Sunday, March 22, 2009
'O, Jesus, my feet are dirty'
(from the link)
"Origen did not believe in the eternal suffering of sinners in hell. For him, all souls, including the devil himself, will eventually achieve salvation, even if it takes innumerable ages to do so; for Origen believed that God's love is so powerful as to soften even the hardest heart, and that the human intellect - being the image of God - will never freely choose oblivion over proximity to God, the font of Wisdom Himself. Certain critics of Origen have claimed that this teaching undermines his otherwise firm insistence on free will, for, these critics argue, the souls must maintin the freedom to ultimately reject or accept God, or else free will becomes a mere illusion. What escapes these critics is the fact that Origen's conception of free will is not our own; he considered freedom in the Platonic sense of the ability to choose the good. Since evil is not the polar opposite of good, but rather simply the absence of good - and thus having no real existence - then to 'choose' evil is not to make a conscious decision, but to act in ignorance of the measure of all rational decision, i.e., the good. Origen was unable to conceive of a God who would create souls that were capable of dissolving into the oblivion of evil (non-being) for all eternity. Therefore, he reasoned that a single lifetime is not enough for a soul to achieve salvation, for certain souls require more education or 'healing' than others. So he developed his doctrine of multiple ages, in which souls would be re-born, to experience the educative powers of God once again, with a view to ultimate salvation. This doctrine, of course, implies some form of transmigration of souls or metempsychosis. Yet Origen's version of metempsychosis was not the same as that of the Pythagoreans, for example, who taught that the basest of souls will eventually become incarnated as animals. For Origen, some sort of continuity between the present body, and the body in the age to come, was maintained (Jerome, Epistle to Avitus 7, quoting Origen; see also Commentary on Matthew 11.17). Origen did not, like many of his contemporaries, degrade the body to the status of an unwanted encrustation imprisoning the soul; for him, the body is a necessary principle of limitation, providing each soul with a unique identity. This is an important point for an understanding of Origen's epistemology, which is based upon the idea that God educates each soul according to its inherent abilities, and that the abilities of each soul will determine the manner of its knowledge. We may say, then, that the uniqueness of the soul's body is an image of its uniqueness of mind. This is the first inkling of the development of the concept of the person and personality in the history of Western thought.
"The restoration of all beings (apokatastasis) is the most important concept in Origen's philosophy, and the touchstone by which he judges all other theories. His concept of universal restoration is based on equally strong Scriptural and Hellenistic philosophical grounds and is not original, as it can be traced back to Heraclitus, who stated that "the beginning and end are common" (Fragment B 103, tr. J. Barnes 1987, p. 115). Considering that Origen's later opponents based their charges of heresy largely on this aspect of his teaching, it is surprising to see how well-grounded in scripture this doctrine really is. Origen's main biblical proof-text is 1 Corinthians 15:25-28, especially verse 28, which speaks of the time "when all things shall be subdued unto him [Christ], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (KJV, my emphasis). This scriptural notion of God being "all in all" (panta en pasin) is a strong theological support for his theory of apokatastasis. There are, of course, numerous other passages in scripture that contradict this notion, but we must remember that Origen's strength resided in his philosophical ability to use reason and dialectic in support of humane doctrines, not in the ability to use scripture in support of dogmatical and anti-humanistic arguments. Origen imagined salvation not in terms of the saved rejoicing in heaven and the damned suffering in hell, but as a reunion of all souls with God."
In the Library of Alexandria there was a list of over 6000 documents/books/ etc. attributed to Origin. Alas out all of those, only a few survived the purge of the Church and of the Muslems.
Personally I find him most interesting in that by 230AD he is questioning the "translations" and additions to the "Proto New Testment" books. One of the first textual critics you might say. As such he did not accept Paul's pastorial letters as real or even reflective of Paulian thought.
Latter translators of Origen's own works have submerged his thoughts on Sophia as though he were merely speaking generically about "wisdom".
Just a little more background and the other stuff takes on equal importance. I've always found spade work to be wearying before I start in, but grows in excitement the more time I put into it. It is never easy.
I reread Frei's Types of Narrative Theology when we built those lists. It was an unfinished manuscript at his death. Not as dense, more of his own thinking, and an exercise to categorize the major theological strains we have currently.
Re, "Draft off of the excitement ..."
That's racin' terminology. Hoo hoo. :-)
Why would that be? Is the knock on him that he appears less macho than most of the others?
Of course we also completely ignore the Christian pioneers that took the message across Iran into India and Kashmir, on into Tibet, China and as far as Japan.
Then I wonder about the Nestorian Christian revelations that rode back into Europe's thoughts on Attila The Hun's horses? Did the Bogomils feast on the thoughts of the Nestorian elements of Attila's invasion?
It is such a small slice of the pie that we study as if it were all there was.
(The Cowboys did well, but now you know the Big East is Bad, right? First time five teams from one conference made it to the Sweet Sixteen - and we almost had six with Marquette. Go Huskies!)
Same with us.
Theology is biography, Buechner says somewhere.
I have a hard time, in the end, denying or qualifying that.
Except to say that the questions we ask should be motivated by moral concerns based on an ever improving understanding of who "we" are.
The telos is love, and so should be the hermeneutic. That is the most divine truth I know, in the sense that it is not given by our evolutionary inheritance or naturally inscribed by our nature. It is an activity of extending our Reason ("sympathetic and ordered imagination" of the early Enlightenment and its sixteenth century theological forebears [Cambridge Platonists]) by greater or lesser degrees through the permeable membrane of self to be changed by others.
This is the most uniquely and unnaturally human thing we do.
Life's too short to do otherwise.