Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was a European philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of the mind and language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947. In his lifetime he wrote very little. Yet in 1999 his posthumously published Philosophical Investigations (1953) was ranked as the most important book of 20th-century philosophy, standing out as "…the one crossover masterpiece in twentieth-century philosophy, appealing across diverse specializations and philosophical orientations." Bertrand Russell, the famous atheist, described Wittgenstein as "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense, and dominating."
Wittgenstein rejected faith but at the same time seemed unable to escape from its influence upon his mind. He still has things to say about Christianity that are both challenging and worthy of serious reflection. He wrote, in Culture and Value, that:
Within Christianity it's as though God says to men: Don't act out a tragedy, that is to say, don't enact heaven and hell on earth. Heaven and hell are my affair.
I believe the insight in these words is deeply consistent with biblical religion regardless of whether or not the author embraced that religion. (Jesus did say that the children of this age are often wiser than the people of faith.) Far too many of us have tried to "act out a tragedy" in passing judgment on people, events and historical circumstances as if we had God's mind. We adopt a view of God's providence, of nature and of his inscrutable hidden will and then we "act out the tragedy" in a myriad of ways. But Wittgenstein believed that the God of Christianity says, "Heaven and hell are my affair." I wish that more good Christians agreed with Wittgenstein on this matter.
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