Christ the Center

Christ the Center

I saw this book at Gladsounds Bookstore for many years. Finally I got it because it had 60% discount!!! It’s thin 88page book. When I showed it to some friends over dinner one night, the few who looked at it gave me a “wow this looks like a complicated book” look 🙂

The Light of God in Action is an article adapted from the book … let me pick out some excepts which jump out for me.

“Genesis has come down to us in the Hebrew language. John’s Gospel is written in Greek, a language which has no affiliation whatsoever with Hebrew. It has been a well-known fact to people trained in languages that there are occasions in which it is virtually impossible to transfer the meanings of some words expressed in one language accurately to another language, such as from ancient Hebrew into ancient Greek–and so into modern English.

John’s employment of the term “Word” can find no equivalent if it is to be translated from Hebrew to Greek. The Greek noun logos which John uses was a very general term among the intellectuals of the Hellenistic world of his day. In the ordinary language of educated people logos might mean speech, narrative, pronouncement, report, teaching, call, sense. “The Greek root log-leg represents a comprehensive and overarching unity of meaning–gather, collect, select, report, speak” (H. Ritt, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament). Among philosophers, beginning with Heraclites of Ephesus (550-480 B.C.E.), right through Hegel and Nietzsche in our era, logos has meant “the essential abiding law of the world, thought and custom.”

Some might suppose that John is using Platonic and Stoic concepts of the logos in an attempt to link universal and moral and religious experience with the incarnation. No. There was no need to denigrate the true light, the Logos that enlightens everyone which “was coming into the world” (John 1:9). Christ is all in all in himself:

Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Phil. 2:6-7).

Here Christ as God is described in very personal terms. Likewise, what Logos means for John includes being a person, truly human, for true personhood is at the center of Reality, or Truth; for the Truth is that God is the supreme Person.

Here’s what leaped out for me when I glanced through the introduction “Two Strands in our heritage”:

“Platonic cultures were dualistic in their philosophies: there was this life here and now, and there was real life in the beyond, after death. We call this outlook ‘dualistic’, first because of a belief in a world of intelligible ‘Forms’ or ‘Ideas’ existing apart from this world of tangible matter, and second because of a consequent belief that each person has an immortal soul existing in separation from the body, both before birth and after death. Some of Plato’s disciples even taught that the body is a prison-house to which the soul is condemned for past misdeeds.” (pp. 1-2)

When I read the above, I couldn’t help recall how ‘dualistic’ many Christians are and this comes out especially when someone dies and we are trying to make sense of the life here and now, and beyond. It comes out in our prayers, sermons, testimonies, and even in the way we try to process our grief. Though the details might be slightly different, the general drift is the same. But let’s get on with another quote from the book:

“The ancient Hebrews, on the other hand, never accepted this dualistic worldview. The saw this material world as created and affirmed by the active, righteous and steadfastly loving God who dealt with them and revealed himself to them in their life and history in this world. This life here and now was the only life to be lived before God, so they felt unable to define a separate life of the soul after the body was dead. There is hope for life beyond, but it is not a hope for the soul alone, but for the people as a whole. This hope is glimpsed in prophecy, and sometimes linked to the coming of the Messiah, or at least to some act by God in the future” ( p.2)

Only one of the many memorials I have attended lately seemed to convey the second world view by the ancient Hebrews mentioned above (at least in the language used in the service). But I have been thinking about this since the day my theology and understanding on these matters was shaken and challenged in seminary. During that time and I think even today, most of us here in Malaysia have been “consuming” theologies that are generally ‘dualistic”. And I wonder how long one can survive in a world full of fragmentation with ‘dualistic’ mindsets. Furthermore, are we distracted from life transforming truths because we can’t notice these surprises when we constantly wear ‘dualistic’ lenses in the way we live and the way we believe.

Well, this is a little off tangen from the book but I do believe in reading reflectively even though the book maybe a little more academic in nature 🙂 But the way we view our world, and ourselves surely affects the way we live. So, I’ll just leave one more quote before I get back into the book … when I’m not reading some other book 😛

“… the nature and structure of the human person promoted by the ancient Hebrews was in clear opposition, over the centuries, to prevailing dualisms which it confronted: first, that exhibited in the culture they met when they entered what is now Israel/Palestine; then later on, the culture of the Babylonians with whom they were forced to mingle in the distressing years when they were in enforced exile.

… The genius of Moses was to produce a complete theology that is based upon wholly unitary view of reality. For the Hebrews, God is one, creation is one, and God is love.” (p.3)

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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