Lesser of Two Evils and
Making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good
Sometimes we must recognize that we cannot attain the ideal. It is often the case that attempting to attain the unobtainable perfection can lead to the loss of the attainable good. Here are a few examples which might belong to this category.
1- Our idealized goal is to produce no pollution, radioactive or otherwise, so we oppose nuclear power plants. The ideal is to rely solely on renewable energy sources. However, it may prove impossible to achieve sufficient power generation in the foreseeable future without nuclear power. If we are faced with the choice between coal and nuclear, we may well find the continued construction of coal power plants unjustifiable. The carbon output, air pollution, and heavy metal contamination are probably a greater risk to human well-being than are the risks of nuclear power. Our true ideal is to use the appropriate technology for any given situation; sometimes human or animal power is the ideal, especially in terms of transportation and certain rural applications.
2- Our ideal is to fully protect our wild land and aquatic preserves, including their natural beauty. Nevertheless, it may be necessary at times to use some protected areas for energy production. To deploy solar, wind, and wave energy technologies in certain protected areas may prove a better option than resorting to drilling for oil, for example. In fact, certain protected areas are sufficiently remote that with effective power transmission lines, very few people would ever see the wind or solar technology. It could be argued that to place such technologies on unprotected areas with far greater human population density would cause a far greater effective harm to the natural beauty of our planet.
3- Our ideal is a world free of violence and injustice. However, it is apparent that it is sometimes necessary to employ violence in order to prevent a greater loss of life. In most cases, the best tool for a just use of violence is an international forum such as the United Nations. Regarding the UN, we also have an ideal, perhaps unattainable, of a truly neutral body, on its own sovereign soil, with its own airport, free from interference by any of its member states. Our perhaps more realistic goal is to push for major reform in the UN. Veto power should be replaced by supermajority votes, and the relative weight of a nation’s vote should be based solely on population.
4- The ideal is a one-state solution in Palestine, with full democratic freedom and justice for all citizens, regardless of background. In reality, that seems beyond the realm of possibility. So we are left with the prompt creation of a Palestinian State. Only then can anything approaching justice take root in this cherished land.
Rightly dividing the Word
Let us believe all Scripture, putting each truth in its proper place and not pitting one truth against another.
Some, generally termed “Calvinists”, rightly insist on the clear truth that those who are saved in the oncoming eons are chosen beforehand for this gift by God. Yet they err in assuming that those not so chosen will never be saved, for He wills that all mankind be saved and come into knowledge of the truth. 1Tim. 2:4.
Others, generally termed “Arminians”, rightly insist that Christ died for the sake of all mankind. However, they hold the mistaken concept often referred to as “free will”. Because of this concept, they claim that only a few will be saved, the majority rejecting God’s “offer”. The Bible teaches that all mankind will one day be reconciled and constituted just. This will be accomplished in the grace of God through the blood of the Son of His love. Colossians 1:20. The Bible teaches clearly that “the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” This cannot be true if free will exists, for by definition, “free will” cannot be forecast, but depends on each individual, being a chance event. However, there is only one basis for salvation- God’s choice and the sacrifice of Christ, Who was “given up in the specific counsel and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23. Foreknowledge and predestination are scriptural concepts; “free will” is based on human inferences from certain Scriptures. We should not be disposed above what is written. 1Cor. 4:6.
Sin, death and judgment all serve their purpose during the eons. Once their function in contrasting with the righteousness and love of God are fulfilled, they will be abolished.
“Wherefore, also, God highly exalts Him, and graces Him with the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should be bowing, celestial and terrestrial and subterranean, and every tongue should be acclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God, the Father. Phil 2:9-11. Notice that this will occur in the context of grace, in the name of Jesus (meaning “Yahweh saves” –Matt. 1:21). This acclamation on the part of every intelligent creature will be for the glory of the Father, for His family will include each one, without exception, for no purpose of His can be thwarted.
To seek and to save all
“What are you supposing? If it should be occurring to any man, with a hundred sheep, that even one of them should be led astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine sheep on the mountains, and go back and seek the one which is straying? And if he should come to find it, verily, I am saying to you that he is rejoicing over it, rather than over the ninety-nine that have not strayed. Thus is it not the will of your Father Who is in the heavens that one of these little ones should be perishing.” Matt. 18:12-14. “…from the beginning is the Adversary sinning. For this was the Son of God manifested, that He should be annulling the acts of the Adversary.” 1Jn. 3:8. Christ will nullify every evil act of the Adversary, including his sin in the Garden of Eden, which brought death and sin upon all mankind. Christ’s words to Satan had meaning for Him in His time of trial. Matt 4:10. Jesus’ words are also prophetic, for Satan will not always be known by that name. He will be worshipping the Lord his God and to Him only will he be offering divine service. He is included in the “all” of Colossians 1:20 and Philippians 2:9-11. The one now constituted as an adversary to God and righteousness will one day find his head in Christ and then he will find his Creator to be a loving Father. Ephesians 1:10; 1Cor. 15:20-28. God’s word repeatedly mentions Christ as seated at the Father’s right hand until all His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. Ps. 110:1,2; Heb. 1:13; 10:12,13; Eph. 1:20-23; Acts 2:34,35; Mk. 12:36; Lk. 20:42,43. 1 Corinthians 15 makes clear that each one that is subjected to Christ will then find their all in God, so it is evident that they will no longer be enemies, but loving children. It is impossible that the subjection of those at enmity with God involve mere intimidation, rather than loving submission. There is no distinction made between the subjection of those presently opposed to God and the subjection of Christ to His Father. No one is able to say (sincerely) “Jesus is Lord” except by Holy Spirit. 1Cor. 12:3. This makes Philippians 2:9-11 clear, as does vs. 13 “for it is God who is operating in you to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight.” God is supreme. When He makes Christ “choice” to anyone who’s lost, that one then chooses Christ, which is the same as saying that the lost one is found.
Colossians 1:20 is speaking of the same reconciliation as in vs. 22. To say one is genuine and one is not is not only to make unfounded assumptions, but to deny the clear fact that “where sin increases, grace superexceeds” Romans 5:20. God commands us to conquer evil with good. Romans 12:21. We err greatly if we assume that He is unable to do the same. God is love, so we know He’s willing. He gives repentance to whomever he chooses, when it will best suit His loving purpose. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2Tim. 2:25. Being that God subjected the creation to vanity (Romans 8:20), we cannot doubt that He will bring good out of all that which afflicts and perplexes us presently. “For the Son of Mankind came to seek and to save the lost.” Lk. 19:9. In the Bible and elsewhere, the word “many” indicates a large number of whatever or whoever the subject might be. “Many” may or may not be all, and “all” may or may not be many. The word “all” means every one of the subject in question- none excepted. Jesus clearly stated, “And I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to Myself.” Jn. 12:32. There was no doubt He would be lifted up in crucifixion, so neither was there any doubt He would draw all to Himself. Millions if not billions of those who have died never once heard of His death on their behalf. These are amongst those who have yet to be drawn to Christ. Because He died for all, all were justified. 2Cor. 5:14,15; Ro. 4:25. All humanity was in Adam’s loins when he was created. It is equally true that all humanity was in Christ when He was created, far before the earth came into being. So we can say that for God, Who sees the end from the beginning, mankind was redeemed before we were lost. Indeed, to assume as so many proponents of religion do, that the majority of humanity are doomed to extinction or far worse, eternal torture (for that is what the “orthodox” theories amount to), is to accept the proposal that an infinite, all-knowing God made most of us for the express purpose of being examples of the power of evil to thwart His righteous desire. And we who are Christians are likewise forced to accept the incredible theory that even if not one human ever “accepted salvation”, Christ would nevertheless remain “the Savior of all mankind”, simply because everyone had “a chance to be saved”!
Vanity now- freedom then
“Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying.” Ro. 5:18. Adam’s sin brought the condemnation of mortality and sin upon us all. This is not something we have the ability to alter. Nor can we change this: all mankind is justified (declared righteous) through one just award. This is “the gratuity in grace which is of the One Man, Jesus Christ.” Vs. 15. “For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just.” Ro. 5:19. Paul’s first point is that the one act of the one man affects all mankind- “the many”. The effect is to be constituted sinners. Likewise, his second point is that the one act of Christ of accepting crucifixion affects all mankind- “the many”. The effect is to be constituted just. Jn. 10:18. So the first Adam brings dying, the second Adam immortal life. “For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified.” 1Cor. 15:22. Whatever Adam lost through sinning will be more than recovered by Christ- this is not “repair to original factory condition”; this is benefit which “superabounds” vs. 15. “Where sin increases, grace superexceeds” vs. 20. “The sufferings of the current era do not deserve the glory about to be revealed for us.” Ro. 8:18. Deserve- “ax’ion”- WORTHY- measuring up to requirements. It is the nature of the case that since God’s grace through Christ superexceeds, the permanent benefits far outweigh the temporary cost. Not only does God overcome evil with good, He transforms evil into good. The best example of this is the crucifixion of Christ. That was the most wonderfully significant moment of all time.
The Three Classes of Vivification, encompassing all humanity
(mortality becomes immortality)
1Corinthians 15: "22 For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified. 23 Yet each in his own class: the Firstfruit, Christ; thereupon* those who are Christ's in His presence (Second Coming); 24 thereafter* the consummation (of vivification), whenever He may be giving up the kingdom to His God and Father, whenever He should be nullifying all sovereignty and all authority and power. 25 For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy is being abolished: death. (by the resurrection and vivification of all who remain in death’s clutches) 27 For He subjects all under His feet. Now whenever He may be saying that all is subject, it is evident that it is outside of Him Who subjects all to Him. 28 Now, whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all." (*1Cor 15:7: "Thereupon He was seen by James, thereafter by all the apostles.")
Yearning for the solution- loving His advent
“…Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death. For me to be living is Christ, and to be dying, gain. Now if it is to be living in flesh, this to me means fruit from work*, and what I shall be preferring I am not making known. (Yet I am being pressed out of the two, having a yearning for the solution and to be together with Christ, for it, rather, is much better.) *Yet to be staying in the flesh is more necessary because of you.” Phil. 1:20-24. For the believer to be dying is gain in the sense that he no longer suffers, and since there is no consciousness in death, he will find himself in Christ’s presence the next instant (as to his experience). The “solution” Paul speaks of is detailed in 1Thes. 4:17: “Thereupon we, the living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them (those resurrected) in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be together with the Lord.” Paul’s yearning for the solution is the same thing as loving His advent. The same lesson is found in 2Cor. 5:2-4: “For in this also are we groaning, longing to be dressed in our habitation which is out of heaven, if so be that, being dressed also, we shall not be found naked* (*dead). For we also, who are in the tabernacle, are groaning, being burdened, on which we are not wanting to be stripped*, but to be dressed, that the mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (that is, that the mortal may become immortal, or be vivified)
All who love Christ’s return will be paid the wreath of righteousness. 2Tim. 4:8. (Verse 9 shows a contrary case.) The wreath of righteousness is a reward that some believers will receive, whereas faith and eonian life are gifts. “…the expectation of salvation, for God did not appoint us to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for our sakes, that whether we may be watching or drowsing, we should be living at the same time together with Him.” 1Thes. 5:8-10. While Paul urges us not to be drowsing (vs. 6), our salvation is not a matter of chance, nor is there any risk of losing it. He urges us to be watching, which is doubtless the same as loving His advent. Those whose walk lacks faithfulness will forfeit certain rewards; God's gifts, however, cannot be lost.
1Cor 15:50-56: “Now this I am averring, brethren, that flesh and blood is not able to enjoy an allotment in the kingdom of God, neither is corruption enjoying the allotment of incorruption. Lo! A secret am I telling! We all, indeed, shall not be put to repose, yet we all shall be changed, in an instant, in the twinkle of an eye, at the last trump. For He will be trumpeting, and the dead will be roused incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality. Now, whenever this corruptible should be putting on incorruption and this mortal should be putting in immortality, then shall come to pass the word which is written, Swallowed up was Death by Victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting? Now the sting of Death is sin…” Death is the last enemy to be abolished. It is swallowed up by victory when the dead are raised incorruptible (immortal), or when those alive but mortal (“the dying”) are made incorruptible. “Being, then, courageous always, and aware that, being at home in the body, we are away from home from the Lord (for by faith are we walking, not by perception), yet we are encouraged, and are delighting rather to be away from home out of the body and to be at home with the Lord. Wherefore we are ambitious also, whether at home or away from home to be well pleasing to Him.” 2Cor. 5:6-9. To be “at home with the Lord” is the same as “having a building of God, a house not made by hands, eonian, in the heavens”, after our “terrestrial tabernacle house should be demolished”. Vs 1,2. The condition of death is called “the unseen” (had’es- UN-PERCIEVED). Although a person may be dead for thousands of years, since he has no consciousness, he detects no time passing between the moment of his death and the moment of his resurrection. Our hope and expectation is not in death, but in immortality. “…anticipating that happy expectation, even the advent of the glory of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ” Titus 2:13.
Predictive prophecy and the fallacy of total freedom
The sheer existence of prophecy constitutes absolute proof that the events it predicts will be caused to happen. For events without a cause would be unpredictable, and our subject is predictive prophecy.
Events that shall and must take place can never be events of free will. Events of free will, according to their supposed nature, never have to occur, and it can never be said that one day they will happen, for there is always a “chance” they will not! In the nature of things, they would be absolutely unpredictable, even by God Himself.
By itself, therefore, prophecy constitutes a complete disproof of the theory of human free will. Furthermore, all prophetic events are connected with countless other events upon which they depend for their existence. And these events as well are themselves dependent upon countless antecedent events for their own existence, and so forth. This is true of all things, throughout all time, “up to the fountain, God,” Who alone is self-existent.
To say that the foreknowledge of an event is certain and infallible and yet the foreknown event itself is quite uncertain and may therefore never occur, is completely unsound. For if the event that is foreknown to occur does not occur, the foreknowledge is not foreknowledge.
No clear mind can understand the nature of both free will and foreknowledge and believe them both. The whole subject is really quite simple: According to the fundamental claims of its own advocates, events of “free will” never have to occur. And yet, foreknown and prophesied events always have to occur. These concepts are mutually exclusive. The latter one is scriptural: consequently, the former must be mythical. And men have been turned aside to myths (2Tim. 4:4). “As to the faith, they swerve” (1Tim. 6:21). Yet we are not to be heeding myths (1Tim. 1:4).
The question is this: Does God operate all (Eph. 1:11)? Or, absolutely speaking, Is there any other God (or Placer) except One, “the Father, out of Whom all is” (1Cor. 8:4-6)? Our difficulties with Predestination arise from an unwillingness to acknowledge ourselves to be wholly at the disposal of Another. We wish to be at our own disposal. We wish ‘to belong to ourselves’, and we resent belonging, especially absolutely, to anybody else, even if that anybody else is God. We are in the mood of the singer of the hymn beginning, ‘I was a wandering sheep,’ when he declares of himself, ‘I would not be controlled.’ We will not be controlled. Or, rather, to speak more accurately, we will not admit that we are controlled. For we are controlled, whether we admit it or not. To imagine we are not controlled is to imagine there is no God (no Placer). For when we say God, we say control. If a single creature that God has made has escaped beyond His control, at the moment he has done so he has abolished God. A God who could or would make a creature that He could not or would not control, is no God. The moment He should make such a creature he would, of course, abdicate his throne. The universe he had created would have ceased to be his universe; or rather, it would cease to exist- for the universe is held together only by the control of God.
What is grace?
Many, Christians and others, recognize that their salvation is by grace, but they hold many differing and contradictory definitions for grace. The definition of a word should distinguish it from other words and be true in every case where the word is used. To claim that a word can mean two completely different things is to make true communication impossible. In a similar way, the translation of any word in the Bible should be consistent, as far as readability allows. The meaning of each word in the original language is determined through several means, but the meaning must fit every usage of that word in the Bible. Because each language is different in several ways, including grammar and irregularities, it is impossible to make a word for word translation which is readily understandable, but consistency is the ideal, and no word should be translated in a way which fundamentally changes the meaning.
“Grace” is “char’is” in Greek, meaning “joy”. It is something which brings happiness, sometimes better rendered “favor” in English. Jesus received God’s grace- Lk. 2:40. However, it is evident from the many verses relating to mankind as presently constituted (sinners), that grace is an undeserved benefit in our case. Romans 11:6 shows a clear distinction: “Now if it is in grace, it is no longer out of works, else the grace is coming to be no longer grace. Now, if it is out of works, it is no longer grace, else the work is no longer work.” Nothing is received by sinful man based on both our acts and grace- it has to ultimately be based on one or the other, because it is impossible for something to be based on both. Even the rewards spoken of for faithfulness, are based on grace, for we can not even so much as seek God of ourselves, much less do truly righteous deeds. Ro. 3:11,12; Eph. 2:8-10. “Now to the worker, the wage is not reckoned as a favor (grace), but as a debt. Yet to him who is not working, yet is believing on Him Who is justifying the irreverent, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.” “Therefore it is of faith that it may accord with grace...” Ro. 4:4,16. It is ideal to believe what God says, but to make faith spiritual currency with which we obtain His favor is to pervert the truth that we are “being justified gratuitously in His grace” Ro. 3:24. Here Paul is putting additional emphasis on the fact that our salvation is based solely on God’s choice. Ro. 11:5; 9:11,12; 2Thes. 2:13. The definition of “gratuitously” is “without a cause”, or “undeservedly”. “I am not repudiating the grace of God, for if righteousness is through law (or any human action or response), consequently Christ died gratuitously.” Gal. 2:21. Jesus said, “…Yet now they have seen also, and they have hated Me as well as My Father, but it is that the word written in their law may be fulfilled, that they hate Me gratuitously.” Jn. 15:24,25.
Luke 6:32-35 is another wonderful example of char’is (thanks or grace)- grace is not given in response to human cooperation; grace brings about a response on the part of the recipient, but the grace saves, not the response. God saves us freely, for the gratuity in grace to all mankind superabounds! Romans 5:15.
Romans 3 reveals the true condition of every human being; hopeless, helpless and doomed in and of themselves; 10 according as it is written, that "Not one is just"--not even one. 11 Not one is understanding. Not one is seeking out God. 12 "All avoid Him: at the same time they were useless. Not one is doing kindness: there is not even one!" 13 "A sepulcher opened is their throat. With their tongues they defraud." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 Whose mouth with imprecation and bitterness is crammed. 15 Sharp are their feet to shed blood. 16 "Bruises and wretchedness are in their ways, 17 And the way of peace they do not know." 18 There is no fear of God in front of their eyes.
Because of our sinfulness, we can contribute nothing to our salvation, and none of us deserves salvation, but we all need the Savior. That is why God will reconcile all (Col 1:20). The same basic Greek word for ‘all’ is used in Colossians 1 in verses 16 through 20, and the meaning is clear: ‘all’ means every single one, none excepted. 1Cor 15: 22 For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified. Romans 5: 15 But not as the offense, thus also the grace. For if, by the offense of the one, the many died, much rather the grace of God and the gratuity in grace, which is of the One Man, Jesus Christ, to the many superabounds. God will more than restore the damage caused by sin. Satan cannot defeat His plan. Christ will gloriously triumph!
“….the famous Clement of Alexandria, [150-220 A.D.], head of the catechetical school there….perhaps may be called the founder of a Christian philosophy….he speaks of having learned from a disciple of the Apostles…I proceed to quote: “All men are Christ’s, some by knowing Him, the rest not yet.” “He by the Father’s will directs the salvation of all.”” –Christ Triumphant, by Thomas Allin.
Following are some quotes from Universalism the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During its First Five Hundred Years, by J. W. Hanson, 1899:
“Clement distinctly shows that the perversion of the truth so long taught, that the coming of Christ placated the Father, had no place in primitive Christianity. He says: God is good on His own account, and just also on ours, and He is just because He is good….for before He became Creator He was God. He was good. And therefore He wished to be Creator and Father. And the nature of that love was the source of righteousness, the cause too of His lighting up His sun, and sending down His own Son….The feeling of anger (if it is proper to call His admonition anger) is full of love to man, God condescending to emotion on man’s account, etc.
He represents that God is never angry; He hates sin with an unlimited hatred, but loves the sinner with illimitable love. His omnipotence is directed by omniscience and can and will overcome all evil and transform it to good. His threats and punishments have but one purpose, and that the good of the punished. Hereafter those who have here remained obdurate will be chastened until converted. Man’s freedom will never be lost and ultimately it will be converted in the last and wickedest sinner.”
“….Clement….avers when setting forth the Christian religion that he is ‘reproducing an original, unwritten tradition’ which he learned from a disciple of the apostles.”
“…the atonement was not the pacification of wrath, but the revelation of God’s eternal mercy.”
“….that souls may be purified beyond the grave.”
“This greatest of all Christian apologists and exegetes, and the first man in Christendom since Paul, was a distinctive Universalist. He could not have misunderstood or misinterpreted the teachings of his Master. The language of the New Testament was his mother tongue. He derived the teachings of Christ from Christ himself in a direct line through his teacher Clement; and he placed the defense of Christianity on Universalist grounds. When Celsus, in his “True Discourse”, the first great assault on Christianity, objected to Christianity on the ground that it taught punishment by fire, Origen replied that the threatened fire possessed a disciplinary, purifying quality that will consume in the sinner whatever evil material it can find to consume….God will act the part….Origen says, “not like a cook but like a God who is a benefactor of those who stand in need of discipline of fire.””
“The first system of Christian Theology ever framed- let it never be forgotten- was published by Origen, A.D. 230, and it declared universal restoration as the issue of the divine government; so that this eminent Universalist has the grand pre-eminence of being not only the founder of scientific Christian theology, but also the first defender of the Christian religion against its assailants. “De Principis” is a profound book, a fundamental and essential element of which is the doctrine of the universal restoration of all fallen beings to their original holiness and union with God.”
“(Quoting Origen) “Let us see now what is the freedom of the creature, or the termination of its bondage. When Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, then also those living things, when they shall have first been made the kingdom of Christ, shall be delivered, along with the whole of that kingdom, to the rule of the Father, that when God shall be all in all, they also, since they are a part of all things, may have God in themselves, as He is in all things.” Origen regarded the application to punishment of the word aionios, mistranslated everlasting, as in perfect harmony with this view, saying that the punishment of sin, “though ‘aionion’, is not endless.””
“Origen argues that God must be passionless because unchanging. Wrath, hatred, repentance, are ascribed to Him in the Bible because human infirmities require such a presentation. Punishment results from sin as a legitimate consequence, and is not God’s direct work. In the Restitution God’s wrath will not be spoken of. God really has but one passion- Love. All He does illustrates some phase of this divine emotion. He declares that with God the one fixed point is the End, when God shall be all in all. All intelligent work has a perfect end. Of Col. 1:20 and Heb. 2:19, he says: Christ is “the Great High Priest, not only for man but for every rational creature.” In his homilies on Ezekiel, he says: “If it had not been conductive to the conversion of sinners to employ suffering, never would a compassionate and benevolent God have inflicted punishment.” Love, which “never faileth”, will preserve the whole creation from all possibility of further fall; and “God will be all in all,” forever.”
“The Encyclopedia Britannica, article Origen, (Prof. Adolf Harnack), voices the conclusions of the scholarly world: “Of all the theologians of the ancient church, with the possible exception of Augustine, Origen is the most distinguished and the most influential. He is the father of the church’s science; he is the founder of a theology which was brought to perfection in the Forth and Fifth Centuries, and which still retained the stamp of his genius when in the Sixth Century it disowned its author. It was Origen who created the dogmatic of the church and laid the foundations of the scientific criticism of the Old and New Testaments. He could not have been what he was unless two generations before him had labored at the problem of finding an intellectual expression and a philosophic basis for Christianity: (Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Pant’nus, Clement). But their attempts, in comparison with his, are like a schoolboy’s essays besides the finished work of a master…. By proclaiming the reconciliation of science with the Christian faith, of the highest culture with the Gospel, Origen did more than any other man to win the Old World to the Christian religion. But he entered into no diplomatic compromises; it was his deepest and most solemn conviction that the sacred oracles of Christendom embraced all the ideals of antiquity. His character was as transparent as his life was blameless; there are few church fathers whose biographies leave so pure an impression on the reader. The atmosphere around him was a dangerous one for a philosopher and theologian to breathe but he kept his spiritual health unimpaired and even his sense of truth suffered less injury than was the case with most of his contemporaries…. Orthodox theology has never, in any of these confessions, ventured beyond the circle which the mind of Origen first measured out.””
“Hippolytus (about A.D. 220) enumerates and comments on thirty-two heresies, but universal restoration is not named among them. And yet, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen- then living- were everywhere regarded as the great teachers of the church, and their view of man’s future destiny was generally prevalent, according to Augustine, Jerome and others. It could not then have been regarded as a “heresy” or Hippolytus would have named it. What a force there is in fact that not one of those who wrote against the heresies of their times ever named universal salvation as one of them! Hippolytus mentions thirty-two. Epiphanius wrote his Panarion and epitomizes it in his Anacephal’osis or Recapitulation, but not one of the heresy-hunters includes our faith in his maledictions. Could there be stronger evidence than this fact that the doctrine was not then heretical?”
“Origen during his lifetime was never opposed for his Universalism…. After his death…. Pamphillus and Eusebius (A.D. 310) defended him against nine charges that had been brought against his views, but his Universalism was not among them”
“Rufinus, A.D. 345-410, wrote an elaborate defense of Origen, and in the preface to “De Principis” he declares that he excised from that work of Origen “all that was discordant with our (the accepted Christian) belief.” As the work still abounds in expressions of Universalism, not only his sympathy with that belief, but also the fact that it was then the prevailing Christian belief can not be questioned.”
“Prayers for the dead were universal in the early church, which would be absurd, if their condition is unalterably fixed at the grave.”
“With the exception of Augustine, the doctrine which had been constantly advocated, often by the most eminent, did not evoke a frown of opposition from any prominent scholar or saint.”
Based on the above books, there were at least six theological schools in the early centuries of Christianity, of which four were in favor of the doctrine of universal reconciliation. Only one school taught endless punishment, a doctrine derived by Latins from misunderstanding a foreign language and infusing the virus of Roman secularism into the simplicity of Christianity. Some of the other prominent Universalists of the early ecclesia were Athanasius, Ambrose, Basil the Great, Gregory Nyssen, and Chrysostom. While Epiphanius, about 400 A.D., condemned Origen’s teaching on the salvation of the Devil and the subordination of Christ to God, it apparently wasn’t until A.D. 544 that a church council condemned some of Origen’s theology. There is no clear evidence his Universalism was ever specifically and officially condemned. This is not to say that Origen never suffered persecution for his Universalism- such mistreatment has been received by many ever since and will doubtless continue for some time. One of the best things I can say about the Seventh-day Adventist Church is that they consistently teach that freedom of religion is essential for all mankind. This requires balancing the rights to evangelize, to convert, and to retain one’s ancestral beliefs.
Recommended reading: People of the Lie, by M. Scott Peck