Lewis and Wittgenstein on Facts and Meanings

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It is the Scriptures that speak, and so: “Thus spake the Lord.” Now one is ready to believe, to fill one’s mind, so that one’s heart too may be full of the Sacred Word. The doctrine of infallibility is the open door to the love of the Word-“burning in our hearts.” The first step is to read with a receptive mind. The doctrine has the effect of: “Keep off!” “This is Holy Ground on which thou standest.”[14]

The point I want to emphasize here is this: to those who believe it, a doctrine has more of an affect than merely confirming a fact-it also shapes their souls and directs their ways. You might even say that it is this latter that is the more important, since, religiously speaking, that’s what it means to believe it.

But I will end now with this thought. I am quite convinced, as I hope you are, that God’s will for us regarding the Scriptures is for us to find out what He means. For His words are meant for our life and our good. This, then, is the ultimate question we must each, individually, ask: “What is the meaning of The Word?”

[1] Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958, p. 1.

[2] C. S. Lewis, Studies in Words, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960, p. vii.

[3] Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Oxford: Blackwell, remarks 11,12, and 43.

[4] Lewis, Studies in Words, pp. 9-12.

[5] Ibid., p. 13.

[6] Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, remark 109.

[7] Lewis, Studies in Words, pgs. 11-12.

[8] Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, remark 111.

[9] Lewis, Studies in Words, p. 3.

[10] Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, remark 309.

[11] G. E. M. Anscombe, “A Reply to Mr. C. S. Lewis’s Argument that ‘Naturalism’ is Self-Refuting”, in Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1981, p. 231.

[12] For an excellent discussion on naturalism along these lines, see O. K. Bouwsma’s essay, “Naturalism” in his Philosophical Essays, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965. Bouwsma’s essay is from an address he gave in 1947, a year before the Lewis/Anscombe debate.

[13] Lewis, “On Obstinacy in Belief” in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960, p. 26.

[14] O. K. Bouwsma, from an unpublished manuscript.