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 some 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 else I believe could be interpreted as consistent with Eternal Torment, or even assumed to lean that way by 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 assumptions that their study of Scripture would later refute?  And then there was a transitional phase where I most posts where 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 now.

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 and later.  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 lying 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.

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