Christian Theological/Philosophical Book Club discussion

On First Principles
This topic is about On First Principles
44 views
The Table - Group Book Reads > Origen - On First Princples - Discussion Schedule

Comments Showing 1-50 of 124 (124 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3

David Origen lived from 185-254. As a teen in Alexandria, Origen highly desired to be martyred when persecution struck. His father was killed but his mother hid his clothes so he could not leave the house. Origen was brilliant, really the first Christian to combine Christian faith with Greek philosophy into something resembling a system. He was the most prolific author prior to Augustine, though many of his works are lost.

Origen held many controversial ideas which is why he was never sainted - restoration of all things and pre-existence of soul being two of them. As a Christian he followed other well-known Christians in Alexandra such as Pantenus and Clement. His work The Hexapla was amazing, a six-column edition of the Old Testament (Hebrew, the Hebrew in Greek, Septuagint and three Greek versions). He also wrote commentaries on every book in the Bible and a response to Celsus' attakcs on Christianity.

On First Princples could be seen as one of the first systematic theologies. We'll work our way through it together:

Week beginning May 11 - Preface and Part 1
May 18 - Part 2
May 25 - Part 3
June 1 - Part 4

Enjoy.


message 2: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments the first Christian to combine Christian faith with Greek philosophy into something resembling a system

this will be interesting..


Genni | 157 comments Yay!! Organization!! :D

can't wait for this discussion. I have been wanting to read more of the classics.


David We may modify this as each part is a bit longer then I remembered. Let's say two weeks per part:

May 11 - Preface and Part 1
May 25 - Part 2
June 8 - Part 3
June 22 - Part 4


Genni | 157 comments I got the kindle version, translated by John C. cavadini, but it's only 271 pages. Another version I looked at was 500+. Was that because of introductory and commentary? Or did I get an abridged version? Does anyone know?


message 6: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Will (aaronjwill) | 3 comments I have a PDF version that is just the work itself and is 263 pages. So yeah, it probably has a lot of introduction/commentary material.


Genni | 157 comments Thanks


message 8: by Mayowa (new) - added it

Mayowa Adebiyi | 3 comments Traducianism?


David Here we go...

There is a lot we could discuss in this first part. I'll just throw out a few points that jumped out at me, but feel free to go any direction you like.

Right away in the preface he makes a comment about the Word of God in the Old Testament, reminding me of the thread Rod started here on that same subject:

derive the knowledge which incites men to a good and happy life from no other source than from the very words and teaching of Christ. And by the words of Christ we do not mean those only which He spake when He became man and tabernacled in the flesh; for before that time, Christ, the Word of God, was in Moses and the prophets. For without the Word of God, how could they have been able to prophesy of Christ?

Origen also makes a comment right away (preface 2) about the tradition of the apostles. This is the sort of thing that Catholics love and that Protestants get nervous about.

Preface.4 he lists the specific things delivered by the apostles: he mainly mentions God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit which reminds us Trinity is quite important to him. He goes on to talk of soul and eternal rewards and it is here that he mentions "traducianism". This is the idea that the soul is created through procreation, in other words, it is not that God directly implants a soul in the baby in the womb but the soul is created alongside the physical being.


In Preface.8 he speaks of scripture having a deeper meaning not notice at first. He'll get into this later, but this is a point about the levels of meaning of scripture and the importance of the allegorical/spiritual meaning. This places Origen in his Alexandrian context as theologians from there emphasized the allegory a bit more then at Antioch (though if I recall, both places did use allegory to some degree).

Part 1.1 is about God - what I most liked here is how Origen said God is incomprehensible and, along with that, far better then what we perceive (1.1.4). So God being incomprehensible does not mean we know nothing at all, but it ought to keep us humble.

1.2 is all about Jesus - he emphasizes that God the father has always generated the son. So the Father is the source of the son but there was never a time before the Son existed, the Father has always begotten the son.

1.3 is on the Holy Spirit

1.4 is on Defection and Falling Away, though this is short and some of this carries on into 1.5 where he discusses Rational Natures (and really, it began in the discussion ont he Holy Spirit). The quote that most stuck out to me comes at the end of 1.5:

it is evident from all this that no one is pure either by essence or nature, and that no one was by nature polluted. And the consequence of this is, that it lies within ourselves and in our own actions to possess either happiness or holiness; or by sloth and negligence to fall from happiness into wickedness and ruin, to such a degree that, through too great proficiency, so to speak, in wickedness (if a man be guilty of so great neglect), he may descend even to that state in which he will be changed into what is called an “opposing power.”

Origen, it seems, would not be sympathetic to Augustine's arguments against Pelagius (nor would he have been a Calvinist, it seems). I imagine Pelagius would have been able to argue (he did argue, I think) that his arguments were rooted in church tradition of people like Origen. Or maybe, a smaller point, would be to say that Origen's influence on the Eastern Church leads to a theology more comfortable with mystery (humans do have freedom though at the same time the Spirit works and how this works is mysterious) while the Western Church (following Augustine) at times ends up with God's sovereignty overwhelming human freedom.


1.6 is on the End of all things and in 1.6.1 Origen says that God may "recall all his creatures to one end, even his enemies." Origen seems kind of a universalist - God will save everyone, through Jesus. A few later Christians, such as Gregory of Nyssa would agree.

1.7 is on Incorporeal and Corporeal beings, he discusses the soul a bit more here.

1.8 is on angels - they were capable of both good and evil as humans are.

So just in the first part we could discuss trinity, universalism, free will or how the soul is formed! Fun!


message 10: by Jake (new)

Jake Yaniak | 151 comments When I was first working out my philosophical ideas I originally set aside the prologue of John as some sort of poetical musing. I was trying to be skeptical, and so I didn't want to assume all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo that was expressed there.

But as I continued and pursued skepticism as far as I was able - to the point where I became inclined to believe, not only that Abstract objects are just 'words,' but also that physical objects are, as far as I can know them, just ideas and abstractions, it hit me like a thunderbolt that all along John's prologue was born out of a very deep philosophical understanding of reality.

I couldn't understand it because, though I was trying to be skeptical, I was still a native Realist, and I was still taking the quasi-materialism of post-Bertrand Russell, modern Christian thought for granted. In other words, I wasn't skeptical enough to accept John's doctrine.

After finishing my own thought process on these things, and finding myself almost entirely alone in my thoughts. I started to read Christian thinkers from past ages (up until then I had chiefly been reading secular thinkers).

I cannot express how much of a help it was to find that Jonathan Edwards was essentially and perhaps independently Berkeleyan, and to find that Hans Denck shared many of my own conclusions (His statement "Sin is whatever rebels against God, which in truth is 'nothing'" sums up my whole ethical system). I agree with almost everything the author of the Theologia Germanica had to say. To find that Origen seems to understand many things in a similar fashion (seeing 'spiritual' things as meaning 'intellectual' - and seeing the Logos not merely as a being that somehow relates to our reasoning, but actually AS our faculty of reason - and therefore identifiably present wherever a rational being exists) not only gives support to some of my beliefs, it gives them antiquity (for what that's worth), whereas when I spoke with fellow believers before I was always made to feel like I was spouting something novel.

At any rate, I had better get back to re-reading. It's been a while since I read these, so I have forgotten a lot.


message 11: by Joshua (last edited May 11, 2015 05:00PM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments Its interesting the way that Origen has in his reasoning an apparent contradiction that he overcomes through describing the word as being the faculty of reason.

I would never have thought to use those words but it makes a lot of sense.

The "realist" (if that's the right word) view is God the Father is the Lord who spoke to Moses etc. But here we see Origen agreeing with the apostolic teaching that it was Christ who spoke to Moses and the Prophets.

It is then an apparent contradiction when later he writes that the is was the Father himself who spoke to Moses and the prophets.

A paradox it would seem, and the notion that the son is the "faculty of reason" is an interesting way to put it. However I think I prefer logos as speech, the expression. To make Christ the Father's faculty of reason seems to remove some of His personhood?


message 12: by Joshua (last edited May 11, 2015 03:49PM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments I know it's fairly established to describe preincarnate Christ as the "wisdom of God" however I find it interesting that he goes outside our accepted scriptures to prove it and also when he quotes Paul it is a difficult proof.

Paul writes that Christ is the wisdom and power of God. Yet Jesus specifically refers to the Father as "the Power" in Mark.

Interesting some of the early fathers quoted the gospel of Hebrews as saying the Holy Spirit was the feminine wisdom of God.

thoughts?

Also in Matt 11:19 Jesus describes himself as the Son of Man and then says wisdom is justified by her children.


message 13: by Jake (new)

Jake Yaniak | 151 comments Joshua wrote: "To make Christ the Father's faculty of reason seems to remove some of His personhood? "

I don't think so per se. On the contrary, I tend to think the idea that the Father has his 'own' faculty of reason removes the uniqueness of the Logos. It seems to me to mean there is more than one Logos or Divine Reason. Then He is not 'The Word' - He is merely 'a' word.

I think this is where some other religions get mixed up. Muslims, for instance, insist that 'God has no son.' But to Origen, as far as I've understood him so far, since the Son is the Wisdom and the Wisdom is the Reason of God, to deny the Son is to deny the very deity of God. Without Reason, God cannot be distinguished from the blind material, mechanistic universe of atheism. In this understanding the claim that 'Allah has no Son' implies that 'Allah is not God.'

Similarly, in Arianism (Jehovah's Witnesses for instance), the idea that the Logos was made or created at some point in time or at the beginning of time would seem to imply that there was a time when God was blind and irrational, and that he, in generating the Logos, became wise. As Origen argues: 'And who that is capable of entertaining reverential thoughts or feelings regarding God, can suppose or believe that God the Father ever existed, even for a moment of time, without having generated this Wisdom?'

If I recall correctly, James Arminius used similar argumentation concerning the Son - that Arianism would imply that God was, prior to the creation of the Logos, not quite God for the lack thereof.


message 14: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments Quite,

would it not make sense that the "sonship" was born in the humanity of Jesus Christ, and that the "logos" was not a son at all.

"you are my Son, today I have begotten you."

Hence Peter preaches in Acts 13:33 that "raising Jesus" was the fulfilment of this "promise" in the Psalms.


message 15: by Jake (new)

Jake Yaniak | 151 comments It seems to me that the 'Son' IS with God. The incarnation can certainly be taken as a 'begetting' in the sense that, in coming into being as the Son of God, the man Jesus became the Son of God.

But if the Son is 'in the bosom of the Father,' he is there always and forever (unless God endures through time and therefore partakes of the duality of past, present and future - making it inaccurate to say he IS the God of Abraham, but yet not the God of the dead).

I think that is why the Creed says the Son was 'begotten of his Father before all worlds.' They want to make clear that He is not a separate being who was not, and then came to be in time.

I think the idea of begetting, when referring to the relationship between the Father and Son is not meant to imply becoming, though, but relationship - Like the relationship between a mirror image and the thing it reflects. The thing begets the reflection. The Word is the mirror image of God - the Son by whom he made the worlds.


message 16: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments hmm, nice theology yet Peter said.

"we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also is written in the second psalm,
'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'" Acts 13:33-34

Perhaps I'm a little simple but in the light of eternally begottenness Peter's preaching doesn't seem to make much sense, unless of course today means something other than "today". Unless perhaps today actually means from time eternal and begotten actually means not begotten but actually always there?!


message 17: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments Origen seems kind of a universalist - God will save everyone, through Jesus

absolutely, God's arm is not short that it cannot save, nor does He desire that any should perish..


message 18: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Will (aaronjwill) | 3 comments "...seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition."

It is late here and there are already a lot of responses to read through, but I wanted to throw this thought out there. Origen is pretty early on in church history and obviously full fledged Roman Catholicism has not developed yet, however I'd be interested to know what he means by ecclesiastical tradition in this context? I like his emphasis on not deviating, even in small matters, from the apostles.


message 19: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments nice thought, I find myself more comfortable with Origen than the Nicene fathers. But I think ecclesiastical tradition had already began to deviate in Origen's time. For example the wisdom thing. Jesus clearly referred to wisdom as "her" not "me" in Luke 7:35


message 20: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments My Hebrew master also used to
say that those two seraphim in Isaiah, which are described as
having each six wings, and calling to one another, and saying,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts,” were to be
understood of the only-begotten Son of God and of the Holy
Spirit.


I must say I find this fascinating. I read somewhere that the trinity is in the Shema in a similar manner. We translate the passage "the LORD God, the LORD is one". But of course there is no punctuation in the ancient language. It is YHWH Elohiym YHWH.


message 21: by Joshua (last edited May 12, 2015 06:00AM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments the operation of the Holy Spirit does not take place at all in
those things which are without life, or in those which, although
living, are yet dumb; nay, is not found even in those who are
endued indeed with reason, but are engaged in evil courses,
and not at all converted to a better life.


a strange statement considering Jesus said the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin.. yet of course I see Origen's point about the Holy Spirit being given to those who are "toward" God.

I think He is not limited in the manner Origen implies but rather is active according to God's purpose and pleasure, which is normally centred on His kids.


David Good discussion all. I realize I meant to start a new thread for each section of the discussion, so sorry on that.

So Josh, are you saying that "begotten" applies to the incarnation, thus it is incorrect to say that the Son was begotten before that?

I think Origen's argument makes sense. The Father could not be Father without a Son so the son is eternally begotten, generated, in relationship with, the Father. It is obvious that later theologians like Athanasius and the Cappadocians could reference Origen against Arius - Arius said there was a time when the Son was not, Origen said the Son had always been.

As for Acts 13, I'd be curious to what Origen says about it. I know he had a lot of commentaries though I think many have been lost.

Aaron (msg 18) - good question. My reading of the church fathers, in general, is that there is enough emphasis on tradition to make non-Catholics uncomfortable and not enough emphasis to make Catholics uncomfortable. Of course, we're dealing with the Eastern church here and there way of balancing scripture and tradition is different then Western Christians.

I think when Origen (and Tertullian, Irenaeus) speak of tradition they are talking about the way of understanding scripture. In other words, rather then getting into a war of prooftexts every 50 years we recognize that our way of interpreting such and such passage is correct because that is how the church has always interpreted it. This is the sort of tradition I'd be fine with - I do not feel we need to refight the battle to support the Trinity, I think the Fathers got it right and the Nicene creed sums up the teaching of scripture.

So I guess, I think Catholics go too far in formalizing tradition in the institution of the papacy and magisterium but I think many Protestants go too far in dismissing tradition.


Peter Kazmaier (peterkazmaier) | 191 comments Jake wrote: "When I was first working out my philosophical ideas I originally set aside the prologue of John as some sort of poetical musing. I was trying to be skeptical, and so I didn't want to assume all the..."

Well said Jake. I like what you said about (a) not being skeptical enough to set aside your preconceptions derived from materialism (b) the wonderful realization that you're not walking these "thought trails alone."

I appreciate your points.


message 24: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments So Josh, are you saying that "begotten" applies to the incarnation, thus it is incorrect to say that the Son was begotten before that?


it would appear that was Peter's understanding. it seems a fairly sensible way of thinking to me. The church fathers would speak of Jesus being born of the Holy Spirit and Mary.

Begotten means "born" does it not? the phrase eternally begotten is what we call an oxymoron.

Now I understand He is also the "firstborn of creation" but Paul also calls him the "firstborn of the dead" and the "firstborn among many brethren". I expect "firstborn" is referring to His birthright since He certainly wasn't the first to die.


message 25: by Erick (last edited May 12, 2015 05:14PM) (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) I am getting deja vu. I am sure that the error of Arianism and Sabellianism was a horse beaten to death (and beyond) in another thread.

An appreciation for the distinction between Christ's Incarnational state and pre-Incarnational state is what is the context for some of these verses that appear to be at odds. Born in time as a Man and born eternally as the Logos.


message 26: by Erick (last edited May 12, 2015 05:34PM) (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) Paul plainly knew of the distinct states:

Colossians 1:15-20

(As the Logos i.e. pre-Incarnational):
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

(As Jesus Christ i.e. Incarnational):
"He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."

It amazes me that errors that have long ago been thoroughly refuted always wind up being rehashed; regardless of their untenability scripturally.


message 27: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments chafing at the bit a little Erick?

I am not spruking Arianism, Jesus is not a demi-god. I am also not spruking Sabellianism.

To say that the person of Christ is an expression of the Father does not diminish Christ. It is not removing his personhood as is Sabellianism. It is to recognise that God the Father is so much more than a "person", He alone is God.

As Paul wrote, there is one God, the Father.

Anyhow you are agreeing with me. I am pointing out the distinction between the preincarnate logos and Jesus Christ.

Wherever does the scripture say logos was born? or that Jesus was twice begotten.


message 28: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments except of course in your commentary on Colossians there. which is a bit of a stretch. Paul doesn't make the distinction you are relying so heavily on there. He just smooshes it all together.


message 29: by Erick (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) I was almost tempted to state what was obvious, but I need to follow my own advice and not get involved with someone who uses Sabellianism and Arianism as pointers in a theological version of dance dance revolution.


message 30: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments thanks. I'm not particularly excited about discussing nasty labels.

I was just interested in Origen's paradox where he writes that Christ spoke to Moses and the prophets and then writes that is was the Father himself who spoke to Moses and the prophets.

Jake for example shared some interesting thoughts without being rude.


message 31: by Erick (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) A person insists on turning every discussion into a forum for promoting his personal erroneous theological views and he thinks it is rude to simply point out the obvious. It is rude to turn a discussion about Origen into a personal theological soap box. No rudeness has been exerted on my part. I am simply stating what is an obvious disingenuous intention.


message 32: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments Not at all, I made numerous comments, it was just the topic that solicited a response. What would you like to talk about?


David Anyone want to discuss Universalism?

Origen seems to espouse it, so too does Gregory of Nyssa, though it is certainly a minority position through the history of the church. It is important to differentiate between a Christian universalism and a sort of pluralistic universalism. Under the Christian form, as I a sure Origen would say, everyone is eventually reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. This preserves the truth that Jesus is the sole and unique Lord and Savior. The pluralistic view would simply say there are many paths and all lead to God.

I can't help but bring up Rob Bell and the Love Wins controversy, and he wasn't even as clear in endorsing universalism as Origen and Gregory. But that debate does show, to me, that Americans are unable to have a mature conversation on this topic. Can we do better here?

It seems if you hold to God as Trinity and Jesus as savior then holding to a Christian universalism would not place you outside of Christian orthodoxy. I'd say we all ought to at least be hopeful universalists - desiring all to be saved. Agree?

Also, do you think there would be a difference between how God brings universalism about - like God forcing all to believe versus God continually pursuing all until all freely choose to believe?


message 34: by Joshua (last edited May 13, 2015 06:39PM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments I have certainly been accused of universalism. However I view things a little differently. Not sure if theres a label for this one.

I believe everyone will be saved eventually, that is preserved from the destruction of sin and death.

However I believe that the eternal life Jesus speaks of is more than being saved, it's an invitation to partake of the divine nature through the Holy Spirit. Hence the reference to eating his flesh and drinking his blood we have made a few puns about lately.

I think this is why Paul spoke of striving to attain to the resurrection and yet was completely confident of his salvation.


message 35: by Joshua (last edited May 15, 2015 05:21AM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments I must say i find Origen's treatment of rational beings very enlightening. To consider the prophecy of the "prince of Tyre" in such depth gives great meaning to Paul's statement regarding wrestling with principalities and powers.

So therefore if there are angels given to have dominion over spiritual things in certain geographic areas how should we approach these things. I find it fascinating that Peter writes of Jesus preaching the gospel to spirits that were formerly disobedient calling them to repentance.

Given Origen's statements regarding the capacity of the rational being to move from a higher to a lower condition, is it also possible for the principalities in an area to be moved from a lower to a higher position through prayer? To see the spiritual powers in a city or region embrace the gospel?

Is that what we see happened in Rome when it converted to Christianity?


message 36: by Joshua (last edited May 18, 2015 12:24AM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments the God and
Father of all things, who knows how He conducts even Pharaoh
by so great events, and by drowning in the sea, with which
latter occurrence His superintendence of Pharaoh does not
cease. For he was not annihilated when drowned


I like the way Origen thinks.

His discussions regarding God's delay in removing the stony heart make so much sense. I have myself observed how people seem to become stuck in their problems. A certain issue will circle and circle without remedy until the deeper matters of the heart are addressed. To those unwilling to let go of resentment, bitterness etc, it can be quite the lifelong ordeal.

As Origen said God is most certainly able to remove the stones, it seems what's important is that we recognise the stones and "repent" so we stop collecting them as souvenirs.


David Good stuff Josh. It seems we can't get much discussion going, I thought universalism would be a topic. I guess if Rob Bell showed up...


message 38: by Erick (last edited May 21, 2015 04:12PM) (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) I don't personally believe in universal salvation; but I don't necessarily look at it as being grievously erroneous. It is based on scripture, but scripture that is problematic to be used in such a fashion. I do agree with Origen's belief in purgation (though my notions on it differ slightly from the Catholic idea of purgatory). Admittedly, there have been orthodox fathers who accepted universal salvation in some sense. Often who and who didn't accept it is a bit ambiguous (e.g. Clement of Alexandria).


Genni | 157 comments Always running behind...

I am loving Origen so far. Somehow, His views feel fresh to me. I guess because although at this point in time, all of these questions have been hashed out and conclusions reached (many of which I have been taught or warned against since I was a child), it is fun to read the hashing out process.
And although some of his conclusions may be erroneous, I only sense humility. As though he is simply putting some thoughts ot there "for fun" and not necessarily to persuade all that they should agree with him.

I especially loved his discussion of how the Son was begotten of the Father.
"Rather must we suppose that as an act of will proceeds from the mind without either cutting off any part of the mind or being separated or divided from it, in some similar fashion has the Father begotten the Son..."

In the chapter on the Holy Spirit, he mentions the "age of reason". Does the age of accountability doctrine originate with Origen?

Concerning universalism, he says at one point in chapter 6, "For the end is always like the beginning, as therefore there is one end of all things, so w must understand that there is one beginning of all things, and thereis one end of many things, so from one beginning arise many differences and varieties, which in their turn are restored, through God's goodness, through their subjection to Christ and their unity with the Holy Spirit, to one end, which is like the beginning." My first question is, IS the end always like the beginning? This seems like a faulty premise. And secondly, Origen is pretty clear about believing in free will. But can free will truly coexist with universalism? If people do not choose God, but somehow, after a time of torture, they "choose" God, is that not coercion? But if Universalism is true (which in a sense is deterministic, no?), what is the point of all of this? Why not have created glorified beings from the get go without all the fuss (and suffering). I am sure my thinking on this is faulty so I would love to hear what others have to say.

Also from chapter 6: "or is it rather that while the form of things that are 'seen' passes away, their substance is by no means destroyed? Now Paul seems to confirm the latter explanation when he says, 'the form of this world shall pass away'...for if the heavens shall be 'changed', certainly that which is 'changed' does not perish; and if 'the form of this world passes away', it is not by any means an annihilation or destruction of the material substance that is indicated, but the occurrence of a certain change of quality and an alteration of the outward form". This made me think of Lewis's description of heaven in "The Great Divorce" as a significantly more substantial Earth. And I suppose this strikes me because as a child, I was taught the stereotypical "angels and harps" idea of heaven.


message 40: by Erick (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) Genni wrote: ""For the end is always like the beginning, as therefore there is one end of all things, so w must understand that there is one beginning of all things, and thereis one end of many things, so from one beginning arise many differences and varieties, which in their turn are restored, through God's goodness, through their subjection to Christ and their unity with the Holy Spirit, to one end, which is like the beginning." My first question is, IS the end always like the beginning?"

I think Origen is partially inspired here by verses like Ephesians 1:10 and Colossians 1:20, and maybe, peripherally, by Romans 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Prior to the fall everything was in God so with the restoration (or apocatastasis) everything will once again be in God.

Genni wrote: "And secondly, Origen is pretty clear about believing in free will. But can free will truly coexist with universalism? If people do not choose God, but somehow, after a time of torture, they "choose" God, is that not coercion? But if Universalism is true (which in a sense is deterministic, no?), what is the point of all of this? Why not have created glorified beings from the get go without all the fuss (and suffering). I am sure my thinking on this is faulty so I would love to hear what others have to say."

I think this is the biggest issue with universalism. It negates freewill. I reject Calvinism for the same reason I reject universalism: both negate freewill. An additional issue is that universalism must transfer infinitude from perdition to human nature; meaning, human beings must be practically infinitely incorruptible; no amount of evil can ever make them beyond purgative rehabilitation; this makes human nature practically godlike in it's resilience to evil actions. I can't see this as being likely.


David Good thoughts!

I am not sure his statement "the end is like the beginning" is a premise. Maybe he concluded that based on other things.

As for free will and universalism, I do not think one negates the other.

First, there are not just two options - free will and determinism. It is a continuum. In reality, we do not truly have free will for every decision. I recall reading a book a while back that spoke of how brain studies have shown we often make decisions before we are cognitively aware of it. Our brains choose for us. This is a shortcut because we do not have the time to process every single choice.

What this says to me is there is a lot more going on then just free will. We have desires, previous choices that have created who we are today. To use one example - if you have never stolen before the first time you decide to may be a huge deal that you resist, but each time you do it it becomes easier. Or, to use another example, if I see a piece of chocolate cake on the counter my freedom is constrained by how hungry I am. If I have not eaten in a week, I may in theory be free not to choose to eat but it is more difficult.

All that to say, free will is a bit complex. I'd even argue Calvinists do believe in free will. The problem is that our will is corrupt, we desire sin. So we freely choose what we want, but unregenerate humans only want sin.

In terms of universalism, I think the idea is that God continues to pursue us. In this pursuit, God works to strip away all ofour biases, hatreds, desires and anything that causes us to choose against God. If humans, in our original state, desire the good then once God has worked to reach out to us we will desire God. Or to put it another way, once people truly see who God is and what God is like, it will be impossible for them to not choose to be in relaitonship with God.

God does not give up on people and God knows how to woo people. It makes sense to me


Genni | 157 comments Erick wrote: "Genni wrote: ""For the end is always like the beginning, as therefore there is one end of all things, so w must understand that there is one beginning of all things, and thereis one end of many thi..."

Hi Erick, thank you for your response. This is an issue I have been wondering about for awhile.

Yes, he mentions some of these verses as references. Since yo u do not believe this restoration will occur, what sense do you make of these verses? Also, what thoughts/experiences led you to believe that we have free will?


Genni | 157 comments David wrote: "Good thoughts!

I am not sure his statement "the end is like the beginning" is a premise. Maybe he concluded that based on other things.

As for free will and universalism, I do not think one nega..."


Ok, so again, if we will all end up choosing Him in the end, what is the point of all this? If your point is true, then it seems to me that God has some sadistic tendencies. Now, I don't believe that, but it seems to follow from your conclusion??


message 44: by Erick (last edited May 31, 2015 12:08PM) (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) Calvin does not only make the case against freewill by appealing to absolute depravity, he also makes the case that God is absolutely sovereign and His will is overarching and trumps every other will. He makes this case quite explicitly in the Institutes; even going so far as to say that Satan does only what God wills him to do. Any appeal to freewill is quite incompatible with strict Calvinism as laid out in Calvin's Institutes. While there may be different flavors of Calvinism today, that may posit freewill in subtle forms, they wouldn't jibe with Calvin's system.

If it is truly "impossible" for them to not choose God, then freewill is still done away with. While I agree that the human will suffers corruption, it is still intact enough for us to make certain decisions that require accountability; these decisions are intact and are of a spiritual nature. Some decisions are conscious, some unconscious, but those decisions still come from us. They make evident what our spiritual affinities are. Our decisions are an expression of our spiritual state and where we give our allegiance. Even when things happen to us outside of our control, we always have a choice in how we respond to these occurrences. Universalism makes this life of little account. It posits that no decision made here is ultimately decisive; meaning, there is no decision made here that God can't coerce you to choose something else in another state outside of this life. It takes away personal accountability and the necessary spiritual responsibility that comes with freewill in this life. God also possesses freewill, so He has set up the variables and parameters that freewill functions in. Unlimited freewill wouldn't be freewill, it would be the opposite. God has created us and the world we live in to make manifest our spiritual nature, this is tied with our actions and what we ultimately choose here.


message 45: by Erick (last edited May 31, 2015 12:26PM) (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) Genni wrote: "Yes, he mentions some of these verses as references. Since yo u do not believe this restoration will occur, what sense do you make of these verses? Also, what thoughts/experiences led you to believe that we have free will? "


Well, as far as those verses go, which are the ones primarily appealed to for universalism, it depends on how we interpret "all" as in "reconciling all things". My feeling on it is that Paul is dealing with a mystery, that mystery involves the role that every person and angel has chosen to play. Reconciling is a putting in order all offices or roles, while respecting the choices made. Just because some will suffer eternal separation from God through their own choices, doesn't mean they still don't have a role and an office that they have chosen. All those roles will be accorded what they have accumulated to themselves and put in the proper place. I do believe in apocatastasis, but not in the sense universalists do.

As far as freewill goes, I answer this partially above, but quite simply, the Bible makes little sense without it when read as a whole. The church has always maintained freewill. Accountability is a must. This life makes no sense without it.


message 46: by Joshua (last edited May 31, 2015 04:32PM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments The other day I had to discipline my son. He lost his playstation, indefinitely.

He sorely need it, his tantrums was unbelievable and it wasn't the first.

He may have more trouble with his emotions, he finds them hard to manage. If were to provide no consequence he would continue his destructive behaviour and in his adult years it would be his own life he would ruin.

My point is if I didn't provide some painful consequence it would be selfish on my part. My motivation is not to get what I want but to purge the the selfish destructive behaviour.

Will I ever give up on my son? of course not. Will there come a time when the consequences of his behaviour are outside my control? yes he will grow up.

Is anything outside of God? Do ever cease to be children to God? no. Being children of God is our eternal inheritance.


message 47: by Erick (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) I think many people who accept universalism are not that experienced in the spiritual realities they are seeking to understand and rehabilitate. One would have to have some personal acquaintance with spiritual evil to understand why it is not capable of rehabilitation and why those who have chosen that way cannot be rehabilitated. I just think the doctrine stems from sincere naivete.

Love is allowing freedom for the one loved. Love cannot be coerced. If someone chooses to reject another's love, they cannot be forced to accept it. Love must ultimately allow someone to make their own choices; yes, including to their own harm in some cases.

When the restoration happens things are not going to be like the way they are here anymore. Human beings (all human beings, including the evil ones) will assume the spiritual nature that they have cultivated here. That is what they have chosen and that is what they are going to be for eternity.


message 48: by Joshua (last edited May 31, 2015 05:01PM) (new)

Joshua Woodward | 556 comments all human beings, including the evil ones) will assume the spiritual nature that they have cultivated here. That is what they have chosen and that is what they are going to be for eternity.

that right there is the basis for most eternal torment doctrine, however Peter writes of the gospel being preached to the spirits who rebelled in the time of Noah. Personally I'm not inclined to see spiritual beings as morally set. After all Lucifer fell from heaven did he not?


message 49: by Erick (last edited Jun 01, 2015 11:22PM) (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) The passage in Peter cannot be used as a means of promoting universalism, although it suggests for some there may be a purgative state. Comparing Lucifer's fall to the state of restoration is an anachronism. The restoration is partly a response to that event. The whole point of choice here is to allow one to choose in favor of that original spiritual apostasy or choose in favor of God. To say that it is going to be the same is an attempt to bring in the Hindu notion of Samsara, where we have the same apostasy happening over and over for ever and the same continuing need for choice and response in regards to it. This nullifies the idea of a new creation.


David Erick - I agree with what you said in message 44, I am not a Calvinist and you articulated some of the reasons why. And I have not read the Institutes for a couple years. But I definitely know some Calvinists teach the whole idea that you have free will, the problem is in your depraved state you only want to choose evil. Maybe I got it from Edwards or maybe from a Sunday school teacher at the summer camp I worked at who taught Calvinism, or maybe Sproul.

I agree in regards to the importance of free will, but I do think it is more complex then either free will or determinism, as I said above.

I am not a universalist, but I can defend the idea. I heartily disagree that universalism makes this life of no account (as Erick said). It depends what you think this life is for, I guess. Or as Genni said, what is the point?

It seems, though I will let you explain, that the assumption behind your questions/objections is that being saved from eternal hell is the main point of Christianity. It is there that I think the fault lies. I think the point of following Jesus is to grow into Christlikeness, to grow in virtue, to be sanctified. Even if there were no heaven, I think the Christian life would be worth living because I think living by JEsus' teaching, is objectively the best way to live.

The disciples did not preach "believe in Jesus so you avoid hell" but they preached "believe in Jesus because he truly is Messiah." So the point is to live as you were created to live. SHould we be jealous if others enter this path, way of life, after we do? Of course not. We should take joy that they enter it at all.

Universalism often sees hell as a purgation. If you can avoid the pain of that purgation now by getting on the right track, that is to your benefit. I imagine a universalist might use an analogy that it is better, and less painful, to remove a small tumor than to let it get large and remove it. This life is the beginning of our opportunity to move towards God.

Again, I am not a universalist since I think the Bible leans towards annihilation. But I do think a lot of sincere, JEsus-loving Christians are universalists. My reading of them shows that statements like, "many people who accept universalism are not that experienced in the spiritual realities they are seeking to understand and rehabilitate" are simply not true. Whether Origen or Gregory of Nyssa or others in our day, this sort of dismissal seems unhelpful to me.

Or to put it another way, I cannot say with confidence that anyone or anything is "not capable of rehabilitation" in light of the cross and resurrection. The stories of Jesus show me a God who constantly does things we humans think cannot be done.


« previous 1 3
back to top