Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought

Logos and the Doctrine of God. Gnosticism. Marcion.

Yesterday I tried to explain what was the reason, in interpreting the.meaning of Jesus as the Christ, for the Apologetic theologians’ use of the concept of the Logos, taken from a long philosophical development beginning with Heraclitus and the Stoics and Philo of Alexandria. The answer was: because the Logos was considered already by Philo to be the universal principle of the Divine self-manifestation, and therefore in saying that this is so, that this is historical reality in Jesus, one said of Him that He is universal. I gave you an interpretation of this term “universal:” Nothing can in principle be excluded, even if it is not actually developed within Christianity Now I Come to the speculative side, to the combination of the Logos doctrine with the doctrine of God. The Logos is the first “work” or generation of God as father.

The Father, being eternal mind, has in himself the Logos, since He is eternally “logical,” as Athanasius, one of the Apologists, says. “Logical” doesn’t mean that He can argue well; He leaves that to us. “Logical’ means that He is logikos, namely adequate to the principles of meaning and truth; God is not irrational will. He is here called eternal nous (mind), and this means He has within himself the power of self-manifestation. This analogy is taken from our own experience. There is no mental process which is not going on in some way or other in terms of silent words.

And so, the inner spiritual life of God includes the silent word in him.

There is a Spiritual procession going on from the Father to the world in which He manifests himself to himself and to the world. ‘But this procession does not produce separation. The Word is not the same of which it is the Word. But on the other hand, the Word cannot be separated from; that of which it is the Word, namely the manifestation: The Word of God is not identical with God; it is the self- manifestation of God. On the other hand, if you separate it from God, then it’s empty, with no content. This tries to describe, in analogy with the mental processes of man, the meaning of the term Logos. Therefore the process of generation of the Logos in which the Logos is produced in God – eternally, of course – does not make God small; He is not less than He was, by the fact that He generates His Word. So Justin can say: “The Logos is different from God according to number, but not according to concept.” He is God; He is not the God, but He is one with God in essence. (Justin) also uses the Stoic doctrines of the immanent and the trespassing Logos. The Logos in God is logos endiathetos, “indwelling. ” But this eternal indwelling Logos, the Word in which God expresses himself to himself, becomes, with the creation, becomes logos proforikos the proceeding, the outgoing Logos.

The Logos is now a word spoken towards outside, towards the creature., through the prophets and the wise men. The old meaning (“word”) and the already actual meaning (“reason”) – since Heraclitus oscillates – both are always meant. If one thinks in Old Testament terms, one would prefer to translate logos by “word”; if one thinks in Greek terms, as the Apologists mostly did, then one would translate logos by “reason” not by ‘”reasoning,” but by the meaningful structure of reality, which is reason. As the immediate self expression of the Divine, the Word, the Logos form or reason, is less, than the Divine Abyss, because the Divine Abyss is always the beginning, and out of the depths of divinity His self-manifestation and His manifestation towards the world come. The Logos is the beginning of the generations of God; there, everything starts. He has, so to speak, a diminished transcendence or divinity. But if this is so, how can He then reveal God fully? Now this was a later problem – which we have to discuss more fully soon. In the moment in which the Apologists used the term Logos, the problem arose and couldn’t be silenced any more. If the Logos is the self-expression of movement, is He less than God or fully God? All this means that one continued to call Christ God. But such a statement – that a historical man, who lived and died, and perhaps was really in the”police files”of Jerusalem, is called “God”: how can this be made understandable to the pagans? The difficulty was not the incarnation as such. “Incarnation” is one of the most ordinary events in Greek mythology and in all mythology. Gods come to earth; they take on animal or human or plant form; they do something and then return to their divinity. This is not difficult. But this idea couldn’t be accepted by Christianity. The problem and the difficulty was that the Son of God, who was at the same time a historical man and not a man of mythological imagination, is supposed to be the absolute and unique Son of God.