America, the Universe and the Mind of God

Subject: America, the Universe and the Mind of God
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word.”
Today’s American culture is morphing into something that looks like Europe. I hope we think that’s a very bad thing. The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens described the plight of Europe in his October 19th article: “Europe is dying because it has become morally incompetent. It isn’t that Europe stands for nothing. It’s that it stands for shallow things… Europeans believe in human rights, tolerance, openness, peace, progress, the environment, pleasure. These beliefs are all very nice, but they are also secondary. What Europeans no longer believe in are the things from which their beliefs spring: Judaism and Christianity; liberalism and the Enlightenment; martial pride and capability; capitalism and wealth. Still less do they believe in fighting or sacrificing or paying or even arguing for these things. Having ignored and undermined their own foundations, they wonder why their house is coming apart.”
By abandoning and undermining our Christian values, we in America are a lot like Europe: a pluralistic society with no moral compass. We spend our time on social media – facebook, twitter, talk radio and cable news – spending countless hours debating new ideas on how to fix ourselves. But this also looks a lot like another time in history – the first century Mediterranean culture at the dawn of Christianity’s birth. Luke, The author of the New Testament book of Acts, described the situation Paul found in Athens when he arrived at the place known as Mars Hill. He tells us that “all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” (Acts 17:21).
It was into this pluralistic culture of Jew, Greek and Roman that John proclaimed the opening verse to the Gospel bearing his name: “In the beginning was the Word.” Why does John use the term “Word”? He is reaching out to both Jews and Greeks in one clear proclamation: that the universe had a beginning, and that before the beginning of the universe was a Mind – the “Word”.
The Greeks understood John because he used “Logos” for the “Word”. To the Greeks, “logos” meant the ‘World-Soul’, the eternal creative energy of the universe through which .all things came and from which men derived their wisdom. They believed the universe was rational and the ‘force’ that originated and permeated and directed all things – the supreme governing principle of the universe. But the Greeks didn’t see the “logos” as personal, nor as a god to whom men subjected themselves.
But why does John also start his gospel with “In the beginning?” Besides the Greeks, John is also appealing to the Jews. The words “ejn ajrch” that John uses for “in the beginning” are a direct pointer for any Jew to Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But unlike the Greek, the Jew understood John’s use of “logos” as pointing to the God of the Old Testament. As their Old Testament book of Psalms taught them, “By the word of Yahweh the heavens were made…” (Psalm 33:6).
The Jews also knew that the “Word” was not a ‘force’ but was given a personality in their Old Testament that was behind both creation and their salvation. Proverbs 8:27,30 reveals this Word in creation (“When He prepared the heavens, I was there… I was beside Him, as a master craftsman. And I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.”). Psalm 107:19-20 reveals this “Word” in salvation: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His Word (“Logos”) and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.”
John used “Logos” because it was in common use everywhere in that pluralistic culture. Jew and Greek had a common understanding of “Logos” as the ruling force in the universe (Greek) and the self-expression of God (Jew). Both agreed that this Logos is the STARTING POINT of all things. But for John, the Word was much more than the force in the universe or God’s self-expression.
Go back and read chapter 1 of John’s gospel – you’ll notice that after the introduction, he never uses the word “Logos” again. Why not? Its because in his introduction John is explaining pre-existence. Thirteen verses later, in John 1:14, he transitions from the pre-existent wisdom of God to the existent Person of God. From this point on, the Word is called Jesus Christ. Jesus and the “Logos” are an identity – the “Logos” is the pre-existent Christ. God can now be known personally, by both Greeks and Jews.
This is what Europe has forgotten. This is where America must return – to its foundation – Jesus Christ.