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Liberalism versus PostliberalismThe Great Divide in Twentieth-Century Theology$
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John Allan Knight

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199969388

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199969388.001.0001

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The Liberal Response

The Liberal Response

(p.53) Chapter threeThe Liberal Response
Liberalism versus Postliberalism

John Allan Knight

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes liberal responses to the falsification challenge, which tended to be a version of one of two sorts. For noncognitivists, religious or theological utterances were never straightforward assertions, but are to be understood symbolically, or as expressions of an intention to follow a certain way of life, or as expressions of an internalized spiritual principle. Cognitive responses, on the other hand, argued that some religious or theological utterances are indeed straightforward assertions. Some argued that theological assertions could in principle be falsified, but in fact have not been (at least not all of them). Others argued that such assertions are meaningful because some things count as evidence against them, despite their invulnerability to conclusive empirical falsification. Yet both sorts of responses agreed with Flew that if religious or theological language is to be meaningful, it must meet the descriptivist requirements described in chapter one. This chapter considers the noncognitive response of R.M. Hare and the cognitive responses of Basil Mitchell, I.M. Crombie and Schubert M. Ogden. Though different from each other, liberal responses all assumed a descriptivist view of religious and theological language.

Keywords:   Crombie, I.M, descriptivism, Hare, R.M, liberal theology, meaning, Mitchell, Basil, Ogden, Schubert, reference, religious language, theology and falsification

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