Originally posted by JS357
A member called vistesd mentioned in the Santorum thread, [b] ...much, maybe most, religious (or "spiritual", if one prefers) language is not intended to be factual or poropositional, but allusive and elicitive (especially poetry).
I believe this issue is central to the themes that keep coming up on this forum. I suggest the following for interested rea ...[text shortened]... re are driven by both sides failing to understand or accept the bolded statements above.[/b]
Just for clarity (hopefully)—
I obviously realize that there are intelligent people who disagree with (and have historically disagreed with) my view—but I would argue that the kind of language I listed (symbolic, allusive, elicitive, etc.—e.g., Zen koans) is really the proper
language for at least most religious/spiritual discourse about what some might call “the transcendent” and others might call “the divine” and others might call “the ineffable ground”, depending on their particular understanding. The intent is to point (however indirectly—e.g., “apophatic theology” ) to the Reality that is prior to all our concepts about it, however derived (my own included)—and, indeed, includes us in that very activity of conceptualizing.
I agree with your thesis. I have often said, for example, that no one on these threads has ever actually argued about “God”—but only about different God-concepts. But your proposal here goes beyond just pointing out that this or that god-concept (or set of god-concepts) is contradictory or deficient—it goes to the root problem of confusing the concept with the reality, and idolizing
the concept. Herein also lies the sometimes tricky distinction between idolatry and iconography (in language as well as physical pictorial forms).
A couple of illustrative quotes from the Jewish tradition:
“Every definition of God leads to heresy; definition is spiritual idolatry. Even attributing mind and will to God, even attributing divinity itself, and the name ‘God’—these, too, are definitions. Were it not for the subtle awareness that all these are just sparkling flashes of that which transcends definition—these, too, would engender heresy. ...
“The greatest impediment to the human spirit results from the fact that the conception of God is fixed in a particular form, due to childish habit and imagination. This is a spark of the defect of idolatry, of which we must always be aware. ...
“The infinite transcends every particular content of faith.”
—Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine)
“The primary preoccupation of biblical teaching is not the existence of God, theism as contrasted with atheism, but the fight against idolatry. In all theism there is the danger of idolatry. All theism is idolatry, since expression signifies it, thereby freezing it; except if, somehow, its discourse refutes itself and so becomes atheistic. In other words, the paradoxes of language and its meanings are such that the only discourse possible about God which is not idolatrous is an atheistic discourse. Or: in any discourse the only God that is not an idol is a God who is not ‘God’.”
—H. Atlan, quoted by rabbi and scholar Marc-Alain Ouaknin in his The Burnt Book: Reading the Talmud
Ouaknin adds: “All the masters of Jewish thought, from the prophets to the contemporary masters, have understood that….”