Posts Tagged Logos

Markides: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Kyriacos C. Markides (born November 19, 1942) is a professor of sociology at the University of Maine.  He has written several books on Christian mysticism including Mountain of Silence, Gifts of the Desert, and Inner River.  The following excerpt is from the book Gifts of the Desert, and gives what I consider an enlightened interpretation of John 14:6b. The context of the excerpt below is a QA session following a lecture on Eastern Orthodox spirituality.

kyriacos_markides“Just as I was about to thank the participants for their attentiveness and end the workshop, a woman who had earlier identified herself as a “born again Christian” raised her hand with marked intensity.

‘Christ taught that only through him can one go to the Father. How should we understand this statement?’ Given my audience, it was the most challenging question I faced.

I had the feeling that she needed affirmation for her beliefs and consciously or unconsciously wished to prompt me into declaring that only Christians will inherit heaven. Feeling somewhat uneasy, I reflected for a few seconds. I knew that, whatever answer I could possibly come up with, someone might feel offended or excluded. ‘Furthermore,’ I added, ‘I am not a biblical scholar who can offer an authoritative exegesis of scripture. I am certainly not a theologian.’ Inwardly, I asked for guidance as I placed my left hand in my pocket and fiddled with a komboschini [a string of black knots made out of wool that the Athonite monks use for ceaseless prayer]. Father Maximos had given it to me after pulling it off his own hand. It offered me a sense of security at that moment.

‘Look,’ I replied finally. ‘There are two possible ways to answer your question. The first is to interpret that passage in the New Testament literally, the way many Christians today would interpret it. In this sense, nobody who is not a baptized Christian can be saved. Some denominations would even make the claim that only through their specific community can a human being find salvation. This is, let us say, an ‘exoteric’ belief shared widely among fundamentalist Christians. It is a belief, however, that divides people, raising serious questions about God’s fairness and love for all his creatures. The typical objection is this: Does it mean that the billions of people who are not born Christians and who may have never heard of Christ will be lost for eternity? From a more esoteric, ‘inner Christian’ perspective such a conclusion seems misguided, to put it mildly. It denies the possibility of salvation to the overwhelming majority of the human race. Surely this could not have been Christ’s intention when he made that statement.’

I was encouraged by the facial expressions of the participants and continued. ‘Why then don’t we make an attempt to interpret that statement in a more inclusive way? Why don’t we try to look at it in terms of its possible inner meaning? I believe the Gospel of John offers us guidelines to answer questions like yours. Christ, according to the Gospel, is ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ [John 1:9]. Do you agree?’ After she nodded I continued. ‘Well, that says it all. Every human being has the Christ within his or her very nature. Furthermore, we are told that Christ is total and unconditional Love. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to conclude that whoever wishes to go to the Father, i.e., God, must attain the state of absolute and selfless love that Jesus embodied? If Christ is Love, then anyone who reaches the state of purification reaches the Father. No one can go to the Father, therefore, outside of total and selfless love. This is, I believe, the true spirit of the Christian message and this is what I understand the great saints of Christianity have taught either explicitly or implicitly.”

 

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Concept of “Person” 6

“…because humanity is created in the image of God with the drive for “absolute freedom”, it ‘is able to carry with [it] the whole of creation to its transcendence’.”

The Incarnation of the Logos, the Son, the Christ, created the possibility for humankind to attain by adoption, what Christ is by nature.  Zizioulas tells us:

“Thanks to Christ man can henceforth “subsist”, can affirm his existence as personal not on the basis of immutable laws of his nature, but on the basis of a relationship with God which is identified with what Christ in freedom and love possesses as Son of God with the Father. This adoption of man by God, the identification of his hypostasis with the hypostasis of the Son of God, is the essence of baptism.”

“The ecclesial hypostasis exists historically in this manner as a confirmation of man’s capacity not to be reduced to his tendency to become a bearer of individuality, separation and death. The ecclesial hypostasis is the faith of man in his capacity to become a person and his hope that he will indeed become an authentic person. In other words it is faith and hope in the immortality of man as a person.”

Zizioulas concludes his thoughts on the concept of “person” with the vision of humanity in communion and in an intimate love relationship with humankind, all creation, and with God:

“It becomes a movement of free love with a universal character, that is, a love which, while it can concentrate on one person as the expression of the whole of nature, sees in this person the hypostasis through which all men and all things are loved and in relation to which they are hypostasized. The body for its part as the hypostatic expression of the human person, is liberated from individualism and egocentricity and becomes a supreme expression of community – the Body of Christ, the body of the Church, the body of the eucharist.”

Zizioulas tells us that the concept of person, “implies the ‘openness of being,’ and even more than that, the ek-stasis of being, i.e., a movement toward communion which leads to transcendence of the boundaries of the ‘self’ and thus to freedom.”  Moreover, because humanity is created in the image of God with the drive for “absolute freedom”, it “is able to carry with [it] the whole of creation to its transcendence.”

This is some pretty awesome spiritual thinking and imagery, isn’t it?

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The Logos Doctrine 1

“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.

 

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Logos Doctrine 3

 “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.

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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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Secular “psychology” can only help you cope: only God can deliver and cure.

The word “psychology” literally means, “study of the soul” (it is made up of two Greek words: ψυχή, psukhē, meaning “soul”; and -λογος – logos, meaning “study of”).

The fact that we are tri-partite (three-part) beings, consisting of “spirit”, “soul”, and “body” is well attested to in the New Testament (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 4:12) and in the writings of the early Fathers (e.g., Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Basil of Cesaraea).

Jesus identified many psychological issues in his teachings that we now might term “denial”, “defense mechanisms”, “projections”, and “inner healing”.  The Apostle Paul was certainly deeply involved in the transformation of the fallen human “soul” and “body” through the power and influence of the “Spirit” of God.  There are many additional New Testament examples of psychological teachings, both in the Gospels and the Epistles.

The actual term “psychology” was first used in writing during the Enlightenment of the 16th century.  The modern science of psychology is brand new, emerging in Europe in the 1870’s, with its super-hero, Sigmund Freud, starting his work in the 1890’s. I know that seems odd, given that “psychology” is such a familiar and popular part of our secular culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. But, as a science, it really is brand new, relatively speaking.

The problem with contemporary secular psychology is that, at most, it only deals with two parts of a human being; the body and, perhaps, parts of the soul. With few exceptions, the secular study of psychology virtually ignores the spiritual aspect of humanity. It suffers the modern bias for what can be observed and measured through the five senses, relegating all else (such as spirit), to the intellectual dumpster of superstition and/or imagination.

And that is why I maintain that modern psychology can only help you “cope” with problems, it cannot “deliver” us from them or “cure” them. Secular psychology only deals with two of the three variables of the equation; our fallen “body” and “soul”. It arrogantly ignores the most important element of our being, the “spirit”. Therein lies the healing cure for these problems; the power of the “Spirit” to transform both the soul and the body to align and conform our entire being to the perfect will of God. Only God can truly heal, cure, and deliver us from psychological afflictions.

This is not “new” news, folks.  This is ancient Christian teaching that is largely being ignored or shouted down by contemporary secular “science”.

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Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not

The beginning of the first century AD saw the rapid rise of the Roman Imperial Cult. This religious cult was based upon the proclaimed divinity of Augustus Caesar (c.62 BC – 14 AD / Reigned 31 BC – 14 AD) and subsequent Roman Emperors. This Imperial Cult was a unifying political and religious factor across the whole Roman Empire in the first century. The emergence of the Imperial Cult preceded, but also developed with, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The earliest written Christian records we have are the Letters of St. Paul from the mid-first century. A good summary of the theme of his gospel message is contained in the Letter to the Romans Chapter 1, Verses 3 &4: “…concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead…”.

In the opinion of British theologian N.T. Wright, “Despite the way Protestantism has used the phrase (making it denote, as it never does in Paul, the doctrine of justification by faith), for Paul “the gospel” is the announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth is Israel’s Messiah and the world’s Lord.”

Wright goes on to explain that Paul’s euangelion, his gospel (Good News) message, was every bit as much a confrontational and subversive political proclamation as it was a religious one: “Paul was announcing that Jesus was the true King of Israel and hence the true Lord of the world, at exactly the time in history, and over exactly the geographical spread, where the Roman emperor was being proclaimed, in what styled itself a “gospel”, in very similar terms.”

Later, Wright applies Paul’s gospel message to his [Paul’s] vision for the ekklesia, the church. His basis for this comes from Chapter 3 of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Wright tells us: “We may begin with 3.20.  “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await the Saviour, the Lord Jesus, the Messiah”. These are Caesar-titles. The whole verse says: Jesus is Lord, and Caesar isn’t. Caesar’s empire, of which Philippi is a colonial outpost, is the parody; Jesus’ empire, of which the Philippian church is a colonial outpost, is the reality.”

Wright goes on to discuss the implications of Paul’s vision of this empire of Jesus: “if Paul’s answer to Caesar’s empire is the empire of Jesus, what does that say about this new empire, living under the rule of its new lord? It implies a high and strong ecclesiology, in which the scattered and often muddled cells of women, men and children loyal to Jesus as Lord form colonial outposts of the empire that is to be: subversive little groups when seen from Caesar’s point of view, but when seen Jewishly an advance foretaste of the time when the earth shall be filled with the glory of the God of Abraham and the nations will join Israel in singing God’s praises.”

Paul’s vision for this ekklesia, as subversive colonial outposts of the coming empire of Jesus, could not be realized after a series of events in the fourth century.  In AD 313 Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan, a proclamation of religious tolerance that officially ended the persecution of Christians.  The Christian Church greatly increased in power and influence in the fourth century under Imperial patronage.  The Church quickly became fully integrated into the political and cultural fabric of the Roman Empire, culminating with The Edict of Thessalonica, also known as Cunctos populos, issued on 27 Feb 380, by Roman Emperor Theodosius I.  This edict ordered all subjects of the Roman Empire to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. The edict officially made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire.

And the Church has been “sleeping with the enemy”, the world’s domination systems and institutions, for the entire 1,700 years since.  This is Christendom.  This is not the vision of the ekklesia of the Apostle Paul.

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The “Fall” as Disease

The Orthodox see the “Fall” of man and resulting sin as fundamentally a disease of the will. With the arrival of death at the Fall, our will and drive to maintain and satisfy our physical bodies overwhelmed our natural human will to attain to the likeness of our Creator, in whose image we were created. Our natural will has, from that time, been so distorted and diseased by our deception and preoccupation with carnal needs and passions, that we have nearly lost sight of our true nature. Using this disease model, the incarnation, ministry, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can be thought of as a “therapeutic” mission of God to mankind. When I say “therapeutic”, I mean it in the Greek sense of the word θεραπεύω, therapeuo. The New Testament mentions healing by Jesus and his disciples 73 times. In 40 cases, the Greek word is therapeuo. It means “to serve as a therapon, and attendant;” then, “to care for the sick, to treat, cure, heal”. I think that this is an accurate, loving description of God’s intervention in the created world to provide personal care, curative treatment, healing, and salvation to his fallen and diseased creation through the incarnation, ministry, and voluntary, redemptive sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Note how this view of the Fall, from God’s relationship to man, avoids the problems and pitfalls of Western Latin (Augustinian) theology which include, but are not limited to: Original Sin (Total Depravity), God’s  Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption) , Irresistible grace (Effectual Calling), Predestination, Free Will, the Problem of Evil, Purgatory, and Heaven and Hell.

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Spirit-Filled Clergy and Laity Need to Get Their “Acts” (doxis and praxis) Together

‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.’

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.’

I take these statements from Jesus in Matthew 12:25 and 23:15 and apply them to the Body of Christ in terms of its fundamental doctrines and practices. When doctrines or opinions (Gk. doxis), what you profess, and practices (Gk. praxis), what you do, do not align and complement one another, you end up with a house divided against itself and/or the hypocrisy of not doing what you say.

That’s not so much a problem with Denominational Mainline Christianity because, by and large, their Western Latin doxis of a remote, transcendent, magisterial God administering Roman justice on a fallen, sinful mankind pretty much complements and supports their praxis of guilt, bondage, control, and sin consciousness of their congregations. It is not a pretty picture of Christianity, but at least their views of right doctrines (orthodoxis) and right practices (orthopraxis) are aligned and complementary.

The problem is in the Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Their praxis is based on operating in the Ministry Gifts (Eph. 4) of an immanent, loving, involved God (the Son, the Logos, the Christ, Jesus) and individual Gifts (1 Cor 12, Rom. 12) and Fruit (Gal. 5) of an indwelling, supporting, comforting, and guiding Holy Spirit.  This praxis is wonderful, empowering, freeing, loving and Bible-based, to be sure.

Unfortunately, the contemporary Spirit-filled, Pentecostal/Charismatic movement does not have a theology, doctrine, or doxis, that supports, complements, or aligns with their empowered praxis. They pretty much brought along, whole cloth, the orthodoxis of whatever Western Latin tradition they came from; be that Evangelical, Reformed, Anglican, or Roman Catholic. At best, this causes the problem of a “house divided” in Matt. 12, above. At worst, it results in the “hypocrisy” described in Matt. 23.

Operating in the Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit was the orthopraxis of the early primitive Christian church. We know that from Acts and Paul’s un-disputed letters. There was also an orthodoxis in the primitive Church that aligned with, complemented, and supported this empowered orthopraxis. It has been suppressed by the Western Latin (i.e., Roman Catholic and Protestant) Church for the last 1,600 years.

Can you imagine what might happen if we got the orthodoxis and orthopraxis of the primitive Christian Church of Signs and Miracles together again for the first time in 1,600 years?!

That is what “First Thoughts” is all about. Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, clergy and laity alike, need to read this booklet so that the remnant church can get its collective “Acts” together and become  the Powerhouse Body of Christ it should, and can be. Satan wants to keep it from happening, keeping us “double-minded”.

 

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The Need for a Top-down Theology

The meaning of theology is to know God as He is, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3

“Theology, rightly considered, is the knowledge of God in His relation to us, the cardinal point of which lies in the truth which the old Greek poet had glanced at. “For we are also his offspring” – this is the true keynote; and theology, setting out from this kinship between us and God, we at once soar, as on wings of a spiritual intuition, across the abyss between creature and Creator.”

John Heard

Theology is the study of God in relation to man.  This is a First Thought.  Theology is not, conversely, the doctrine of man in relation to God.  That is an Afterthought born of human arrogance and pride at truly biblical levels.  The adage, “There is a God, and we’re not Him”, comes to mind.  All proper theology starts with God and works from that starting point to His relation to man.  The order is all important.  Getting it backwards has caused huge problems in Christianity that we suffer with to this day.  Take the following historical illustration as an example:

If we make the mistake of making man the starting point, we immediately have to deal with him in a condition of spiritual blindness and consequent self-alienation from God.  How do we explain this condition?  The answer is to come up with a rationale, an Afterthought, like Original SinBecause we have approached it from the wrong direction, this first Afterthought raises yet further questions.  So, we are forced into developing a series of additional related Afterthoughts to rationalize our flawed first assumptions; the Fall, the Atonement, Grace, Predestination, the problem of evil, etc.  This line of reasoning of man in relation to God inevitably leads us to a problem that has no logical solution: Either God is all-goodness, but not all-mighty, or He is all-mighty, but not all-goodness.

Excerpt from the book “First Thoughts“.

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