Monday, June 20, 2016

Not recognizing the Logos

Speaking of the Logos, the prologue to the Gospel according to John says:

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. (John 1:10-11)

This is the bitterest of all ironies, that the very creator of the universe could have come and presented himself before those creatures uniquely capable of knowing him -- namely human beings -- and to pass unrecognized for what he is. Yet this is precisely what happened, says John.

Just as a piece of music in some way represents and reflects the character of the person who composed it, in the same way, all of the created order is in some way a reflection of and participation in the being of the Logos. Maximos the Confessor speaks about the distinction between the Logos and the logoi, the latter being the particular ideas or natures of the various created things which preexisted in the mind of the Logos. There is a logos of the human being, of angels, and so on, and each object is created by the Logos according to its particular logos. And each logos, moreover, is in some way a reflection of or participation in the character and being of the Logos.

What can it mean, then, to say that the created order did not recognize its Creator? What else can it mean except that the created order -- and here I am speaking especially of human beings -- has in some way forgotten itself, its true nature, its true character and calling? If the logoi are reflections of the Logos, and the logoi did not recognize the Logos for who he was, then neither do they recognize themselves for what they truly are.

This is what I see to have happened in the twenty-first century in the West. Human beings, thanks to unprecedented technological advancements and very much bad philosophy to go alongside with it, have simply forgotten what it means to be human. They overwork themselves; they live isolated in cities; they pursue enjoyment and fulfillment apart from the tight-knit communities by which humans survived for so many thousands of years; they try to cure their various ailments with sophisticated medications rather than living simpler, healthier lifestyles. Worse than this, we find persons forgetting even basic facts of biology, and instead of thinking of themselves as essentially embodied -- as one would assume to be normal -- they now take their bodies to be just one more object in the world which can be known scientifically and therefore manipulated to serve the ends of some apparently disembodied "I." Therefore you read about people who refuse the basic lessons of biology and seek sex which is in principle incapable of being procreative, using their bodies as means of enjoying themselves, rather than respecting the intrinsic principles of the body which clearly connect sexual activity with procreation. And there are various other examples that could be brought forth in this respect, as well.

For John, then, the human predicament is a sad one, because we have forgotten who we really are, and we don't understand our origins in the Creator Logos. This makes the incarnation of God in Christ and his subsequent rejection to be really a sad scene. Imagine a child who had been abandoned at a young age, and had spent his entire conscious life at an orphanage. Such a person could pass by his natural father on the street and would never be capable of recognizing him. He might even see him everywhere -- at the store, at the market, at the gas stations, at the restaurant, wherever he might go -- and fail to realize that this man, who he seems to see everywhere yet does not recognize, is really his father.

Such a scene is sad, but our situation is even worse. It is not that our Father has abandoned us long ago and left us to figure things out for ourselves. That is deism, not Christianity. On the contrary, John knows that the reason why the world did not recognize the Logos is because we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way (Isa 53:6). Humankind has abandoned the truth of God and exchanged it for a lie, rather than having been abandoned unjustly by God some long, long time ago. More than that, we have been living a lie for so long that we've become accustomed to it. That is why we don't recognize the Logos: we're used to the lies and the falsehoods that we've adopted to make our lives more comfortable and our sinful pursuits more meaningful, so that the message of the true Logos seems nonsense to us.

The Logos came into the world, then -- the very same world which he had created, all of which is a reflection of him in some way or another -- and came to show himself to his children. But they rejected him. They rejected him because they did not recognize him as their Creator; they could not discern the voice of the Creator of All in the words of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Logos incarnate. But worse than that, they killed him, as well. Imagine that the orphan of our story is approached by his real father, that his real father tells him of his true identity and wishes to take him to live in a different house, not in the orphanage. Imagine, further, that he is quite persistent in doing so, because he is speaking the truth and not a lie: he wants to come for his child and to bring him to a life which he deserves. Suppose, then, that our child not only does not recognize this man as his father, but even promises violence (and eventually delivers) if he will not leave the child alone to live as he likes. He murders his own father in cold blood, because he would rather live his orphan life than to accept life under the fatherhood of another.

Such is the miserable sinfulness of the human race, that it killed the Creator when this one had come to it in love and in forgiveness. Despite the fact that the human race had abandoned God, and not the other way around, the Logos had come in grace and mercy to do good. But he was rejected and murdered, being hung on a cross. Yet such is the majestic wisdom of the Logos that he knows how to turn this evil for our own good, and the same murder which represents the hanging of the Creator on a cross is also the sacrifice for the atonement of the sins of the whole world.

This same Creator, whom so many did not recognize as such, makes use of their evil and turns it to their good. He absorbs into his own being the evil which they do, for the sake of doing them a tremendous good out of it, so that they can be saved and restored to him out of the immeasurable depth of the ocean of his goodness.

And if we are the creatures of this Creator, and if the logoi reflect the Logos, then we ought to find something of ourselves in this tremendous act of grace. Mind you, we don't find a picture of ourselves as we are, but as we should be: this same outrageous goodness and boundless benevolence of God, demonstrated in the willing self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ, ought likewise to represent our own actions and attitudes and disposition in everything we do. If Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), then we humans who are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-7) ought to look to Christ to find ourselves once more. By looking to Christ and to his example, we will see a living and perfect example of the way we ought to live.

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