Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

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Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Alex Smith » Fri Jul 11, 2014 3:11 pm

In the Michael McClymond on Universalism thread, Dr Mike wrote:Dear All--

I hope to respond more fully later on. Today I'm working on my chapter on seventeenth-century Origenism--a major revival that took place in the 1640s-1670s, both on the Continent and in England.

Please help me with this. I'll write just the bare bones of the theological problems I see in the development of universalist thought in early Christianity.

For the time being, let's skip the pre-Origenist universalists, and just focus on Origen.

Origen said: "The end is like the beginning."
Right?

The "end" that Origen had in mind (i.e., apokatastasis) was a restoration of the condition of the preexistent souls that were originally in communion with God.
Right?

Yet, starting with Nyssa, virtually all the ancient universalists jettison the idea of actual thinking, conscious, deciding PREEXISTENT souls, that "fall" into bodies, from which they later emerge.
Right?

So Nyssa, having abandoned preexistence, abandoned the apokatastasis doctrine.
Right?

WRONG!

What? Was Nyssa illogical or what? If "the end is NOT like the beginning," then why believe in the apokatastasis at all?

Good question--don't you think?

The answer seems to be that Nyssa relied heavily on a different argument--or one that is only hinted at in Origen.

The argument is that "evil had an origin in time, so it must have an end in time."

Great!!!!

Now we have an argument that might work.

Ramelli sees this as a valid argument. Sergei Bulgakov used this argument. Everything is jake....

But wait a minute. My BODY had an origin in time. Ooops!!! Is my body going to dematerialize??? That's a problem. (Of course Evagrius and some of the so-called "radical" Origenists taught a kind of de-materialization. And so did Vladimir Soloviev. There's even a book by Oliver Smith on de-materialization in Soloviev [or Solovyov]).

Come to think of it, if my SOUL did not preexist, then it too had an origin in time.

Now, I'm having doubts.... What if the "evil had an origin in time" argument proves TOO MUCH?? Maybe it's the ultimate argument for annihiliationism--as in UNIVERSAL annihiliationism. Evil is obliterated--but so is everything else. Only God remains.

Right, everyone? (Am I missing something? Is there any way to salvage that particular argument--presented as recently as 2013 by Dr. Ramelli?)

Back to the drawing board. We have no universalist argument from "the end is like the beginning." Nor does "evil had an origin in time" prove what we might want it to prove. After the failure of Plan A and Plan B, we need a Plan C...

[DRAMATIC PAUSE...]

Light bulb!!!

What if universal salvation were based on universal choice--not on the soul's origin (in a preexistent unity with God), nor on a dubious metaphysical theory regarding the necessary withering away of evil?

But can we believe this? Is it credible???

From everyday life, do we actually see people making "the same choice"?

If we wait long enough, will the human will be like a roll of the dice, that eventually is going to come up as "double box cars," i.e., faith/decision/repentance/bowing the knee to Christ?

(Eric Reitan uses just this analogy. The human wills will EVENTUALLY go the right way, like a randomly tossed coin. Imagine the randomly blinking lights on the Christmas tree. Eventually, every one of them come ON at the same moment. Bingo--Apokatastasis!)

What about the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Didn't he become HARDENED over time, and thus less amenable to Moses. The more time he got, the less open or receptive he was to God's call through Moses.

Doesn't the universalist have to go seemingly against the texts of scripture, and ordinary human experience, which both agree in showing us hardness of heart?

And if we reject the hardness of heart thing, then we might think of the will as NOT habituated into evil. But then is the will habituated into good?

(Historical note: Both Augustine and Maximus the Confessor rejected Origenism because the idea of release from hell meant that people could fall out of heaven. Brian Daley argues, by the way that Maximus was not a universalist. Balthasar, I think, was wrong on this. And Maximus in the Ambigua trashes the whole Origenist narrative. Check the new English translation by Nick Constas.)

Yes, Virginia, there CAN BE an apokatastasis. But to get this result (under the Plan C scenario) we need to affirm that (a) the will is free in the sense that a tossed coin or die is free), and (b) that the different wills of different people will--under the lays of probability--eventually all align with one another. But this gives us an unstable heaven. And it gives us only a MOMENTARY apokatastasis--not something that is enduring.

That's not much of a universalist hope, is it?

Hmmmm

Let's change the analogy from tossed coins to the realm of actual human choosing.

Isn't universalism something like a 100% election result?

You know--I'm not making this up (do a Google Search)--Kim Jong Un this spring reported that in the North Korean election there was 100% turnout and 100% was in favor of himself.

People laugh at this. No one believes it.

Then why do we believe in a 100% election result for God/Jesus?

So maybe, in the Origenist tradition, Plan A fails, and so does Plan B (not a contraceptive--please!), as well as Plan C?

If there's a way out--let me know. I'LL BECOME A UNIVERSALIST.

MM
@Dr Mike I've invited Tom Greggs (wrote the chapter on Origen in "All Shall Be Well"), Mark Edwards (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/origen/) & Ilaria Ramelli (author of The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis) to respond...
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:53 pm

I am absolutely willing to let the patristic scholars (especially Dr. R) take the patristic questions; I would only be quoting Origen from them anyway. Though I'm pretty sure Dr. R at least would say it's a bad idea to ignore the Fathers whom Origen demonstrably knew and admired.

On the (supposed) "theological problem" per se, however, I think I have a responsibility to answer as an author (minor though I am) expressly invited here by the site owners at the beginning to write on the connections between Christian universalism and coherent trinitarian Christian theology, and in fact to help provide a trinitarian anchor for the site. (Which is not to say others couldn't also reply.)

Dr. Mike wrote:What? Was Nyssa illogical or what? If "the end is NOT like the beginning," then why believe in the apokatastasis at all?

Good question--don't you think?


Dr. R (at the very least) is going to reply, based on extensive discussion of the primary texts, that Origen didn't believe all people pre-existed in some bodiless state and then sinned themselves into material bodies; only that Adam and Eve (among human persons) existed in a bodily state which was spiritual but not animal and that God specifically gave them mortal animal bodies after their rebellion (maybe also the rebel angels in a somewhat different way), from which result the children they bred got the original sin effect via similar animal bodies.

It isn't much different from what any Southern Baptist preacher would say, just a little more exotic about the details. Origen may have believed (in accord with the best science of his day) that all persons pre-exist in the physical seed of their male ancestors, but that isn't the same as bodiless pre-existence sinning into material bodies either.

By Nyssa's day, however, there were apparently some groups going around believing this notion (of pre-existence of bodiless souls) and calling back to Origen on it -- which shouldn't be surprising since even in his own day he had to defend himself on what he was actually saying, and even in the 400s if you wanted to win a philosophical or religious argument the second best way to do so after citing scripture was to claim Origen defended it! (It really is hard to overestimate how much influence he had.) Jerome and Epiphanius attacked those few people, thinking Origen really had taught that (which Rufinius kept rather sarcastically reminding Jerome that Jerome at least knew better), but the slander was kept alive until Justinian's day when it gathered political clout.

Anyway, Nyssa didn't drop the pre-existence of bodiless souls; Origen had never taught it. No one ever accused Didymus the Blind (disciple of Origen and holder of the same presidency of the Alexandrian catechetical university throughout most of the 400s -- appointed by Athanasius the Great, champion of Origen's orthodoxy himself!) of believing such things (as again Rufinius sarcastically reminded Jerome who still revered Didymus as "the Seer"); no one ever accused Gregory Thaumaturgus of such things (Black Sea champion of orthodoxy and evangelism, disciple and convert of Origen, directly responsible for leading Macrina the Elder to Christ and by her Nyssa and Basil, probably also their friend Nazianzus).

Nyssa doubtless simply knew better. He knew Didymus (and Athanasius), his family had known Gregory the Wonderworker. He got his "Origenism" from them. Including the part about evil having an origin in time and having an end in time -- a point Origen threw against the Gnostics, heavily criticizing their notion of the eons.


Anyway, sorry, I said I wouldn't go off on the patristic side. ;)

Dr. Mike wrote:But wait a minute. My BODY had an origin in time. Ooops!!! Is my body going to dematerialize???


No, God is going to transform it into immortality at some point after or during the general resurrection, depending on one's personal relationship to Christ already when the judgment comes. (At the risk of sounding redundant, Origen taught that, too, as Dr. Ramelli specifies.) No "eonian" life until the personal relationship is solidly established, but God can raise people to lesser modes of life meanwhile, and Christians can begin participating in eonian life now before death (yet still die of course -- even Christ the Resurrection and the Life Himself could and did still die in that sense).

Origen did think eventually time would end, though not before everyone was saved from sin and back into personal cooperation with God; I gather this idea continued on into the days of the Cappadochians and is still a pretty normal belief in orthodoxy today. I'm not myself on board with that idea, but that's for picky technical reasons having to do with how creaturely persons relate to one another and (by contrast to the Persons of the self-existent ground of all reality) what is necessary for creatures to relate to God and to each other. If "eons" are taken (as Origen did) to be division markers for periods of salvation history though, marked by groups of sinners finally repenting instead of continuing to fondle their sins, having been led (in various ways) to repentance and righteousness by God (with evangelical cooperation of the saints continuing on until the harvest is all in) -- then sure I could agree the eons will come to an end when the final sinner (presumably Satan) repents and comes home; but I could go with that and not believe time per se will end for creatures.

(I do think Dr. R argues persuasively Origen and others thought time actually would end in an aidios now, so to speak, but I'm a little surprised Origen would go with that since he stressed very strongly that only God could exist as pure bodiless spirit and those concepts seem to me quite connected: even spiritual bodies exist in some sort of created system of Nature where behaviors would constitute continuing history of that Nature and thus also created time. A point Origen again strongly stressed over-against his Gnostic opponents. He didn't think spirits would give up their created immortal spiritual bodies and resolve back into God -- again over-against his Gnostic opponents, in favor of the reality and importance of created persons in love under God -- so it seems inconsistent to me that he would think time would end for creatures even in the perfection of apokatastasis. But eh, not something I would grief him about. :) )


Dr. Mike wrote:Now, I'm having doubts.... What if the "evil had an origin in time" argument proves TOO MUCH?? Maybe it's the ultimate argument for annihiliationism--as in UNIVERSAL annihiliationism. Evil is obliterated--but so is everything else. Only God remains.

Right, everyone? (Am I missing something? Is there any way to salvage that particular argument--presented as recently as 2013 by Dr. Ramelli?)


She sure didn't present the argument of everything annihilating out of existence except God in her 2014 tome! I'm picky enough I don't much like her attempts at getting around a (previously undetected) problem with what she claims concerning the usage of {aidios} in scripture; if she had argued that I'd be stomping all over it.

But I don't even know what your theological complaint is. Even supposing for purposes of argument Nyssa had switched over to evil having an origin in time thus having an end in time (from something different taught by Origen), obviously his point would be the same as Augustine's a few decades later (actually following Origen's work though he doesn't seem to have realized it, probably via Nyssa at least as the leader of Chalcedonian orthodoxy): evil has no independent existence at all, so cannot be anything other than a perversion of the good, allowed to exist by God in accord with God's overarching intentions toward creation, but even then not on the same par as derivative goods either -- the main distinction being that God directly supports in existence only that which is derivatively good, whereas creatures in rebellion (though themselves and their capabilities, originally created good by God, remain directly supported by God -- not ever being independent existences themselves) directly create and support evil by a privation of the good in their lives. Thus God, Who in God's unique multi-personal existence as ground of all reality is essential Love and Justice (justice being the fulfillment of love between persons), is not the author of evil, but rather creatures are by abusing the gifts of their God-supported existence and capabilities.

It isn't a question of some merely mechanical (or even abstractly logical) relationship so that what even God brings into existence must necessarily cease to exist; but rather what we can expect God to act toward keeping in existence and to act toward removing from existence. God loves people, and thus loves sinners, even though God doesn't love sin; we can expect God to keep acting to keep derivative persons in existence (whom He loved into existence anyway), and to act toward removing evil from existence which can be nothing more or other the injustice of creatures -- not the injustice of God Who is Justice! Fundamental Justice could not act toward keeping injustice in continuing existence; but then created persons (being real persons and not puppets of divinity) are who do injustice. Merely poofing the persons into behaving differently as a final solution (leaving aside the question of temporary confirmations to get other purposes accomplished) would be treating the misbehaving persons as puppets not as children of the Father of spirits. To act against evil's existence, then, God acts to lead the rebel creatures to stop their rebellions.

Authoritatively sanctioning never-ending evil would be for God Himself to act against His own self-grounding coherency as the Trinity; the only reason we creatures don't instantly annihilate when we do that is because God acts to keep us in existence anyway, but Justice could not do that for the purpose of final ongoing injustice -- not and continue to exist. But if God ever chose to cease existing all our past present and future would cease to exist or rather would never exist in the first place and we wouldn't be here to talk about it: we can be sure fundamental self-existence is going to keep on behaving coherently and so to keep on existing, even though we only depend on fundamental existence. Our continuing existence is evidence God won't behave inconsistently; our continuing existence despite our own behaviors against the ground of our existence, is evidence about God's intentions for us: and those intentions must be a fulfillment of justice congruent to and with the continually enacted justice between and among the Persons of God for and with each other.

Put a little oversimply, if eternal conscious torment is true then God would not be hating sin, or at best would be hating it in contravention to God's own positive justice as the Trinity (because God stops seeking, or never even intended to seek, the righteous behavior of the sinner. Or God was outright beaten by the sinner, which denies supernaturalistic theism at all -- a point any Calvinist ought to sympathize with in criticism of Arminian soteriology.) If annihilationism is true, then God would not be loving the sinner. Nor would God be even slightly respecting the (God-gifted) free will of the creature by locking it into final injustice without repentance, much moreso outright destroying the creature (and its derivative free will) out of existence altogether.

I realize this is an answer from the side of trinitarian metaphysics per se, but the challenge was about the metaphysics of the situation so I haven't replied with an exegetical case. I also realize i haven't specifically talked about the self-sacrificial action of the 2nd Person in this account, including in the Incarnation, but I've been thinking about it very very loudly (so to speak)! In a full metaphysical account I would talk about the 2nd Person and the relationship of the 1st and 2nd to each other (and even the 3rd) before even talking about creation of not-God realities; and I would talk about that before talking about morality; and I would talk about morality before talking about sin and what from within orthodox trinitarian theism we can expect God to act to do about sin, including the Incarnation. The 3rd Person of God has His own importance in all this, and still would even if there was no creation per se, and still would (and will) even where no sin exists in a created reality per se. But for sake of relative brevity I'm not going into detail about a full trinitology (yet) -- because I don't have to go into details about the specific actions of the Persons in order to answer a challenge against the notion that God would act to remove sin from existence but not to remove sinners.


In short, the ancient patristic universalists weren't appealing to some undifferentiated unity with a mechanical tendency to return to undifferentiation -- but even if they were, I'm certainly not.

And they weren't appealing to some merely mechanical principle of created reality necessarily ceasing to exist by being created reality (so that any created reality would necessarily suffer the same fate) -- but even if they were, I'm certainly not.

And [DRAMATIC PAUSE....] for that matter they weren't falling back from either of those ideas (in desperation or otherwise) onto universal choice of creatures as the basis of universal salvation. They did stress the importance of creaturely choice, but not as THE BASIS OF universal salvation from sin. They primarily stressed the choice and competency of God in universal salvation from sin (and did so over against their Gnostic opponents, not incidentally), including God's competency at saving creatures from sin who were abusing the free will given to them by (and only by) God without voiding that gift to them.

They certainly didn't treat human choice like a random roll of the dice (much less God's choices in the matter!) -- but even if they did, I'm certainly not. What Dr. Reitan does in his book is his business; I thought his account wasn't sufficiently trinitarian myself, but I don't recall him actually supporting the random dice roll explanation. I know perfectly well Dr. Ramelli didn't argue for the annihilation of everything except God either, and I read her book more recently. I know perfectly well Balthasar has a strong account of the Holy Spirit and Pentacost; I know perfectly well the things you said about the end of Dr. Talbott's book are wildly inaccurate. I have Eric's book at the office, and I can't say I'm going to feel overly surprised if despite your charge he doesn't after all go with that notion, though I do kind of recall him discussing the option since the point of his book is to exhaustively categorize and discuss various options: mentioning a concept doesn't mean sanctioning it. Still, even if he does and I've forgotten it, I DON'T TREAT HUMAN CHOICE LIKE RANDOM DICE ROLLS!


Dr. Mike wrote:What about the Pharaoh of the Exodus?


Salvation from sin doesn't depend on he who wills (Pharaoh) or on he who runs (Jonah) but on God Who has mercy. God temporarily locked Pharaoh's choices down when that was necessary to get other things done, and otherwise let Pharaoh run whichever direction he felt like at the moment for better or for worse. Constantly flippy flopping back and forth to the last minute isn't a steady progression of hardening against Moses, though -- and so far as the story goes, it was God Who provided Pharaoh the spine hardening when necessary to move the plot along! That's entirely aside from whether God leads him to repent of His sins someday. Some ancient rabbis would say that since God promised he would be a witness (using a word for giving active testimony) to the nations, we can be sure God will raise him to do just that.

As far as progressive hardening goes, though, Joseph's brothers would be a better example.

Dr. Mike wrote:Doesn't the universalist have to go seemingly against the texts of scripture, and ordinary human experience, which both agree in showing us hardness of heart?


Not at all. We also however go with the texts of scripture (and ordinary human evangelical experience) which both agree that God can and does pulverize the hearts of the stubborn, leading them to salvation after all. It isn't like this concept should be news to any Calvinist though (or even to any Arminian)!

Dr. Mike wrote:And if we reject the hardness of heart thing, then we might think of the will as NOT habituated into evil. But then is the will habituated into good?


Is God incompetent at training a person to habituate into good? I don't think so. I have never once heard a Calvinist say so -- unless they were opposing universal salvation and forgetting they weren't Arminian while doing so. ;) Then I hear things like this with some frequency from Calvinists (and/or Augustinians), but that's hardly a sign they're being theologically coherent. They ought to be agreeing with us that we can trust God to competently empower and train the will to good instead of evil sooner or later one way or another (allowing for minor disputes about how and when God accomplishes this)!

Am I just misremembering?? Are you not a Calvinist/Augustinian? -- do you not believe God is entirely competent to save from sin whomever He intends to save from sin, from which salvation after some point the sinner will never fall again thanks to various competencies of God? If I'm misremembering and you're some flavor of Arminian your challenge would make some sense -- though even most Arms nowadays believe if people manage to do the right thing they can convince God to make sure their salvation is secure! God is not less competent at training children than human fathers are, or even human pet owners, is He??

So this business about human free will only being free like a tossed coin is free is utterly foreign to me (I deny randomly rolled dice are free with the freedom of rational souls -- even short chain quantum determinism is still determinism), and I deny that "laws of probability" have anything to do with salvation from sin.

Hmmmmm.

Dr. Mike wrote:Let's change the analogy from tossed coins to the realm of actual human choosing.


THANK GOD LET'S!

Dr. Mike wrote:Isn't universalism something like a 100% election result?


Is your salvation from sin something like being coerced into always voting for a tyrant? No? Same answer, extend for any number of other saved people.

I seriously do not know why a Christian doctor of theology (or of anything related to theology) would be treating the eventual persistence of someone's chosen righteous behavior like oppression by a tyrant.

Do I actually have to point out all the salient differences between God (especially being the Trinity) and an insane human dictator?

Dr. Mike wrote:If there's a way out--let me know. I'LL BECOME A UNIVERSALIST.


I don't care so much about whether you become a Christian universalist, but some charitable common sense would be nice -- it makes less than no sense to complain about X's proposed eventual persistence of salvation being only possible by insane (and indeed Satanic level) tyranny and then to believe one's own eventual persistence of salvation being possible by something other than the same Satanic level tyranny. Unless you think you yourself will always be flip flopping back and forth between evil and good because God can't or refuses to bring about anything better; but then it would still make no sense to complain about other people believing the same thing you do! But even hardcore Arminians believe eventually God will bring at least some people to do righteousness and never unrighteousness again; and I don't hear them complaining about this concept necessarily involving Satanic level tyranny over oppressed people.

Any stick is good enough to beat Christian universalism with, so long as the Christianity of the universalism is denied? If trinitarian Christianity is true, salvation from sin isn't tyranny; neither is punishment for continuing to fondle one's sins! Maybe those would be true if some Christianity less than trinitarianism is true, but in that case we're all pretty much screwed because ultimate reality won't be love and justice.
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby Sobornost » Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:46 am

:D
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby arlenite » Sat Jul 12, 2014 3:58 am

At the risk of praising the choir director, great post, Jason. :D

JasonPratt wrote:Dr. R (at the very least) is going to reply, based on extensive discussion of the primary texts, that Origen didn't believe all people pre-existed in some bodiless state and then sinned themselves into material bodies; only that Adam and Eve (among human persons) existed in a bodily state which was spiritual but not animal and that God specifically gave them mortal animal bodies after their rebellion (maybe also the rebel angels in a somewhat different way), from which result the children they bred got the original sin effect via similar animal bodies.


How does this new reading relate to the position oft-attributed to him that differences in earthly fortune are related to the degree to which one rebelled against God while a spirit? Does Ramelli argue Origen didn't hold that position?
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby JasonPratt » Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:06 am

^^ Yes. There was some kind of cult wandering around in the 400s which took Origen to mean that, though.
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby DaveB » Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:53 am

"Maybe those would be true if some Christianity less than trinitarianism is true, but in that case we're all pretty much screwed because ultimate reality won't be love and justice."

Well I don't understand that at all, BUT this is not a thread about 'trinitarianism' , and I appreciate your other comments, especially this part:


JasonPratt wrote:Dr. Mike wrote:
Isn't universalism something like a 100% election result?


Is your salvation from sin something like being coerced into always voting for a tyrant? No? Same answer, extend for any number of other saved people.

I seriously do not know why a Christian doctor of theology (or of anything related to theology) would be treating the eventual persistence of someone's chosen righteous behavior like oppression by a tyrant.
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby JasonPratt » Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:32 pm

Strictly speaking, this is a thread about a trinitarian (Dr. Mike) trying to argue, in appeal to other trinitarians, that universalism cannot be trinitarian but must be secretly (and even very radically) non-trinitarian, and basing his argument largely on attempts at defaming or disassociating many early key trinitarian (and proto-trinitarian) leaders from universalism, as well as defaming notable and even key recent trinitarian leaders who happened to be universalists.

So yes, this is a trinitarian thread: it's an in-house dispute.

But where applicable I'm willing to point out where Dr. McClymond's arguments wouldn't even fairly address dogmatic unitarian universalist beliefs (i.e. those who take their various versions of unitarian Christianity doctrinally seriously). :)


I hope a patristic scholar or two or three weighs in, because I don't want to just go around quoting Dr. Ramelli's tome from earlier this year; but Dr. M's three-part description of the 'evolution' of patristic universalism is highly misleading. What Dr. R demonstrates in depth is how thoroughly the patristic universalists derived their beliefs in universal salvation from their trinitarian theology (or if one wants to call it before Nicea their proto-trinitarian theology); and how consistently they use the same arguments from generation to generation within that framework -- arguments based on various key scriptural interpretations and on their high Christology (and high Pneumatology where applicable but in the context of their promotion of orthodoxy during those centuries Christological challenges were far more prevalent so that's what they tended to talk about more. That was true of non-universalist Fathers, too; the relative focus on understanding the nature and person of Christ doesn't mean either side was practically only bi-nitarian.)
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby DaveB » Sat Jul 12, 2014 6:26 pm

JasonPratt wrote:So yes, this is a trinitarian thread: it's an in-house dispute.


No, I said 'trinitarianism', not 'trinitarian'. I'll just butt out graciously here and let you guys go at it :D



(wait - "less than trinitarianism" quotha???) :roll:
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby Alex Smith » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:56 am

@Dr Mike
In an email reply to the questions, Ilaria Ramelli wrote:I follow the order of Michael’s remarks about the Fathers, speaking strictly in terms of historical (and not systematic) theology. Very briefly--each point would deserve a monograph!

1) Origen maintained the end will be similar to the beginning, not identical. It will be better: the fulfilment of the homoiosis / similitudo to God, by means of each one’s personal endeavour, as opposed to the initial datum of being an eikon / imago of God. He envisages the sequence eikon > homoiosis > henosis (image of God > assimilation to God > union / oneness), the leap from the aiones to the Trinity and its eternity (aidiotes). This is the telos, the ultimate end. Eternity belongs only to God, but thanks to theosis / deification, creatures will participate in the life of God and therefore in eternity. Theosis is superior to creation.

2) Origen did not assume the preexistence of bare souls that became embodied only as a result of sin. He thought of rational creatures with a spiritual body, which changed into heavy, mortal, gendered, corruptible etc. as a result of sin. Nyssen, when criticising the preexistence of disembodied souls, was not attacking Origen but others, esp. ‘pagan’ Neoplatonists and/or Manichaeans (a chapter is forthcoming in a book on Neoplatonism. Later there will be a monograph on Gregory’s dependence on Origen in the various fields of his philosophy & theology. It is inaccurate to say he detached himself from Origen. Not from Origen’s true ideas, but from his purported ideas.)

3) The argument that "evil had an origin in time, so it must have an end in time" was used esp. by Evagrius: “There was a time when evil did not exist, and there will be a time when it will no longer exist” (KG 1.40) but the difference between evil and bodies+souls is that evil was not created by God. This is why evil will be annihilated, but souls and even bodies will endure forever. Evagrius in KG 1.40 was probably quoting Origen. (Evagrius’ Kephalaia Gnostica are forthcoming with a full commentary that traces much back to Origen and Nyssen, and points out a terminological distinction among bodies in Evagrius, so far overlooked). For Evagrius it is not the case that bodies will be destroyed: they will be subsumed into souls and souls into intellects. Perfectioning, not destruction. What will be destroyed is evil.

As for the applicability of the perishability axiom to the soul by Nyssen, this is a big issue. As I argued at NAPS (developed in an essay) it is likely that Nyssen did not think the rational soul is created at the same time as the *mortal* body, although this is what he is usually believed to maintain. But this would take us too far.

4) For Origen and Nyssen the salvation of all is based on the same, ultimate free choice for Christ by all (even in the very last aeon). They made the most of free will as agent of salvation, against Gnostics, fatal/astral deterministics, and Manichaeans. But free will for them is never alone. It is accompanied by Providence and the work of Christ (fides nostra, opera iustitiae, but super haec omnia multo magis sanguis Christi)

5) For Origen, Pharaoh will have much longer than that he had on earth to be healed: his cure will last for whole aiones if necessary. The Healer is the Logos who “is greater than any illness of the soul.” It is thanks to the Logos that “the end of all things” can be “the utter elimination of evilness.” Origen saw that evil seems to prevail in the world; his ‘father’ and many fellow Christians were even persecuted and killed; he himself died after tortures. Yet he was hopeful that the persecutors themselves would convert.

<An aside: I did investigate systematically apokatastasis in “Gnostic” texts and Origen in an essay in Journal of Coptic Studies.>

6) Maximus criticises Origenism, preexistence of bare souls etc., not Origen’s true ideas. That punishments will be eternal he never says (he calls them aionia, but Origen, Nyssen and Evagrius too did). He also has the tenet of the final annihilation of evil.

7) The way out for Origen is Christ-Logos, Physician Healer Teacher, sinless humanity realised and joined with Divinity, High Priest who performed a self-sacrifice with universal and eternal validity, Omnipotent as in creation so also in redemption. For Origen liberum arbitrium, which rational creatures will retain eternally (manere semper), does not conflict with the tanta vis crucis Christi et mortis eius. He insists: if not even death or powers can separate us from God’s love, a fortiori our free will shall be unable to do so.
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Re: Michael McClymond's questions about Origen/Origenism

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:08 am

I shall just squee like a fanboy (though also a critical one) for a moment, and then add that much (if not all?) of her article about Gnostic apokatastasis is reproduced in the Tome. :)

Also when she puts 'father' in quotes, I seem to remember this being because there is now some doubt whether Origen's family-father was a Christian martyr or whether this was referring to the man who led him to Christ (since there is a significant theory along the lines that Origen was born to a pagan family).
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:23 am

Dr. Mike, over in the main thread, sort-of replies about Dr. R or her topics anyway (in the second 2/3 of a post first replying to Dr. Talbott):

Dr Mike wrote:Because there is a lot of discussion here on Ramelli's book, let me add here the result of a preliminary survey I have done regarding the overwhelming patristic consensus against the idea of universal salvation. What is stunning is to see the large numbers of anti-universalists, and to find them among the Greek authors and in the Syriac East as well. My book will develop an extensive argument on this, but here is a taste....

Brian Daley’s The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991) is the most respected, reliable, and up-to-date guide to this area. What is more Daley’s book discusses not just a few selected figures (as Ramelli does) but basically all the major early Christian authors.

In Daley’s text, those authors and texts indicating a final two-fold outcome of heaven and hell are as follows:

Epistula Apostolorum, Sibylline Oracles (except for one passage), First Clement, Second Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Ignatius of Antioch, Aristides, Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Victorinus of Pettau, Lactantius, Apophthegmata Patrum, Aphrahat, Ephrem the Syrian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Apollonaris of Laodicea, Basil, Epiphanius, Firmicus Maternus, Hilary of Poitiers, Zeno of Verona, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Mopsuestia (in Daley's analysis), Theodoret of Cyrus, Hesychius of Jerusalem, Pseudo-Macarian Homilies, Apocalypse of Paul, Gaudenius of Brescia, Maximus of Turin, Hilarianus, Tyconius, Augustine, Evodius of Uzala (or whoever wrote the Dialogue of Zaccheus), Orosius, Liber de Promissionibus, Salvian of Marseilles, Pope Leo the Great, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, Paulinus of Nola, Orientius, Commodian, Peter Chrysologus, Agathangelos (Armenian), Shenoute of Atripe, Narsai, Oecumenius, Pseudo-Dionysius (in Daley's analysis), Severus of Antioch, Leontinus of Byzantium (in Daley's anlaysis), Cyril of Scythopolis, Barsanuphius, John of Gaza, Aeneas of Gaza, Cosmas Indicopleustes, Andrew of Caesarea, Romanos the Melodist, Maximus the Confessor (in Daley's analysis), and John of Damascus.

In Daley’s study, some authors seem to be “on the fence,” or are difficult to interpret, on the question of universalism—Apocalypse of Peter, Clement of Alexandria, Sibylline Oracles (in one passage), Eusebius, Nazianzus, Ambrose (who seems to oscillate), Jerome (who seems to oscillate, both before and after 394), Isaac the Syrian (two authors probably included under one name).

Then there is what we might call the pantheist or near-pantheist position, which cannot be identified as universalist in the standard Origenian sense: Evagrius, Stephen bar-Sudaili (The Book of the Holy Hierotheos), and perhaps Philoxenus of Mabbug.

The question remains as to who actually teaches universal salvation—in a non-pantheistic sense. The answer seems to be Origen (almost certainly), Nyssa (most likely), Didymus the Blind, and possibly Marcellus of Ancyra (who offered his own unique eschatology).

To summarize then, of the figures that Daley analyzes and whose views seem clear-cut, the ratio is something around 10:1—that is, early church writers who uphold the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment instead of the doctrine of universalism. From the list of names and texts given above we further note that the non-universalists are found not only in the Latin West, but—contrary to the common impression today—among Greek and Syriac authors as well. When we factor in the results of the First and Second Origenist Controversies, and that of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and it seems that universalism was a minority view that prevailed among some teachers for a time but then was set aside.

Germanos I, Patriarch of Constantinople (in office 715-730 AD), was clearly embarrassed by Nyssa's expressions of belief in universal salvation, and so—taking a page from Rufinus’s playbook—he claimed that the passages on universalism were interpolated into Nyssa’s writings. No one today believes in such interpolations into Nyssa’s writings. The point is that by the eighth century the doctrine of universal salvation was closely associated with the condemned Origen. Eastern Orthodoxy did not regard Origenist universalism as part of its tradition. At most, it was a private opinion that was tolerated by the church—so long as it was not taught in the church.

A later Patriarch of Constantinople made a revealing, double-edged statement regarding Origen. In the margin of a manuscript of Origen’s commentaries that now resides in the Vatican, George Scholarios, Greek spokesman at the fifteenth-century Council of Florence, the one-time Patriarch of Constantinople and student of both Eastern and Western theology, wrote the following note:

The Western writers say, “Where Origen was good, no one is better; where he was bad, no one is worse.” Our Asian divines say on the one hand that “Origen is the whetstone of us all,” but on the other hand, that “he is the fount of foul doctrines.” Both are right: he splendidly defended Christianity, wonderfully expounded Scripture, and wrote a noble exhortation to martyrdom. But he was also the father of Arianism, and worst of all, said that hellfire would not last forever. (Citing Vaticanus Gr. 1742, fol. Ir; translated and quoted in Henry Chadwick, Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition [New York: Oxford University Press, 1966], 95).

For Patriarch Scholarios, no less than for Patriarch Germanos, universalism was an unacceptable teaching. There was no doubt about that. From the comment above, Scholarios seemed to think that universalism was more theologically objectionable than Arianism—which is saying a lot, given the general opinion regarding Arianian as the ultimate early church heresy. At the same time Scholarios recognized the valuable aspects of Origen’s literary legacy. There was thus both a reception and a non-reception of Origen’s teachings. From the time of the First Origenist Controversy, universalism has regularly been regarded as a part of the non-reception rather than the reception from Origen.

MM

PS--I would perhaps disagree with Daley on Isaac of Ninevah, and put him definitely in the universalist category. But Daley in general is an extremely meticulous scholar--as careful and exacting in his approach as Ramelli is not. I will be publishing a review article on Ramelli. If you are interested I can let you know when it's coming out next year.

PPS--There is new work on Nyssa by Italian scholars arguing that Nyssa is wrongly regarded as a universalist. If you are interested, Mario Baghos has made his essay available for free download from his Academia webpage. It is called "Reconsidering Apokatastasis in St. Gregory of Nyssa's On the Soul and Resurrection and the Catechetical Oration," Phronema 27 (2012) 125-162. It's a very careful argument, based on reading of larger contexts in Nyssa's Greek texts. I think that it raises questions--not sure if I am completely convinced, even though agreeing would I suppose "help" my argument. Essentially Baghos argues that apokatastasis has happened already, and that Nyssa conceives of it as happening in Jesus Christ himself. There is an "already" in addition to a "not yet" aspect of apokatastasis. Participation in this present-tense apokatastasis depends on baptism, faith, and the choice to pursue virtue. Baghos then shows places in which Nyssa expresses tentativeness about everyone consenting to enter into this relationship with God. The essay is almost forty pages--so read it and see what you think. If Baghos is correct, then this whittles down even further and sort of ancient universalist lineage. Unless you embrace the pantheistic outcome presented in Evagrius and bar Sudaili, then the problem with ancient universalism is that there isn't really very much of it...
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:27 am

As a side note, I'm not sure I would want to be the person who tries to claim Balthasar (of all people) practically ignored the Holy Spirit and might as well have been bi-nitarian, and then claims Dr. Ramelli is not a careful scholar... :roll:
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Jul 18, 2014 10:58 am

So, I can see that I've badly failed the board in not working harder and more consistently at providing a comprehensive summary of Dr. Ramelli's Tome, and God knows I can't make that up now. :( Her work isn't something I can just assume anyone can get ahold of, to go read how she does things and how much detail she goes into, for purposes of comparison to other arguments or even for comparing to critiques of her.

But I shall try to relevantly summarize around 20 small-font pages of materials (and footnotes) where she talks about Maximus anyway. (I feel pretty sure I recall her mentioning Maximus numerous times elsewhere than her late section on him, in comparison and sometimes contrast to earlier Fathers, but going through the previous 700ish pages would tax even my patience and capabilities. Her index only lists this section of pages topically; and while her index is very partial and kind of thrown together at the last minute -- a monstrous undertaking for a book of this sort in any event and I'm glad to have what's there -- I'm going to assume any other prior reference dittos things in this section.)

In topical order starting at p.738 of The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena:

• Maximus, born 580, died 662, lived well after the "so-called condemnation" of Origen (meaning the Justinian anathemas and the Ecumenical Council). Even a supporter of Origen and/or of Christian universalism would have to be very cautious about how to proceed in this environment.

• His early Syriac biography reports he received his spiritual education in a monastery of "Origenists" in Palestine; something that still existed even in those late days. (Dr. R is not entirely clear about whether the biography itself uses that term, but she puts it in quotes as though it does. She cites two modern scholars who acknowledge this point.) He might even have known Cassian the Sabaite.

• His Ambigua to Thomas 7 is generally regarded as Maximus' refutation of Origenistic cosmology (citing for example Blowers, Tollefsen, and Kattan). But Maximus neither mentions Origen nor refutes his real ideas (per the conclusion of Dr. R's very extensive prior arguments from primary sources, about his "real ideas" of course).

• On the contrary, in the same chapter 7,20192Cff, Maximus positively relates 1 Cor 15:28 to the final restoration just like Origen did: "God will truly come to be 'all in all', embracing all and giving substance to all in himself, in that no being will have any more a movement independent of God, and no being will be deprived of God's presence. Thanks to this presence, we shall be, and shall be called, gods and children, body and limbs, because we shall be restored to the perfection of God's project."

• According to Maximus, just as to Origen, Gregory Nyssen, and Methodius, the fall of man (and other rational beings) marred God's project, and this is why God providentially provided death for humans, (presumably still quoting from Ambigua 7) "administering our salvation, that we, loving non-being [sic evil], subsequently instructed by suffering, might learn to orient our intellect toward the being", i.e. toward God Who is self-existence and the ground of all being.

• Maximus thinks {anakephalaiôsis}, the re-heading of all creatures under Christ as their leader not merely as their source of existence (which Christ already always was and is, but not all creatures accept Him as their king yet), will occur in 1097AD(!), thanks to "the mystery of the holy coming of God in the human being, made necessary by the transgression".

• In Ambigua 42, Maximus rejects the theory of the pre-existence of disembodied souls and their embodiment as a punishment due to a precedent sin; and in line 1333A attacks the doctrine that in the end bodies will completely disappear. But he never attributes these beliefs to Origen, and Origen demonstrably believed the 'logika' (Adam, Eve, various angels including those that rebelled) did have bodies from their creation, prior to their fall, which will be recovered incorruptible in the end. Origen clearly and decisively claimed that only the Trinity, not creatures, can subsist without matter: his {theôsis} did not involve ontological deification, so the creatures do not become substantially God, much less do any substantial differences between God and creatures disappear.

• In the Ambigua (apparently also 42,1069A with callbacks at 1328A), Maximus similarly criticizes the Henad theory of disembodied rational creatures who fall and so receive bodies for punishment. Dr. Ramelli acknowledges this doctrine was around at the time of Justinian (also still in Maximus' day evidently), but attributes it to a "radicalized Evagrianism" not to Origen who actually attacked Gnostics in his day for holding it.

• Among all of Maximus's criticisms of theories attributed to Origen, the most remarkable absence is any refutation of the doctrine of apokatastasis itself. This lack, in combination of his explicit critique of positions condemned (before and in his day) as Origenistic (though he does not mention Origen in connection to those positions), suggests in itself he saw nothing wrong with universal salvation of all sinners from sin into loyalty to (the trinitarian Christian) God.

• Maximus does (still without mentioning Origen) affirm doctrines demonstrably held by Origen other than Christian universalism, including in the same Ambigua, 45,353A where his notion of the fine spiritual bodies of pre-fall rational creatures lines up precisely with Nyssa and Origen. This will also be the risen body in the end, so in that sense (among several others) the end will be like the beginning, and not only like but superior to the beginning -- just the same as Origen affirmed. The superiority will lie in the acquisition of the likeness (but not the substantial identity) of God and the free and voluntary choice of the Good, thus passing from mere "image" to "likeness" (per 45,1092B).

• Like Origen, Maximus in 45,1076Aff highlights that the eventual submission to God must be voluntary and that free will shall be kept by rational creatures until the final {theôsis}.

• In Ambigua 42,128C, Maximus is very close to Origen's notion of the pre-existence of the Ideas of all things in God's Logos-Wisdom, when Maximus maintains that the logoi of all things pre-existed in God the divine Logos. Dr. R says this corresponds back to Clement of Alexandria, too; but in Ambigua 7,1085A Maximus himself explicitly attributes this concept to Clement's teacher and predecessor as president of the Alexandrian catechetical school, Pantaenus -- a man whose work (at least) was also well-known to Origen.

• Maximus shares Alexandrian scriptural interpretation techniques similar to that of Origen; his language about this in Ambigua 10 echoes Origen saying the Law must be interpreted spiritually and not in a corporeal or material sense (though neither for Origen denying its historicity).

• Maximus, like Origen, insists (for example in Q. ad. Thal.) on a subtle point of correspondence between {archê} and {telos} such that from considering the end result one can know the beginning.

• Dr. Ramelli acknowledges that whether Maximus himself accepted universal salvation is still hotly debated among scholars, though she observes that the spread of dispute on this goes so far as to sometimes claim Maximus was actually misinterpreting Origen to create a non-personal divinization in contrast to Origen's humanism! This is definitely not Dr. R's argument of course, as noted above.

• Dr. R cites Michaud, Grumel, Balthasar (especially) and Sherwood, apparently also Tollefsen (with whom Dr. R discussed the matter personally in 2012) in favor of Maximus being a Christian universalist though without professing it overtly. Michaud thinks Maximus unhesitatingly embraced it, and only appeared to be reluctant to admit it in passages where his intention is paraenetic and moral not theological. (Dr. R compares this to Basil's Asceticum magnum.) Maximus never states hell will be absolutely eternal.

• Grumel argues that Maximus took over Nyssen's apokatastasis but with the prudence demanded by the socio-political situation of Maximus' day.

• Balthasar (in Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor, also later in Was dürfen wir hoffen?) argues that Maximus was obliquely referring to universal salvation in his comments about the trees of life and of good and evil, during the prologue and part 43 of Q. ad. Thal (Questions to Thallus). He thinks he sees the same thing in the same text regarding Christ's victory over evil on the cross; but that Maximus retains a prudent silence on the explicit conclusions, both because after Justinian this seemed more difficult, and for pastoral reasons already present in Origen (i.e. the doctrine of reserve -- people would misunderstand it to mean anyone can sin as much as they want.) Dr. Ramelli adduces some other places she thinks Maximus is honoring universal salvation by an explicit appeal to holy silence on various topics, connecting this with the apophatic (negative theology) approach of Pseudo-Dionysius and Eriugena (and with the medieval mystic Marguerite Porete, upon whom she disgresses for a while).

• Going back to the "few texts in which Maximus expresses his view of the eventual apokatastasis", Dr. R cites Q. et. dub. (Quaestiones et dubia, i.e. Questions and Dubious Points, from Declerks's critical edition). Maximus is commenting on Nyssa's apokatastasis, and distancing himself from the Isochristi or Bar Sudhaili (both of which coincide into pantheism). As such, Maximus says the Church advocates three kinds of legitimate apokatastasis: the restoration of the individual to his original condition thanks to virtue; the restoration of humanity to incorruptibility and immorality in the resurrection; and the restoration attested by Gregory Nyssus (appealed to by Maximus), of the faculties of the soul to the state before they were ruined by sin.

• On this third type of apokatastasis, recognized by Maximus as a legitimate teaching of the Church, explicitly exemplified by appeal to Nyssus (no doubt as the champion of trinitarian orthodoxy as at Chalcedon), Maximus says this spiritual restoration will be just as universal as the bodily resurrection and will take place at the end of all eons. "For, just as the whole of human nature in the resurrection must have back the incorruptibility of the flesh in the time we hope for, so also the subverted faculties of the soul, during a long succession of eons, will have to lose all memories of {kakia} [evilness] found in it. Then the soul, after crossing all eons without finding rest, will arrive at God, who has no limit, and thus, by virtue of knowledge of -- if not yet participation in -- the goods, will recover its faculties and be restored to its original state. And the Creator will be manifested to it, the Creator who is not responsible for sin." In other words (as Dr. R puts it), souls that have their faculties, once subverted by sin, restored to their original condition that existed before the contamination with evil, and are purified from evil in such a way as to have not even memories of evil left, will not fail to adhere to the Good, Who is God, in the end. On this, Maximus not only lines up with Clement, Origen, and other Fathers subsequent to them, but like them cites Plato's formula {theos anaitios} although with an explicitly trinitarian Christian theology.

• While Maximus allows that this does not necessarily yet involve participation in the good, his argument implies this participation must come in the end, and he nowhere denies eventual participation in the good.

• Along the way Maximus connects this resurrection of the spirit from any continuing evil into good (post-mortem) with the general resurrection and with the general restoration of the natural universe from its corruption by rational souls who chose to do injustice.

• In his reflections on Psalm 59 (also Mystagogy 7), Maximus reflects on how the transformation of human free will shall take place "thanks to the general transformation and renovation that will occur in the future, at the end of the eons, due to God our Savior: a universal renovation of the whole human nature, natural, and yet by grace."

• Maximus insists a lot on the activity of the Spirit aiming at "salvation, the greatest telos", meaning salvation from sin. No lesser telos would be appropriate for God's intention, and Maximus compares the final telos with the archê though superior to the archê -- the superiority being that although humanity was originally created perfect and without passion or sin yet humanity (and the angels) fell, but this won't happen again once the telos has been achieved. As with Origen, in Ambiguity 71,1412D: "the first and the last realities are alike; moreover, they really are, whereas [...] the intermediate realities pass away." Also in Amb. ad Thom. 5,1048B, in the archê "sin did not belong to human nature" therefore neither will it in the telos. But in Amb. 48,1361D, Maximus covers with silence the extreme telos beyond this and future eons, which will be the extreme culmination of all goods.

• Along with Origen and Nyssen, Maximus stresses that apokatastasis is a work of God's grace and that Christ has assumed the whole of humanity through a process of {oikeiôsis}.

• Maximus does criticize, in Amb. 42,1329B, any automatic salvation, in favor of free will. Late Origenism had indeed professed automatism, but Origen had greatly stressed the importance of free will in salvation, even in universal salvation, especially in his anti-Gnostic polemic. Maximus, exactly like Origen, observes that humans determine their own closeness to or remoteness from God (though not so as to prevent God coming to the unjust for salvation from sin). But neither at Amb. 42,1329B or elsewhere does Maximus say that this exclusion will be eternal: those who by their choices cannot participate in the Good suffer while those who can rejoice, but the suffering is by no means presented as an eternally immutable condition -- a concept that would be just as alien to Maximus' notion of good and evil as to Origen's.

• Nor in Questions to Thallus does Maximus say that the suffering (odunê) of those unworthy of union with God will be eternal. Rather, as in Amb 46,1357B, those unworthy can become worthy of such inclusion by cooperating with the authoritative purification from God. Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea agreed with this: Eusebius taught (from 1 Cor 15) that Christ's eschatological reign is aimed precisely at making those worthy who are still unworthy.

• In his critique of automatic salvation (which resembles Origen's critique of Valentinian automatism), Maximus says in Myst.24 that God will be all in all for those who will be saved, and (in Amb.63,1392D) for those who have freely used their logos. Salvation which is offered by God to all, is chosen by the saints (PG 91,25B) who are sanctified by the Spirit; the Spirit (Q. ad Thal 6,280D) does not sanctify a free will that refuses it. God loves all the same way, but glorifies the virtuous, and "the mystery of salvation belongs to those who want it, not to those who are forced to submit to it" (Q.1309C4-11; In Or. Dom. CCG 23,154ss.)

• But these critiques of late Origenism (as Dr. R acknowledges existed) line up perfectly with Origen himself teaching that the final submission of all rational creatures to Christ and to God will be absolutely voluntary and not forced in the least despite God's punitive action on impenitent sinners until then. The purification of the intellect and of free will, which Maximus himself insists will be regenerated in all humanity, will once completed entail a voluntary adhesion to the Good Who is God.

• In Car. 1,71, Maximus states that God, at the end of all eons, will be united to all humans, both those who are worthy of this and those who are unworthy. Since Maximus states God's plan at the beginning and until the end remains the theosis of all rational creatures, however, this cannot mean God unites to those simply unworthy of union, but that God must bring them to worthiness despite being unworthy (for not yet being faithfully Christian) post-mortem. Maximus nowhere sees any partial theosis, but everywhere stresses the final telos involves full theosis (even though he will usually pull up short of spelling this out, invoking holy apophatic silence when coming to the point -- a prudent move in his socio-political situation.)

• From Amb. ad Io. 2,36, the work of Christ is "to join together the natural ruptures in all of universal nature, and to bring to perfection all the logoi of individual beings, by which the unification of the divided is fulfilled. He reveals and performs God his Father's megalê boulê [Great Will], recapitulating all beings in himself, in heaven and on earth [citing Eph 1:10]."

• Maximus, when using his own words, never describes the last judgment and otherworldly punishment as aidios (except once when quoting from Jude in Q ad Thal 11) but rather as eonian, which in Maximus as in Nyssus and in Origen refers to the ages before the final telos (or referring back in time to remote or ancient). He can however also use it to refer to that which endures, such as God and life in God. Dr. R borrows an article by Moreschini, who cites eonian as evidence against univesal salvation, for the list.

• Thus although all beings remain in God's logoi, those who give up their own logos to follow evil things shall undergo eonian justice {dikê}. (Q. et Dub. 173)

• In Carit.1,55-57, those who posit themselves out of the agapê are liable to eonian crisis, and those who hate other human beings or even speak against human beings, deserve eonian kolasis. Passions and ignorance are worthy of eonian kolasis in 2,34.

• In Lib. Ascet. 27, the fire of those in the place of eonian topos shall not be quenched and their worm shall not die.

• On such sayings, including the Isaiah reference to unquenchable fire as punishment, Origen himself and other Christian universalists prior to Maximus explicitly agreed -- but they were not using "eonian" to mean never-ending in relation to those terms.

• On the contrary, Maximus repeatedly refers to God's life shared with creatures as aidios not aioniôs, which strongly indicates Maximus accepted the typical distinction between the terms held by previous Christian universalists back to and including Origen. Moreover, Maximus connects this aidios life with the apokatastasis of the elimination of sin.

• For one striking example from Q. ad Thal. 61, God will "give to the human nature, through pathos, apatheia, through tribulations, relief, and through death, tên aidion zôên [the aidionian life], and will thus have it restored (pasin apokatestêsen)."

• In Or. Dom. l. 82, "participation in aidiou zôês, apokatastasin of the human nature, which will return to harmony with itself in apatheia, destruction of the law of sin {nomou tês hamartias katalusin}."

• In Amb. 65, Maximus agrees with Nazianzen's discourse of the eighth day, which is described as the first, the last, and indestructable, on which the souls will even case to celebrate the Sabbath (7th day of rest). Relatedly Nazianzen's friend Nyssus, in commenting In. Inscr. Ps. 83-84, described the eight day as the final day when Christ will rise as Sol Iustitiae and will never set; also In Sext. Ps. 188-189, Gregory identifies the seven days with chronos, time, and the movement of the world, and the eighth day with the eternal new creation.

• Maximus agrees and expounds on the concept: the seven days indicate time and the sequence of eons, at the end of which will come the cessation of all eons and the access to {to aei einai} (the always-being) by grace, peace and quiet without beginning or end, after the movements (per Origen's concept of spiritual "movement" being a choice between good and evil) of limited beings. This end will be the 8th day, God's Parousia, an aidios day superior to aiônios.

• Maximus does say (in Amb 65) that this eighth day determines {to eu aei einai} "the good always-being" with participation in it, or else {to kakôs aei einai} "the bad always-being" to those who have used the logos of being against nature.

• But he makes so clear elsewhere (such as Amb 42,1332A) that evil cannot have ontological subsistence (along with Nyssus and Origen), that (as in Amb 20,1237C) "the children of perdition", "hell", etc. are identified as "those who, in their mental disposition, have put non-being as their own basis, and in their ways have become similar to non-being in all respects." (Evil is also non-being at Amb 7,1085A.) The ultimate result of this would be annihilation, not never-ending existence of evil in the telos; yet God by gracious Providence prevents every creature from ending up as non-being. (Dr. R does not cite this however.)

• In Q. et dub. 10, Maximus understands the eschatological of the Sabbath Day as the giving up of all evil and its complete vanishing. This necessarily excludes evil continuing forever, including in creatures.

• In Dub 65, Maximus states that even {to aie einai}, which as noted includes the bad always-being, will pass away on the 8th day with the eschatological 7th day, into aidios life in which, for Maximus, there can be no shadow of evil, and about which he professes holy silence.

• In Amb 65, Maximus offers two more alternative interpretations to the 8th Day mystery of Nazianzus (and Nyssus). While the 7th day goes beyond the moods conforming to virtue and the arguments conforming to contemplation, the 8th day is the complete transformation, by God's grace, of all that which has been done or contemplated. Or else (somewhat redolent of Evagrius) the 7th day is the impassibility that follows active philosophy, and the 8th day is the wisdom that follows contemplation.

• In Amb 59, discussing Christ's descent into hades, Maximus overtly states that adhesion to God is still possible after death through faith and conversion out of post-mortem punishment.

• Maximus hints at progression after the universal resurrection, too, in Amb 63, but calls the holy silence upon speaking of it. In Amb 50,1368D however, he more explicitly parallels the progression of current eon --> place after death -- future eon, with resurrection (evidently of the wicked) --> feasts and purifications after resurrection --> the telos. After the post-resurrection feasts and mysteries (about which he refuses to talk openly) the final telos is a complete peace which is not immobility but a rest in perpetual movement {aeikinêtos stasis}. Compare with Nyssen's epecstatic movement, infintely going toward and growing in God.

• In Amb 42,1329B, Maximus returns to the categories of "being", "being well", and "being always", the latter of which signifies the permanence of being donated to all creatures by God, according to their pre-existent logoi in the mind of God (the ideals which God intended for them even before He created them). "Being badly" simply could not refer to a never-ending final state of existence in the theology of Maximus, for that would involve such a badness being God's original idea and goal for the creatures, which Maximus (along with Nyssus and Origen) strongly denies.

• Given the wealth of evidence, Dr. R suspects the statement about {to kakôs aei einai} "the bad always-being" might be interpolation, seeing as how immediately afterward he returns to the ontological non-subsistence of evil, which logically denies final subsistence in evil eternally. Soon afterward in 65,1332D, Maximus affirms that Christ's return will determine "the transformation of the universe [of the-all] {epi metastoicheiôsei tou pantos} and the salvation {sôtêria} of our souls and bodies}, because Christ (1333A) "leads and invites all to his glory, insofar as possible, with the power of his inhumanation, being the initiator of the salvation of all {tês pantôn sôtêrias} and completely purifies imperfections in all {tas en holois anakathaironta kêlidas}".

• Purification in Q. et dub 1,10 is said to occur at the last judgment through the very process of judgment for those who have both sins and good deeds, whereas those who are already perfect will not even undergo judgment. (Dr R quotes extensively from the Greek here.) Several lines later Maximus identifies otherworldly (eonian) purification with the fire in 1 Cor 2:13ff, in which some are said to be saved immediately and others through fire, but no one is said not to be saved. (More extensive citation of Maximus in Greek here.)

• Maximus does say in Amb 2, 1252B that those who sin following passions in this life will remain far from the relationship with God and this will be their punishment for many eons; but Nyssus and Origen both taught the same thing, and Maximus expressly agrees with them that the eons come eventually to an end in the telos of apokatastasis.

• In Q ad Thal 65, although Maximus honors the eschatological Sabbath by mystical silence and unknowing, he also describes the Logos (Christ) as propitiation because "by assuming in itslf what is ours, [He] became like us, absolving us from accusations, and with the gift of grace with deify {theopoiôn} our sinful nature ... the connective bond of our transformation into immortality {pros athanasian metapoiêseôs}." This is why Maximus calls Christ skênopêgia; which in Nyssen's De Anima represents the final resurrection-restoration of both body and soul to their original condition according to God's plan, and the liberation from sin and evil. This holistic understanding of the general resurrection and its (eventual) effects by the grace of God is also typical of Origen, as is connection with Maximus to the Feast of Tabernacles.

• At line 575 of Q ad Thal, Maximus speaks of the sanctification provided by God to those who are still in need of it through a fire that is purifying, that they too may participate in God. (Extensive Greek citation here.) This would mean when he says final participation will only be bestowed by God on those worthy of it (which cannot mean they earn their salvation either!), Maximus means God will eventually make the unworthy worthy of such participation.

• Other legitimate Origenian beliefs held by Nyssen and thence by Maximus include pathê being secondary growths of the soul, not belonging to human beings by essence; the doctrine of double-creation (and Nyssen's anthropology generally); the secondary nature of gender distinction and procreation, God's plan not being that humans should be born through unions of corruption; the "skin tunic" interpretation which comes straight from Origen (via Nyssus).

• Maximus shares with Origen and Nyssus the theme of the restoration of the human being to its primitive integrity, meaning how Adam and Eve were created, and even moreso meaning the original intention God still has for humanity (and for rational souls not of the human species); and credits the incarnation of the Logos (Q ad Thal 21). The eternal project of God for the human being has been temporarily marred by voluntary sin of the creature, but God will still fully realize His original plans in the end. Christ's virginal birth interrupts the cycle of genesis and phthora and will finally realize God's plan. This train of thought not only goes back to Origen but to his successor throughout most of the 4th century Didymus the Blind, explicitly arguing against the Manichees of his day. Christocentrism (not to be regarded apart from operation of the Holy Spirit, the omnipresence of which all in all helps all toward virtue) is a feature of Maximus' cosmology and his eschatolgoy, and follows precisely the outlines and details worked out by Origen and his successors (and his predecessors to some extent).

• In Amb 42, Maximos talks of "God's educative economy, whose end is the correction of those who are educated, and the perfect restoration to the logos of their birth, that is, apokatastasis." Christ is then defined by Maximus as "the initiator of the salvation of all" (Amb 42,1333A) who "leads all to his glory", having taken up humanity, and "purifies the stains of all the universe". And earlier in Amb 31,1280A, "Christ-God divinely accomplishes in himself the salvation of all... We do not hesitate to believe that, as his prayer to the Father says, we shall be where he is, he who is the first fruits of the human species [...] and thus he completes the body of the one who is completed in all and for all, a body that fills all and is filled by all." For Maximus, the eventual apokatastasis must pass through the re-heading of all rational creatures in Christ, the {anakephaliôsis}.

• Nor shall this intentional goal of God fail, for in Amb 41,1308D Maximus presents Christ as the one who realizes "the great intention of God the Father" according to Isaiah 9:5 -- citing Origen's phrase in the sense of the apokatastasis! Maximus similarly explains why Christ has the power to bring the great intention of God to completion: because the Son "recapitulates in himself all beings, those in heaven and those on earth, because they were also created in him", thus He "applies providence to all and brings all beings to unity [... God's providence] connects all of them, those in heaven and those on earth."

• In his Scholia on Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus approvingly calls attention to Pseudo-D's idea that the souls and all the intellects, even those which are fallen, are "ultra-celestial lights", and says "all these living substances have been unified [...] They are all united to one another, without mixture and confusion. They are images of God and, in proportion to themselves, they participate in God's ultra-unitary unit {huperênômenês henôseôs}. These lights are clearly unities."

• It is not merely these or those individual humans whom Christ lifts up and restores by becoming a human being but (in Amb ad Thom 5,1049A) "becoming a human being, [Christ] lifted human nature together with himself, making it into a mystery." Slightly earlier, 4,1044AD.1045B, Christ "destroyed our worse element, i.e. the law of sin that comes from transgression [...] saved the human beings who were imprisoned by sin, and paying in himself the price of our redemption, had them participate even in divine power [...] he accomplished the complete salvation of humanity, making his own all that our humanity is [...] he became by nature a new Adam, thus replacing the old [...] he wanted to render me master of the devil, who, by means of deception, mastered as a tyrant [...] through passible flesh he deified the whole of humanity, who had become earth due to corruption [...] in view of the perfect submission through which he will bring us to the Father after saving us and making us conformed to himself for the effectiveness of his grace."

• Interestingly, Maximus does not directly claim to himself speak the quoted statements about the salvation and deification of all rational intelligences (including all humanity), but rather attributes them with approval to "a man, holy in thought and life" -- a man hidden behind the same veil of silence Maximus prefers to usually draw when talking on the topic at all. A man presumably not Gregory Nysuss or anyone still honored back to Clement's teacher Pantaenus, whom Maximus has no qualms about citing expecting his readers to approve them. There is really only one man we know of whose belief lines up perfectly with the statements of Maximus, who would have been anathema to speak of in approval in the days of Maximus, but who would have been so influential for Maximus to appeal to by circumlocution anyway. (Dr. R does not go this far in arguing Maximus is actually referring to Origen, but does call attention to the oddity.)

• In Q ad Thal 60, the aim of God, telos and skopos, from the beginning, even before creation of this world, is identified with the mystery of Christ and individuated in the union of the divinity with humanity that takes place in Christ, leading to the "recapitulation into God of those who were created by God" or {eis ton theon hê tôn hup'autou pepoiêmenôn anakephalaiôsis} where by "recapitulation" Dr. R refers to {anakephalasis} the returning of rebel creatures back under the kingship of God. This kingship (and a return under kingship so far as rebels are concerned) is said by Maximus to be the mystery and the Great Plan of God and the aim of divine Providence (via the Holy Spirit typically). This Great Intention/Council, from Isaiah 9:5, is what Christ (Himself the king) announces, showing "the abyssal depths of the Father's goodness". The fruition of this plan can only come when all movements toward evil, and even from evil toward good, have ceased -- but not with creatures still impenitently stuck in evil! For the creatures, in God's Great Plan (again an Origen phrase), must be made worthy of enjoying God. "For it was necessary that the creator of the substance of beings according to nature [i.e. Christ-Logos] be also the author of the deification by grace of the creatures that have come into being, so that the giver of well-being might also appear as the giver, by grace, of always-well-being."


I realize that topically this summary is very messy. I'll try to summarize the summary later, maybe this weekend. But it gives a lot to work with in comparing analyses.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby DaveB » Fri Jul 18, 2014 11:05 am

Geez, I had to actually think to get through that - but it was well worth it, thanks for all the hard work Jason. :D
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:42 pm

That's wonderful summary Jason. Thanks you so much. It all makes perfect sense to me and is compelling. Two points of observation -

The Eighth Day of creation is prefigured in Easter Monday that takes place again in a Garden/restored Eden with welcoming angels rather than angels with swords.

and those who hate other human beings or even speak against human beings, deserve eonian kolasis.


Speaking against someone (rather than speaking about or letting off steam about them) is slander and is a portion of hatred. Real slander is done to take away a persons honour and destroy their reputation.

Good stuff old chum - truly excellent :D
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Jul 18, 2014 4:33 pm

Thanks, guys. :) I'm afraid it is terribly scattershot -- Dr. R tends to bounce around quite a bit topically, not in absolute leaps but not in much of a progressing development of an argument either. (Well, she's better at that in other sections.)

I think this hampers readers from working through the various issues involved in a way that encourages keeping various developed points in mind. For readers who, for whatever reason, aren't.... inclined, let us say, to keep various points in mind to begin with? -- the results can be kind of predictable.

Still, mad props (as the kidz say nowadays) for her doing it at all!

I'll try to pro and con it topically later for better clarity.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby akimel » Sat Jul 19, 2014 7:57 am

All I can say is that if McClymond is going to take on Ramelli, he had better spend a good long while reading up on patristics. She is no mean scholar. So far I have not been impressed at all with McClymond's "knowledge" of the Church Fathers, and the idea that some kind of essential or necessary relationship must exist between nontrinitarianism and the universalist hope is hogwash.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby akimel » Sat Jul 19, 2014 7:58 am

Thank you, Jason, for the summary of St Maximus.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Sat Oct 24, 2015 1:58 am

Thought I must tell you this :-) I had a peep at the Amazon reviews of Dr Ramelli's tome. There were four reviews. Three gave five stars and reasons for their five stars. However, one reviewer gave a single star and said that it is a very poor book - no reasons given apart from 'see Michael McClymond's review in the Journal of Theological Studies'.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Caleb Fogg » Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:37 am

Sobornost wrote:Thought I must tell you this :-) I had a peep at the Amazon reviews of Dr Ramelli's tome. There were four reviews. Three gave five stars and reasons for their five stars. However, one reviewer gave a single star and said that it is a very poor book - no reasons given apart from 'see Michael McClymond's review in the Journal of Theological Studies'.



Wow...just, wow!
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Sat Oct 24, 2015 10:40 am

So, has Dr. McClymond's rebuttal book been published yet? He was working on that, right?
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Sun Oct 25, 2015 7:08 am

I've looked at Amazon USA Jason - it isn't mentioned as due for publication.:-)
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Mon Apr 04, 2016 6:32 am

I have received the following link from Caleb of Dr McClymond’s review of Illaria Ramelli plus her reply to him. Both were posted by Father Kimel at Eclectic Orthodoxy.

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2016/04/0 ... coming-in/

Footnote 7 seems important to me. The fall and restoration of souls found in the Nag Hammadi community that Dr Mike refers to and says Dr Ramelli ignores is not universalist (even if there are affinities between Origen and the Gnostics and some respects – which Dr Ramelli has shown is debatable). I’m not a patristic scholar but when I had a conversation with Dr Mike about this contention I’d did read the sources he was citing at this time to back up his argument about universalism coming from Gnosticism and other relevant sources translated in the Nag Hamadi Library reader. None of these taught universalism as far as I could see.

A note on Williams book ‘Re-thinking Gnosticism’ cited as being very important in Dr Mike’s Footnote:

Williams argues broadly that our current view of the Gnostics has been distorted by the polemics of the Church Father’s against Gnosticism and that a careful reading of the texts that we have will show that there was more diversity and more subtlety amongst Gnostic thinkers than has previously been acknowledged. Dr Mike is obviously referring to the following argument by Williams as something that Dr Ramelli has not taken into account (from the publisher’s blurb):

‘’Williams takes up the question of "gnostic determinism": the oft-repeated modern assertion that the gnostics believed mankind to be strictly divided into different types (the spirituals, the psychics, the materials) or different races (the race of Seth, the race of Cain), and that the doctrinal upshot of such divisions was that each individual's potential for salvation was understood to be already determined at birth. Williams shows that this modern notion of Gnostic determinism is not supported by the original texts. A careful reading of the sources shows that one is not "born into" the race of Seth: rather it is a status one may attain or earn. The race of Seth is more a spiritual community than a biological "race" in our modern sense. Likewise with the division into three types: one's status as a spiritual is seen to be linked to one's behaviour: one may lose this status through abandoning the truth, and thus to be born as a spiritual is no guarantee of salvation. The assertion that the ancient gnostics were elitists in the sense of believing themselves predestined to salvation (saved in essence) is misguided. Williams demonstrates that there was at least as much flexibility in these gnostic notions as there is in more recent Protestant doctrines of the elect’’.

I’ve read the Chapter from ‘Re-Thinking Gnosticism on Gnostic determinism. It has nothing to say about Universalism. The author does make a good that not all Gnostic sects were rigid in their determinism; that salvation through gnosis was seen as conditional upon diligently effort in seeking and finding; and that even the spiritual ‘elect’ could lose salvation through backsliding. However, with my little knowledge I was always aware that the ‘psychics’ – those with a mental and emotional life who were not yet fully spiritual –could either attain or lose salvation. All that this study does is extend this conditionally to the elect spirituals. The author is less convincing about the fate of those who are merely physical/sarkic/hylical. These are the people who are bound to the cycle of toil – the majority of the population and he does not produce evidence to soften any of the contemptuous texts I have seen towards this large class of people that the Gnostics produced (and dismissed to destruction). It would be interesting to know what Dr Ramelli has written about this new study. However, it does not impact directly on her case for universalism.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Mon Apr 04, 2016 7:14 am

P.S. The ‘Rethinking Gnosticism’ book actually imagines Gnostics to have a subtle view of determinism more akin to some of the New England Puritans (which is amusing since Dr Mike is a Calvinist). Also I doubt that the other studies cited by Dr Mike concerning cross pollination between Gnostic views and Origen have anything to say about universalism but rather about the middle Platonism that they shared even as opponents (as says Dr Ramelli). ON the whole however I think this is a very technical discussion for specialists in the field. It's ceritainly beyond little old me - but I simply await the evidence that Christian universalism could have developed from Gnosticism when all the evidence I've seen - including the Rethinking Gnosticism chapter - points precisely the opposite way:-/
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Apr 04, 2016 9:46 am

Thanks for the update, Sobor!

I know Dr. R was working on a companion Tome to more fully examine Gnostic and pagan uses of apokatastasis (as a term) and soteriology in general, which the first tome summarized. I don't know where that project is, in comparison to her forthcoming work (being edited by Dr. Parry apparently) on Christian universalism in the medieval periods (leading in from what we might otherwise call the Middle Dark Ages where her original book left off).
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Mon Apr 04, 2016 11:37 am

I'm very glad Robin Parry is doing the editing - because it sounds like Illaria Ramelli needs a good one to bring out the best :-)
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Mon Apr 25, 2016 5:11 am

I have no idea why Dr McClymond in his review of Dr Ramelli’s tome again asserts that Origen was forgotten and/or shunned in the West before the Jesuit ‘new theologians’ in the twentieth century. Origen’s writings went through eight printed editions during the late fifteenth, early sixteenth century Renaissance – including Erasmus’s annotated edition published two years after his death (the first was Jacques Merlin’s 1512 edition).Yes Origen’s works were popular in the Italian Florentine academy and in this setting his ‘metaphysical speculations’ were savoured by those who were highly syncretism in their Christian Platonism and mingled the Greek Fathers with Hermetic writings and with Cabala. However, I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that these aristocrats were universalists – Pico of the Florentine academy simply opened up the debate that Origen himself might be saved; and Dr Mike does refer to this alone in passing in his review.

However, the reception of Origen with the Northern Christian humanists was different. Erasmus praised Origen as a hero of the Faith, an exemplar of the spiritual life, and commended him as a prince of scriptural exegesis and philology. He did not commend Origen’s ‘speculations’ (as they seemed at this date) but argued in mitigation that these were made at a time when Christian orthodoxy was still fluid. He also sometimes questioned Origen’s allegorizing when he deemed that this was taken to excess –but did not attack allegorizing in principle.

Erasmus himself emphasised the goodness of God as primary and of God’s overflowing mercy that fully desires to save everyone and the asserted – using the early Greek Fathers as his authority including Origen – that human beings have a limited freedom in responding to this mercy.
He had a wide hope beyond confessional boundaries in believing that following the Way of Christ – which he called ‘The Philosophy of Christ’ – in response to justification through faith, was what ensured salvation rather than adhering to a confessional faith narrowly defined.

He put the philology of ancient Greek firmly on the map of European scholarship through his Textus Receptus of the New Testament which paved the way for later discussions of the meaning of ‘Aionian’(but James Windett and George Rust in England later in the seventeenth century for example).

And of course the Church Father he loved best and raised the profile of most was Origen – citing him liberally as an authority in his Annotations of the New Testament and in his widely translated Paraphrases of the New Testament . The Paraphrases were given royal approval to be read in Churches both by Edward IV and Elizabeth 1st in the English Reformation for example and were often cited in controversies with Anglican Calvinists against the doctrine of double predestination. Erasmus did not affirm apocatastasis in the Annotations or the Paraphrases – but through these Origen became rehabilitated as someone to take note of.

For these reasons – and because of his widespread influence among so many in the early modern period (of all confessional denominations and shades of belief – radicals and conservatives too) – Erasmus’ rehabilitation of Origen has to be reckoned with as a major influence on the revival of universalism in the late seventeenth century in scholarly circles I think.

Also his influence on the Reformation radicals in the sixteenth century is now well attested to and some substantial research has been done in this field. For example, Morwena Ludlow in her paper of Hans Denck’s universalism attest to this. She has found no evidence that Denck actually taught that everyone would be saved from his writings’ He was simply accused of this by those who misunderstood his writings, although she says that he may probably have hoped for this. Nor does she find any evidence that Denck knew Origen’s writings – because he has no post mortem salvation scheme in his works. However, she attests to the influence of Erasmus in his wide hope and his emphasis on the saving goodness of God towards all people (and through historical connections between the two). There are a number of other Anabaptist radicals who are said to have taught universalism that have not been scrutinised yet in the way that Morwena Ludlow does with Hands Denck. Perhaps they were Universalists by report only, and there is no way of assessing the claim as there is with Denck whose extensive writings have survived (the Dunker sect of Anabaptists who certainly were universalists arose later in the seventeenth century).

We do know that the fear that some Anabaptists were Universalists – a belief was wrongly associated with the libertine Anabaptists who took over Munster – was often to do with them questioning late medieval notions of Satan as the one who can cause crop failure, cattle diseases, and cause people to fly on broomsticks. They were sometimes accused of atheism for this and again the ideas go back to Erasmus who mocked medieval superstitions and saw Satan as primarily a force in the human heart.

Erasmus never asserted universal salvation. But due to his notion of the goodness of God for much of his life he asserted that the fires of hell are torments of conscience from the habit of not being able to stop sinning – and this is a radical idea that got him into lots of trouble. It suggests that the punishments of hell are not inflicted by God but are self inflicted. And this idea in the hands of radicals like Sebastian Frank who commented on it very sympathetically in his Chronicles of Heretics certainly could and did later inspire some Universalists.

Whatever Erasmus may have intended he had a huge influence on the positive reception of Origen and of the universalism of seventeenth century Origenists such as Le Clerc and some of the Cambridge Platonists. I think it wrong to ignore Erasmus and the reception of Origen in the Northern Renaissance when looking at the history of early modern universalism because this sticks out like a sore thumb. Well I think he's very important.

I think D.P. Walker makes an excellent case in Decline of Hell– that I’ve never seen gainsaid- that the decline of belief in eternal damnation is part and parcel of a shift in sentiment about cruelty - to animals, in child rearing, in punishment of criminals etc - that took place during the seventeenth century. It’s difficult to say which came first – the shift in sentiment or the ideas (they were probably interrelated I think). They were influenced by the gradual mitigation of the power of Magisterial Churches to control thought and sentiment too - which comes with the invention of the printing press. Whether it comes from wide hopers like Curione, mitigators like Simon Episcopus and the Remonstrant College in Holland, annihilationist like Socinus’ followers Sonor and Camphuysen, or cautious universalists like Le Clerc and George Rust, the influence of Erasmus is seminal in the sphere of the ideas that expressed this shift – including ideas about religious toleration that he expressed first too in a tentative way. I think there is certainly a link between universalism and toleration being ideas that arrived in the mainstream at the same time.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:56 am

I’d just like to add that I’ve realised that Dr McClymond’s favoured secondary sources that imply Origen was influenced by the Gnostics - Jonas and Struwolf – are both dependent on Koetschau and Butterworth’s translations of the Peri Archon

In the latest critical edition of Peri Archon by John C. Cavadini gives the details -

''G.W. Butterworth’s translation of Origen’s On First Principles, originally published in 1936 and twice reprinted (1966, 1973), is the only complete English translation based on the critical edition of the text (Koetschau, 1913).

Butterworth translated the only complete attestation of the text remaining from antiquity, Rufinus’s Latin translation. But, following Koetschau’s edition, Butterworth supplemented it with translations of Greek fragments taken from various sources...

Koetschau’s presentation was predicated on a hermeneutic of thoroughgoing suspicion regarding Rufinus’s translation, alleging a systematic purge of opinions of Origen that by the late fourth century were not considered orthodox. Butterworth fully adopted, and even extended, Koetschau’s hermeneutic of suspicion, as anyone who reads his Introduction will easily discover. The average reader could miss the fact that the “Greek” columns and supplements were not taken from a continuous ancient source, but were, in effect, a running polemic against the translation of Rufinus, using texts from sources as hostile as the anathemata of Justinian (along with the anathemas appended to the deliberations of the of the Fifth Ecumenical Council), and Jerome’s ‘translation’ of parts of the Peri Archon after he had turned against Origen with vituperative bile inspired by Epiphanius, as though they were unbiased, objective witnesses to the original Greek.

In the seventy-five years since initial publication, scholarly consensus regarding the reliability of Rufinus’s translation has considerably shifted (in his favour). Instructors who wanted to use Butterworth’s On First Principles found the bias governing the original presentation of the text increasingly glaring''.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Caleb Fogg » Sat Sep 03, 2016 6:17 am

Sobornost wrote:I’d just like to add that I’ve realised that Dr McClymond’s favoured secondary sources that imply Origen was influenced by the Gnostics - Jonas and Struwolf – are both dependent on Koetschau and Butterworth’s translations of the Peri Archon

In the latest critical edition of Peri Archon by John C. Cavadini gives the details -

''G.W. Butterworth’s translation of Origen’s On First Principles, originally published in 1936 and twice reprinted (1966, 1973), is the only complete English translation based on the critical edition of the text (Koetschau, 1913).

Butterworth translated the only complete attestation of the text remaining from antiquity, Rufinus’s Latin translation. But, following Koetschau’s edition, Butterworth supplemented it with translations of Greek fragments taken from various sources...

Koetschau’s presentation was predicated on a hermeneutic of thoroughgoing suspicion regarding Rufinus’s translation, alleging a systematic purge of opinions of Origen that by the late fourth century were not considered orthodox. Butterworth fully adopted, and even extended, Koetschau’s hermeneutic of suspicion, as anyone who reads his Introduction will easily discover. The average reader could miss the fact that the “Greek” columns and supplements were not taken from a continuous ancient source, but were, in effect, a running polemic against the translation of Rufinus, using texts from sources as hostile as the anathemata of Justinian (along with the anathemas appended to the deliberations of the of the Fifth Ecumenical Council), and Jerome’s ‘translation’ of parts of the Peri Archon after he had turned against Origen with vituperative bile inspired by Epiphanius, as though they were unbiased, objective witnesses to the original Greek.

In the seventy-five years since initial publication, scholarly consensus regarding the reliability of Rufinus’s translation has considerably shifted (in his favour). Instructors who wanted to use Butterworth’s On First Principles found the bias governing the original presentation of the text increasingly glaring''.


Fascinating, Dick!
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:54 am

Thanks @Caleb Fogg -

On a related point, apparently is was Eugène de Faye, in his ‘Origène’ who was one of the first to observe that Origen’s system has affinities with the Gnostic speculations of his time inasmuch as like them Origen in Peri Archon sees the drama of creation, fall and redemption in terms of a descent from Unity into division and an ascent of restoration into Unity. However, as Dr Ramelli argues – rightly I think now I know what she’s talking about – this is not evidence of Origen being influenced by the Gnostics who he disputed with. It is evidence that Origen, the Gnostics, (and Philo of Alexandria, and the pagan Platonist Celsus who Origen composed a refutation of etc..)were all arguing with each other within the parameters of the thought world of Middle Platonism where the pattern of descent and ascent were part and parcel of the discourse about cosmology – but Origen was defining an Orthodox Christian Middle Platonism against his detractors (and this of course meant discarding those parts of Plato that did not agree with Christian Revelation – one example of many is that he discarded the assertion in Plato’s dialogues that the really wicked, the murderers and the tyrants – will remain in torment in Tartarus forever).

The Gnostics taught of a series of descents from spirit into matter, to be followed at last by a restoration of the spiritual seeds/sparks imprisoned in matter to their original home. On this theme they played with all manner of mythic variations. Strutwolf – cited by McClymond - sees Origen as being influenced by the ‘Fall of the Eternities’ in the Valentian Gnostics. Jonas – again cited by McClymond – makes similar connections drawing on Butterworth’s now discredited translation as an authoritative text.

However, the Christian theology of Origen in Peri Archon, avoids this mythologizing. Yes the process of descent and ascent runs through it all. The Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal act of will. But Gnostic theories of emanation are rejected on the ground that they involve a division of the divine nature.

When Origen speak of the creation of rational beings, called either minds or souls these are definitely outside the Godhead, as the Son and Spirit are definitely within. Whereas for the Gnostics rational beings are the fallen eternities that originally existed as uncreated parts of the divine unity. And so on ....

Of course the Gnostics, as we know from the original texts now available from the Nag Hammadi library, did not teach universal restoration of souls, but only the restoration of some souls (and then this restoration was not if individuals as individuals but of individuals absorbed into the divine monad). I have recently found out that there is actually one mention of ‘apocatastasis’ in the Nag Hammadi texts –

The Gnostic Gospel of Philip 180–350c – probably a Valentian text - contains the term:

‘’There is a rebirth and an image of rebirth. It is certainly necessary to be born again through the image. Which one? Resurrection. The image must rise again through the image. The bridal chamber and the image must enter through the image into the truth: this is the restoration (apokatastasis). Not only must those who produce the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, do so, but have produced them for you. If one does not acquire them, the name ("Christian") will also be taken from him’’

Whatever this text may mean (and its exact meaning is a matter of debate) it is clear that those who do not produce/acquire the theurgic formula of the divine name will have their name taken from them. And this exclusivsm is affirmed right at the end of the Gospel:

‘’If anyone becomes a son of the bridal chamber, he will receive the light. If anyone does not receive it while he is here, he will not be able to receive it in the other place’’.

So I am now convinced that Dr McClymond is wrongly conflating a few ideas in his assertion that Gnosticism is the source of Christian Universalism:

1. Yes there are affinities between the Gnostics and Origen in the very basic pattern of descent and ascent in the cosmic drama a pattern which they share because both work within the discourse of the cosmology of Middle Platonism .

2. However, the Gnostics did not teach universal salvation – this is clear from the Nag Hammadi texts. The idea that they did teach universal salvation comes from nineteenth century scholars such as Neander used by and referred to by Hanson and the source of McClymond’s assertion about Valentinian, Basilledian and Carpocration Gnostic universalism in his review. But they made their claims in the absence of any proper evidence. We now have the evidence in the Nag Hammadi texts etc that proves them wrong. No scholar of Gnosticism today would claim that the Gnostics taught universal salvation. (I’m not sure where the nineteenth century scholars got their ideas from. I am aware that Ireanaeus in ‘Against Heresies’ claims that the Carpocrations claimed that ‘all souls will be saved’ – but no Carpocration texts have survived to corroborate this, and the original teaching (as far as I can see) may well have been that all ‘psychics’ as a class of begins will be saved rather than all individual beings.


3. Dr McClymond cites articles that draw attention to affinities/influences between Origen’s thought on cosomology in terms of descent and ascent to try and suggest that these prove that Origen got his universalism form the Gnostics – but this is a smoke screen. The articles only talk about descent from Unity and ascent to Unity as common ground and not about finding ‘Apocatastasis Panton’ - meaning the restoration of all beings - in the Gnostic scriptures (and the Williams article about Gnosticism and Determinism cited by Dr McClymond does not claim that the Gnostics were universalists – far from it)
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Mon Sep 05, 2016 7:17 am

@Jason Pratt see two posts above when you have time :-) Caleb alerted me to the Doc's review of Ramelli earlier this year. Ach I was reluctant to look and engage - but when you have tried to figure someone out in the past and spent a lot of time on it the synapses soon start clicking into place (if rather hazily at first). Anyway - from recent reading I think I'm finally beginning to understand the precise basis of the Doc's premise that Universalism came from Gnosticism - and yes it's a false correlation :-)
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:56 am

Just read them this morning, Sobor. (Note: the reason I didn't get a tag notice, is because forum names can't have spaces in them, so properly including a space between my first and last name broke the tag function.)

Looks legit, although I think I recall Dr. R saying that the term apokatastasis does show up in Gnostic texts with some regularity as a term borrowed from Platonism, although she doesn't give many examples. (There's a whole other tome coming on this topic, though!)

She definitely agrees in the Tome that the Gnostics only expected the spiritual people to be restored, and in a few cases also at least some of the soulish people (the pneumas and the psuches respectively), but not the vast majority who are only animals really. Whether the Gnostics treated the vast majority as being really people seems debatable, and one could make an argument I suppose that those Gnostics who went the distance as far as the soulish people (but not all did) might have believed that all actual persons would be restored, and so be universal salvationists of a sort in that sense. But they either didn't consider all humans were real people, or else didn't believe that all humans would be restored.

And of course their notion of restoration wasn't salvation of persons from sin as persons either, but more like a pantheistic elimination of personhood, the 'person' (however real it might or might not be as a person) being a false and tragic division of the divine monad and/or its energies.

When Dr. R quotes Irenaeus lambasting Mark the (Gnostic) Magician, Ir does seem to be quoting him that all beings (not merely all spiritual and perhaps also all soulish people) shall return to one note and one same utterance. But Ir's complaint is that this undoes creation altogether as having been an evil or a mistake, with the creation eventually ceasing to exist as such. Dr. R goes on to quote Ir somewhat extensively as teaching that God shall save and clean all reality, including all persons (or all human persons anyway, leaving aside the rebel spiritual powers), in the apokatastasis (explicitly mentioned by Ir as such) with the disappearance of all evil. Ir brings up Jonah's descent into and, repentantly, out of hell, swallowed by Satan as the great sea dragon, as a figure of the experience of all humanity since primal rebellion against God.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Geoffrey » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:40 am

If anything, then, a denial of universalism indicates a similarity on that point with the Gnostics.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:10 am

More ironically (as we've noted upthread or on one of the related threads), Calvinists like Dr. McCly have a strong relation to Gnosticism in the idea of only some people specially chosen to be saved. While Calv/Augustinian election doesn't overtly promote the idea that these are a spiritually elite minority, but rather what might as well be a random selection from God's entirely inscrutable but gracious purpose, it isn't hard to elide into having that attitude.

To be fair, Calv theologians do recognize and warn against lapsing into that attitude: on Gnostic plans (generally speaking) the idea of spiritual elitism makes inherent sense because those who shall be saved are fractions (roughly speaking) of that-which-is-God, all other reality being dross or worse. Their return to the monad divine nature is even a natural inevitability, akin to the Greco-Roman ideas of the never-ending cycle of natural development, breakdown, and recapitulation, albeit filtered through a Platonic application of such ideas (thence via early Middle Platonism). But even on Calv soteriology, there is no natural progressive necessity in the return of the elect, but rather God's gracious choice when, theoretically, He could have let them burn hopelessly (whether eternally or in annihilation) in their sins.

The assurance of Christian salvation by contrast (and this is a point relevant to us, too, since universalists per se share the Calv gospel assurance of persistence to victory) isn't a mechanical inevitability but rooted in God's personal skill and omni-capability worthy of our personal trust even when things are temporarily going badly for us (and very badly).

On the other hand, I've run across one or two Calvs before who regard the hopelessly lost as not even being really persons but only what philosophers now call philosophical zombies, indistinguishable from real people by us from our perspective but really only just fictional creations puppeted into existence by Satan, or perhaps by God to serve dramatic purposes, like non-player characters created by a game-master for players to interact with in a game. Those Calvs would actually be universalists somewhat like the sort of Gnostics mentioned above who regarded the finally lost as only animals and not really people, all real people being restored eventually. (But most Calvs realize this would make a hash of moral warnings lodged against the apparently hopelessly lost.)
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Eaglesway » Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:39 am

The assurance of Christian salvation by contrast (and this is a point relevant to us, too, since universalists per se share the Calv gospel assurance of persistence to victory) isn't a mechanical inevitability but rooted in God's personal skill and omni-capability worthy of our personal trust even when things are temporarily going badly for us (and very badly).


Amen! As well as His "eudokia" (good will/kind intention) towards all men, especially those who believe.


3 Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love,
5 having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved,
7 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,
8 in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
9 having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself,
10 in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth -- in him;
11 in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who causes all things to work according to the counsel of His will,
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:28 pm

When Dr. R quotes Irenaeus lambasting Mark the (Gnostic) Magician, Ir does seem to be quoting him that all beings (not merely all spiritual and perhaps also all soulish people) shall return to one note and one same utterance. But Ir's complaint is that this undoes creation altogether as having been an evil or a mistake, with the creation eventually ceasing to exist as such


Aha – yes thanks (I stand by the rest but nuance it all in the light of your comments Jason). Yes that’s good clarification; and the return to one note sounds like all human beings absorbed back into the monad and ceasing to exist as people.


And it’s good to know about the more extensive use of ‘Apocatastasis in the Nag Hammadi texts than the Gospel of Phillip. I have read a paper on Pagan apocatastasis by Dr Ramelli and in this she says that the apocatastasis spoken of is about the return of the philosophical soul to the monad – often envisaged as an ascent to above the stars (so Dr McClmond has a partial point but the Gnostics don’t speak about the apocatastasis panton). In this paper she said that pagan Apocatastasis panton is first found in late antiquity in the Neo-Platonist Macrobius (although the idea is certainly not found in Plotinus and his immediate followers). Macrobius thinks the idea was taught by Plato – but it was not. So she speculates that he has mistaken Plato for Origen.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Thu Sep 08, 2016 2:19 am

Well, in the Tome (during in her brief overview specifically dedicated to apokatastasis in contemporary Gnostic and Gnostic Christian writings, though she talks about them more farther on throughout the book I think), Dr. R does say they refer {ta panta} to the apokatastasis, and also... I forget the grammatic form but it's the Greek word for "the whole" which she allows means "all beings" synonymously with {ta panta} the all. But again, it's really more about everything ceasing to exist as "everything" and becoming the monad again or else going out of existence altogether.

Also, I should make a slight correction that the Gnostics regarded most people as not even having animal life! -- it was the psychic or soulish people who were basically only animals, and the Gnostic groups disputed about whether they would be annihilated or absorbed back into the monad, and whether that would be all or only some. There doesn't seem to have been any dispute about whether the less-than-animal people would be annihilated, any more than they disputed about whether any of the spiritual pneumatic people would fail to be resolved back into the monad: obviously the absolute trash wouldn't have any (Gnostic version of) salvation.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Thu Sep 08, 2016 4:47 am

OK Jason :-) - so I'll drop the 'panton' bit to make the distinction (Leibniz made it - and he's erm slightly dated :-/ :-D). Did I suggest somewhere that the psychics were not animals? We'll that was careless of me - animal means having an anima or soul. Good to talk precision with you Jason :-) :-) It's the only way I can focus on these things :-)
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Sep 12, 2016 3:02 am

No, I was the one that said the Gnostics didn't treat the psychics as animals. They did, but they had differences between themselves about whether animals could also be persons or not, which came out in their differences between whether the soulish/psychic humans could become spiritual persons or not.
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Sobornost » Mon Sep 19, 2016 2:53 am

Aha :-)
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Re: Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

Postby Origen; » Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:11 am

JasonPratt wrote:So, has Dr. McClymond's rebuttal book been published yet? He was working on that, right?


According to Amazon, "The Devil's Redemption..." will be available in April, 2018:

https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Redemptio ... 0801048567

Here is Ramelli's 890 page tome on Universalism in the early church for free reading & download:

www.faulknerfornewyork.com/library/down ... &type=full
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