The Language of God, Mind, and Logos

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Theism is not necessarily couched in that language. In my view, not properly couched. Besides, aren’t we supposed to follow something greater than theism? Greater than a view?

No need to Dispute God's Design... the Goal is
(Jon Garvey) #2

i’m confused by this: does not creation originate in the mind of God (speaking analogously as we always must)? We can split hairs about distinguishing Christianity from a thing called “theism”, but “Theos” is still the New Testament word for God.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

I would insist that God is not reducible to a “mind”, or even think this is a salient way to describe him. Of course he has a mind, but that reduction is not at the forefront of how He revealed Himself. Perhaps more salient is “person”, or “presence”, or even a “present person.” Most salient is the incarnate reality we find in Jesus, who also defies reduction to a “mind”.

Thinking about this further, I wonder if there is something to be unpacked in the distinction between “idea” and “word” and “word in flesh”? @jongarvey and @Philosurfer…?

(Ashwin S) #4

Of course God is not reducible to a mind. However creation originates in God’s mind.
This is consistent with John’s description of Jesus as the Logos of God as well as the old testament teaching that God created with his wisdom and understanding.

(Jon Garvey) #5

There are fruitful some Trinitarian distinctions to be made, and they have been made down the history of theology.

There’s also, I’m beginning to suspect, something to be considered in the Dabar/Logos (an idea to do with meaning, that indefinable content of information) as the means of creation, as opposed to Galileo’s idea of mathematics (algorithmic information) as the language of God.

But I haven’t any clear ideas on it yet!

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #6

Sure it is “consistent” but I’m not sure it is salient. Logos means “word,” and does not mean mind though it might presuppose it. I’m not sure I’ve seen any good reason to move from much more established language to “mind”.

(Ashwin S) #7

Actually logos looses a lot in translation. In the time of John’s writing, it has a distinctive usage in philosophy. John took a Pre-existing word and extended its meaning to describe Jesus.

It’s more correctly understood as “Divine reason”… It is very close to meaning the mind of God. It’s God’s ability to reason…

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

I suppose I am skeptical that these are “very close” in meaning. I see strong distinctions.

(Ashwin S) #9

Perhaps you could elaborate… are you familiar with the context of how this word was used in John’s time?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #10

Always could learn more.

The reference is to Genesis too, as God created with his word. Yes it originates from a mind, but minds are mundane and everywhere. The more important piece of the meaning is the power and authority of the “word” as it accomplishes that what it intends. Also words connote not just one mind but more than one, as they are meant to communicate and transfer meaning from one mind to another.

All that dynamic meaning, tensions, and original Genesis context is lost if we say Logos is basically a mind. I have a mind. You have a mind. Very mundane.

(Ashwin S) #11

That’s not the sense of the word.
Logos is the expression of the mind… It’s thought as well as spoken word. In the trinitarian sense, The father is the originator of all things, yet every expression of the father is the Son…
Hence the connection to the mind of God. As far as I understand, logos is to the mind of God, what thought is to ours.
Edit: This has importance in the trinitarian sense as it shows the Son and Father are one… while being distinct.

(Daniel Deen) #12

Hmm… I haven’t thought about the relationship between those concepts – @swamidass did you have any comments in particular in mind since you first brought it up?

It is hard for me to wrap my head around this. God is outside space and time, I cannot think but in categories of space and time. It sounds weird to me to say that creation originates in God’s mind – I believe God is rational, wise, good, and the lot, but this side of eternity his divine wisdom often appears as foolishness. The ultimate expression of which His foolish-wisdom is the Crucifixion.

I typically assume this as well, but was surprised to learn from a Concordia Commentary series and a Lutheran study bible that the use of Logos in John 1 does NOT borrow from or is taken from the philosophers. Of course it is related, but the commentary went to great pains to sever the Logos from the way Greek philosophers may have employed it. To my ears, it was something akin to what N.T. Wright does with the term “resurrection.” The Christian usage/meaning of the term is unique. Not something borrowed or built upon other foundations, whether Jew in the case of the term “resurrection” or gentile in the case of the term “logos.” I am sure there is a lively debate among NT scholars which I would be interested in learning more about.

I’m with you on this except that God has a tendency to use the very mundane to make himself known to us – a human body in the case of jesus, bread, wine, water, common dialect, etc… I think what you may be getting at is something like this, correct me if I’m wrong. We, humans, are the only creatures that possess a “mind” of a certain caliber. Other animals, perhaps higher primates and the like, may posses something like a mind, but the human mind is orders of magnitude more complex than our nearest relative. Even if this is false, go along with me as a thought experiment. Thus, it is a natural inference to claim that God is a mind due to our special status and abilities. However, this is an error (perhaps ala David Hume). It is an error in so far as just because God has revealed himself to us in creation through “word” and communicates with us through “word” which implies a mind, became a man with a mind (Jesus), that god is only mind. Moving “up” to God we can only say that He certainly exhibits characteristics of a mind as we understand it, but what He is, is larger than our little picture of a mind. Hell, we can’t even understand out own minds!

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(George) #13

I dont think ANY Greek word can make a difference with the Trinity. You might as well just say "…and then, magic, then…

(Jon Garvey) #14

Vine’s Expository Dictionary (extracted)
Λογος: (I) The expression of thought - not the mere name of an object - as (a) embodying a conception or idea (refs) (b) a saying or stement, (1) by God (refs); (2) by Christ (refs). In connection wit (1) & (2) the phrase “the word of the Lord”, ie the revealed will of God (very frequent in the OT), is used of a direct revelation given by Christ (refs); in this respect it is the message from the Lord, delivered with his authority and made effective by his power; © discourse, speech, of instruction, etc (refs).
(II) The Personal Word, a title of the Son of God… eclaring (1) His distinct and superfinite Personality, (2) His relation in the Godhead, (3) His Deity; in Jn 1:3 his creative power; in v14 his incarnation…

Young’s Concordance:
OT Heb: Mind (= heart. leb, seat of intellect) - used of God eg Jer 19:5, 32:15.
Mind (= mouth, peh) Lev 24:12
Mind (= spirit, ruach) used of human mind Gen 26:35; Prov: 29:11; Eze 11:5, 20:32; Dan 5:20, Hab 1:11, but often of the spirit/mind (NIV) of God, eg Isa 40:13 (in context of creation).

NT equivalent is “νους” (used of mind of God Rom 11:34 = counsels, purpose).

I think that to speak of the mind of God is unproblematic and completely orthodox - the Fathers regularly spoke of creation as conceived in God’s mind, expressed through Christ the Word, and executed by the Spirit.

I think the thought in Scripture - an in historical theology - is that whilst one speaks only analogously of any “part” of God, it’s not that “mind” is a mundane concept applied to God, but that “mind” is a supernatural endowment given to man.

(Ashwin S) #15

I wouldn’t be surprised if such a debate exists…:slight_smile:.
Some NT scholars connect the use of Logos by Philo of Alexandria as bridge between its NT use and it’s use in Greek philosophy. Philo was a Jew who applied Greek philosophy to the OT. His writings seem to anticipate how the NT authors themselves use logos.

It’s a given that we understand God in a very limited human way.Its also a fact that God gave us certain ways to think of him culminating in Jesus.
So, to the best of our understanding, God is and has a mind. He created through his wisdom and understanding.
Stretching the analogy we have to beyond what is revealed in the word would not be wise… However, we can’t abandon the analogy given us by revelation and stop thinking in these things…

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

That is helpful. I’m not resisting the use of the word, but the reduction of God to “mind”.

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(George) #17

Anticipate? @jongarvey ,
What if the writer of John was INSPIRED by the echo of Phil?

(Jon Garvey) #18

Denial of that was @Philosurfer’s point, I think. There is some debate amongst schoars, and my own thought is that it’s not impossible that John was aware of Philo’s usage, but if he was he completely re-interpreted the idea along biblical, not philosophical, lines.

There are close connections between “logos” and OT “dabar”.

(George) #19


How does John’s Logos differs from Philos’? I have read that NT’s book of Hebrews has a strong affinity with Philo.

(Ashwin S) #20

I believe the writer of John was inspired by the holy Spirit. However he did speak to a community at a point in time using language that is in a context the hearers could relate to. Hence it’s important understand this context.