By Humphrey Palmer (auth.)
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IV. MEANING WHAT WE SAY 31 14 There are two rather different cases to be distinguished here. The sermon, we may suppose, was equally intelligible to all the audience. The preacher did not use words in an unusual sense. Each of his hearers could have paraphrased any of his sentences. It was the total effect that varied, as it will in any audience. One man accepted his urgings and saw the whole world, and himself, in a novel light. The next man had heard it all before. A third thought the argument was bad.
It is to such terms, not to words, that the Postulate of Univocity applies (see XV post). It simply demands that each term (word-or-phrase-as-defined) be kept strictly to its defined sense until further notice; that is, until we feel like a change, and re-define. 21 The religious teacher need not, on this view, apologise for using words in a special sense: even heathen and publicans do that. But he 34 THE THE OR Y IN OUTLINE must give some account of them. And that's where the difficulties start.
By 'God' we refer to an infinite eternal and self-existent being who is responsible for everything. And the contrast between these two definitions is certainly significant, for it supplied the main reason for refusing to take theological terms literally and univocally. But a definition affords only an outline and referential knowledge of the thing defined. Its primary function is to explain what we do (and do not) mean by a certain term. We cannot extract from it more knowledge than we were able to put in.