Sunday, May 14, 2017

More on The Early Church Fathers and Universalism

It may be outright annoying how much I talk about the Early Church Fathers when I also make a point of rejecting their authority.  Thing is in addition to being a Christian I'm also a Historian, an amateur one but a Historian none the less.  I'd like to know what they thought, regardless of how much it matters.  And today we have on every issue advocates of every position imaginable wanting to make it sound like the Early Church Fathers agreed with them, when they didn't even all agree with each other.

With the "Apostolic Fathers" especially, they were never even concerned with interpreting The Bible, they were usually just repeating and paraphrasing it.  And so what they say can be as open for interpretation as The Bible is, or more so since each one wrote far less (that has survived at least) then Paul did.  And it is in that context that what The Bible says shall be very relevant to this post, as well as that these quotes are sometimes of them quoting Scripture.  And I've already made my main Sola Scirptura arguments for Universalism.  And I may do more.

In fact since I became a Universalsit I've written entire posts on this blog that to someone who doesn't know what I else I believe could be interpreted as consistent with Eternal Torment, or even assumed to lean that way but those who just assume that's the default view.  Like most recently What does Lawlessness mean in The New Testament.  Where I say those condemned for Lawlessness are those trying to justify themselves by the Law, since they inevitably fail.  I never clarified what they were being condemned to, but obviously those who know this blog know I didn't meant unending torment.

And also I wasn't always a Universalist, I changed my mind on that over time.  And since I've shown many pagan belief systems believed in eternal suffering, how many young Christians even in the earliest generation made assumed that their study of Scripture would later refute?  And then there was a transitional phase where I most posts I intentionally avoided the subject.  And my blog mainly about Prophecy I almost never directly allude to my Soterology.

So much of what I say in this post is a response to this article.  Were the Church Father Unviersalists.  This is a very Mainline Protestant website, and so as someone who also doesn't give the Church Fathers that much reverence, I have to agree with the comments about it's Protestant Arrogance.  The first comment left there will also be addressed in this post later.  It's not possible to leave new comments.

Clement of Rome

‘Let us fix our thoughts on the Blood of Christ; and reflect how precious that Blood is in God’s eyes, inasmuch as its outpouring for our salvation has opened the race of repentance to all mankind. 25-6
38 Again, God says to Him, Sit down at my right hand, until I make your enemies a cushion for your feet. Who are these enemies? Why, wicked persons who set themselves against His will. 38
I'm assuming this is first Clement, the other Clementine literature is all fraudulent.  The first quote is really strange here since it sounds like the main Clement quote a Universalist would cite.  As for the second, which is him quoting Psalm 2, them being His Footstool is an idiom of him ruling them.  God also calls the Earth his Footstool.

Ignatius

‘Regarding the rest of mankind, you should pray for them unceasingly, for we can always hope that repentance may enable them to find their way to God’. 64
’…..how much more when a man’s subversive doctrines defile the God-given Faith for which Jesus Christ was crucified. Such a wretch in his uncleanness is bound for the unquenchable fire, and so is anyone else who gives him a hearing.’ 65
‘….the Cross which so greatly offends the unbelievers, but is salvation and eternal life to us’ 65-6
‘To profess any other name than that is to be lost to God….’72
‘Flee for your very life from these men; they are poisonous growths with a deadly fruit, and one taste of it is speedily fatal.’ 81
‘His passion was no unreal illusion, as some skeptics aver who are all unreality themselves. The fate of those wretches will match their unbelief, for one day they will similarly become phantoms without substance themselves.’101
‘For let nobody be under any delusion; there is judgment in store even for the hosts of heaven, the very angels in glory, the visible and invisible powers themselves, if they have no faith in the blood of Christ’.102
Once again there is nothing a Unvierslaist wouldn't say.  We do define the Fire as Unquenchable because it comes from God.  It's unquenchable so it will consume the Sin.  Saying there will be judgment does not prove how long it will last.

Polycarp

‘All things in heaven and earth have been made subject to Him; everything that breathes mays Him homage; He comes to judge the living and the dead, and God will require His blood at the hands of any who refuse him allegiance’ 119
Again, only that there will be Judgment.

The Martydom of Polycarp

‘The other said again, “If you do not recant, I will have your burnt to death, since you think so lightly of wild beasts”. Polycarp rejoined, “The fire you threaten me with cannot go on burning for very long; after a while it goes out. But what you are unaware of are the flames of future judgment and everlasting torment which are in store for the ungodly. Why do you go on wasting time? Bring out whatever you have a mind to” ’.128
This one is another example of what Aionios means being the issue.  Because even 1 year in the Lake of Fire would dwarf how long Polycarp wold have burned.  Not that his point even was a fear of going there, the point of Martyrdom is to demonstrate your Faith in your Eternity.

Barnabas

‘For when the Lord judges the world there is going to be no partiality; everyone will be recompensed in proportion to what he has done. If he is a good man, his righteousness will make the way smooth before him; but if he is a bad man, the wages of his wickedness will be waiting to confront him.’163
‘For the man who does this, there will be glory in the kingdom of God; but one who prefers the other Way will perish together with his works. 181-2
The Epistle of Barnabas was not written by Banrabas, it is known Pseudopigrapha.  It's not only not authoritative it's anti-authoritative.  That it's lieing about who wrote it would make it a surprise to me if it wasn't teaching some dangerous demonic doctrine.  And elsewhere it certainly does as it's perhaps the earliest expression of Anti-Semitism within The Church.

Regardless, the second quote here sounds more like Annihilationism then Eternal Torment.  But even then, depending on what one means by "perish" there are reasons a Universalist might consider it's usage consistent.  It could be an idiom for not being in the Kingdom, or for just entering the Lake of Fire at all no matter how long it is.

The first quote is a good segway to Bible Quotes that allude to the coming Judgment being not the same for all Sinners.  How can there be some equivalent exchange between the amount of Sin and amount of Punishment if the Minimum sentence is forever?  No, to me these kinds of passages work against the eternal torment position.  And perhaps equally so against Annihilationism.

The Didache

‘After that, all humankind will come up for their fiery trial; multitudes of them will stumble and perish, but such as remain steadfast in the faith will be saved by the Curse’ 198
[These extracts are from Early Christian Writings, trans. Maxwell Staniforth, revised and provided with Introductions and new editorial material by Andrew Louth. (Penguin Books, 1987)]
Again the word perish comes up.  But in this context it sounds like the saved and unsaved both enter the fire???  We don't know who wrote the Didache, and I suspect this writer was the worst at expressing themselves of all the ones relevant here.

Now I shall quote the writer of this Article itself.
"Isn’t it extremely odd that a controversially-minded writer such as Augustine, writing in the fifth century, did not spot any such deviancy of the theological schools of his day or of the past from what he, at least, regarded as Christian orthodoxy, particularism and a clear teaching regarding heaven and hell?"
I'm confused by this?  Is he acting like Augustine was unaware of Unviersalim existing?  Because I did a post all about how Augustine talked about there being many Unviersalists in his day.

And now to the comment, that was talking about a "rule of faith" attested in both Ireneaus and Tertullian.
Irenaeus writes,
1. The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess”to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,”and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. (Against Heresies Book 1, ch.10.1; emphasis added).
Irenaeus is very clear in the section following this quote (1.10.2) that this is church doctrine taught throughout the church wherever it has spread. Including Germany, Spain, Gaul, the East, Egypt, Libya, etc.
With Irenaeus who wrote in Greek, it is again a mater of what Aionios meant.  And Origen who taught a form of Universalism (but distinct from mine) also used the word Aionos to describe the judgment of the Lake of Fire.  The mere use of that word proves nothing, just look how Jude used it.
Tertullian writes,
Now, with regard to this rule of faith—that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend—it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen “in diverse manners” by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics. (On Prescription against Heretics, ch.13; emphasis added)
Tertulian wrote in Latin, and because of that most Universalists see him as the origin of mistranslating Aionios.  But I recently argued that perhaps even what Eternal meant isn't what we always assume and maybe even Tertulian wasn't clearly teaching unending punishment.

Tertulian did not list Unvierslaism among the Heresies he condemned.  Yet at the same time enemies of Universalism keep saying heretics like Marcion and Valentinius and other early Gnostics taught it that early.

In his Treatise on The Soul Chapter 7, he said only the Ungodly went to Hades.  The Saints went directly to God's Throne if they were Martryd (probably based on the Fifth Seal in Revelation 6), and the rest to Abraham's Bosom, based on the Rich Man and Lazurus parable of Luke 16.  In the last chapter of that, 58, he talks about the coming Judgment that will come after the Resurrection.  But his objective here is to argue against Soul Sleep, and while I also am skeptical of the Soul Sleep doctrine, I know that we can't build doctrine on that Luke 16 parable.

Point is, whether or not the Coming Judgment is without end is not addressed there.  But I still need to read more on Tertulian to solidly conclude anything.

The most Universalist Christians of antiquity were of the School of Antioch.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Apostles of Ephesus

According to the ancient traditions of the Eastern Church, Mary Magdalene went to Ephesus along with the Mother of Jesus and the Beloved Disciple.  Gregory of Tours, the first historian of Medieval France agreed with that tradition.  But later a tradition developed that Mary (and eventually others with her) same to southern France.  And much later that would get tied into the modern Holy Grail Bloodline mythology.

Naturally I consider the older Eastern tradition more likely to be true.  But I'm curious about how these kinds of traditions develop.  Why would French mythographers choose Mary Magdalene over one of the 12?

While with Britain I feel there is evidence that a Christian community popped up there in the first century.  But with Gaul a Christian community doesn't seem to show up till the second half of the second century.  And the oldest one was in Lyon, where it seems the first Christians of Lyon came from Ephesus.  Pothinus and Irenaus, the first two Bishops of Lyon were student of Polycarp, who was believed to be a student of John.  And contemporary with them, the Bishop back in Ephesus was Polycrates, who is interesting for a few reasons.

So maybe the later tradition comes from this community of Christians seeing Mary Magdelene was a founder of their back in Ephesus.

There are debates about if the assumption that John son of Zebedee is the Beloved Disciple is true.  No one doubts the three Canonical Epistles attributed to John were written by the same authors as The Gospel, but the authors of those Epistles doesn't name himself either.  Revelation is the only John book thought to be by a different author, and only it identifies it's author as being named John.

I've been thinking for awhile about what my position that is.  I'm obviously not for any that say the text has been changed somewhere, so that rules out the Mary Magdalene theory.  And I think it is someone probably not mentioned by name in the Gospel According to John, so that rules out Lazarus.

The idea that it was disciple in Jerusalem, usually not involved in what was going on in Galilee I think is viable.  If it's the person who owned the house they had the Last Supper in, then that would be the man holding the pitcher of water in Luke 22:10.

One thing I've considered is, John was a very common name back then, maybe it was a different person not in the Twelve but also named John?  John 18:15-16 possibly implies this other Disciple is known to the High Priests.  Acts 4:6 lists a John among the kindred of the High Priests.   Also interestingly the Samaritan High Priest during the time of Jesus was named Johnathon, but I doubt that is really relevant.

In a supplemental portion to a post on my Prophesy blog I suggest that it was a different John who came to Ephesus, John the Presbeter. Polycrates is considered the oldest source on John being the Beloved Disciple.  Here is the letter he wrote as transcribed by Eusebius.
"We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumeneia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said 'We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus."[Eusebius, Church History, Book V, Chapter 24]
When referring to Philip he specifically said he was one of the Twelve.  But he doesn't say that for this John who did what the Beloved Disciple is described as doing in John 13:23-25.  Just calls him a  Witness and a Teacher.  The Beloved Disciple witnessed both the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Side note, some people may think Polycrates here is an early example of confusing Philip of the Twelve Disciples with Philip the Evangelist simply because daughters are mentioned.  Philip the Evangelist had four daughters (Acts 21:8-9), Polycrates only mentions three for this Philip.  And these three daughters are not specifically described as having been Prophetesses.  Paul said all of the Apostles but him were married (1 Corinthians 9:5), so it's perfectly plausible that both Philips had daughters.

On the other hand I myself am not entirety against a theory that both Biblical Philips were actually the same person.  No passage mentions both by name together.  I get why people assume Acts 6 allows no overlap between the Twelve and the Seven.  But remember in John chapter 12 the Philip who is of the Twelve serves as the contact between Greek Speaking Jews interested in Jesus message and the Twelve.  So Acts 6 could just be him still playing that role.  And Stephen in mentioned first even over one of the Twelve because he became the first Martyr, while when Acts was written Philip Martyrdom may not have even happened yet.  In that context you may wonder why Polycrates only mentioned three daughters?  Well he was only mentioning people who died in Asia Minor (or the Roman Province of Asia), maybe the fourth died somewhere else?  And it is interesting that for both Philips the traditions about the careers post existing the book of Acts takes them to Asia, though different cities, yet Polycrates knew only one Asian Philip to reference.

Back to Mary Magdalene.  Every Gospel but Luke doesn't mention her till the Crucifixion account.  In Luke she's mentioned in Luke 8 briefly.  This lack of information is probably why it's so popular for writers to fuse her with other characters.  Maybe she was married to the Beloved Disciple?  And that's why she traveled to the same place that he and Mary the Mother of Jesus did?

You may wonder then why Polycrates didn't mention either Mary?  Maybe it was a little bit of Sexism, he didn't mention any women by name, and perhaps only mentioned daughters of Philip as they further back up the citing of Philip.  Or maybe given the agenda of this latter he didn't mention people who didn't keep the Passover on the 14th, or at least who he couldn't prove did?

What does Lawlessness mean in the New Testament?

You know Gamaliel II (Not to be confused with the first who was Paul mentor before his conversion) was the first person to use Matthew 5:17-18 to undermine the Christian message of Liberty from the Shackles of the Law.  Babyl. Talmud Sabbath, p. 116
 Imma Salom was the wife of the Rabbi Eliezer, the sister of Rabban Gamaliel. Among his acquaintances was a “philosopher” who had the reputation of being incorruptible. They wished to make him ridiculous. Therefore she [Imma] brought to him a golden candlestick, and said: “I desire a part of the family property.” He answered them: “Divide it.” Then he [B. Gamaliel] said: “It is written for us [Numbers 27:8] that, where there is a son, the daughter inherits nothing.”. He answered: “Since ye were driven from your land the law of Moses is abolished, and there is Avon-gillajon [Evangelium = the Gospel], in which it is written, ‘Son and daughter shall inherit together’.” On the following day he [E. Gamaliel] on his own part brought him a Libyan ass. Then he replied: “I have searched further in the Avon-gillajon, and it is written therein: ‘I, Avon-gillajon, have not come to do away with the Thora, but to add to the Thora of Moses have I come.’ And it is further written therein: ‘Where there is a son, the daughter shall not inherit’.” Then she said: “Thy light shineth like a candle.” And E. Gamaliel said: “The ass has come, and has attached the candle”
It's possible that by The Gospel the entire New Testament was meant, and the basis for this Christian's argument was where Paul said There is neither Mal nor Female.   So remember, every time you see a Hebrew Roots person using this part of Matthew with the intent of undermining the clear teaching that some things are different under The New Testament, that is an argument that originated with a Rabbi that Rabbinic Judaism reveres to this day.

The context of what Jesus said here is clear.  Matthew 5:17-20.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
The set up for the Sermon on the Mount is about the impossibility of living by the Law.  All who try to be justified by it will fail.  Except for Jesus who was without Sin, he fulfilled The Law be living a perfectly Torah observant life for us, and then taking our punishment for us.

And also, that not one Yot or Tittle will pass away shows that God's Word will exist, will be preserved, as it has been in the Masoretic and Textus Receptus texts.

These individuals like to emphasize verses that use the word Amonia, commonly translated Iniquity in the KJV but more accurately should be Lawlessness.  But they want to treat it like it means Atimonia, against the Law.

Matthew 7:21-23.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
The people accused of Iniquity were those doing good works, they were doing the main good work Jesus commanded his Disciples to do, casting out Demons.  People want to to go to completely different books of The Bible to decide what the "Will of The Father" means here.  Many things are His will, we're told it His will that none should Perish.  But His will is here is perfectly explained in this context, we are to know Jesus, to have personal relationship with Him.

What we see here is consistent with Matthew 5, the main people Jesus condemns for Lawlessness, are those who are trying to justify themselves by The Law.  This is repeated in Matthew 23:28 "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.".

And yes, I think that applies even to Paul in II Thessalonians 2 saying the Son of Perdition will work Iniquity.  There is plenty of evidence that the Antichrist will actually create a Torah based system, as I talked in The Antichrist may not be as Popular as we assume, and in one of my Babylon posts.

Some people will translate 2 Peter 3:17 in a way to make it seem like it uses the word Amonia or Lawless.  But this is a completely different word that I feel the KJV was correct in rendering Wickedness. So no, it doesn't help us determine what he meant by Paul being misunderstood in the prior verses.

Now again, I view keeping The Law as good.  What I am against is trying to make other Christians feel obligated.  We are to be lead by The Holy Spirit, not by Ink and Paper.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

There were a variety of views in The Early Church

Back when I just believed in Eternal Security, I expressed annoyance at those who act like a view didn't exist in the Early Church if apparently no "Early Church Fathers" advocated for it.  When those same people refereed to lots of views existing besides their own.

There is no Biblical support for a notion that the majority will be right.  But even so who's to say the Church Fathers were the majority?  The warning against the Doctrine of the Nicolatians tells me that those who'd obtain that title should not be inherently more trusted.  But they were the only ones who could write and so their sides of the arguments are what were preserved.  We have no way of knowing how much the people in their own flocks even agreed with them.

I want to quote from a "Church Father" who I disagree with possibly the most of anyone, who's soterology certainly is not mine, being the prototype of Calvinism.

 St Augustine (c.354-43): "There are very many ('imo quam plurimi', which can be translated majority) who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments." (Enchiria, ad Laurent. c. 29)

St. Basil the Great: (c. 329-379): "The mass of men say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished." (De Asceticis)

Augustine of Hippo in his work City of God: Book 21 Chapters 17-22 describes six views on eternal punishment he disagrees with.  The first two are forms of what we would today call Universal Reconciliation.  The next three are forms of "Once Saved Always Saved".  The last one is something of a works salvation view.

Is the fact that he lists the Universalists first evidence they were the largest groups?  Or was his method to work downwards in terms how merciful they are?  I can't say.

Chapter 17.— Of Those Who Fancy that No Men Shall Be Punished Eternally.

I must now, I see, enter the lists of amicable controversy with those tender-hearted Christians who decline to believe that any, or that all of those whom the infallibly just Judge may pronounce worthy of the punishment of hell, shall suffer eternally, and who suppose that they shall be delivered after a fixed term of punishment, longer or shorter according to the amount of each man's sin. In respect of this matter, Origen was even more indulgent; for he believed that even the devil himself and his angels, after suffering those more severe and prolonged pains which their sins deserved, should be delivered from their torments, and associated with the holy angels. But the Church, not without reason, condemned him for this and other errors, especially for his theory of the ceaseless alternation of happiness and misery, and the interminable transitions from the one state to the other at fixed periods of ages; for in this theory he lost even the credit of being merciful, by allotting to the saints real miseries for the expiation of their sins, and false happiness, which brought them no true and secure joy, that is, no fearless assurance of eternal blessedness. Very different, however, is the error we speak of, which is dictated by the tenderness of these Christians who suppose that the sufferings of those who are condemned in the judgment will be temporary, while the blessedness of all who are sooner or later set free will be eternal. Which opinion, if it is good and true because it is merciful, will be so much the better and truer in proportion as it becomes more merciful. Let, then, this fountain of mercy be extended, and flow forth even to the lost angels, and let them also be set free, at least after as many and long ages as seem fit! Why does this stream of mercy flow to all the human race, and dry up as soon as it reaches the angelic? And yet they dare not extend their pity further, and propose the deliverance of the devil himself. Or if any one is bold enough to do so, he does indeed put to shame their charity, but is himself convicted of error that is more unsightly, and a wresting of God's truth that is more perverse, in proportion as his clemency of sentiment seems to be greater.
He mentions Origen, but distinguishes Origen from most who hold views like this for reasons partly similar to what I expressed in the supplemental part of the post I made yesterday.

Now when I had long ago on forums dealt with enemies of Eternal Security on the subject of the parts I'll get to later, one who emphasized the "Pre-Nicean Fathers" said Augustine in post-Nicean.  In this case we see with Origen that who he speaks of existed before Nicea and Constantine.  And expressed things in a way where it seems like Origen's version didn't come first, since he went further with it.  If Origen came before the others he'd have said they didn't as far.

There is no source outside Augustine for saying Origen was condemned for this.  He wasn't formally condemned at all till later then Augustine.  And Origen's earliest critics were far more concerned with his other more Platonic teachings.  It is in those areas that Augustine rather resembles Origen suspiciously enough.

Chapter 18.— Of Those Who Fancy That, on Account of the Saints' Intercession, Man Shall Be Damned in the Last Judgment.

There are others, again, with whose opinions I have become acquainted in conversation, who, though they seem to reverence the holy Scriptures, are yet of reprehensible life, and who accordingly, in their own interest, attribute to God a still greater compassion towards men. For they acknowledge that it is truly predicted in the divine word that the wicked and unbelieving are worthy of punishment, but they assert that, when the judgment comes, mercy will prevail. For, say they, God, having compassion on them, will give them up to the prayers and intercessions of His saints. For if the saints used to pray for them when they suffered from their cruel hatred, how much more will they do so when they see them prostrate and humble suppliants? For we cannot, they say, believe that the saints shall lose their bowels of compassion when they have attained the most perfect and complete holiness; so that they who, when still sinners, prayed for their enemies, should now, when they are freed from sin, withhold from interceding for their suppliants. Or shall God refuse to listen to so many of His beloved children, when their holiness has purged their prayers of all hindrance to His answering them? And the passage of the psalm which is cited by those who admit that wicked men and infidels shall be punished for a long time, though in the end delivered from all sufferings, is claimed also by the persons we are now speaking of as making much more for them. The verse runs: Shall God forget to be gracious? Shall He in anger shut up His tender mercies? His anger, they say, would condemn all that are unworthy of everlasting happiness to endless punishment. But if He suffer them to be punished for a long time, or even at all, must He not shut up His tender mercies, which the Psalmist implies He will not do? For he does not say, Shall He in anger shut up His tender mercies for a long period? But he implies that He will not shut them up at all.
And they deny that thus God's threat of judgment is proved to be false even though He condemn no man, any more than we can say that His threat to overthrow Nineveh was false, though the destruction which was absolutely predicted was not accomplished. For He did not say, Nineveh shall be overthrown if they do not repent and amend their ways, but without any such condition He foretold that the city should be overthrown. And this prediction, they maintain, was true because God predicted the punishment which they deserved, although He was not to inflict it. For though He spared them on their repentance yet He was certainly aware that they would repent, and, notwithstanding, absolutely and definitely predicted that the city should be overthrown. This was true, they say, in the truth of severity, because they were worthy of it; but in respect of the compassion which checked His anger, so that He spared the suppliants from the punishment with which He had threatened the rebellious, it was not true. If, then, He spared those whom His own holy prophet was provoked at His sparing, how much more shall He spare those more wretched suppliants for whom all His saints shall intercede? And they suppose that this conjecture of theirs is not hinted at in Scripture, for the sake of stimulating many to reformation of life through fear of very protracted or eternal sufferings, and of stimulating others to pray for those who have not reformed. However, they think that the divine oracles are not altogether silent on this point; for they ask to what purpose is it said, How great is Your goodness which You have hidden for them that fear You, if it be not to teach us that the great and hidden sweetness of God's mercy is concealed in order that men may fear? To the same purpose they think the apostle said, For God has concluded all men in unbelief, that He may have mercy upon all, Romans 11:32 signifying that no one should be condemned by God. And yet they who hold this opinion do not extend it to the acquittal or liberation of the devil and his angels. Their human tenderness is moved only towards men, and they plead chiefly their own cause, holding out false hopes of impunity to their own depraved lives by means of this quasi compassion of God to the whole race. Consequently they who promise this impunity even to the prince of the devils and his satellites make a still fuller exhibition of the mercy of God.
This view seems to be based on saying no one even temporarily enters the Lake of Fire.  The logic of it I do like and understand and can play a role in my argument.  But I'm still more like the first group.

Augustine seems to be confused by the notion of allowing Universal Reconciliation to all humans but not including The Devil and Fallen Angels.  I'm not entirely sure what I think on that issue.  But the difference between them and Human Beings is Human Beings are Blood Relations of Jesus as children of Adam.

Chapter 19.— Of Those Who Promise Impunity from All Sins Even to Heretics, Through Virtue of Their Participation of the Body of Christ.

So, too, there are others who promise this deliverance from eternal punishment, not, indeed, to all men, but only to those who have been washed in Christian baptism, and who become partakers of the body of Christ, no matter how they have lived, or what heresy or impiety they have fallen into. They ground this opinion on the saying of Jesus, This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that if any man eat thereof, he shall not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If a man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. John 6:50-51 Therefore, say they, it follows that these persons must be delivered from death eternal, and at one time or other be introduced to everlasting life.

Chapter 20.— Of Those Who Promise This Indulgence Not to All, But Only to Those Who Have Been Baptized as Catholics, Though Afterwards They Have Broken Out into Many Crimes and Heresies.

There are others still who make this promise not even to all who have received the sacraments of the baptism of Christ and of His body, but only to the Catholics, however badly they have lived. For these have eaten the body of Christ, not only sacramentally but really, being incorporated in His body, as the apostle says, We, being many, are one bread, one body; 1 Corinthians 10:17 so that, though they have afterwards lapsed into some heresy, or even into heathenism and idolatry, yet by virtue of this one thing, that they have received the baptism of Christ, and eaten the body of Christ, in the body of Christ, that is to say, in the Catholic Church, they shall not die eternally, but at one time or other obtain eternal life; and all that wickedness of theirs shall not avail to make their punishment eternal, but only proportionately long and severe.

Chapter 21.— Of Those Who Assert that All Catholics Who Continue in the Faith Even Though by the Depravity of Their Lives They Have Merited Hell Fire, Shall Be Saved on Account of the Foundation Of Their Faith.

There are some, too, who found upon the expression of Scripture, He that endures to the end shall be saved, Matthew 24:13 and who promise salvation only to those who continue in the Catholic Church; and though such persons have lived badly, yet, say they, they shall be saved as by fire through virtue of the foundation of which the apostle says, For other foundation has no man laid than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day of the Lord shall declare it, for it shall be revealed by fire; and each man's work shall be proved of what sort it is. If any man's work shall endure which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. But if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 They say, accordingly, that the Catholic Christian, no matter what his life be, has Christ as his foundation, while this foundation is not possessed by any heresy which is separated from the unity of His body.  And therefore, through virtue of this foundation, even though the Catholic Christian by the inconsistency of his life has been as one building up wood, hay, stubble, upon it, they believe that he shall be saved by fire, in other words, that he shall be delivered after tasting the pain of that fire to which the wicked shall be condemned at the last judgment.
Now to the people I alluded to before who say this doesn't prove Eternal Security existed before Nicea.  Well for one I have a quote of Origen I'd mentioned in an old post where he attacks people who seemed to believe in some form of Eternal Security.

But I'd also say that Augustine isn't that long after Nicea, it's silly to suggest three different forms of this could develop in entirely that short a period of time and become significant enough for Augustine to find worth addressing.

Chapter 22.— Of Those Who Fancy that the Sins Which are Intermingled with Alms-Deeds Shall Not Be Charged at the Day of Judgment.

I have also met with some who are of opinion that such only as neglect to cover their sins with almsdeeds shall be punished in everlasting fire; and they cite the words of the Apostle James, He shall have judgment without mercy who has shown no mercy. James 2:13 Therefore, say they, he who has not amended his ways, but yet has intermingled his profligate and wicked actions with works of mercy, shall receive mercy in the judgment, so that he shall either quite escape condemnation, or shall be liberated from his doom after some time shorter or longer. They suppose that this was the reason why the Judge Himself of quick and dead declined to mention anything else than works of mercy done or omitted, when awarding to those on His right hand life eternal, and to those on His left everlasting punishment. Matthew 25:33 To the same purpose, they say, is the daily petition we make in the Lord's prayer, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12 For, no doubt, whoever pardons the person who has wronged him does a charitable action. And this has been so highly commended by the Lord Himself, that He says, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 And so it is to this kind of almsdeeds that the saying of the Apostle James refers, He shall have judgment without mercy that has shown no mercy. And our Lord, they say, made no distinction of great and small sins, but Your Father will forgive your sins, if you forgive men theirs. Consequently they conclude that, though a man has led an abandoned life up to the last day of it, yet whatsoever his sins have been, they are all remitted by virtue of this daily prayer, if only he has been mindful to attend to this one thing, that when they who have done him any injury ask his pardon, he forgive them from his heart.
And that last one is a works Salvation view basically.  Easy enough to refute.  But Augustine's objection to it is the opposite of mine.

Chapters 23-27 are Augustine giving his counter arguments to these.  I don't feel like addressing those here, maybe in a future follow up post.  Needless to say much of it comes down to Augustine not knowing Greek and going by flawed Latin translations of Aionion as Eternal.

My objective today is just to show that a variety of views existed.

Monday, May 8, 2017

KJV Only Universalism!!!

I've already done a post on the Words Translated Eternal.  But that is obviously not going to matter the most absolute KJV onlyists.  And this remains the top reason that KJV onlyists are the most difficult to convince of a Universalsit argument.

However, what we've overlooked is that there are different ways to define "Eternal" and Everlasting which is a synonym for Eternal in the KJV.  I've seen many non Universalist Christians (like Chuck Missler) define "Eternity" as being not unlimited or endless time but as being outside of time.  And so remembering how I showed back before I was a Unviersalsit that the fire of the Lake of Fire comes from God.  Perhaps there is room to define the Fire of Gehenna and the coming Judgment as Eternal because it comes from Eternity, and not as an indication of how long it lasts.

Which can again be backed up by how the KJV translates Jude 7.
"Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
That Fire is not still raging in the Dead Sea area today.  And again Ezekiel 16 assures us that Sodom will be restored.

And I find it interesting in that context that the post Reformation revival of Unviersalsit thinking largley started in the English Speaking world, after the KJV was published.  With men like Gerrard Winstanley.  Many claim the Geneva Bible was still popular during this era, but being as that was a Calvinist production I highly doubt it translated Aionion/Aionos differently then the KJV.

So, I think a Universalist interpretation of even specifically the KJV is perfectly viable.

Now I ultimately don't care what the Early Church Fathers thought, but there are reasons why it's sorta relevant here for me to mention some of them.  So the rest of this is purely supplemental to my main point.

If we reconsider how to define Eternal in this way, maybe we Universalists have been unfair to Tertulian?  Here is one webpage attempting to cite Tertulian as a Universalist.  But I'm not yet an expert on Tertulian, so that matter is far from settled.

Many arguing for the favoring of the Textus Receptus (The New Testament source texts for the KJV) over the Sinaticus, Vatincanus and Alexandrinus, like to define things in terms of an Alexandrian tradition versus an Antiochian tradition.  Citing positive references to Antioch in The Bible over one arguably negative reference to Alexandria, paired with general vilification of Egypt.  Overall I feel this is a bit of an over simplification, but in the context of this discussion, the Antiochian school of Early Christianity can be shown to be Universalist.

With Ingatius of Antioch it is impossible to firmly show one way or the other, enemies of Unvierslaism like to just translate when he used Aionios, but other demonstrably Unviersalist Church fathers used Aionios the same way.

Theophilus of Antioch, who wrote about A.D. 180, and was bishop of Antioch, speaks of aionian torments, and aionian fire, but he must have used the word the same as other ancient Universalists, for he says: "For just as a vessel which, after it has been made, has some flaw, is remade or remolded, that it may become new and bright, so it comes to man by death. For in some way or other he is broken up, that he may come forth in the resurrection whole, I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal." (Ad Autolicum, lib. II, cap. 26, Vol. VI, Migne's Patrologiæ)

Methodius, bishop of Tyre (A.D. 293). His writings, like so many of the works of the early fathers, have been lost, but Epiphanius and Photius have preserved extracts from his work on the resurrection. He says: "God, for this cause, pronounced him (man) mortal, and clothed him with mortality, that man might not be an undying evil, in order that by the dissolution of the body, sin might be destroyed root and branch from beneath, that there might not be left even the smallest particle of root, from which new shoots of sin might break forth." Again, "Christ was crucified that he might be adored by all created things equally, for 'unto him every knee shall bow,'" etc. Again: "The Scriptures usually call 'destruction' the turning to the better at some future time." Again: "The world shall be set on fire in order to purification and renewal." (De Resurr., VIII.)

And then there is Gregory of Nyssa (335-395) and his sister Macrina the Younger.

Diodore, Bishop of Tarsus, from A.D. 378 to 394, was of the Antiochan or Syrian school. He says: "For the wicked there are punishments, not perpetual, however, lest the immortality prepared for them should be a disadvantage, but they are to be purified for a brief period according to the amount of malice in their works. They shall therefore suffer punishment for a short space, but immortal blessedness having no end awaits them .... the penalties to be inflicted for their many and grave sins are very far surpassed by the magnitude of the mercy to be showed them. The resurrection, therefore, is regarded as a blessing not only to the good, but also to the evil." (Assemani Bib. Orientalis, III, p. 324.)

 Theodore of Mopsuestia was born in Antioch, A.D. 350, and died 428 or 429.  His own words are: "The wicked who have committed evil the whole period of their lives shall be punished till they learn that, by continuing in sin, they only continue in misery. And when, by this means, they shall have been brought to fear God, and to regard him with good will, they shall obtain the enjoyment of his grace. For he never would have said, 'until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing,' unless we can be released from suffering after having suffered adequately for sin; nor would he have said, 'he shall be beaten with many stripes,' and again, 'he shall be beaten with few stripes,' unless the punishment to be endured for sin will have an end." (Assemani Bib. Orient. Tom. III.)

 Theodoret, the Blessed, was born A.D. 387, and died 458. He was ordained Bishop of Cyrus in Syria, 420. He was a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia.  "In the present life God is in all, for His nature is without limits, but he is not all in all. But in the coming life, when mortality is at an end and immortality granted, and sin has no longer any place, God will be all in all. For the Lord, who loves man, punishes medicinally, that He may check the course of impeity"

It is at this point that Nestorianims emerged from the Antiochian school, I'll be talking about that more in the future.

 Stephan Bar-sudaili, Abbot of Edessa, in Mesopotamia, at the end of the Fifth Century, taught Universalism,--the termination of all punishments in the future world, and their purifying character. The fallen angels are to receive mercy, and all things are to be restored, so that God may be all in all. (Assemani Bibl. Orient., II, p. 291.)

Maximus, the Confessor. As late as the Seventh Century, in spite of the power of Roman tyranny and Pagan error, the truth survived. Maximus--A.D. 580-662--was secretary of the Emperor Heraclius, and confidential friend of Pope Martin I. He opposed the Emperor Constans II, in his attempts to control the religious convictions of his subjects, and was banished, A.D. 653, and died of ill treatment. He was both scholar and saint. Neander says:

   "The fundamental ideas of Maximus seem to lead to the doctrine of a final universal restoration, which in fact is intimately connected also with the system of Gregory of Nyssa, to which he most closely adhered. Yet he was too much fettered by the church system of doctrine distinctly to express anything of the sort." Neander adds, that in his aphorisms "the reunion of all rational essences with God is established as the final end." "Him who wholly unites all things in the end of the ages, or in eternity." Ueberweg states that "Maximus taught that God had revealed himself through nature and by his Word. The incarnation of God in Christ was the culmination of revelation, and would therefore have taken place even if man had not fallen. The Universe will end in the union of all things with God."

And then there is Isaac of Nineveh aka Isaac The Syrian.

Now Universalism can also be linked to the Alexandrian Church.  But as both sides at the Council of Nicea were lead by Alexandrians, clearly there was a variety of beliefs there.

Unlike most Universalists Origen is not my favorite of the Early Church fathers, I do not question his Faith, but he taught many Plaotnic ideas I'm uncomfortable with, as did Clement of Alexandria.  But many Universalsit scholars have pointed out how the earliest critics of Origen, including those from the Antiochian school (some of whom were people mentioned above), never cited his Universalism as one of the things he was wrong on.  It was during the reign of Justinian that Unviersalism was formally declared a heresy by the Organized Church, and it seems during that era the enemies of Universalism wanted to tie it to Origen because he was such an easy target for other reasons.

So I feel Origen's Universalism was in-spite of not because of his Platonic and Gnostic tendencies.

And there are those who question that Origen was a Universalist, like this Calvnanist website. And the fact that he alluded to something like the Reprobate doctrine as I mentioned in an old blog post, does render his Universalism questionable.  But even if the conclusions of that site are all wrong, Origen's Apokatastasis doctrine needs to be understood in his Platonic rejection of the physical world.  Which goes back to what I talked about in my Is Universalism Pagan post the other day.

Cyril of Alexandria, who lead the opposition to Nesotrianism and other non-Calchedonian doctrines on the nature of Christ during the time of Emperor Theodosius II.  Has been quoted as being both for Universalism and against it.  The quote Universalists cite is just him talking about Hades being emptied when Jesus descended there.  You can believe that happened and still view the Lake of Fire as Eternal.  What Anti-Universalist quote is.
And this too we must bear in mind, that the crowns are to be won by labour. It is strong exertion united with skill that perfects those mighty athletes in the games. It is courage and a brave mind that are most serviceable to those who are skilled in battles: while the man who throws away his shield is ridiculed even by the foe: and if the runaway live, he leads a life of disgrace. But he who was steadfast in the battle, and stood stoutly and courageously with all his might against the enemy, is honoured if he win the victory; and if he fall, is looked upon with admiration. And so ought we to reckon for ourselves; for to endure patiently, and maintain the conflict with courage, brings with it great reward, and is highly desirable, and wins for us the blessings bestowed by God: while to refuse to suffer death in the flesh for the love of Christ, brings upon us lasting, or rather never-ending punishment. For the wrath of man reaches at most to the body, and the death of the flesh is the utmost that they can contrive against us: but when God punishes, the loss reaches not to the flesh alone;—-how could it?—-but the wretched soul also is cast alone; with it into torments. (Sermon 87, On Luke)
I can't anaylize the Greek of this, but it does look like he qualified himself enough to not just be an issue of what Aionios meant.

Thing is, I don't want to agree with Cyril of Alexandria.  He persecuted Jews and other non Christians, and was a dick to other Christians who disagreed with him also.  Attitudes that I feel are a natural result of not being a Universalist.  If you believe non believers are going to burn for Eternity by God's will, it's natural to cease viewing them as fellow human beings.  Universalists tend to respect Freedom of Religion.  At any-rate Cyril will also come up more when I talk about Nestorianism in the future.

Cyril's life overlapped with Augustine, so he lived during the time when the doctrine of Eternal Torment got it's first major kick start.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Is Universalism Pagan?

Naturally, enemies of Universal Salvation want to make it sound like a Pagan belief system.  But this is a manipulation of the facts.  I can say firmly that few if any Ancient Pagans believed in what I mean by Universalism.

In Egyptians mythology the souls of the sinful were devoured by Ammit.

Greek mythology taught the opposite of Unviersalism, it taught that there was no hope for escape from Hades for anyone.  That is the ultimate moral of the story of Orpheus.  And my refutation of those Christ-Mythers who say the Christian doctrine of the Harrowing of Hell is just copying Orpheus, is to say that Orpheus failed to save free his Bride from Hades, Jesus succeeded.

Now you can call that Universalist by looking at it as everyone has the same fate basically.  But The Gospel as I view it was originally a deliberate rejection of the philosophy that death is a natural part of life we just need to accept, which was also the moral of the Epic of Gilgamesh, or Izanami's fate in Japanese mythology.  The Gospel was the promise that ALL will be freed from Hell.

And people want to link Universalism to Plato, even though the most openly Platonic Church Father, Augustine, was also the harshest enemy of Unviersalism.

Platonic philosophy is tied to Gnosticism and any other belief that there is no Physical Bodily Resurrection, that the Resurrection merely refers to the liberation of our Spirit/Soul from the material world.  In counterpart to that Webster Tarpley, a Catholic and Plato fanboy, accuses Gerrard Winstanley of believing in "Dead Souls", what he leaves out is Gerrard Winstanley was a Universalist, he believed all will be Resurrected to Eternal Life.  I don't think one's view on how conscious the Soul is between death and resurrection is that important, it's one's view on the Resurrection that is important.  Platonic philosophy allows no bodily resurrection, and Augustine as the first Amillenial laid the groundwork for a Christian version of that.  Plato (like Origen) may have been nicer then Augustine in not condemning some Souls to eternal torment, but he didn't allow any a true Resurrection.

The understanding of the After Life held by casual Christianity, which forgets that our ultimate goal is the the restoration of this world, that simply sees it as the good go to heaven and the bad to hell.  Is actually Zoroastrian in origin.

Islam is totally incompatible with true Unviersalism.  The closest they can come is believing that Jews and Christians, the People of the Book, can achieve Salvation without becoming Muslims.  But they allow no such hope for people outside of the Abrahamic tradition.

The ability of modern Pagans (and I can define modern here as starting with the Renaissance), including the modern understanding of Shintoism that we often see reflected in Anime, to be willing to be Universalist is something I view as possible only because of Christianity's influence on the world.