Origen of Alexander & Christian Universalism beliefs in early Catholicism -- thru 6th Century

Origen believed in the UNIVERSAL salvation of mankind. He found evidences for this viewpoint in scriptures. Other ECF’s also accepted his teachings, even after St. Augustine rejected the principle.

There is much scriptural support of Universalism, when seen from the Christian Biblical perspective. Christ asked God to forgive all those who had condemned him and conducted the crucifixion … because they did it from IGNORANCE. Christ also teaches that the LEAST will be FIRST, in the Kingdom. This might be pointing toward a timefactor [of ‘purgation’ or conversion] needed to correct the ‘ignorance’ of many. Our Church teaches that those who don’t know Christ as Lord, due to ‘ignorance’ … will be dealt with less harsh, and may ultimately be saved. Even our recent/current Popes have held out this as a possibility. God teaches that man is never to pass judgement on another’s salvation status.

St. Peter teaches that Christ went to the underworld and preached to the OT dead … and took a ‘host’ of captives with him to Heaven. Perhaps those who reject or lack knowledge of Christ in NT times … will have a similar final personal visitation by our Lord.

In the Parable of the 2 Sons, one did God’s will after first declining. The other accepted, but did not comply. In the explanation thereof, to the Temple Elders Christ said “… tax collectors and harlots go into the Kingdom of God BEFORE YOU. … Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it”. So, we see the Jewish Nation losing out the the Gentile Nations. Nevertheless, scripture teaches if we Gentiles are not faithful, we will be ‘cut off’ from the Olive Tree and the Jews grafted back in.

Additionally, we have the circumstances of the American, Pacific, and other Natives … who lived for many years apart from knowledge of Christ. We know God will be merciful on those who by no fault of their own … didn’t receive knowledge of Gospel. The Final Judgement will be the equalizer, so it would seem. God’s judgement will be PERFECT and FAIR. Those w/o knowledge of God via ignorance or lack of opportunity, will see a great light … and perhaps a form of Catholic Purgatory or Christian Universalism will bring all mankind to salvation.

If ORIGEN and those other ECF’s were right, and St. Augustine wrong, it would have to be enabled by Grace from Christ, and in conformity with scriptures … not by a means of Non-Christian Universalism, as taught by the Unitarian Church.

Here is a link to the Early Church Fathers on the existence of hell. Ignorance may prevent a person from going to hell, but that does not equal universalism.

Proponents :

Late 2nd Century … St. Pantaenus & St. Clement of Alexandria
Early 3rd Century … Origen
4th Century … St. Gregory of Nyssa & St. Macrina the Younger
St. Augustine /// Admitted many Christians believed in Universal Salvation and INCLUDED them as Orthodox.
9th Century … John Scotus Eriugena
18th Century … John Wesley
20th Century … ‘Latter Rain’ Movement Pentecostals
21st Century … certain Charismatic / Evangelicals … ‘Blessed hope’, ‘Larger hope’ & ‘Victorious hope’ groups.

Going from memory, I recall the last time I examined an article claiming a bunch of ECFs supported universalism, and the examples provided were taken out of context or simply did not say what the author asserted. So, could you provide the excerpts in question for these ECFs? It’s not necessary to give citations for the non-Catholics.

Also, in determining who is “right” if there is on some matter a diversity of opinion in the Early Church, the Holy Spirit through the Catholic Church has a method for sorting out truth. Do you adhere to this method for solving via councils and Magisterial pronouncements?

The Catholic Church teaches that God wills all to be saved. Whether or not that will in fact happen is uncertain. The theological possibility of “hell” (eternal damnation, not being saved, whatever) is taught by the Catholic Church, but whether anyone is “in hell” or has in fact NOT been saved is a matter of opinion.

It’s a complex question.

I think (if I remember correctly) that there was only one human actually formally condemned to hell by Council, and that would be Arius. To be anathematized is NOT necessarily condemned to hell, but for all intents and purposes it can be like that for many, because one is left to the mercy of God without the graces available through the church.

Origen proposed, or suggested, the concept of universal salvation but he was always willing to conform to church teaching. The problem for him is that he was literally the first to approach the subject, so he was a seminal thinker, not the last word,and so he could not have known in his lifetime what the church would ultimately decide on these matters. We have to be a little sensitive to his position.

He was so early in these things (as a brilliant scripture scholar and theologian) that a lot of what we accept today as a matter of course was not fully understood then. He actually posited that our souls existed before our bodies (today ONLY Jesus is thought to have existed before conception, we state this in the Creed), these souls come from God and should return to God (this sounds Platonic). That was the reason he suggested universal salvation.

He was the first to address the subject, and very much later (after his death) his ideas were condemned, but he himself was not.

Universal salvation (there is another, better term for it, but that escapes me) can be hoped for, and even prayed for, but cannot be taught as something God will definitely ever allow.

Origen was condemned at the 5th (or 6th) council which was pretty long after his death. I’ve done a little reading on Origen recently and I think he gets a little bit of a bad reputation. His ideas on pre-existing souls, for instance, is not as heretical as it sounds. He beleived they were pre-existing in that the first day of creation was still a pre-temporal period. So souls(mens, nous) were created on this day and on the second day temporal reality began causing the souls to move away from God and taking on material forms. These souls ,psyche(anima in latin), named because of how they have chilled off towards God (pyschos means cold in greek) . Still not the Church’s teaching on the matter, but it at least shows that Origen was try to say that souls were still created things and not uncreated like God (which is different from the platonic ideas that probably lead to Origen’s condemnation later on where souls and God are both uncreated since the God of platonism is an orderer and not a creator). I think his condemnation was more aimed at his followers at the time of the council, then the man himself.

Interesting post.

Universal salvation is not taught by the Catholic Church, but its possibility is.

I read this in a book called *The Vision of God * by Vladimir Lossky :smiley: . It was filled with some interesting stuff on Origen as well as many other Greek speaking theologians and thier views on how we experience God. His section on Origen is filled with a good run down of his theology, but I don’t necessarily agree with all of Lossky’s criticisms of Origen. (Lossky says Origen taugh we could see God’s essence, but yet in De Principiis Origen says we know God “from the beauty of His works and the comeliness of His creatures” which seems to mirror Palamas’ doctrine on how we know God :shrug:, I don’t really know . I apologize for the tangent…). Anyways, its a great book and I heartily recommend it.

We can’t really be sure what Origen believed in his later days. Much of his writings were rejected and destroyed by the Church as heretical. However, this was 3 centuries after him … and those who came after him had probably perverted his writings via additions and recopying plagerisms to promote their own agendas.

I those days it was much easier to corrupt [and destroy] the literary record.

Let’s not forget that Origen is quoted approvingly at least twice, I believe, in the Catechism and Pope Benedict did one of his audiences about Origen and his contributions to early Christian theology. Not everything Origen said or wrote is considered heretical and I think it’s a very small portion of his writings that were rejected as heretical. If it wasn’t for him the school at Alexandria might not have been what it was.


He was “formally condemned to hell”? I have honestly never heard that. If you can provide the text, I would be very interested in reading that.

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