Sunday, July 08, 2007

An analogous understanding of God

The other day I read something in my theology book that really caught my attention. It was this: there are only three ways we can ascribe or describe the attributes of God. Univocally, equivocally, and analogically.

Got that? :-) Let me explain. Univocal description means to attribute the characteristic to God in the exact same way we attribute it to creatures. But we can't really compare creatures to God in exactly the same way because he is not like us--he is an infinite being. Every word you use to describe God must be multiplied by infinity, for instance, and that doesn't apply to us at all.

Equivocal description means that we would apply an adjective to God in an entirely different way than we apply it to creatures. But if you tried to apply adjectives to God in an entirely different way than we applied the same word to creatures, we'd be left in the darkness. God would be unknowable. He would be so completely different that we could never understand him.

So we are left with analogical attribution when we talk about God . . . and I love this, because this is what storytellers do. We create analogies. Novels say, "Life is like this . . ." Analogical language means we apply adjectives to God in a similar way.

So when we say God is love, we are saying that his love is like our love, but we realize that his is infinite, immutable, eternal, and holy. It's similar to our love. We can study his creation and see something of his beauty. We can experience the bond between a parent and child and realize that this is similar to how He cares for us.

So when we create stories, in which fictional people grapple with problems that will hopefully resonate with the reader, we are using the same tools we must always use to communicate about God.

I found that simply fascinating.


Kay said...

I love analogies! I am always using them to grasp things. In Bible study I am often blurting out, "It's kinda like this..."

We get a tiny understanding of God as Father, Shepherd, King, etc because of the Bible's use of analogy.

Dianne said...

Wow, that is fascinating and gives a whole new importance to story. Thanks for sharing.

oh amanda said...

I love this! The way I think of it is this: you can't say, "God is a Father like your earthly dad is a father." No. Your dad is an earthly example of your Heavenly Father. God's ways are HIGHER than ours! His "fathering" is so much higher than our earthly dad's could ever be! I love my dad and to think about God my Father being "higher" than that is awesome! Thanks for reminding me!