Question 305:

How do you read the statement in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verse 6: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God” together with texts like chapter 1:1-13 in St John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”?



I read this passage in the letter to the Philippians as a crucial statement of just how God is God: God does not have to claim and enforce this Godhood vis-á-vis other powers. Nor does he have to demand recognition and intervene with punishment if that recognition is lacking. God is God in that he meets people as a servant and a lover. His Godhood is not diminished by revealing himself to the world as a servant, as Isaiah describes in his Servant Song (e.g. Isaiah 50:4-9). This also means that trying to understand God in terms of human power is to misunderstand him. It is more appropriate to understand him as self-giving, as a constant dynamic facing towards others. Overflowing light, all-encompassing love is how the mystics describe it. This, then, is the God’s rationality - his logos, his word. And this is the meaning of this passage in St. John’s gospel: The life, ministry and Resurrection of the historical Jesus God shows us what he truly is: All-encompassing love. However, he did not decide on this in the historic moment of his Incarnation, but he was like that from the beginning. His logos, his rationality, was from the beginning about being love. In him as the Word everything is created.

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