We have all heard so many times that “God is Love”, and so he is. It’s been talked enough about here, and everywhere else, that it has become in the popular mind all that God is. Sort of your wingman who will accept anything you want to do. Which leaves us with the question , “Is that all there is?” The answer, of course is no. If it were he would be of little value to us as a guide.
But we know that is not the case, the entire structure of western civilization is built on the Christian faith (and it’s older counterpart, Judaism). This is where our moral code, our sense of right and wrong, and even what honor we have come from. Even militant atheists use our terms to argue against our God.
Early in his Papacy Benedict XVI gave a speech to the scientists at Regensburg. Likely you remember it because in it he quoted Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, likely from perhaps winter barracks in 1391, on the difference between the Islamic God and ours. the emperor spoke rather forcefully, as befits one whose empire and its capital would soon be besieged, and eventually lost.The press predictably, blew this up into an indictment of Benedict, and others, like Dr. Luther who held similar views. personally I think we might have something to learn from those who fought what is increasingly looking like an enemy again. But that was a minor part of what he said that day, other things were, I think, more important.
Because that day, he also spoke of a rational God. using John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
But the new Testament was written in Greek, and the word John used was Logos, which does translate as word but, it also translates as reason. And so our God is a God of Reason as well as Love.
I’m nobody’s idea of a theologian so, let’s let Benedict (who is) speak to us
John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” (cf. Acts 16:6-10) – this vision can be interpreted as a “distillation” of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.
In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and simply asserts being, “I am”, already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates’ attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy.
And thus we see even before Christ, the approaching rapprochement between Greek civilization and our God
In truth,immediately there was little resistance to Greek ideas and rationalism in Christianity, Chalcedon has commented how pervasive Greek culture was in Israel at the time of Christ, and once it was decided to evangelize the gentiles, it pretty much disappeared. And thus, almost from the beginning (n fact, the Septuagint itself was in Greek.
Benedict says this in relation to this:
This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history – it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.
I think that is exactly correct, and thus we see from the time of the Apostles themselves Christianity has learned from those others around us, adopting the wheat and discarding the chaff, as we come to an ever closer understanding of God.
All quotations are from Benedict’s address which can be found here, and we will continue soon
I started down this road by reading an excellent article called Catholic Scot: Why Be Moral?. You should as well.