The analogous naming of God strives to balance the reality that natural theology knows God through creatures with the fact that there is no single concept that includes God and the creatures- and this is even true if we take “concept” in the very broad sense that allows for us to speak of a “concept” of being. Said another way, we claim both to know God from creatures while at the same time saying that God is never included in the view that we get of creatures.
One way to develop this idea is through philosophies of dialogue – particularly Buber or Levinas. Analogy denies us a synoptic view of God and creatures, as though we might stand outside this relation and see its two “terms” as somehow reversible, homogeneous, or as two things laid out in front of us on some common field of cognitive space. But this sort of relation does not exhaust the possible relations that a self can enter into, and for Buber, such a relation is not even the foundational relation or the one that we enter into with our whole being. To relate to a person is not done from this detached, synoptic point of view, as though I could look at, say, “my marriage” or “my mother” as being nothing in addition to a set of homogenous terms (Me and spouse; me and mother) which my self relates to as an outside observer. Such a view of ones spouse or parent would be a terrible disease – a strange form of autism if not a sociopathic disorder. Thus, one way to interpret the necessity of analogous names in speaking of God is to see the doctrine as requiring us to relate to God personally. Our inability to make a single concept of God is creatures is because God is calling us to relate to him personally. Our theology, while stating completely intact in all of its truth, testifies to the further truth that we cannot be content to relate to God in merely third person terms because it is God’s very nature to be a pure “Thou” – a pure person. It is true that we can speak of “this thou” or say that “God is a pure thou”, and so speak of him in third person terms, but this is a feature of grammar and not of reality. The truth that one is trying to express is that theology itself testifies to our need to be personally related to God – that he can never be merely some capstone to a system or a solution to some philosophical riddle or some exalted species that we merely prove and discover and then file away in an ontological catalog. If we do not personally relate to God: in relationships modeled on father, brother, spouse, etc. then we do not understand him. A purely detached theology is a kind of mental disease – a spiritual autism or psychopathology.