Posts Tagged Logos Doctrine
One of my main goals in writing is to discover and bring the ancient theology and doctrines of the early charismatic Christian church to the contemporary Charismatic Renewal Movement.
There is a clear disconnect between the doxis of Western Latin Christianity and the praxis of the contemporary Charismatic Renewal Movement which operates in the gifts and fruit of the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Renewal Movement certainly has the basic praxis (how beliefs are practiced, embodied and realized in conduct) of the early charismatic Apostolic church, but does not have a corresponding supportive, complementary doxis (religious beliefs, worship, doctrines, and creeds) which explains and supports that praxis.
The world needs to see lives transformed, but it also needs to know why and how they have been transformed. To do this, the world must see a complementary balance of belief and action at work. But, just as vital, the world must see something else in mutual support and balance: orthodoxy and orthopraxis– that is, right belief and right action.
A key essential in an orthodoxy which supports a Renewal Movement (apostolic church) orthopraxis is an understanding of the Essence and Energies of God and the distinction between them. It is only in understanding Essence (transliterated ousía in Greek) and Energies (transliterated enérgeia in Greek) of God that we can reconcile the seeming paradox of the unknowable transcendence of God with the universal, yet very personal indwelling presence and power of God in all humankind.
Throughout this discussion, I will rely heavily on the writings of 20th century theologians including Vladimir Lossky, Christos Yannaras, and Fr. John Meyendorff. They, in turn, refer to the authority of many early Church Fathers including St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Macarius the Great (all 4th century); St. Dionysius the Aeropagite (5th century); St. Maximus the Confessor (7th century); St. Symeon the New Theologian (11th century); and last, but not least, St. Gregory Pálamas (14th century). I make all of these citations so that the reader may understand that the theology and doctrines on the Essence and Energies of God are both ancient and continuously attested to throughout the Patristic literature up to this day. These citations also make it clear that none of what you are about to read is my original work or thoughts.
To be continued…
“The Penal Substitution Theory sees Christ’s suffering and death as the price for man’s sin.”
The Penal Substitution Theory sees Christ’s suffering and death as the price for man’s sin. In many ways, the model for Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a courtroom. Due to his sin, man needed to be made right with a perfect and just God. Therefore, Christ came to suffer and pay the price in our place, i.e., He substituted Himself for us. Now, in the courtroom of God, those who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior are judged innocent. They have a forensic righteousness imputed upon them.
Clearly, Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Latin Christianity have significantly different theories of atonement as part of their respective soteriologies (doctrines of salvation). The contemporary Orthodox Recapitulation Theory agrees with Western Satisfaction and Penal Substitution theories in so far as God needed to deal with man’s sin. Man was separated from God as a result of the fall and, left to his own devices, was incapable of returning to God. However, the Orthodox see God’s model of dealing with man’s sin as a hospital rather than a courtroom. This stands in sharp contrast to the forensic, legalistic models of Roman Catholic Satisfaction and Protestant Penal Substitution.
Instead of viewing the atonement as Christ paying the price for sin in order to satisfy a wrathful God, Recapitulation teaches that Christ became human to heal mankind by perfectly uniting the human nature to the Divine Nature in His person. Through the Incarnation, Christ took on human nature, becoming the Second Adam, and entered into every stage of humanity, from infancy to adulthood, uniting it to God. He then suffered death to enter Hades and destroy it. After three days, He resurrected and completed His task by destroying death.
By entering each of these stages and remaining perfectly obedient to the Father, Christ recapitulated every aspect of human nature. He said “Yes” where Adam said “No” and healed what Adam’s actions had damaged. This enables all of those who are willing to say yes to God to be perfectly united with the Holy Trinity through Christ’s person, the Logos, the Son. In addition, by destroying death, Christ reversed the consequence of the fall. Now, all can be resurrected. Those who choose to live their life in Christ can be perfectly united to the Holy Trinity, receiving the full love of God’s grace. However, those who reject Christ and choose to live their lives chasing after their passions will perceive the love of God as torment, as hell.
Meyendorff: “The fact that the Logos assumed human nature as such implied the universal validity of redemption…”
Fr. John Meyendorff (1926 – 1992) – was a leading theologian of the Orthodox Church as well as a writer and teacher. He was a great student of 14th century Saint, Gregory Palamas. Meyendorff served as the Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York until 1992. Here, Meyendorff explains that the Orthodox church does not reject the idea of universal salvation, or apokatastasis, because it conflicts with the notion of eternal damnation, but “because it presupposes an ultimate limitation of human freedom”.
“The fact that the Logos assumed human nature as such implied the universal validity of redemption, but not the ‘apokatastasis’, or universal salvation, a doctrine which in 553 was formally condemned as Origenistic. Freedom must remain an inalienable element of every man, and no one is to be forced into the Kingdom of God against his own free choice; the ‘apokatastasis’ had to be rejected precisely because it presupposes an ultimate limitation of human freedom – the freedom to remain outside of God.” ~ Byzantine Theology, 163
“In the beginning was the Logos…”
Christianity is unique among the world’s great religions in that it is the only one with the revelation of God emptying himself of his divine prerogatives to incarnate as a person in order to save all humankind from a fallen imperfect state and lead them to ultimately attain to the likeness of God. The Logos Doctrine is essential to an understanding of that revelation.
Our discussion begins with the words of St. John in the prologue to his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Logos (Word)…”.
The New Testament was originally composed in Greek. The Greek word which is translated “Word” in most English Bibles is “Logos”. Many English speaking Christians are aware of this fact, but very few are aware of the ancient Christian Logos Doctrine to which it refers. The Logos Doctrine is so foundational to Christian theology that Protestant theologian Paul Tillich stated emphatically that, “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, p. 288). With that crystal clear message from one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, let’s move on!
So, what is this Logos Doctrine?
Five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus used the word Logos to describe what he envisioned as a universal force of reason which governed the universe. He felt that “all things happen according to this Logos”. Later, the philosophical school known as the Stoics expanded and popularized this idea in the ancient world.
Early Christians, including the Gospel writer John, adapted the Logos principle as a means to explain Jesus Christ in terms that the dominant Greco-Roman culture could understand and respect. In Greek Stoic philosophy, the concept of the Logos describes a universal principle. But, in the Christian context, in addition to that transcendent idea, the Logos also assumes a very personal character by being associated with the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. So, in the following discussion of the pre-incarnational Christian Logos Doctrine, every time we see “Logos” or Word, we need to mentally add to it the “Son”, the second Person of the Trinitarian Godhead.
St. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165) taught that all truth came from the Logos, or Word, of God. Therefore, whatever truth was stated by any human being at any time, anywhere, was the result of the influence of the immanent Logos within him/her; and was, therefore, Christian. It was later generations of Christians that claimed for the institutional Christian church a total monopoly on truth as its sole source and repository… as it does to this day.
“the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, … they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word [spermatikos logos; the Logos inherent in all humans], seeing what was related to it. But they who contradict themselves on the more important points appear not to have possessed the heavenly wisdom, and the knowledge which cannot be spoken against. Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians… For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word [spermatikos logos] that was in them. For the seed and imitation imparted according to capacity is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him.” Second Apology, 13.
Justin Martyr, (c. 100 – 165 AD), was an early Christian apologist, and is regarded as the foremost interpreter of the Logos Doctrine in the 2nd century. He was martyred alongside some of his students and is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is clear that the early church was much more inclusive, more cosmic, and less tribal and triumphalistic than the later and contemporary church.
“We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word [Logos] of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably (μετὰ λόγου, “with reason, or the Logos”) are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists;” First Apology, 46.
“The Logos is the universal principle of the self-manifestation of God…”
The Logos is the universal principle of the self-manifestation of God to himself, in himself. That means that whenever God appears, either to himself or outside himself, it is the Logos that appears. The Logos is the first “work” or generation of God as Father.
God the Father is often called eternal mind (nous). The Father, being eternal mind, has the Logos within himself. This means that he has the power of self-manifestation within him. A human analogy would be the fact that there is no mental process going on in a human except in silent words. Likewise, the inner spiritual life of God includes the silent Word within him.
The Logos is a spiritual procession that goes out from God the Father to the created world. It’s the way that God the Father manifests himself to the created world. This procession does not produce separation. The Logos of God is not identical to God; it is the self-manifestation of God. It is like the rays from the sun; it is not the sun, yet it cannot be separated from the sun. If you separate the Logos from God, it becomes empty and without content. As St. Justin Martyr (AD 100–165) says, “The Logos is different from God according to number, but not according to concept.” He is God; he is not the God (the Father), but he is one with God in essence.
The Logos is the principle which gives order the created cosmos. The Logos is the dynamic principle, the providentially working power which directs the natural and moral laws of the universe. It is the natural law to which everything is subject, both matter and living beings.
In the Christian Bible, Logos means both word and reason. In the context of the Old Testament, you would best translate Logos (memra in Aramaic) as word. In New Testament (Greek) terms, you would translate Logos in the more personal sense of reason. This is reason not in the sense of rational, logical “reasoning”, but more in the sense of the meaningful structure of reality. The Logos is present in and permeates throughout all creation; it is ubiquitous in the universe and yet also contains it without being bounded by it.
“This revelation is uniquely Christian.”
In terms of humankind, the Logos gives to every human being an intuitive knowledge of the existence of God and a culturally influenced knowledge of moral laws which we feel the obligation to fulfill in freedom. The Logos also gives structure to the mind or nous. The nous is not the Logos but it is the Logos that gives order to the contents of the nous.
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215) believed that humankind should live life according to the Logos (cf. Stromata, 3). Faith, in terms of assent and obedience, is the beginning, but it is not enough. Real participation in God requires the addition of knowledge. Clement does not feel that there is any conflict between faith and knowledge, between reason and revelation. Knowledge enters into faith as one of its constituent elements; reason and reflection are the avenues through which the divine revelation comes.
According to Justin Martyr, the spermatikos logos, the germinal or seminal word, is sown as conscience in the hearts of all humans. According to Justin, the use of reason by people, even in those without express faith in Christ, is already Christ the Logos at work in them. “We have been taught,” St. Justin declared, “that Christ is the First-born of God, and we have declared . . . that he is the Word [Logos] of whom every race of men were partaken, and those who lived reasonable are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists.” First Apology, 46.
The Incarnation of the Logos as a human, Jesus of Nazareth, is a unique revelation of Christianity. Jesus is unique in that he represents not only the incarnation of the Logos of God, but also the Christ (anointed one), the Hebrew Messiah. So, now when we use the word Logos in any post-incarnational discussion, we need to also mentally add “Jesus” and “Christ” to “Son” in our composite picture. To the Stoic idea of Logos as a universal, transcendent principle, Christianity added the very personal dimensions of Son of God and Jesus Christ. This revelation is uniquely Christian.
“…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”!