Date of last revision: 29 Dec 96
Everyone has a set of fundamental assumptions and beliefs that shape his or her thoughts, speech, and actions, though few take the time to examine them, much less articulate them. Here are mine.
I am a Christian. What I believe is well represented by two passages
from the Bible, which I consider to be the written revelation
of God and, rightly interpreted, the standard of truth and morality.
I've integrated these passages below and linked certain key terms
and phrases to my interpretations. With the exception of one very
key word (which is noted), all Bible quotations are from the Holy Bible,
New International Version, copyright 1973, 1978, and 1984 by International
|John 1:1-14||Colossians 1:15-20|
|In the beginning was The Logos, and The Logos was with God, and The Logos was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.|
|He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.|
In him was life, and that life was
the light of men. The light shines in the
darkness, but the darkness has not understood
[or overcome] it. ...
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
The Logos became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And he is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so
that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
The Logos is the fundamental creative and ordering principle of the universe. Consistent with that order, it is the chief purpose of humankind and our highest calling to enjoy eternal life, which is intimate knowledge of God, and to enter the Kingdom of God. With but one exception, through uncontrolled self-interest we defy that order and pursue our own ends through our own means, breaking the intended relationship with God. But The Logos became flesh as Jesus Christ, and through his life, death, and resurrection enabled full reconciliation. It is up to us to accept that grace and fulfill our purpose.
The Gospel (Good News) of John is the fourth book of the New Testament. It is an account of the ministry of Jesus Christ written by John, one of Christ's disciples. It was written in the late first century AD, perhaps between 70 and 85, perhaps as a supplement to the three other gospels, which were written earlier. It is believed that the book was written for a readership well acquainted with Greek philosophy.
The New International Version actually reads 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word ...'. I've chosen to substitute the transliteration of the original Greek, because, in my opinion, 'word' cannot capture the author's meaning. Logos was a philosophical term meaning the plan or model of the universe, the fundamental, cosmic ordering principle, that by which all things come to be and in accordance with which all things come to pass. It is particularly significant that John speaks of The Logos as a person. For the interested reader, I have more to say concerning The Logos.
God is the Supreme Being, the Creator (Genesis 1:1):
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
This book was written by the apostle Paul. Like Jesus and John, Paul was a Jew, but, unlike John, he was not originally a follower of Jesus. In fact, he was an enemy and persecutor of early Christians until he experienced a profound conversion experience. After this he became the chief theologian and missionary of the early Christian church. This book was a letter written in about 65 AD to Christians in Colosse, a city in Asia Minor, presumably to counter some type of heresy (unknown to us now) that was arising there.
Although Paul does not explicitly refer to The Logos, it is clear from the context that he is writing about the same person. Like John, Paul was apparently familiar with Greek philosophy and recognized the partial truth to be found there and its relationship to the message he had to convey.
Life is the vital force in all living things, but is also movement or change in the broadest sense. And there is more.
Light is often used as a metaphor for that which enables intellect and reason. For example, in Plato's Republic (VI, 508), Socrates says
... whenever he turns [the eyes] to what the sunlight illumines, they see clearly ... it is the same with the soul, thus: when it settles itself firmly in that region in which truth and real being rightly shine, it understands and knows it and appears to have reason ...
The absence of light and, metaphorically, the absence of that which makes reason possible. Socrates continues
... but when it [the soul] has nothing to rest on but that which is mingled with darkness -- that which becomes and perishes, it opines, it grows dim-sighted, changing opinions up and down, and is like something without reason.
Both John and Paul recognized that every human is illuminated by The Logos, as all human reason springs from him. They made this recognition manifest by drawing on Greek philosophy (a product of that illumination) and acknowledging that the philosophers had an accurate, though limited, knowledge of the truth. The aim of our writers was to bring us to a more complete understanding of the truth.
Though The Logos is common to all, most do not understand, acknowledge, or accept him. Uncontrolled self-interest, which is the root of all sin and evil, causes us to reject God and prevents our entry into eternal life, which is our proper relationship with him. Even so, reconciliation is possible. Read on.
Born of God into eternal life. Again and again in his gospel, John comes back to the concept of eternal life and presents it as the highest good one can attain, the chief end of human existence, toward which all should aspire. In John 17:3a eternal life is defined as knowledge of God:
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God ...
Not incidentally, to receive eternal life is to enter the kingdom of God, as is made clear in a passage from another gospel. In Mark 10:17b a rich man comes to Jesus and asks
"Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
After Jesus tells him that, among other things he must give up his material wealth, the man goes away sad, and Jesus remarks in verse 23
"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."
As eternal life plays a central role in the gospel of John, the kingdom of God is a main concept in the other three gospels. The two are the same.
To the Greeks, The Logos remained ever transcendent. But to John, Paul, and all the Christians that followed them, The Logos entered time and space. The Logos became a particular man, Jesus Christ, at a particular time, about 4 BC, in a particular place, Palestine, for a particular purpose, to reconcile errant humankind to God. During his ministry he established rigorous standards of morality. For example, be began one of his best-known sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, with the following, which are called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10):
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Fully God and fully man, he became a mediator between God and humankind, to make possible the God-human relationship intended by the Creator from the beginning. In a prayer shortly before his death, he prayed for a mutual indwelling that is the knowledge of God that is eternal life (John 17:20-23a):
My prayer is not for them [his disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.
To demonstrate this commitment to bringing eternal life, he went on to death by crucifixion and, on the third day following, resurrection.
The medium by which the message of Jesus Christ has been propagated. Jesus himself wrote nothing, as far as we know. Instead, he commissioned a small band of followers to spread the message to the world. The church, a body of believers that persists to the present, is the result, and Jesus Christ is its leader. The church was the entity from which the Bible emerged and has since been crucial in its interpretation, in spreading the good news, and in nurturing and sustaining individual believers spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically.
Paul agreed with John that Jesus was God. Only thus was mediation and reconciliation possible.
The story is aptly summarized in another letter written by Paul, this time to Christians in Rome (Romans 3:23)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.