Wittgenstein and the Language of God Part 1 – Christian Theology

Introduction

What Wittgenstein did not realize in the writing of the Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus was that he was actually talking about the language of God. Such a perfect language could only exist for the capabilities of a perfect being, and in my view, the only perfect being is God. Unintentionally, Wittgenstein’s proof to stop the misuse of language has actually explicated (in an imperfect way) supernatural language. Since the Tractatus has been passed over in everyday life in favor of the Philosophical Investigations, it is necessary to show that it still has relevance, just not where scholars have been looking for the past sixty years. In the following, I will take statements from various works by Wittgenstein and show that, regardless of the fact that Tractatus does not apply to modern language in any fashion, it does refer to the most basic precepts of Christian theology relating to God. As Wittgenstein has a basic familiarity with the Christian tradition and mentions as such many times throughout his works, this extension could be a natural fit. First, I will explicate a basic Christian theology in regards to doctrines on God. Second, the Notebooks mention God as the meaning of life as well as working out the unspoken religious undertones of the Tractatus. Third, I will take a direct look at the overall structure of the Tractatus as a whole, looking to see where the Christian God and the Bible find direct application within Wittgenstein’s words. Finally, I will deal with the say-show distinction as an active way of life, and the reason for the existence of the Philosophical Investigations.

Thesis

Wittgenstein’s concept of language in the Tractatus is only a language for a all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good being – in other words, for the Christian God of the Bible; in effect, it details the workings of the divine, and how humankind should live as a result, something Wittgenstein took to heart.

Christian Theology

There are several basic concepts inherent to Christian theology, specifically about God. These may seem quite obvious, but any understanding of God requires his attributes. First, God is transcendent. God is, simply put, not a part of the world; He is distinct and separate from what has already been created. Secondly, God is known to be perfectly omniscient. God has all the knowledge of the world – since He has created the world, it makes sense that he knows everything about it: its current state, its past, its future, its beginning, and its end. Third, God is omnipotent. God, quite literally, can do anything that is in accordance with His nature, which is perfectly good. Questions such as “Can God create a rock he cannot lift?” do not disturb Christians, as this is not something God is interested in doing. Analyzing sacred texts reveal that God only does certain actions; omnipotence does not causally entail that God will do every action possible. By believing that He created the universe, it is also believed that He is a necessary being. The universe would not exist if God does not exist. As a result of this, God must be the only self-existent being in the universe, an “unmoved mover” in Aristotelean terms. God makes Himself and the universe exist at the same time. Since God is self-existent, He must be able to perpetuate himself forever. As God exists outside the universe, He must not be affected by time either. Thus, it is assumed that God is timeless and eternal. Those who believe that God resides in time prefer the latter to the former, but either way a self-existent being cannot be constrained by time.

God also has essential characteristics pertaining to what He actually does. For Christians, God is a personal being. He wants to communicate with humans, and can easily communicate with them whenever he wishes. Only those who strive for the spiritual dimension eventually comprehend the meaning of the universe – God. God created the world for reasons we cannot grasp; that we exist at all is a gift in itself to be cherished. Beyond this, God is a God who saves (to trot out an overused colloquialism) humankind from the disasters of sinful action. Sin is the misuse of God’s creation, or an dark perversion of good action; Christians agree that it is humanity’s fault that a sinful nature inhabits humankind. God is a redeemer, saving imperfect humans from desires that, in the long run, will only destroy them. For those who do not do what God requests – follow Him, abandon sinful actions – then God becomes a God of judgment. He will, in the end, judge every good and evil action, and reward that merit according with either eternal blessing or eternal suffering. There is also a distinction between grace and works; the former believes salvation is given, while the latter believe that salvation must be obtained through good works. Though there are many variations, these are the basics of any Christian denomination. To say they are the definitive expressions of faith, however, is a misnomer; they are just theology, imperfect conceptions that give a basic understanding of the world. In a sense like the Tractatus, one can say that God is the logical structure, and though it cannot be said, it can be shown. These concepts would be essential to Wittgenstein’s writings.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.