Scott Aiken and Michael Hodges (Vanderbilt University)
John Dewey pointed out in A Common Faith that what stands in the way of religious belief for many is the apparent commitment of the Judeo-Christian tradition to supernatural phenomena and questionable historical claims. We are to accept claims which in any other context we would find laughable. Are we to believe that water can be turned into wine without the benefit of the fermentation process? Are we to swallow the claim that there is such a phenomenon as the spontaneous conception of a child without the intervention of the traditional technique. Were we to confront these claims in any but a religious context, we would dismiss them as the workings of an overactive imagination or simple cover for an overactive sex life. But for the devout believer, there is no doubt even with a paucity of evidence.
At the same time the rise of science has forcibly suggested the idea that natural world is self contained and if explainable, that explanation will come from within. There seems to be no room for the traditional God and, much as we might wish otherwise, nothing for him to do. Perhaps most problematic, there is the growing the suspicion that with regard to its temporal duration, human life is quite limited. The new sciences of the human body and brain seem to imply that as wonderfully complex as the brain and body may be, they are natural systems that grow and decay. All this flies in the face what Dewey identifies as the fundamental agreement of all sects on the necessity of an "immortality that is beyond the power of nature."
Dewey’s solution to these problems was to disentangle religious experience from the dogma of particular religions and thus to emancipate it--so, a common faith. But Dewey anticipated two attacks.
The view announced will seem...to cut the vital nerve of the religious element itself in taking away the basis upon which traditional religions and institutions have been founded. From the other side, the position I am taking seems like a timid halfway position a concession and compromise unworthy of thought that is thoroughgoing. It is regarded as a view entertained from mere tendermindedness, as an emotional hangover from childhood indoctrination.... (A Common Faith p. 4)
Dewey sees that such a move will be seen as completely devastating to religion or as merely half-hearted.
We are sympathetic with Dewey’s concerns and we share the view that if religious dogma requires us to believe things which, in any other context, we would find unacceptable, we should reject it. However, the approach that Dewey takes leaves religious experience without determinate content. Perhaps this is too thin a reed on which to hang our religious lives. Is it possible to retain dogma but to avoid the unacceptable consequences that Dewey lays before us? We think that it is and will therefore offer a reading of dogma that does not have such a consequence. Whether it escapes the dilemma Dewey outlines is another question that will be investigated shortly.
What is our task here? Certainly we will not evaluate particular religious claims. For example, we will not adjudicate the dispute between Anglicans and Baptists over total immersion or between Christians and Jews concerning Jesus’ divinity . As we understand them, these are differences of belief which happen within religious life. They inform the lives of the variously religious and they must be discussed and settled, if they can, at that level. They are analogous to the disputes between scientists over the particulars of sub-atomic theory. Philosophers have no special competence to adjudicate either scientific or religious disputes at this level.
However, the utterances of religious believers contain not only specifically religious claims, e.g. "My God is with me most closely in difficult times." or "Praise be to God" but also reflections on the status of the former claims. Here we would include claims that bring religious assertions into conflict with scientific or historical claims. For example, those who contend that we must either accept the Genesis account of creation or the theory of evolution but not both express not only a religious commitment but also a philosophical view of the nature and status of that commitment. Our discussion concerns this "second order" level, and so what we will offer is way of understanding religious assertions which will therefore revise other consciously or unconsciously held ways of understanding them . But, we hope, it will not come into significant conflict with religious claims themselves as they function in our religious lives.
It is often claimed that religious truths must be believed "on faith." It is said that this special "mode of apprehension" faith can fill the gap between evidence (or counter evidence) and truth, yielding legitimate cognitive assent. "Maybe I don't have reasons but I have faith" the zealot says, which puts an end to all the rational challenges to religious belief. What seems both so appealing and so disconcerting about thistactic is that it lays claim to victory while abandoning the race altogether. That is, it claims cognitive success but refuses to be judged by its usual standards.
Behind all this is a picture of what faith must be. Religious claims assert historical, physical or metaphysical truths which fall beyond the normal powers of reason. However, we possess a faculty of nonrational cognitive assent by which we can travel the intervening distance. This faculty, although different from reason and other standard evidence gathering faculties, is a fully legitimate mode of knowing. It yields apprehension of the truth just as surely as any other human cognitive capacity.
This "cognitivist theory of faith" has a corollary view of religious truth. As Rush Rhees puts it, "the language of religion is seen as in some way comparable with the language in which one describes matters of fact." Since the language of religion is supposed to express facts or, better, super-facts about entities constituting a realm beyond that of ordinary experience and just out of reach of our ordinary capacities, faith must be a faculty or super-faculty which puts us in touch with those facts.
Wittgenstein rejects the picture of religious believing just outlined. In "Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough", he says,
No opinion serves as the foundation for a religious symbol. And only an opinion can involve an error. 
He develops this insight in a passage written in 1937.
Christianity is not based on a historical truth; rather, it offers us a (historical) narrative and says: now believe. But not, believe this narrative with the belief appropriate to a historical narrative, rather: believe, through thick and thin, which you can do only as the result of a life. Here you have a narrative, don't take the same attitude to it as you take to other historical narratives! Make a quite different place in your life for it.
Wittgenstein places ‘historical’ in parentheses in this passage so as to bracket its usual implications. While the narrative may be historical in form that is not relevant for its religious function. We should note that the nature of the believing is different for religious truth than for ordinary historical narrative. People who have faith don't apply the doubt which they would ordinarily apply to historical propositions, especially propositions of a time long past. There is a natural skepticism about ordinary historical claims, especially when such claims are filled with specific detail and removed to the far distant past. In fact, scholars, who have attempted to assess the historical evidence have uniformly concluded that it is slim indeed. However, such conclusions do not dampen their level of religious commitment. Wittgenstein notes "indubitability is not enough in this case. Even if there is as much evidence as for Napoleon. Because the indubitability wouldn't be enough to make me change my whole life" (Lectures and Conversations p. 57). Belief as faith is not located on the continuum between indubitability and normal doubt, because religious believing is not epistemic. The believer "has what you might call an unshakable belief. It will show, not by reasoning or appeal to ordinary grounds for belief but rather by regulating [for] in all his life" (p. 56).
We must not confuse Wittgenstein's view with an all too familiar thesis. Priests and ministers often tell us that true religious commitment is not a matter of mere intellectual assent -something else must be grafted on to that assent, some change in our way of life. This position does not reject the picture of religious truth underlying the cognitivist theory of faith. It merely tries to add another element to intellectual assent. Faith is intellectual assent together with some change of life. The two are externally related so that one brings about the other; because we grasp certain truths that we change our ways. For Wittgenstein, none of this will do. His more radical position becomes clear in the following passage,
Queer as it sounds: The historical accounts in the Gospels might, historically speaking, be demonstrably false and yet belief would lose nothing by this: not however, because it concerns `universal truths of reason'! Rather because historical proof (the historical proof game) is irrelevant to belief. This message (the Gospels) is seized on by men believingly (i.e. lovingly). That is the certainty characterizing this particular acceptance as true, not something else. (Culture and Value p. 32)
This is a radical claim--the Gospels might be historically false and belief would lose nothing. What does Wittgenstein mean? To answer we must distinguish the Jesus of the Gospels from any historical person or persons that stand behind those texts. Jesus is present in the Gospels, not merely described by them. For the believer, it is the Jesus revealed in and thru the Gospels who transforms human life and with whom one can come into relation. Whatever historical elements are or are not included are irrelevant. Wittgenstein does not assert or deny the historical truth of the Gospels. He claims that historical truth is irrelevant to the "particular acceptance-as-true" which is religious believing.
Both poles of the believing situation are transformed. Not only is it wrong to see the relation of the believer to the content of belief as intellectual assent, but it is also wrong to see the content believed as information, either historical or metaphysical.
Dewey’s distinction between two notions of belief is helpful.
Apart from any theological context there is a difference between belief that is a conviction that some end should be supreme over conduct, and belief that some object or being exists as a truth for the intellect. (A Common Faith p. 20)
In ordinary language the difference is between "believing in" and "believing that". I believe in democracy and I believe that Washington was the first U.S. president. While it is no doubt true that there are interesting and important connections between what I believe in and what I hold to be true, the two notions are distinct. Evidence, in the usual sense, is not always relevant to believing in. In fact, one can, and perhaps often should, continue to believe in something, as Wittgenstein puts it "through thick and thin" or against all odds and in the face of the evidence. Of course, to believe in something requires content, but that content is not mere information. We believe in ideals, images of human possibility embodied in stories of human interactions. In their role as transforming possibilities, the whole question of their historical truth is simply displaced.
Clearly, Wittgenstein is getting at this notion of ‘believing in’ when he says,
It strikes me that a religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference. Hence, although it's belief, it's really a way of living, or a way of assessing life. (Culture and Value, p. 64; emphasis in the original)
Wittgenstein’s reason for calling attention to the use of the term "belief" in religious contexts is to cancel our inclination to treat it as "intellectual assent". To believe, in this context, is not to accept certain propositions as true. Rather it is to be passionately committed to a way of living. This is of overriding importance for Wittgenstein. Throughout his discussions he focuses on the role which religious beliefs play in our lives. This means that religious commitments are not epistemological but practical. In the face of a total lack of evidence, in the usual sense, we are still willing to risk everything (see Lectures and Conversations p.54). To believe in something, in the religious sense, is precisely to take it as a standard by which to conduct my life. There is no logical gap between belief and action in this sense. To believe passionately in democracy, is, among other things, to be willing to work to bring it about and to access the legitimacy of other governments by its standards.
The "cognitivist theory of faith" treats this aspect of religious believing as an addendum to "accepting as true." For Wittgenstein "believing means submitting to an authority" (Culture and Value p. 45). To submit to an authority is to accept its dictates, be they those of an individual (e.g. Jesus Christ) or an ideal (e.g. Capitalism) as the final ground for action or opinion. Here we are focused on basic or ultimate commitment and not something preliminary like "I believe in my stock broker. After all, he has never let me down" In this sense it is utter nonsense to require reasons for religious commitment. It is the commitment that gives me reasons. If I have independent reasons for commitment it would not be final but contingent upon those other ground. If I have submitted to an authority, then I cannot "reserve the right to an independent judgment." As Wittgenstein says,
Having once submitted, you can't then without rebelling against it, first call it in question and then once again find it acceptable (Culture and Value p. 45).
On what grounds could an independent judgment be made? Any grounds which might lead to different actions or opinions would not merely be in error, they would be evil. After all, from the point of view of the committed Christian, those who would undermine the faith are leading people away from God.
Wittgenstein makes three interrelated points. First, faith is not "intellectual assent" in the light of evidence or by means of an extra rational faculty. It is a "passionate commitment." Second, by faith we do not stand in relation to a "proposition" as a picture of a fact or a conveyor of information. Rather we are passionately committed to an authority as determinative of our lives. Finally this authority does not have its authority in virtue of some further authority (in which case it would be possible to call it into question without "rebelling against it"). Religious language presents us with immediate and intrinsic authority In this light it is interesting to note a comment which Wittgenstein made "On Schlick's Ethics,"
Schlick says that theological ethics contains two concepts of the essence of the Good. According to the more superficial interpretation, the Good is good because God wills it; according to the deeper interpretation, God wills the Good because it is good. I think that the first conception is the deeper one: Good is what God orders. For it cuts off the path to any and every explanation "Why" it is good....The first conception says clearly that the essence of the Good has nothing to do with facts and therefore cannot be explained by any proposition. If any proposition expresses just what I mean, it is : Good is what God orders. (Philosophical Review ,1965, p. 15)
The language of religion is a very different language game from those in which the point is to state facts. In the Tractatus Wittgenstein said "The general form of a proposition is: This is how things stand. " That is, the single role of language is to convey information to picture facts. Since religious language does not do that, it is, on the early view, literal nonsense. What it attempts to say is beyond saying. However, in the later work, he rejects the idea that language has an essence and with it the idea that we can specify a priori what can be said and what cannot. We must look and see. The proof of the possibility of sense is the actual use of the language. We look not at what information is conveyed but at what role the language plays in the lives of those who use it. Since the language of religion has a place in our lives, it cannot be dismissed as meaningless nor can it be assimilated to some preconceived model of sense.
This reading allows us to see the power of the religious within our lives without committing ourselves to highly problematic historical claims or to any metaphysical claims at all but we must now ask if such a story avoids the dilemma that Dewey himself posed for his own view.
Dewey’s dilemma arises when we think that the power of religious belief and our epistemic scruples are mutually exclusive. What the tertium quid worked out here does is show how they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. We can see this possible convergence if we make a minor modification to one horn of the dilemma. We change religious belief to religious form of life, which entails changing our cognitivist prejudices about interpreting religious language. If religious utterances are no longer interpreted as expressing propositional attitudes, they are no longer in conflict with our epistemic standards . If they are expressions of devotion to a style of life, they cannot be seen as being subject to those standards.
If one resists this apparent banishment of truth from the religious domain, it can be avoided by rejecting the view that truth is neutral as between language games. Of course, religious claims are true but their truth is not of the same sort that which the truth of scientific or historical claims are. Paul Tillich develops this strategy by contending that faith is true just in so far as it adequately expresses an ultimate concern. He says,
"Adequacy" of expression means the power of expressing an ultimate concern in such a way that it creates reply, action communication. Symbols which are able to do this are alive. (Dynamics of Faith p. 96)
The essential point is not some sort of semantic truth but rather the capacity of religious language to move and engage the participants.
Given this tactic of getting around the dilemma, our tertium quid must face a set of challenges. These challenges, in some lights, are objections, and in others, they are occasions for refinement. Let us present them first as objections and then turn to the refinements.
The first objection is to what seems to be the "second-order trumping" that is a necessary part of the tertium quid approach. What makes us think that a Wittgensteinian-cum-pragmatist interpretation of religious utterances is better than the plain-old propositional interpretation? Even if it may have the convenient consequence of resolving a dilemma, that is no justification. In fact, it might be said that the pragmatic second-order interpretation gets the explanation totally backwards. To the fundamentalist, the practical importance of her religious utterances comes well after and is dependent on their propositional import. When the fundamentalist says, ‘Jesus loves me,’ she will insist that the practiclal role it plays (her being committed to a form of life, feelings of being born again, etc.) comes because there is some unique entity who is the Son of God, who was born of a virgin on Christmas, who healed some sick folks and raised the dead, who had twelve yes-men follow him around, who got crucified by some irascible Jews and a spineless Roman, who came back three days later to the surprise of a fellow named Thomas, and then retired to heaven, and who loves some fundamentalist in the 20th century in a way only a guy like Him can. The tertium quid is bought at the price of insensitivity to the way those who regularly make use of the expressions prefer them to be interpreted. With the tertium quid, we are really peddling the pragmatism du jour and using the fundamentalist’s faith as fodder. Here we have a version of Dewey’s horn of the dilemma in which "we cut the vital nerve of the religious element itself in taking away the basis upon which...it is founded."
The second objection is one that raises the challenge of existential equivalence. Because the second-order interpretation at issue here keys on the crucial features of our natural world, bodily existence, and social lives, it is unclear where the religious significance of these interpretations lies. Given that these features are the same ones that we key on when interpreting the historical or literary significance of certain texts, expressions, and linguistic conventions, what happens to the religious part of the story? Take the difference between Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and the Genesis stories. Intuitively, they have a different character because the authority of the two stories is not on a par, but the second order interpretation puts them on a par – they are both expressions of commitment to a form of life. They are existentially equivalent. As a consequence, we obscure what seems to be important differences between literary and religious expression. We cannot give a principled answer as to how the Koran and Hemmingway, the Kabbalah and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sermon on the Mount and Nabokov are different. Since a philosophy of religion is duty–bound to save the appearances, this does not bode well for the Wittgensteinian tactic at issue here. On the face of it, it seems a clear reductio.
There is a corollary to these first two objections: if the importance of religious expression lies in its existential content, then why bother with religious language at all? If what’s important is the existential account of what we really mean, then we shouldn’t have even bothered learning the religious language in the first place. Rather, we should have learned the pragmatist’s or existentialist’s meta-language.
The third objection is one that turns on the improbability of a naturalistic interpretation yielding the psychological goods that go along with religious life. Once we commit to the pragmatic second-order interpretation, we cannot help but look upon much of our religious life as mere ritual, powerful but senseless emoting, or worse, mere play acting. When we do that, we don’t get the edification religious life affords . . . we live a lie. There is a great distance between the kind and the degree of psychological benefit we get from viewing a passion play, say, as existential metaphor and as the story of the death of humanity’s savior. One is of a mild, mollifying nature. The other is of a violent, passionate, and emphatic nature. Naturalism just does not stir us the way super-naturalism does.
The intuition is that naturalism precludes being committed in a properly religious manner. Grace should be a marker of this impossibility. A Pauline response to this naturalism would be that this is more humanistic hubris – that we are capable of changing ourselves by changing our interpretive attitudes. Real religious conversion comes not from a change we make with ourselves, but from how we find ourselves changed. A naturalist take on the matter is too tepid for a genuine conversion . . . we aren’t religious thinkers, but rather naturalists who ape the religious. The belief that we are successfully pulling off religious thought is just another philosopher’s prejudice. Naturalisms (and pragmatisms especially) do not have the psychological oomph to capture or explain the force of religious life. We cannot pull off the trick of maintaining our seriousness about naturalism and religion. The tertium quid was designed to avoid the logical incompatibility of religious belief and naturalism. But, as this third objection goes, avoiding the logical incompatibility is not enough, since it seems to run headlong into a psychological incompatibility. We just do not have the psychological hardware to pull off both commitments. This final objection grasps the second horn of Dewey’s dilemma for we take up a "timid halfway position, a concession and compromise unworthy of thought that is thoroughgoing."
Let us consider possible refinements in light of these important objections. The first objection is that the form-of-life second-order interpretation of religious utterances unjustifiably trumps propositional interpretations. Given the propositional account, we get existential reconcilement but only by taking on wildly false or nonsensical propositional attitudes. We get the psychological goods from believing in mysterious entities and weird states of affairs. Children who believe that Santa Claus exists and visits them get all sorts of nice psychological benefits . . . the same goes for folks who talk about Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed for example. Fundamentalists agree with this interpretation, except they insist that the beliefs are not false.
Our first refinement is to explain why the second-order form-of-life interpretation of religious belief is not ad hoc. The refinement is the following conditional: if we can see that we pick out something important about religious belief by distinguishing it as a "belief in" from "belief that" then we can reconcile religious belief with our naturalism. The evidence we have for the antecedent here is the plasticity and durability of religious belief despite the falsity of many of its historical and factual commitments. Catholic Christianity was able to incorporate and thrive on the introduction of Aristotlean thought into Europe. Or again, people have continued to be Christians despite the fact that the earth is not the center of the universe. In a similar way, early Christians quickly reinterpreted the second coming from an historical to a personal event. If we see these utterances as performatives that, instead of reporting states of affairs, bring them in to being, then they are affirmations living in a certain way. Wittgenstein’s model for natural expressions seems appropriate here. (Cf PI.244) In the same way that pain-talk replaces yelps, grunts and howls as we learn to live with each other, religious expression replaces shoulder shrugging and hand-waving. It does not mean those natural expressions, but rather replaces them. As in the case of pain language, the replacement allows for a deepening and enriching of such natural expressions. The power of the religious tradition to express and evoke emotions and feelings far outstrips dumb inarticulate responses even though these forms of life are built out of them. The account, then, is not ad hoc, since it picks out precisely what is most important in that form of life as its point of departure.
Moreover the Wittgensteinean/pragmatist reading need not "trump" its cognitivist rivals. The claim is not that ours is the correct reading. Rather it is simply that it is a possible reading--one which avoids certain metaphysical and epistemological problems. The fundamentalist is welcome to her reading and to the problems it entail.
The second objection, the existential equivalence objection, requires that we retain the difference between religious and literary genres of expression. We must save the appearances and so we must salvage the prima facie difference between Genesis and Hemingway . The objection is based on the premise that there is an existentially defined role for religious belief in human life. Since literature, too, can play this role, what is the difference? But the premise is misleading for it gives an unjustified priority to the existential. The story is not that religious utterance plays an existential role, one that would need to be played in any human life, but rather it plays a role in the religious life. The role that religious language plays in religious life is a role that is only open in religious life. Religious language expresses a unique commitment to a form of life – namely the religious life – and no merely literary form of expression can do that. What would be needed to make this out in detail would be an investigation into the form of authority and commitment which is definitive of the religious. Needless to say that cannot be done here.
What needs to be clear is that a form of reductionism the attempt to see .Kerouac’s early work and Paul’s letters to be existentially equivalent. We want to resist that temptation. Religious life cannot be reduced to the existential. It is a unique form. If we do resist reductionism, we can still salvage that prima facie difference between religious and literary utterances.
There is something that is correct about this objection and it is this. The power of a religious tradition to sustain, transform and articulate human life is something that must prove itself in that life. If Hemingway’s work were to develop a tradition as rich and varied as the Judeo-Christian tradition, if it were to be developed and articulated so as to provide succor for persons in monasteries and convents as well as in the fields and if it were fully interwoven into those lives, it status as "mere literature" would be lost. That this has not happened except for a few is a testament to the power of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The response to the corollary, then, should be of no difficulty. The corollary was that the second-order interpretation puts all the emphasis on thepragmatic meta-language and none on the first order level of religious expression. If what is important is what goes on in the meta-language, then why bother doing the work of making all those messy and inaccurate first-order utterances? The response is simply that the second-order interpretation is not a commitment, but only a commentary on the commitment. It is not that the first-order religious utterance is messy or misleading, or inaccurate, but, rather, that it is the perfect and only way of expressing that commitment. The second-order interpretation does not make the commitment, it is a reflection on what is being committed to. We can see that all the importance of religious utterances does not flee to the meta-level, but stays rooted in the practical, lived, and devotionally passionate first-order level. There is no way that we should forego religious expression for mere existentialist commentary.
The third objection is one on a par with cynicism. We cannot, it goes, be committed to a naturalist-existentialist interpretation of religious life and also live that life with the seriousness requisite for that life to be properly religious. But the proper response should be something like this: our psychology is more pliable than we can anticipate . . . let’s see if we can pull it off. The objection, then, turns into a challenge - - one that essentially runs that though it is logically possible to pull off such a life, it will be hard.
Moreover, there is a further consideration – that this option is one for those of us who are genuinely torn by the dilemma between epistemic standards and religious commitment. If we are not both seriously religious and devotedly naturalist in the sense outlined here, we will not be as troubled by the dilemma as we thought we were. Earlier it was pointed out that religious conversion happen to one, and surely this is correct. We are changed, we do not change ourselves and this is the point. For those in the grip of the religious--those who have been changed--but who, nonetheless, preserve evidential scruples, the Wittgensteinean/pragmatist account offers a way of dissolving the dilemma. Of course, for those who do not feel the power of the religious or who lack the relevant scruples, no problem exists. The response, in short, is that if one does not see the value of the solution, one has no appreciation for the problem.
.By claiming that they are "analogous" we do not mean to suggest religious claims are pseudo-scientific claims or that there is a decision procedure for religious claims like that for scientific claims. The point is to distinguish between first order claims within a science or religion and second order claims about the meaning and status of the former. I would add that sincere commitment to first order claims is no guarantee of an adequate second order story about their status. In fact, it may be a hindrance. Scientists are not always the best at providing an account of what it is that science is up to. In the same way, those engaged in the religious life may not be the best at giving an account of that practice.
.Complete neutrality is not possible. I do not suggest that what I have to say is a matter of pure analysis of a preexisting structure. My views are rather recommendations about how to construe religious language which have certain advantages but clearly do not "leave everything as it is." (P.I. 124)
. R. Rhees, Without Answers, (New York: Shocken Books, 1969), p. 121.
. L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Occasions, eds. James Klagge and
Alfred Nordmann. (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 1993), p. 123
. L. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. Von Wright (Chicago, IL.:The University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 32
. See Renan, E. The Life of Jesus (New York: Modern Library, 1927) and Schweitzer, A. The Quest for the Historical Jesus ( New York: Macmillan Co., 1959)
.To say that there is a lack of evidence is not to say that there are not documents to which to referred. For Christianity certainly the Bible is such a text but it does not function as a source of hypotheses to be independently tested. Rather it is authoritative. For the believer one does not read the Bible to see if it is true but to discover the truth.
.Paul Tillich, for example, speaks of faith as "ultimate concern" and contrasts that with all sorts of preliminary concerns which may have to be sacrifice in the name of what has ultimate authority. Being ultimately concerned, in this sense, is a defining commitment. See Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper and Row, 1957) Chapter 1.
.The ultimacy of religious authority here discussed ins not inconsistent with the idea that while such an authority may be absolute (experienced as such) it is not unconditional since it is historically situated and from that perspective contingent--under the right circumstances Christianity might fall into the same oblivion as Zoroastrianism but that is irrelevant to the engaged believer. Or rather it would be experienced as a tragedy of cosmic import. From with faith such a state of affairs would be nothing less than the loss of the possibility of salvation.
. "Commitment" can be misleading in this context because it suggests something that one does, while faith befalls or overtakes one. Phenomenologically it comes from "without" and transforms.
.If we remember that the notion of "proposition" operative in this passage is that taken from the Tractatus, we can place matters in context.
.Wittgenstein, L. Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961) proposition 4.5.
.While it may be beyond saying, much is "suggested" in the final propositions of the Tractatus and in the Notebooks. See Transcendence and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (Temple University Press, Philadelphia: 1990), particularly the later chapters.