What is the Logos?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

What is the Logos

The Gospel According to John begins, “In the beginning was the Word [Greek: logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” What is the logos?
Ancient sources use logos in a variety of ways, including to denote “word” or “speech.” The context of the writer of John’s Gospel suggests to me that this writer used logos in the sense that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (ca. 535-475 BCE) used it. For Heraclitus, logos was a general concept – a principle of order and knowledge. Therefore, I think the writer of John was asserting that a logos/general principle has always guided the universe, and this principle was manifest in Jesus of Nazareth.
Is there evidence for such a guiding principle? A look at nature, where animals routinely kill each other, suggests that if there is such a principle, it is not benign. However, in nature creatures also delight in life and even showing kindness and compassion for each other. Indeed, nonhumans will care for friends and even strangers, and sometimes even members of other species. Similarly, humans manifest both extremes of cruelty and callousness as well as love and altruism.
Christian scripture and tradition teaches that the logos was made incarnate in Jesus. To understand the logos from a Christian perspective, we need to explore the life and teachings of Jesus. Here, we find a person who repeatedly showed love, compassion, and concern. He taught that “the greatest commandment” was love, and this accords with 1 John 4:8, which reads, “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.”

 I think that belief that there is a logos is similar to a belief that God exists. We find evidence for both in our lives and in the world around us, though we are also challenged in our faith by evidence to the contrary. Ultimately, we have no choice but organize our lives around principles, whether those principles involve love on one extreme or narcissistic self-interest on the other, and whether or not those principles include God or other metaphysical dimensions.

As a person of faith, I choose to try to align my life with a notion of the logos in which the creator God (however clouded in mystery God might be) is loving and caring. I think seeing God as aligned with a single principle is crucial for monotheism, which I will explore next essay. 

Go on to: Monotheism, part 1
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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