WORD, WISDOM AND ETHICS
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:1-5 NRSV)
Maybe these opening verses of John’s Gospel should be left to Christmas, they are indeed part of the Gospel reading set by the lectionary for Communion on Christmas Day, but these verses also can be used to explore the relationship between science and faith.
There are at least two concepts that can be drawn out of this prologue to John’s Gospel. One concerns, ‘the Word’ or logos. These opening verses clearly invite comparison with the opening words of Genesis. They both open with the words ‘in the beginning’ and as God speaks the world into existence in Genesis 1 we begin John with the God as the Word. We find words like word, creation, light and darkness echoing both readings. Genesis speaks of the beginning of the world, John speaks of an absolute beginning in the divine. God communicates and discloses of himself.
The second concept I want refer to is that of wisdom. Most commentators draw links between these verses from John and the idea of wisdom found in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. In the Wisdom of Solomon, for example, word and wisdom are paralleled: “O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy, who have made all things by your word, and by your wisdom have formed humankind to have dominion over the creatures you have made” (Wis. 9:1, 2) and in Proverbs Lady Wisdom speaks: ‘The Lord created me at the beginning of work, the first of his acts long ago’ (Prov. 8:22).
John goes on to write about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14). It is Jesus Christ coming among us that lies at the heart of this season of the year. He comes to us Wisdom and Word and we encounter him through the cross and resurrection.
It is interesting that a number who have written on the relationship between science and faith have made links between wisdom and science. One of these is Celia Deane Drummond, she is a biologist and theologian and is currently Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. She has written a number of books on bioethics and genetics and one of her books is entitled Creation Through Wisdom (T&T Clark, 2000). In the book wisdom is used to help her develop a theology of creation, she discusses wisdom particularly against the background of new biology. Elsewhere she uses wisdom in discussion of the ethics of genetic engineering:
‘Wisdom affirms the good in science where it is in alignment with moral values of prudence, justice and temperance, bur rejects those developments that work against human dignity and respect for animals and the natural environment…. Our limited search for Wisdom will never be complete, yet it is still giving honour and glory to God, who is the author of all our Wisdom’ (Biology and Theology Today, SCM Press, 2001, p.220).
Advent is a season that encourages to face up to the realities of the world, it is a time for reflection about God’s relationship with our world, how God comes among us as the Word made flesh and whose wisdom challenges what we do to our planet, to all life and to each other.
God of wisdom and truth,
We seek your guidance as the world in which we live becomes ever more complicated and confusing.
May we never be so arrogant to assume our thoughts are your thoughts.
May we never be so complacent that we cease to search for your truth.
May we never be so narrow that we miss the other point of view.
May we never be so prejudiced that we fail to love.