)

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Oliver, S. (2022, June 15). Religious Language – Negative, Analogical and Symbolic - Talking about God [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Oliver, S. "Religious Language – Negative, Analogical and Symbolic – Talking about God." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Jun 2022,

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