Archive for June, 2014

Chrysostom: “Wealth is one thing, covetousness another”

St. John Chrysostom (344/354 – 407).  There is a very definite difference between rich and rapacious; between wealth and covetousness. Wealth is not a bad thing. Misuse of it is.

Dover Beach

John Chrysostom

“I am often reproached for continually attacking the rich. Yes, because the rich are continually attacking the poor. But those I attack are not the rich as such, only those who misuse their wealth. I point out constantly that those I accuse are not the rich but the rapacious. Wealth is one thing, covetousness another. Learn to distinguish.”

– St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Fall of Eutropius

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Tillich: “He who sacrifices the Logos principle sacrifices the idea of a living God…”

Paul Tillich (1886 – 1965) – German American Christian philosopher and theologian who is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century.  He maintained that the Logos Doctrine was absolutely essential to Christian theology.

 

Paul_Tillich

Paul Tillich, theologian

 

“He who sacrifices the Logos principle sacrifices the idea of a living God, and he who rejects the application of this principle to Jesus as the Christ rejects his character as Christ.”  ~ Systematic Theology, Vol. 3.

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Logos Doctrine 4

“…according to the Logos Doctrine, Christianity is very inclusive and universal.”

 

The incarnation of the Logos, the Son, as Jesus the Christ is a once-for-all event.  It is not the incarnation of a particular characteristic or set of characteristics of God; it is the very Logos of God, center of divinity, which becomes incarnate.  The incarnation initiates a series of events in the economy, or plan of God for the salvation of humankind.

The saving economy of Jesus Christ, the Logos, are is found in his incarnation which deified the fallen nature of humankind; in his ministry which gave us direct knowledge of God; in his death by which he redeemed us from the bondage of sin; and in the resurrection, which defeated death.

Jesus Christ, as Logos, is first of all a teacher in the sense of giving us existential knowledge and power through the Holy Spirit.  Justin Martyr said, “the teachings of Plato are not alien to those of Christ, although not in all respects similar. For all the writers of antiquity were able to have a dim vision of the realities by the means of the implanted word [Logos].” 2nd Apology, 13.

So, you see, according to the Logos Doctrine, Christianity is very inclusive and universal; “catholic”, if you will.  It is not the exclusive club, tribe, or competing religion than humans have made of it.  Ancient Christianity was inclusive of all truth, regardless of source, place, or time.  It included all of humankind, without distinction.

When seen from the viewpoint of the Logos Doctrine, the seemingly exclusive claims of John 14:6 become a declaration of inclusive, cosmic, universal truth.  The verse reads: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.”  In paraphrase, I believe this means: “I am the Logos, the self-manifestation of God the Father.  We are the same in essence, but the Father remains hidden from creation.  The only possible way that humankind has to understand and know God is through understanding and knowing the Logos.”  This is the cosmic Christ.  This is the Way; the “finger pointing to the moon”!

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St. Symeon: “…by what other means can he ever obtain salvation? By no means!”

 

St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) was absolutely insistent that every believer must receive a second baptism, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  It is not to be confused with ritual Orthodox Chrismation.

 

St_ Symeon the New Theologian

 

“… ‘John Baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit’.  If one is ignorant of the Baptism wherewith he was baptized as a child and does not even realize that he was baptized, but only accepts it by faith and then wipes it away with thousands upon thousands of sins, and if he denies the second Baptism – I mean, that which is through the Spirit, given from above by the loving-kindness of God to those who seek it by penitence – by what other means can he ever obtain salvation?  By no means!”  ~ The Discourses. XXXII

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St. Symeon: “… first seek to learn and experience these things in fact…”

St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) excoriates the church clergy for not personally being contemplatives and experiencing the presence of God (theoria) themselves before trying to lead and teach the laity.  This criticism is just as valid for the institutional church today as it was for the Byzantine church in AD 1000.  Few, if any, of the contemporary institutional clergy practice contemplative Christian prayer.

St_ Symeon the New Theologian“You priests and monks teach others with vain words and think that you are rulers – but falsely!  Ask your elders and high priests, gather yourselves together in the love of God, and first seek to learn and experience these things in fact, and then have the will to see this and by experience become like God.  Be anxious not merely to act a play and wear the garment thereof and so to approach apostolic dignities.  Otherwise, as you in your imperfection rush to rule over others, before acquiring the knowledge of the mysteries of God, you will hear these words, ‘Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and shrewd in their own sight!  Woe to those who put darkness for light and light for darkness!'” ~ Discourses, XXXIII

 

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Nous (νοῦς) – “…the highest faculty in man” 1

“What’s a “nous”?” 

 

In the last 500 years, since about the time of the Protestant Reformation (16th century) and Enlightenment (17th century), Western culture has been obsessed with the rational, reasoning, logical mind.  It has become so dominant in our thinking, that it is now the sole measure of human intelligence.  Our fixation with the rational mind is not without foundation.  The power of the rational mind has been the engine that gave us the scientific method of inquiry; it brought us the Industrial and Scientific revolutions; the Information Age.  It has largely shaped the modern world.  So, in modern society, when we speak of “mind” or “intelligence” we mean one thing and one thing only: the rational, reasoning human mind.

For Christians trying to understand the New Testament (originally written in Greek) and other early Christian spiritual writings (also predominantly in Greek), the exclusive association of “mind” and “intelligence” with man’s rational, reasoning faculties is problematic.  In Christian spiritual tradition, the rational, reasoning faculty of man is not the only definition of “mind” and “intelligence”.  In fact, it is not even considered the highest or most developed definition of “mind” and “intelligence”.  That distinction belongs to the “nous”.

What?  What’s a “nous”?  I’ll bet most Westerners, even mature Christians, have never heard the word “nous”.  The word “nous” (pronounced “nooce”) is Greek (νοϋς) and can be found throughout the Greek New Testament (it appears explicitly 22 times in the NT) and in scores of other early Christian (Patristic) writings.

The term “nous” can be thought of as a perceptive or receptive ability to hear God’s voice and to, perhaps, experience Him in His energies. It has often been translated simply as “mind”, as in Paul’s letter to the Romans where he wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind [nous], that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (12:2)

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Nous (νοῦς) – “…the highest faculty in man” 2

“…the organ of contemplation…, the ‘eye of the heart’…”

The word “nous” has been translated into English as “mind”, “intellect”, and a variety of other meanings as well.  The word “mind” was the choice made by Bishop Kallistos Ware (now Metropolitan Kallistos) and others in their translation of the Philokalia (the collection of Christian mystic writings from the 4th to the 15th centuries).  But our modern conception of “mind” does not really capture the meaning of “nous”.  Some use the word “intellect” as an equivalent. This also misses the nuanced meaning of “nous”.  The problem is that we in the modern world only think of “mind” and “intellect” in terms of our rational, reasoning faculties.  We can start to get a sense of the real meaning of “nous” from the definition contained in the Philokalia itself.  Here, it translates “nous” as “intellect”, but you can see that it is clearly different from our contemporary idea of “intellect”:

the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles … of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason…, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect [nous] does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect [nous] dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart… The intellect [nous] is the organ of contemplation…, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Makarian Homilies).”

A lot of confusion surrounded the term “nous”, clearly.   As a result, many secular philosophers have used it to refer to quite different concepts.  “Nous” has been used to refer to anything from personal mental qualities or abilities all the way to qualities ascribed to God or the cosmos.

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