Between Similarity and Non-similarity. The Nature of Theological Language in the Thought of Peter Abelard


  • Damian Wąsek The Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow Copernicus Center for Interdisciplinary Studies Kraków, Poland


Słowa kluczowe:

abelard, faith and reason, theory of similarities, hermeneutics, theological language, theological method


the aim of this paper is to answer to the following question: How should theological propositions, originating from the language used to describe creatures, be understood so as to avoid idolatry, that is reducing God to the category of contingent entities?
Using the theory of similarities formulated by Peter Abelard, I pointed out that the risk of committing theological errors decreases when language formulas are treated as models, and their meaning is understood in a figurative way. Such an attitude enables us to acknowledge the fact that language can be only partially adequate to the subject under discussion, and makes us aware that we describe only one aspect of a given theological phenomenon, as the chosen model may not correspond to other aspects.
Such understanding of the theological language calls for a constant reinterpretation of theological propositions. If images used in theology are linked to the structure of the world, each change in the scientific understanding of this structure brought by empirical sciences, should lead to changes in the language used by theology. Lack of such changes in the system of religious beliefs will lead to a decrease in the credibility of theology and push its truths towards the category of myths and fables.


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