Theology is grammar. Theologians are grammarians. And according to Kerr religion has its ground in religious practices but also in life, in experience. Grammar has friction with life. He has in mind things like wonder at a flower say, or everyday rituals with people we know, or being moved emotionally by sacrifice. Looking at these, we can see religion in an inchoate form. To understand religion, according to this, we need to follow the Wittgenstein of PI §107, and go back to the “rough ground” of our practices and life.
But how sturdy is the rough ground here?
Compare ‘God’ with other words, ‘red,’ or ‘child,’ or ‘education.’ In many cases, we have a natural sense of—a feel for—what we need words for: what we need those words for. We have a sense of the reality of what we are talking about—that red is darker than yellow, that thirteen year old is still too young for certain things, that before learning modal logic we need to learn propositional calculus. That's the kind of friction grammar has with life. When it comes to 'God,' on the other hand, unless we simply accept the dictates of culture and of religious practices and follow them blindly, what ground is there for answering questions like: “How many hands does God have?” or even "Does God exist?" What is limiting us? What is guiding us? – There is a sense in which in theology we are making commitments in darkness. If theology is indeed grammar as Luther says, then it is grammar with a strange and different kind of friction with life.
Religious language can be taken to capture a certain friction we have with life; that's how Kerr thinks of it. But--and this is how it is strange and different--it also captures our failure to handle certain things in life--to fathom our friction with life. (This can be happy failure.) And that is not reflected well at all in what Kerr says.
So Wittgenstein says:
"Convincing someone of God's existence" is something you might do by means of a certain upbringing, shaping his life in such & such a way. Life can educate you to "believing in God". (CV, 97)
But we can also say: Sometimes, what convinces people of the existence of God is rather the refusal of life to take a shape. -- I don't think this is meant to be excluded by what Wittgenstein says in the quotation above. But it can seem to be in tension with what Wittgenstein says, and it will not be the kind of thing that we will tend to notice as a religious attitude if we follow Kerr.
We connect God and life—our life. We say God is a "father" and a "legislator." We find certain comparisons more natural than others. We settle on certain pictures of God, and of our relation to him: We look up to see God. We pray with our heads down. These are pictures—pictures that are natural to us. And this reflects a tendency, or a wish, to find a root for God in human life—in us. But how indicative are these pictures of the grammar of “God”? Might it, for instance, only indicate its grammar in our culture? Could we not, for instance, imagine people who always closed their eyes when speaking about God, or for whom praying involved running, or spinning in place? Or for whom God was not a father, but a sea or a mountain, or a rainbow?
And there is even a bigger concern: For like a shadow alongside these pictures we use, there is the idea, the worry, that any image or picture we can think of will be false--that any such image will be an image of us, not Him. No such picture can really tell us what God is like.
Take again the idea that life can educate us to believe in God. What in life generates, and justifies, talk about God? There are two opposing tendencies here. One is the tendency to connect God to certain things in life, e.g. morality. Morality, which inclines towards absoluteness, makes an appearance in our life. We might accordingly want to say, for instance, that we can see God through the moral law. As opposed to that there is the tendency that comes from the idea that if God is worthy of the name, then He has nothing to do with OUR lives. We may accordingly think of God as the absolute Other, for instance. This is visible in the Gospels’ detachment of life from God; and it is visible also in Kierkegaard’s separation of God from morality. And following this second tendency, grammar in theology is not like other kinds of grammar. In that sense, in theology there is no “rough ground” to go back to (unless this itself is taken to be a patch of rough ground).
I am not saying that there is necessarily something wrong with using pictures in talking about God. (That we do use them may be thought of together with the idea of us as fallen; but fallen does not mean evil.) Absent a better alternative, we are stuck with pictures. And this is not in itself a sin (although it can become idolatry). And realizing this gives a sense in which these pictures we use are provisional, and uncertain. They are culturally accepted, and we make do with them. But we also have the nagging sense that they are at a distance from the real grammar of “God,” that they are only placeholders we use until the real grammar is clarified, and that we do not have to be too invested in them (although people often are). In theology words are never quite “at home.” In other words: in one sense, the grammatical investigation in theology always ends up in failure; and that’s a grammatical remark. The failure is of the essence of theology. Only God can really do theology.
So Wittgenstein says:
Religion teaches that the soul can exist when the body has disintegrated. Now do I understand this teaching?--Of course I understand it--I can imagine plenty of things in connexion with it. And haven't pictures of these things been painted? And why should such a picture be only an imperfect rendering of the spoken doctrine? Why should it not do the same service as the words? And it is the service which is the point. (PI p. 178)
But, again, we can also say: I understand it alright when they say that the soul can exist without the body; but understanding in this case is not a matter of being satisfied. I know (am committed to) that I need something better than the representations I have. In this sense, the idea of a perfect representation of the doctrine is a riddle. -- Again, I think it is better not to read Wittgenstein as excluding this attitude.
Theology, in one sense, is not the study of the grammar of a certain language game; it is rather the search for a language game--the waiting for a language game. At its best, theology is a form of prayer.