Christ the Logos

With the Christmas season at hand, who is Christ? In English, we describe Christ as the “Word Incarnate,” the Alpha and the Omega, the Son of God. In the Nicene Creed, Christ is described as follows:

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.[1]

In St. John’s Gospel, Christ is described in English as “The Word.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.[2]

The word is a weak translation of the Greek word Logos. The Greek word Logos has a much deeper philosophical meaning than the English word. The meaning of the Greek word logos takes up pages in a Greek-to-English dictionary. Logos was used to express the underlying rationality of the universe, reason, speech, words, and many other things, before it was used to describe the Second person of the Godhead in Christianity by St, John.

The Greeks and Logos

While we think of the Ancient Greeks as worshipers of many gods, starting with the pre-Socratics, the Greek philosophers concluded that there was one God and this God was a transcendent mind (Nous). Heraclitus has been credited as the first Greek philosopher to use the word logos. According to the pre-Socratics the universe was governed by universal principles that were called Logos. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and later Greek Philosophers expanded on this concept. It culminated as God as the unmoved mover in Aristotle. But all the philosophers had a problem that could not be solved through reason alone. If God was, as Aristotle thought, an omniscient, omnipotent, mind that existed in a state of unchanging perfection, why would he create the universe and man? He didn’t need it, nor could his existence be improved by it. Why would He engage in creation?

St. John in his Gospel adds to Greek thought and solves this dead-end in the philosophical tradition when he states that “In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.”[3] The Logos is the product of the transcendent mind, the logic of the perfect Nous. The Logos forms the second Person of the trinity in Jesus Christ. In Catholicism, Christ is the solution to the Greek quest for the creation of the universe and the ultimate reality. It is “through Him all things were made.” The underlying logic in the universe is the product of this transcendent mind and takes the form of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The Love behind the perfect Nous and His Logos forms the third person in the trinity the Holy Spirit that spirals out from the Godhead. Of course, the divine nature of Christ and the creative act would be enough to worship Christ and celebrate Him, but there is an additional element of the Son of God that adds to His Glory. “He came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”[4] It is for this that we celebrate Christmas and for what follows that we celebrate Easter. By doing so, God walked amongst us and “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He arose on the third day, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”[5]

What isn’t explicitly celebrated is that Christ through John’s description in his Gospel solves a dilemma that has plagued man since the early Greek philosophers. Can we know things about reality and if so how, and WHY? How is it that man can know things about himself, God, and nature? Is a true science possible and why did it not truly arrive until the formation of the Catholic Church in Europe? To this, we need to look again at Greek Philosophy and the Old Testament book of Genesis. In Genesis (Gen. 1:26-30 Douay-Rheims version)

And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth. And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat: And to all beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done.[6]

God does not possess two eyes, two ears, a mouth, or two arms, God is a transcendent mind. God does not possess the physical features we do as Humans, except in the form of Jesus Christ, who possessed two natures, a divine nature, and a human nature. When Genesis says that God created man in His own image, it means he imparted Logos onto us. Aristotle called man the “rational animal.” Aristotle did not explain how or why man stood out amongst all creation with the unique trait of reason. Through John’s Gospel and the story of creation in genesis, the how and why are answered. Logic can tell us that we possess reason, but not explain how and why. The Christian creation story and the description of Christ in John’s Gospel make cosmological and thus philosophical claims about not just God and morality, but the relationship between God, man, and nature. St. John puts forth the principle presupposition for science.

After the fall from Grace incurred by eating from the tree of knowledge, man’s logos was diminished. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:

 405 Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.[7]

The after-effects of the fall from grace are a weakened nature and a weakened logos. It is through the gift of Logos both as the Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, and the logos that God included in human nature by creating man in His image that science and knowledge about reality are possible. They are explained simply in that “In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.”[8] That God created man in his own image (imparting logos onto man, a gift we call reason), although in a diminished form after the fall from grace. The universe (or the natural world) was created in accordance with Logos. Man, in a diminished form, possesses this logos. The laws of nature are in accordance with logos and can be conceptualized by the minds of men. The things that exist independent of men’s minds can be identified as being the same as things in reality through logos. The same thing that created the universe and governs it is in man’s nature (in a diminished capacity). The connection between, God, the mind-independent reality and the human mind is Logos, and this concept is the founding principle of true science. The universe is governed by laws independent of the things the law governs. They are not derived from the things themselves, but through the creative act of the Logos (Christ). The fact that we share this logos in the diminished form allows man to know things about reality. As such, we can derive true propositions about the real world (reality) through reason. This concept is the principle presupposition in science as developed by the Christian-Western mind. The categories of the mind are real and thus capable of being brought into relation with other real objects and discover natural laws. The categories of the mind come from the same thing as the objects and natural laws it seeks to discover, Logos.

While the gift described above is not on par with the gift of salvation and the one true perfect sacrifice we celebrate at Easter, or the incarnation of God that we celebrate at Christmas, it is a wonderous gift to all men Christian or not. For it is through the lens of what was previously discussed that we can form a world where religion and science are not in conflict with one another, where the discovery of the laws of nature is seen as good, for this leads to the discovery of God through his wondrous creation. We glorify God by discovering His Will and creation using the grace of logos he bestowed on us by creating us in his image. To mislead others about these discoveries, or the nature of God’s creation is a sin, for it leads one away from the creator. The link between God, nature, and man that allows us to have limited knowledge about God and his creation, along with ourselves is the same as the gift he bestowed upon creation on a silent night in Bethlehem. Deo Gratias.

[1] “What We Believe,” USCCB, accessed December 13, 2022, https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe

[2] “Gospel According to St John Chapter 1,” Douay-Rheims Bible, John Chapter 1, accessed December 13, 2022, https://www.drbo.org/chapter/50001.htm.

[3] Parenthesis mine. “Gospel According to St John Chapter 1,” Douay-Rheims Bible, John Chapter 1, accessed December 13, 2022, https://www.drbo.org/chapter/50001.htm

[4] “What We Believe,” USCCB, accessed December 13, 2022, https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe

[5] “What We Believe,” USCCB, accessed December 13, 2022, https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe

[6] (Gen. 1:26-30 Douay-Rheims Version) https://www.drbo.org/chapter/01001.htm

[7] “Catechism of the Catholic Church – Paragraph # 405,” n.d. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/405.htm.

[8] Parenthesis mine. “Gospel According to St John Chapter 1,” Douay-Rheims Bible, John Chapter 1, accessed December 13, 2022, https://www.drbo.org/chapter/50001.htm

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