Origins of Universal Salvation

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by Ahanu, May 7, 2019.

  1. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    The Catholic Encyclopedia says Origen and Clement of Alexandria were the first to teach universal salvation:

    "The doctrine, then, was first taught by Origen, and by Clement of Alexandria, and was an influence in their Christianity due to Platonism, as Petavius has plainly shown . . ."​

    Ilaria L. E. Ramelli has questioned such a narrative in her work titled "Origen, Bardaisan, and the Origin of Universal Salvation," and, as far as I can tell, she has plainly shown the opinion above to be outdated in terms of research. Here I'll present her abstract:

    "Is Origen of Alexandria the inventor of the eschatological doctrine of apokatastasis— of the eventual return of all creatures to the Good, that is, God, and thus universal salvation? Certainly, he is one of its chief supporters in all of history, and he is, as far as we know, the first to have maintained it in a complete and coherent way, so that all of his philosophy of history, protology, and anthropology is oriented toward this telos.1 There are, however, significant antecedents to his mature and articulate theorization, at least some of which he surely knew very well, and there is even a possible parallel. For this conception did not appear ex nihilo, but in a cultural context rich in suggestions and premises, and in a philosophical framework of lively discussions concerning fate, free will, theodicy, and the eternal destiny of rational creatures."

    These "significant antecedents" include Bardaisan (who was possibly Clement's Syrian teacher that "received the tradition from the apostles through oral transmission"), the Apoc of Peter (dated by some scholars around the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt), and more. Also, the Catholic Encyclopedia states universal salvation "was an influence in their Christianity due to Platonism." Well, universalists in early Christianity first and foremost rooted their teaching in scripture and the Christian tradition. According to Origen and the tradition he said he received, the doctrine was announced by the prophets (Jer. 15.19; Acts 3.21).
     
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  2. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    In early Christianity apokatastasis had a firm hold in Alexandria. According to Eusebius (HE 2.15-16), Mark brought Christianity to this city.


    Eternal hell prevailed in present day Carthage, Tunisia. This was the home of Cyprian of Carthage and Tertullian. Nobody is sure about the origins of Christianity in Carthage.


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Ahanu —

    So it would seem. Are you looking at the version on New Advent? It's over 100 years old ...

    Dubious, in my opinion.

    That's more like it!

    The debate as to whether one is a Christian Platonist, or a Platonic Christian, is one of those arguments that seems like 'hair-splitting', but is actually quite important within the context of the Tradition.

    As is generally agreed, all the Fathers were Platonists (Irenaeus, a very early and influential source, was not, but himself indebted to Justin Martry, who was). As stated above, their foundation was Scripture first.

    Neither Clement nor Origen were infallible (but then, there is only one father who has never been challenged on any point of his doctrine, and he is Gregory Nazianzen, a staggering feat as he wrote an exposition on the Christian faith.) But to say they were Platonists is to do them an injustice.

    Maximus the Confessor highlighted a Platonist 'error' attributed to Origen, an error generally from the standpoint of the Christian Tradition (and, notably, a problem that even Plato was obliged to acknowledge, but one that is solved by Maximus in stroke of genius simplicity if one takes Scripture as authoritative).

    The Platonism was more likely inferred of him by his enthusiastic and less philosophically rigorous followers. But then Maximus was, I rather think, a supporter of the doctrine of Universal Salvation, but did say that it is a doctrine that should be kept secret, for a number of very good reasons.
     
  4. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Active Member

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    ..depends on your definition of Christian..

    He emphasized that Jesus did not cease to be God when he became a man, nor did he lose any of his divine attributes when he took on human nature. Furthermore, Gregory asserted that Christ was fully human, including a full human soul. He also proclaimed the eternality of the Holy Spirit, saying that the Holy Spirit's actions were somewhat hidden in the Old Testament but much clearer since the ascension..
    wikipedia

    I assume you mean Nicene Christians :)
    There are plenty of others who see the idea of being fully human and possessing divine attributes as .. incompatible?
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    D'you know anyone who had ever condemned Gregory?

    Which Christians are those?
     
  6. Arif Ghamiq

    Arif Ghamiq Active Member

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    Christian Science is one - Christadelphians is another.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  7. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Active Member

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    ..and of course, Unitarians.
    Jehovah's witnesses don't believe in the trinity either.
    They seem to be "dispossessed" by many Christians AND Jews .. such is life.
     
  8. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Do you mind expanding on the idea Irenaeus was "indebted to Justin Martyr"? Do you mean he was reading his works?

    Now that you've brought up Irenaeus . . . let's discuss him. Greek fragments of Against Heresies aren't opposed to universal salvation. According to Wikipedia, he was originally from Izmir, Turkey. On our map above it is not too far from Ephesus. It seems we are less likely to find the doctrine of eternal hell on the eastern side of the Roman Empire . . .
     
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  9. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Well of course you'll find all manner of denominations in America that believe all manner of things...
     
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  10. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Geographically speaking, in America you're more likely to find the doctrine of eternal hell in the Bible Belt. Historically there is a reason for that. Similarly in the 2nd century Roman Empire . . .?
     
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  11. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Irenaeus wasn't a trained philosopher as most of the fathers were. He quotes Justin in his works, and scholars say you can trace Justin's thinking ... so I think he used Justin's philosophical method.

    Are they for it, though?Not sure if the idea is actually mentioned ... ?

    Are you sure? It's Scriptural. How do you see the Eastern view of hell?
     
  12. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Okay.

    "Irenaeus does not formulate a doctrine of universal salvation, nor a theory of universal apokatastasis. However, he does introduce elements that point to the doctrine of apokatastasis and very probably inspired those who formulated it after him, such as Clement and especially Origen. The most important are certainly his notion of ἀνακεφαλαίωσις, his characterisation of resurrection as restoration, and his idea of the maturation of humanity; moreover, I should indicate the salvific work of Christ as applied to all of humanity and the therapeutic and educational aim of sufferings inflicted by God."

    Ramelli, Ilaria. The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis : A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena, BRILL, 2013. ​

    For example, our Christian friends in Alexandria believed the fire in hell has a therapeutic function and lasts for a finite duration of time. Our Christian friends in Carthage believed the fire in hell serves a punitive function and lasts for an infinite duration of time.
     
  13. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    "The great fourth-century church father Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379) once observed that in his time, a large majority of Christians (at least, in the Greek-speaking Eastern Christian world that he knew) believed that hell was not everlasting, and that all in the end would attain salvation."
    -David Bentley Hart
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Have you got Ramelli's book?

    Irenaeus spoke of Christ (from St Paul) as the 'New Adam' and put forward the idea that He reversed the direction of the Fall, as it were. Interestingly, he (Irenaeus) also posed the idea that as Christ is the New Adam, Mary is the New Eve; where in Scripture we can see Eve as instrumental in the downfall of Adam, Mary is instrumental, as Theotokos (the God Bearer, Mother of Christ), her fidelity counters Eve's seduction.

    Also, I would suggest, in John we see Mary as instrumental at the beginning of Christ's ministry. We all know the story, there's a wedding, the wine runs out, Mary says to her son, "The wine's run out." He says, "That's nothing to do with me. It's not yet my time." Mary thinks otherwise and tells the servants "Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye" (John 2:5), which rather obliges Him to do something.

    As said above, Irenaeus was not trained as a philosopher, but this idea of 'reversing the flow', as it were, is quite Platonic. I like to think he got it from his teachers (from John, via Polycarp), and Justin gave him the philosophical framework to work it, but it could equally be the other way round.

    Not quite sold on that, but wouldn't judge it from just this citation. Only that I don't think the ancient world saw humanity in quite those terms. I could be wrong... it seems quite a modern idea, that's all. But then she might be expressing an ancient concept in modern terms, "when I was a child," as St Paul said.

    Well the West does rather love fire and brimstone. And certainly Roman jurisprudence did impact Western Christianity, and Augustine, God bless him, had a tough time of it, and I think his view of the world was quite dark in later life, what with the empire falling apart all around him.

    (if you live in the UK there are echoes ... )

    Sometimes authors do like to paint the differences in black-and-white. I'm not gainsaying it, but I have, on more than one occasion, mentioned the Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi of Pope Benedict XVI:

    Not only artists ... pastors and preachers played to the superstitions and sentimentalities of their congregations. It's a very powerful tool, as demonstrated by the political narrative in the UK and the US.

    As you say, the 'opinions' of 'recent theologians' is probably in line with the Eastern view.

    As an aside, one distinction between East and West is the focus on the Trinity — the West is focussed on the Humanity of Christ, the East on the Divinity. Both sometimes express their viewpoint at the expense of the other, or rather the complete picture, of Christ as Man and God. by the same token, the West sometimes looks to the Crucifixion, the East to the Resurrection.
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    As an aside, while the Apocatastasis is a seductive doctrine, one should not be blinded to its contextual position.

    The final restoration of all things is according to the Divine Idea. The East especially held a tension between the actuality of me, my substantial being as a person, and the logoi of me, the 'image' of me in the Mind of God. Modernists tend to conflate the two and assume something inherently divine in human nature. This notion is rejected not only by the Abrahamics, it's stated most forcefully by Buddhism, that ascribes to 'me' nothing of substance or consequence, it's all illusory and ephemeral. The 'me' of me is not the logoi of me, it's a reflection of the logoi, the logoi is quite distinct and 'other than'.

    It's this illusory me that gets purified in the fire of judgement, which is really nothing more than the stripping away of one's illusions (or delusions). So the apocatastasis is not necessarily a comfortable experience, but a necessary and possibly painful procedure.

    And, if one's substance is fabricated entirely out of illusion, then that evaporates and there's nothing left ... this was an idea supported by Augustine, that if one lives a life of sin, then one constructs a body of sin, and when all that is burned away, what of 'me' is left? The popular notion is of 'me' languishing in hell. One migbt argue that Christ's use of the term Gehenna is more accurate ... that 'me' simply has no place in the order of the Real and the True and simply ceases to be.
     
  16. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Active Member

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    Exactly .. it is the consequences of our actions that wrecks our soul. The images [or scriptural passages] describing hell are a simile which denotes the seriousness of the suffering.
    Hence, it is not G-d who "tortures us", it is of our own doing.

    Naturally many people with a dislike of this concept will proclaim "G-d didn't have to create us like that"
    ..but I hardly think that the reality of the universe will change from anything we might say ;)
     
  17. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    I'm not so sure of this. Lots of mind-made stuff out there causes real suffering, is how I understand the gist of this conversation.

    Today's fake news precedes tomorrow's genocide. Don't have to speculate about the next world, it's in plain sight.
     
  18. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Hey, we are right here!
     
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  19. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Nontrinitarian barbarian hordes at the gates? I didn't know it was that bad... :(
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I see ya!
     
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