In Defense of Origen and Christian Universalism

“When people dismiss early Christian universalism as an aberration in Christian theology, dreamed up by Origen in the third century under the influence of paganism and later discerned to be heretical they err on several counts. First, they fail to appreciate that Origen’s theology of apokatastasis was primarily a synthesis of much earlier Christian ideas, with deep roots in Scripture. Second, they overestimate the shaping influence of pagan wisdom – for while Origen happily adopted the philosophies of his day to help explicate his theology, as did all of the church fathers, he sought to evaluate such ideas in light of the gospel and the Bible. Thus, for instance, he was very critical or the so-called doctrines of apokatastasis found among the Stoics and the “gnostics” and in no way considered them the inspiration for his own theology. Third, claims that Origen’s theology is heretical are usually based on significant and demonstrable misunderstandings of his teaching that became widespread in the church, especially as time went on. However, the fact that such major pillars of early Christian orthodoxy as Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa stood so firmly in his defense ought to give us significant pause before aligning Origen with the heretics. For Athanasius, Origen shoild instead be seen as one of the theologians whose thought Nicene orthodoxy was built, And if Origen is to be dismissed as a heretic for embracing universalism then so should a host of others including St. Athanasius and the Cappadocian St. Gregory of Nyssa.”

Ilaria Ramelli

One thought on “In Defense of Origen and Christian Universalism

  1. Albert Barnes – Prof emeritus- First Presbyterian Church said this about Eternal torment.
    That any should suffer forever—lingering on in hopeless despair, and rolling amidst infinite torments without the possibility of alleviation, and without end. That since God can save men,and will save a part, he has not purposed to save all;that on the supposition that the atonement is ample, and that the blood of Christ can cleanse from all and every sin, it is not in fact applied to all. That, in a. word, a God who claims to be worthy of the confidence of the universe, and to be a being of infinite benevolence, should make such a world as this—full of sinners and sufferers; and that when an atonement had been made, he did not save all the race, and put an end to sin and woe forever. “These, and kindred difficulties, meet the mind when we think on this great subject; and they meet us when we endeavor to urge our fellow-sinners to be reconciled to God, and to put confidence in him. On this ground they hesitate. These are real, not imaginary difficulties. They are probably felt by every mind that ever reflected on the subject—and they are unexplained, unmitigated, unremoved. “I confess, for one, that I feel them, and feel them more sensibly and powerfully the more I look at them, and the longer I live. I do not understand these facts; and I make no advances towards understanding them. I do not know that I have a ray of light on this subject which I had not when the subject first flashed across my soul. I have read, to some extent, what wise and good men have written. I have looked at their various theories and explanations. I have endeavored to weigh their arguments—for my whole soul pants for light and relief on these questions. But I get neither; and in the distress and anguish of my own spirit, I confess that I see no light whatever. I see not one ray to disclose to me the reason why sin came into the world; why the earth is strewed with the dying and the dead, and why man must suffer to all eternity. “I have never seen a particle of light thrown on these subjects that has given a moment’s ease to my tortured mind; nor have I an explanation to offer, or a thought to suggest, which would -be a relief to you. I trust other men(ahhh the traditions and teachings of men)—as they profess to do—understand this better than I do, and that they have not the anguish of spirit which I have; but I confess, when I look on a world of sinners and of sufferers; upon death-beds and graveyards; upon the world of woe, filled with hosts to suffer forever;—when I see my friends, my parents, my family, my people, my fellow-citizens—when I look upon a whole race, all involved in this sin and danger, and when I see the great mass of them wholly unconcerned, and when I feel that God only can save them and yet that he does not do it, I am struck dumb. It is all dark—dark—dark to my soul—and I cannot disguise it.”


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