Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

Covered by:
Elsevier - SCOPUS
Clarivate Analytics - Emerging Sources Citation Index

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Divine Agency as Literal in Cognitive Linguistic Perspective: Response to “Conceiving God: Literal and Figurative Prompt for a More Tectonic Distinction” by Robert Masson

John Sanders
Published Online: 2018-10-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0037


In “Conceiving God: Literal and Figurative Prompt for a More Tectonic Distinction” Robert Masson criticizes my claim that some concepts of God can be literal in the sense of a non-extended meaning as defined by cognitive linguists. He claims that all of our ideas for God can only be through extended meanings (what is typically called figurative language). He says that blending theory requires this conclusion. In response I make three points. First, I argue that this is not what cognitive linguistics requires. Second, that Masson fails to ever show that “God is an agent” is actually a single scope or double scope blend. Third, I suggest that behind our dispute are different metaphysical commitments regarding divine transcendence. Because I reject his understanding of divine transcendence and he fails to show that divine agency must be understood only in an extended sense, I conclude that religious believers can legitimately claim that some of their ideas of God are literal (non-extended meanings).

Keywords: Thomism; cognitive linguistics; literal; God


  • Abraham, William. Divine Agency and Divine Action: Exploring and Evaluating the Debate, volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Dancygier, Barbara and Eve Sweetser. Figurative Language. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Google Scholar

  • Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy. New York: Scholastic, 1995.Google Scholar

  • Marion, Jean-Luc. God Without Being: Hors-Texte. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.Google Scholar

  • Masson, Robert. “Conceiving God: Literal and Figurative Prompt for a More Tectonic Distinction.” Open Theology, vol. 4 no. 1 (2018): 136-157.Google Scholar

  • Masson, Robert. Without Metaphor, No Saving God: Theology After Cognitive Linguistics. Paris: Peeters, 2014.Google Scholar

  • Sanders, John. The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, revised edition. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2007.Google Scholar

  • Sanders, John. Theology in the Flesh: How Embodiment and Culture Shape the Way We Think about Truth, Morality, and God. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Sweetser, Eve and Mary Therese DesCamp. “Motivating Biblical Metaphors for God.” Cognitive Linguistic Explorations in Biblical Studies, eds. Bonnie Howe and Joel B Green. Boston: De Gruyter, 2014, 7-24.Google Scholar

  • Turner, Mark. “The Literal Versus Figurative Dichotomy.” The Literal and Nonliteral in Language and Thought, eds. Seana Coulson and Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2005, 25-52.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2018-08-07

Accepted: 2018-09-19

Published Online: 2018-10-18

Published in Print: 2018-10-01

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 489–495, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0037.

Export Citation

© by John Sanders, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in