'God is Love' is a grammatical remark

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


God and love are central to religion and feature in everyday religious life, but what the religious say about God and love can appear strange to the nonreligious. Sentences like ‘God loves you’ raise questions about the existence of God, the nature of its love and the evidence at hand, but sentences like ‘God is love’ raise questions about meaning – what does it mean to say that ‘God is love’? Wittgenstein approached religion in his later work by examining how religious language, belief, and life overlap, and this was developed further by D. Z. Phillips, Rush Rheese and Peter Winch. Together they argued that God and love share a grammatical and not necessarily metaphysical relationship, and so understanding religious language is essential to understanding religious beliefs about God and love. This paper adopts this view and proposes that ‘God is love’ is a grammatical remark that shows us how to speak about God and love, and specifically that God and love are grammatical objects that share an internal relationship. This lets us see religious beliefs about God and love in a different light; that religious beliefs are different to other kinds of belief like those in science, and that one’s belief in God cannot be divorced from one’s belief in love. The paper concludes that ‘God is love’ shows us that a belief in God is an expression of love, and that both religious language and belief must be understood within the context of religious life.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023
EventThe British Society for the Philosophy of Religion 2023

: Love, Religion, and God
- Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Aug 20232 Sept 2023

Academic conference

Academic conferenceThe British Society for the Philosophy of Religion 2023

Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Wittgenstein
  • Religious language
  • BSPR
  • theology
  • grammar
  • religious studies


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