I hope to carry on my conversations with Simple Faith before too long. Meantime, I was thinking of the links between St. John’s Gospel and Greek philosophy and Dooyeweerd’s thinking.

Scots pines above the River Kniak near Braco (1)
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The Gospel of St. John
Who was St. John? Well, the John I’m thinking of was an apostle, a fisherman from Galilee and along with Peter and James part of Jesus’s inner circle. His gospel is very different to the synoptic Gospels which concentrate on what Jesus did and said and the parables which he taught. John wants to tell us, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who Jesus really was, his motivation and his inner life. It was written later than the other Gospels, possibly as late as the 90s AD, and after profound reflection on who Jesus really was by someone who was close to him.

John was the leader of the early church in Asia Minor and was based in Ephesus, a flourishing city with Greek roots but part of the Roman empire in the 1st century, and a city with a population of hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of years before, Ephesus was the hometown of the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus. He asked questions about the world. Why is there order? What is the logos or the reason or word behind things? What are the patterns or laws? We see a reflection of this in modern science in words like biology, meteorology and so on.

Peacock butterflies on sunflower (1)
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The Logos
Living in a city saturated with Greek thought and wanting to inform the Greeks as well as the Jews who Jesus really was, it was natural that John adopts the word logos in his famous first chapter to describe Christ. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Greek philosophy and the Hebrew revelation have joined forces. Genesis begins with these very words – ‘In the beginning …’ Christians will see the hand of God in this: that John, the only apostle to survive to old age, should have been based in the city which gave birth to the Greek idea of the logos. Not only so but the splendid temple to Artemis is no more and even the once crowded city is a ruin. Meantime, the Gospel of the unknown carpenter, 2000 years later is known throughout the world and unnumbered temples (or at least churches) sing praises to his name.

The connection with Dooyeweerd’s thinking
What possible link could Dooyeweerd’s thinking have with the Gospel of John? Indeed, there are some very interesting connections. John believes that Jesus is fully human and at the same time fully God, that he was with God in eternity before time began. Creation took place in God’s eternity. Whereas John was there face to face with the Messiah, and is able to give us a vivid picture of the heart of the human/divine, Dooyeweerd explains this philosophically. He also stresses ‘In the beginning …’ but ‘In the beginning …’ is metaphor for eternity, something to which everything in time points. The word, the logos, the Christ is God appearing in time. Like the apostle John, Dooyeweerd argues that all temporal reality is in and through Christ. In him the wholeness of time is encapsulated.