Today in a discussion with Fr. Barnabas of St. RNI Parish, I learned about a curious new term called “σπερματικὸς λόγος” (spermatikos logos).
What exactly does that mean? Why would that term be floating around in a Greek Orthodox parish?
Without anyone telling you, “spermatikos” makes you think of the biological term “sperm” right? Right. What is a sperm? Well, a sperm is a type of “seed.” Where did that word come from? The Greeks! It comes from the word “sperma” which literally means seed.
And, “logos” is a well known Greek term for reason/word.
It turns out you already know what “spermatikos logos” means without looking deep into the Greek. A rough translation of the term would be “seed reason.” A literal translation is not far from it:
“Seminal reason” or “the seed of reason.”
There you go - a Greek language lecture. :D
Now, why is this tiny language gem important to the Church?
I love asking questions, so here’s another one... Who do Christians call “the logos” or “the word?”
Turns out “spermatikos logos” was a major philosophical and theological term used in the Early Church. The theological idea surrounding the term is relatively simple, although it can be developed and discussed at a deeper extent.
It basically says that:
-If Christ is the word, and in the beginning was the Word.. etc (John 1:1)
-and if “God so loved the world...”, meaning, God has opened His hand to the world and extends His love to everyone, including those of different religions,
-Then, God’s love, and the “word” of God has been around since the beginning and available to everyone - whether they quite like it or not.
And that is where the concept of “spermatikos logos” comes in. Orthodox Christians believe that all of mankind has the “seed of the Word.” If we really do hold to the statement that “God is love” then every culture, every civilization, every village has the ability to participate fully in that Love and Good, or at least find an ounce of it and apply it to their culture.
Islam is a Christian heresy, for example. They have some very “Christian” ideas in their thinking - they have a “spermatikos logos” a “seed” of God’s Truth. Are they right? No, but we shouldn’t try to extinguish them for it.
Instead, Christianity uses the term “spermatikos logos” to express how we should look at those of different religions. There is a “Seed of the Word” or a “seed of truth” in every culture, religion, and civilization. As Christians, then, it is our job to find that Truth and call it for what it is. Of course, that doesn’t mean that other religion is going to bring about the Salvation of those partaking in it - it merely means we try to find the “good” in that religion, the connection Christians can make to that religion.
Most of us are familiar with pictures like that... a picture of all the lights in the world from the viewpoint of a spacecraft.
However, it’s also a perfect example of “spermatikos logos” and how Christians use it to look at the culture around them.
Think of Christianity as one big beaming light - the “city set on a hill.” Now imagine those lights in that picture are really “seeds of the Word” found in different religions. Imagine them as little bits of Truth scattered throughout a dark world. Imagine them as “spermatikos logos’s.”
Although Christians shouldn’t accept other religions as valid, we should not reject them as totally wrong either. We should be the Light, and we should look for that Light in other religions and cultures of the world... using that “seed of the Word,” or the “Light of the Word” to bring others to Christ.
For more reading: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8089