Wittgenstein, Edwards, & the Substance of Things | Philsophy & Theology {III}

I’ve been slowly working my way through Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus Logicus-Philosophicus” and I ran across some ideas that seemed to connect with some of the ideas of Jonathan Edwards I had read in George Marsden’s “Jonathan Edwards: A Life.” This is not a comprehensive look at Wittgenstein’s thought, just how one facet of it can help illuminate Theological metaphysics. I will do my best to put this into normal, down-to-earth language, but metaphysics, by definition, talks about some really heady things. This really is not me just trying to sound smarter. My hope is to give anyone that reads this a bigger grander idea of just beautiful the Reality God has formed actually is, and therefore, a bigger grander idea of how beautiful this God is.

In Wittgenstein’s Tractatus he talks about the nature of possibility, things, being, language, and philosophy. He writes that people are objects of infinite possible properties. Before you’re born, there is an infinite number of various properties you may hold, but none of these properties are inherent to yourself. You have to borrow properties from the substance of this existing world, this realm of existence. So, the substance of the world decides your properties. If this were a world where people flew, one of those infinite possibilities would be that you could maybe fly. This isn’t the case. So, Reality (which Wittgenstein defines as just “the present”) decides your properties.

But (and this is where it gets fun) these properties that you have, in turn, help determine the substance of this world. There being no people in the world that fly helps determine that this world is one where no one flies. This allows for a certain dance between the world and us where each side helps influence the other. This is most readily seen in evolution.

Now, this is where Edwards’ ideas begin to enter in. This whole situation can also work on a bigger level. Before, we were talking about how the substance of the world help determine our properties that help determine the substance of this world. But, how where does the world itself get its substance? Christians would say that the world gets its substance from its relation to God – the Maker and Sustainer of all things. So, now lets start the thinking process over again. The substance of the world has infinite possible properties that are determined by God who upholds all things.

(I know this will sound heretical, but I promise it’s not) God has a a freedom of possibility but not an infinitude of possibility. He has one nature and one set of properties defined by His Own Substance, which is Triune Deity. His substance is the substance that determines the set of properties of the world that in turn help determine the properties of people that in turn helps determine the substance of the world. But, the world doesn’t in turn help determine God. This is where the Creator/creature distinction comes into play. There is a mysterious connection between God and His Creation, but not such that they are the same. Unlike God (as creation and creature), we have infinitude of possibility, but not freedom of possibility. We can be anything (within this world) but we don’t have the freedom to be anything.

Now this next point is important. We see through this process that there a reasonable hierarchy and system of determinants (things that determine the substance of other things). This hierarchy begins with God. Nothing determines His Substance, but he determines the substance of all other things. Therefore, our very being ultimately rests in God Himself. Further, the expressions of our properties ultimately show themselves in our willful choices and actions. When we act, we are expressing our properties. So, our willful actions are actually based on our relation to the substance of this world (remember the connection between these two things from earlier?).

So, in conclusion, who God is in His nature determines the substance of the world that determines our properties that determine our wills. So, when we freely act, we are actually, acting in accordance with our relation to the nature of God. We either love God or hate God. We either act in line with the substance of the world that caused our properties, or we act in line with and are joined to the Substance of the substance of the world, God. This God who, as I said earlier, is the only Being with a true freedom of possibility (but not infinitude of possibility). This means that we can both know who this God actually is while also having full faith He is able to do and accomplish all He sets out to do in us and for us.

We truly serve an awe-some God.


One thought on “Wittgenstein, Edwards, & the Substance of Things | Philsophy & Theology {III}

  1. Pingback: Wisdom Speaks

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