Miracles Theo blog 25 iii 19
- Did the miracles in the New Testament really happen? Most of them probably not, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing significant to tell us. I once knew a man who had been at Cambridge when Wittgenstein was there. According to him Wittgenstein didn’t give lectures but did give a kind of seminar in his sitting room in Trinity once a week. This room was painted entirely white and had nothing in it except a cot on which Wittgenstein sat. The sessions were conducted in deep silence, except Wittgenstein would from time to time utter some remark and the silence would deepen even further, until suddenly Wittgenstein would leap up and rush to the nearest cinema where he would sit in the front row so the screen filled all his vision and stopped him thinking. People went mad to attend these sessions, the room was crammed with people sitting on the floor and jamming the window sills and the doorway. He was just magical, apparently. My friend was deeply imprinted by the excitement of the faculty of moral sciences at Cambridge(now lamentably called the department of philosophy just like everywhere else) in those years, and listening to him and touched a little by his lived experience, even I felt warmed by the fading embers of that fire. Just what was it about Wittgenstein that thrilled people so much? They couldn’t say. It was just being in his presence. So how could you tell someone else what it felt like? ‘Wittgenstein occasionally said something and then went off to the cinema’ hardly does it. Indeed, this reducing the experience to the bare facts almost becomes an untruth. If you said ‘Wittgenstein floated up to the ceiling and turned into a sphere of shimmering silver and a voice came saying ‘This is beloved Ludwig who is trying to tell you he isn’t telling you the full truth because everything we think and say is hemmed in by the limitations of language’ ” it would catch more of what it felt like to be there. I’m not saying categorically that Jesus didn’t walk on water or feed five thousand people with a few bits of bread and a couple of fishes. I wasn’t there so I don’t know, and in this amazing world anything might happen. I’m bored to tears by Gradgrindian fact fact fact materialists who don’t seem to have noticed the incomprehensibly mysterious universe, escaping the very boundaries of our thought (yes language can’t contain it, so wonderful are science’s current discoveries, Wittgenstein was right). But I don’t think it likely. The New Testament writers were trying to tell us what it was like to be in the presence of this magical, wonderful man. ‘He got up, did a bit of preaching and then went back to Carpharneum’ hardly does it. He lit a fire in them. Do I still feel touched by something of that warmth? Yes I do. If anybody could have walked on water, even if he didn’t, it was him. Even now, his presence is so vividly present in these marvellous texts. And that’s enough for me.