Friday, 17 January 2014

Counterfeit (part two)

So here I have been over the past 15 years or so, desperately searching for the feeling faith that I assume I must have.  Every time my logical side would settle in, I would unseat it and try to fill the gap with emotions.

I never succeeded.

Instead I wondered if a logical mind could never truly embrace faith.  Maybe I was never designed for spiritual things.  I clung to all things music, because through music I have always been able to feel.  But religion remained firmly planted in the knowledge area of my brain.

Then, I read about logic.  I was immediately struck by the author's use of that word.  That word that had been swirling in my head for so long, that word that I have always used to describe myself.

(from Ann Voskamp's blog)

"In the beginning was the Word" John 1:1
(Word, the greek word Logos, meaning "Logic")

More than half a century before the Gospel of John was ever written, more than 500 years before God pulled on flesh and stretched out on straw, Heraclitus was the first Greek philosopher who used that word: Logos.

Heraclitus was this Greek philosopher who looked at the world, at the skies, at nature, and said that there had to be some unity, some governing principle, some harmonious order to the cosmos…and Heraclitus concluded that what gives the world all coherent structure — is a principle he called Logos.

Heraclitus said that the coherent structure of everything, the order behind the world, the order of all things — was Logos.

Heraclitus said that the principle of all cosmic organization — was Logos.

And for 500 years after Heraclitus, the Greeks lived by Logos. They lived their life by Logos, the principle of meaning and balance and profound order in the universe.

A slave was meant to serve, a cup was meant to contain, a horse was meant to haul. This was logic. This was Logos.  A slave didn’t contain wine, a cup didn’t haul bags, a horse didn’t serve dinner. Life had a Logos, a logic of being, a reason for existence, and you aligned yourself with the Logos.

Align yourself with the Logos and your life was rightly organized.

And then 500 years after Heraclitus — John picks up picks up a pen, chooses his words carefully, purposefully, divinely, and his ink blows the top right off the whole down and out world:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God — and the Logos was God. The first lines of John’s book reorients the cosmos:

The Logos isn’t an organizing Principle — It’s an organizing Person.

The Absolute behind the universe is absolutely Jesus.

The order behind the World — is Jesus in the World.

The organizing structure of the world isn’t a philosophy — the organizing structure of the world is the Word — the Word of God. The words of Jesus.

All cosmic organization is not around one principle – but around One Person.

Whoa.  Logos.  Logic.  God is logic.  God is logic and order and organization and structure.  Suddenly, I found a place for my logic.  Suddenly, I realized my logical mind was not foreign to God, but instead birthed from His very essence.  "And the [logic] was God."


Kevin H. said...

Now if we could only get from A to B without the implied defense of slavery....

Terri-Ann said...

I actually had to go back and reread this because I couldn't figure out what you meant. I suppose I could have taken that line out, and yet it was a daily part of life back then. While the comment seems ignorant, wrong and out of place today, in Heraclitus' time it would have been a well understood analogy. I'm not sure such a comment needs whitewashing.

Kevin H. said...

For days I've tried to develop a concise response, but the issues are just too large and complicated, so I always seem to be lecturing, which is what I normally do, I know, but it seems an especial imposition on this post re: your personal relationship with your faith.

The short version: the post you've quoted provides a logical defense of slavery. Not intentionally, of course (knowing anything at all about you, we know you have no intention of supporting slavery), but logic is a dangerous tool, implacable, remorseless and machine-like in its workings. Place the pieces in a certain way and logic takes care of the rest, whatever one hopes to show, pumping out an inevitable conclusion. It may be "true" or "untrue", what you'd hoped to show or otherwise, but it obeys its own rules and plows through unaware of the larger concerns at play. Too tight, and logic shuts out the real world along with all its variations and exceptions; too loose, and one can use logic to show whatever one desires, true or not. It's not a matter of taking a line out here or there to be politically correct, but rather of determining what the argument is saying and why it's being made.

Heraclitus, I think, isn't randomly selecting examples to illustrate his notion of a Natural Order (he's too intelligent and canny a fellow to approach the problem so casually -- and far from ignorant, that's for certain), but rather structuring his argument to disguise what it is he's actually up to. Far from using slavery to define the notion of a Natural Order, Heraclitus developed the idea of a Natural Order while in quest of a defense for slavery. (Or, in broader terms, a defense for his way of life, which was treating him very well and which he hoped to preserve.)

Add to this the fact that, historically speaking, the term "Natural Order" has become almost synonymous with slavery and oppression, used to defend classism, sexism, racism and even genocide, and the whole thing becomes just a little too uncomfortable to pass by in silence. (Actually, a really ambitious popular film, Cloud Atlas (2012), took this as a central theme, examining the evolution of "Natural Order"-style oppression over centuries, and illustrating how its been merely an ideological prop for the ruling classes to support their way of life.)

(cont'd below)

Kevin H. said...

Luckily for us, Heraclitus' argument breaks down rather easily, since neither slavery, cups, nor hauling horses are naturally occurring phenomena. All three are examples of man-made conditions/objects: the result of human will imposed upon the natural world to serve human interests. But then where does that leave the argument for a Natural Order, and the foundation of your present exploration of a personal faith? This is why I was having such trouble replying: it seems rude to "attack" your post in this way, even though I'd like to think I'm merely confronting the dangers of logic, as well as trying to get to the bottom of things. Whatever we want to say about Blog comment etiquette, however, I think that the Truth is important and worth arguing about.

Perhaps a better foundation for a personal faith based on intellectual engagement with the natural world, imo, is Ralph Waldo Emerson, a staunchly rigorous, adaptive and fluid thinker who used his observation of the world around him to support his very deep (if rather unconventional) faith. His early essay, Nature (1836), is a good example of how intellect applied to the natural world can not only support, but actually encourage and even engender, faith (and it was written when his was around the same age as we are now, which might make us particularly open to its point of view). The only difficulty, in my mind, of adopting Emerson as an alternative foundation for your personal exploration of faith -- and one of the things that made him a rather controversial figure in his day, over-and-above his ardent opposition to slavery in early- to mid-Nineteenth Century America -- is the fact that he didn't believe in the divinity of Christ. A rather serious hiccup, perhaps, but, then again ... neither did Heraclitus. :)

(Alright, not entirely the "short" version, and yes I'm still lecturing, but I did the best I could.)