Posted by: Dan | July 17, 2006

Go Forth in Peace

In his Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein stresses the claim that application is a criterion for understanding (cf. 1.143ff). It is through repeated attempts at application that one comes to grasp the meaning of a particular task. Apart from application there is no genuine understanding of any given task. We may think that we have things figured out, but until we actually attempt to apply that knowledge we will never know if we are correct or incorrect in our assumptions. Indeed, Wittgenstein argues that until we apply our knowledge, our knowledge is mistaken in some way. Practice seems to confirm this suspicion. How many examples do we have from our own lives where we thought we had things figured out only to discover that things are either far different or far more complicated when the rubber actually meets the road? A few hypothetical examples: I thought I trusted God… until I ran out of money and panicked. I thought I had a clear grasp on the homosexuality discussion… until I was befriended by a homosexual couple who are dedicated to following Jesus together. You get the picture. Hell, I thought I wasn't addicted to smoking… until I tried to quit (three months clean, by the way!).

What is interesting is the way in which Wittgenstein's claims overlap with the claims Jim Wallis makes in his book The Call to Conversion (IMHO this book, and not God's Politics is Wallis' best work). Wallis claims that we cannot love the poor, unless we are in active and intimate relationships with those who are poor. Indeed, bringing Wittgenstein and Wallis together, it could be said that we do not even know what it means to love the poor until we are in a dynamic relationship with them.

I suspect that this is part of the reason why mainstream Christianity does not want to listen to voices from those who journey alongside of those who are in exile. Those who do not engage in active relationships with the crucified people of today have a fundamentally different understanding of love. In essence, to continue the thoughts of Wittgenstein, the language-game played by Christians on the margins is fundamentally different than the language-game played by mainstream Christianity.

Which is why, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter all that much if people agree or disagree with me on this blog. Only, if you will not give me a voice, please do this: journey into deeper intimacy with those who are in exile — with the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the isolated, the sick, and the abandoned. It is there, and not here on the internet, that you will learn what it means to love as God loves.

Let us all go forth in peace.

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