Jesus Christ Alone is the Eternal Word
“Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one.” (CCC 65)
“In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” The word translated as create is a Hebrew word that only appears five times in the Scriptures, all five times in relation to God’s initial creation, and three of those times within Genesis 1.
In this opening passage of the Bible, that word is used to describe the creation of something from nothing (in the beginning), life from non-life (at the creation of living things), and rational life from non-rational life (at the creation of man). Each of those instances requires a special act on the part of God; each is a miracle because none of those three occurrences can happen by natural powers.
As humans, we enjoy the concurrence of all three attributes: existence, life and intelligence, though the last is arguably not as evident in the world as it should be. Nevertheless, the fact that humans have the ability to think is itself an argument for the existence of God. Thought is not something that can be explained in terms of mere physical processes.
On the first day of school, I show my students a video of a parrot with the ability to say many words in response to her trainer. I ask the students if the bird is smart, and they say yes. But then I ask them if the bird knows what it is saying. When it says the words, “What’s the matter,” it doesn’t understand them. It is all mere stimulus and response. It does now know the words. For the bird, they are mere sounds.
Computers, also, do not know words. To the computer, words and images are nothing more than stored magnetic fields accessed by electrical signals controlled by transistors.
Mathematician and theoretical physicist Roger Penrose wrote, “The quality of understanding is not something that can ever be encapsulated in a set of rules.” This quote comes from his book The Emperor’s New Mind, which argues for the conclusion that human thought is not the same kind of thing as what a computer does, which is to operate according to algorithms and rules.
When a human thinks about the word tree, he understands what a tree is, and the word itself acts as a medium between the thought and the thing. The only reason the word itself means anything is that we humans have the ability to think abstractly. The thoughts themselves are not mere events in the brain. If they were, they would be subject to the same rules of all other matter, and they would have no necessary connection to the truth. The idea of a tree is not a digitally stored code. Thought is not physical.
If you open the brain of a person who is thinking about a tree, you will not find a tree. If the thought is a collection of atoms, then there is no necessary connection with the tree itself outside of the brain, let alone all trees. Rely solely on matter, and the reliability of all thought, including thought about matter, loses its foundation. Mere matter has not the strength to lift itself off the ground by pulling upward on its own bootstraps. Human thought is a miracle in the sense that it involves the “interference” of the soul with the body, the supernatural with the natural.
The key to recognizing man’s ability to think is language. If a creature has language, not mere communication of signals as the other animals do, then it is intelligent. Man is the animal that names things. Adam’s naming of the animals in the Garden is illustrative of this profound point about the nature of the human person. The presence of words in the world is clear evidence that our world is haunted by souls, and it takes souls to recognize the presence of those words in the first place. To anything without a rational soul, words are no more than curious sounds or funny shaped markings. The fact that words have meaning at all means that there is more to the world than meets the eye or any of the other sense organs. The meaning of words’ meanings is God, since intelligence cannot come about of itself. It requires a creator.
Words are the priests that mediate thoughts among human minds and connect our thoughts with reality. They are the medium of intelligence. Jesus himself is the eternal Word, God’s knowledge of himself, and he is the Word that mediates God’s love to the world. God’s Word is not based on receiving information from the created world, but is the basis of information and love that creates the world. Where there is language, there is intelligence, and the Word is both God and the language of God. In the beginning was the Word; in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. There are words, and there is the Word, and the relation between those words is not merely the same spelling. Follow words, and they lead to the Word.
- jesus christ