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Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Word and the Light

Comments on John 1, from The Life of Christ by Adam Fahling, on loan to me from our pastor:
In a beautiful prolog the Evangelist John identifies the person of Jesus Christ, who is to be the subject of his narrative, as the Logos, or the eternal and preexisting Word, the Son of God, God Himself. A term is used which was already familiar in Greek philosophy to denote the anima mundi, or the principle which maintains order in the world, but is here given a meaning all its own. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In tracing the antecedents of Jesus, this writer steps upon prehistoric, but not unhistoric, ground and proclaims Jesus as the Fountain of life and light, adding the sad note, however, that "the Light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not."
I've been recently longing to learn more about the Greek term "Logos." What was the full meaning of the word, and how is John using it when he describes Christ? The question is particularly important to me now in relation to many changes sweeping through the church now, and throughout the past thirty or so years; changes moving the church away from oral/aural proclamation (the preaching of the Word), toward visual or even tangible proclamation.

I have a sense that God favors a particular arrangement or hierarchy of the senses. For instance, Moses was certainly allowed to hear God -- and he even spoke back to Him -- but was prohibited from seeing God, lest he die. We are commanded in the Law to never make a graven image. Faith is described in Hebrews as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see."

So why is hearing the voice of God, and speaking in His name, so favored over seeing the face of God, and casting images of His glory? And what does it mean for the church? (Another related question: What's the Lutheran response to Reformed theology's Regulative principal?)

Even our Lutheran liturgy favors the oral/aural over and above the other senses. We confess our sins with our mouths, and upon our confession are forgiven all our sins. We consider communion -- which we contact with our other senses of smell, taste, and touch -- rightly administered only when the words of institution are used, and baptism valid only in the spoken name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In all cases, the Word and the word come first, and the rest of the sensorium trails behind.

Perhaps it's useless to so divide the senses. But I've had this nagging sense that there is a tremendous mystery here (as I've written about in the past), and I'm longing for a better articulation of that mystery.

Your thoughts? On a related note, the recent series of the White Horse Inn has given me a lot of food for thought. Give it a listen!