Earlier, I merely sent you the prayerful invocation uttered by Anselm, while purposely making no comment regarding his prayer because I was anxious to see what you had to say. Now I will point out that I too think his words are metaphorical. Since I know that is your position as well, it is now time to unfold the implications of your view.Blosser:
You're erudition is surpassed only by your charm, my friend.Interlocutor:
We agree on how "mother" was used by theologians like Anselm or Bernard in the Middle Ages. One thing that I don't understand, however, is why your view appears to lack consistency with respect to the metaphors "Father" and "Mother." For instance, when calling God "Father," you insist that the paternal trope (assuming it is one) informs those who encounter it via writing or speech WHAT God is. On the other hand, when medieval theologians address God as "Mother," you say that it does not tell us WHAT God is. I, however, believe that neither metasememe ("Mother" or "Father") tells us WHAT God is but only what the deity is like.Blosser:
Hey, my friend, do you remember where Zaliv Kara Bagaz Gol is? No? Well, I don't rememember what a trope or a metasemem is. See if you can C.S. Lewis-ize your lingo a wee bit.Interlocutor:
Well, I agree that both terms can be used to tell us what God is like, but, for whatever reason (I can't exactly say why), it's proper to call God our Father, but not proper to call Him our Mother, perhaps because the Bible tells us He's our Father.
Metaphors are "as-if structures." The tropic expressions "Father" and "Mother" (when employed with reference to God) only say that God is a quasi-Father or quasi-Mother. It is as if God were a mother or father. In answer to your challenge, you won't hear me calling Jesus "mother" in corporate worship since that would violate our "liturgical" custom. But I'm sure that if any of my religious brothers or sisters heard me employing such nomenclature, they would assume that I had either gone bonkers or was speaking in a metasememic fashion.Blosser:
Well, like me, they probably wouldn't have much of a clue what your were talking about and might doubt whether you did eitherInterlocutor:
As I mentioned earlier, Paul Ricouer argues that metaphors also dialectically preserve the tension between the "is" and the "is not," even if "is not" or "like" or "as" do not appear in metaphorical propositions. In another helpful study on religion and metaphor by Janet Soskice, we are told that metaphors are figures of speech that speak of one thing in terms suggestive of another thing. The key to remember here is that metaphors (as George Caird further points out) are linguistic assertions, not ontological pronouncements. They are literally false, but figuratively true. They assert unfamiliar identity syntheses, not create them. In short, I'm trying to say that whether one says "God is our Mother," "God is like a Mother," or "God fed the Israelites from his overflowing breasts," we are pretty much asserting the same thing. The truth-conditions for all three propositions are identical, even though not all metaphors assume the syntactical form "S is P" or "A is B."Blosser:
Of the "historical-critical" approach to the Bible, C.S. Lewis says that at first sight it is very convincing. I think I should be convinced myself, he ways, but that I carry about with me a charm -- the herb MOLY -- against it (you may know the classical reference to the herb Hermes gave Odysseus against the wiles of Circe).Interlocutor:
I sometimes feel thus about some of the experts in linguistic theory. They seem to find ways of twisting things around so that they no longer make any common sense.
I can see the angle of your argument. I understand the inferences. But I don't think I can buy it. I just do not see the "truth-conditions" (whatever that means) as "identical."
You distinguish between linguistic assertions and ontological predications, what is literally false and figuratively true. On one level, I agree with these distinctions as you apply them to metaphor. It's literally false that George is a teddy bear, though figuratively true. In that sense it's not an ontological predication, granted. But I don't want to follow those, like Tillich and many others, who want to make "metaphor" and "figurative" reducible to or translatable into something that can be re-stated "more accurately" in more "scientific" terms. How would we do that with "George is a teddy bear"? Try it. It doesn't work. Somethng is lost rather than gained by the attempt. So I want to say that George's "teddy bear-ness" does predicate something about his being even if it does
so in a non-literal way. It doesn't mean nothing (or just anything) to call George a "teddy bear." For those of us who know him, it has a very precise recognitional Wesenheit (that was for your benefit)! One thing for sure, George ain't no "chihuaha."
Repeat after me, my friend and instructor. :-)Blosser:
Metaphors do not literally synthesize or create identity: they assert it. They create meaning or new significances by stating that "S is P." I don't think what I'm suggesting diminishes the referential significance of terms such as "Father" "Shepherd" or "King." Nor am I sure that by "symbol," Tillich means to say that there is no actually existing referent for terms such as "Son" or "Mother." I could be wrong here, though. The bottom line is that when I predicate paternity or maternity of God metaphorically, I may be referring to God, but I am not asserting that he has the mind-independent properties of maternity/paternity.
"Metaphors do not literally synthesize or create identity: they assert it." I would also add that, when properly ("fittingly") used, metaphors assert identity based on the discerned nature of a being.
As for poor, schizoid Tillich, it all depends on which genre of his works you read-- his pastoral writings or his systematic writings. In the former it sounds like his metaphors and symbols actually refer to something. In his systematics works, it's not clear that they couldn't refer to just about anything, or nothing in particular. But that's another story.
I'm not sure what you mean when you say that when you call God "Father" you aren't asserting that He has "mind-independent" properties of paternity. Can you give me an example of a mind-independent property? Whose mind? What property?
As for my humble household, when we say "Our Father, which art in Heaven ..." we're referring to our Heavenly Father. Not a mother hen. Not Aunt Abbey. Not Boy George. Not even God the Son. But to His Father and ours. But of course my "innocence" must be quite frustrating here. Sorry about that.