By In Theology

The Word Makes History

St. John begins his Gospel with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” a

The Word as “Logos”

His use of “word” is often explained with its connection with the Greek “λόγος.” b The Scripture explains that God is Word, and this is associated with the Son in Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity. While there may be additional philosophical and theological meanings for “word,” my core idea here is of God coming to us through the medium of language. 

As James B. Jordan has explained, “It is important to see that God comes to us, as Word, first as Speech and then as Scripture.” c Jordan points out that there are other consequences of having a God who speaks through words. It means that we are a people who hear the word of God and as Jordan rightly points out, “hearing involves submission.” 

Each Lord’s Day we hear the word of God read aloud in the lectionary and the sermon and it transforms who we are in this world. We either reject what we hear and make ourselves a higher authority than God or we submit to and accept the wisdom and instruction of God’s word.

Eugen’s Aphorism

In a similar vein, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy gave us the more famous aphorism, “Only the word makes what has happened into History.” d

When St. John invokes the “Word” he is declaring something about history, about reality, and about the future because only the word (what is said, what is heard, what is written down) makes what happened into history. Because only the Word-Jesus makes what has happened (certain events, certain actions, certain dates) into history. Only Jesus makes what happens in this world and to us significant.

And certainly something significant happened two-thousand years ago. When St. John says “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” e this is the “word” that made what has happened into history.

The Word Becomes Ours

  • Perhaps Jesus was just another birth, but because he is the WORD, it becomes the birth at center of our chronology.
  • Perhaps his life was just that of a gifted teacher, but because his is the WORD, his teaching becomes the apex of all wisdom.
  • Perhaps his death was just another crucifixion of the countless Roman executions, but because he is the WORD, his death becomes a sacrifice to redeem the world.
  • Perhaps him rising three days later was just another resuscitation, not much different than Lazarus or a man who is saved with a defibrillator, but because he is the WORD, his resurrection becomes ours.

The very way we choose to mark out the center of history with AD and BC, the way which we mark each and every year, was established around this monumental event. Around this divine speech of God’s Word piercing into human time. The incarnation is not simply Jesus coming into the world so that he may tinker with this problem of sin, St. John tells us that at the incarnation the Word became flesh and entered in the process of real history. In the Incarnation all of human history was undeniably and unmistakably changed in every imaginable way. 

And this idea of the word changing reality is central to us. We practice it as a means of giving real meaning to our lives. Events in our lives cannot be arbitrary if they are seen through the lens of the Word made flesh in real human history. It gives a frame of reference in everyday life. 

How Jesus Changes History

So, for you and for me, what would it look like if we lived lives in this reality? How can we really believe that the incarnation changed everything?

The challenge for modern thinkers is how much of our mental work has conformed to a philosophy foreign to God’s Word. Our modern mind is shaped by the Cartesian reality of “Cogito Ergo Sum” or “I think therefore I am.” As a result we attempt to interpret the various events of our lives through this Cartesian order. We attempt to start from within our own mind and to work out a meaning to the rest of the world from only inside us.

But God’s reasoning, according to St. John works in the other direction, “In the beginning was the Word.” Therefore the beginning of our journey toward finding truth, reality, and fulfillment in this life begins with “the Word.” It begins with God speaking and us responding. As is the motto of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessey: “Respondeo etsi mutabor” or “I respond although I will be changed” f

Thus for the Christian to find meaning and fulfillment in the various events throughout our life is to read them through the lens of God’s Word. It is in submission to this Word that our experiences find their value. We can overcome our past, enjoy the present, and look with hope toward the future because the last word on you and I is God’s word. This is the comfort that St. Paul offers to Christians as they put their lives in the steady hands of Christ the Lord: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” g

 

  1. John 1:1 NKJV  (back)
  2. Strongs 3056: Logos is a word as embodying an idea, a statement, a speech  (back)
  3. Jordan, James B. “No. 32: Twelve Fundamental Avenues of Revelation, Part 3.” Open Book Newsletter, Apr. 1997, www.biblicalhorizons.com/open-book/no-32-twelve-fundamental-avenues-of-revelation-part-3/.  (back)
  4. Morgan, George Allen. Speech and Society: The Christian Linguistic Social Philosophy of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. pg. 82, Argo Books, 1987.  (back)
  5. John 1:14 NKJV  (back)
  6. Rosenstock-Huessy, Eugen. I Am An Impure Thinker. pg. 12, Wipf & Stock, 2013.  (back)
  7. Romans 8:28 NKJV  (back)

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