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Origen of Alexandria and UniversalismMay 5, 2009
Is it true that most of the early "Christian" schools in the first several centuries taught universal salvation? I don't believe in universal salvation, but how could so many schools claiming to be Christian believe in that? It just doesn`t make sense to me.
...which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.Origen was trying to present how this could happen - he speculated that perhaps after eons and eons even Satan himself might be saved,
who are called the devil and his angels....after having undergone heavier and severer punishments...improved by this stern method of training, and [are] restored...and thus advancing through each stage to a better condition, reach even to that which is invisible and eternal... - De Prin. I.6.3
I initially had quotation marks around the "eons and eons" sentence above. This was not accurate. This statement comes from De.Prin. I.6.3 which I cite below with several elipses. Origen typically does not say things in short, concise statements which is probably another reason for the controversies!This was one of several things Origen writes in this particular work that caused a firestorm in Christian history. It is difficult to stress how much conflict the writings of Origen, and this one in particular, caused. Origen was seen as a theological giant and a very godly man. If you read much about church history you will see references to "the Origenist controversy."
Church leaders argued against each other with great passion, even calling one another "heretics." Jerome and his good Rufinus parted ways, theologically and physically, mainly over their positions on the writing of Origen. There were several controversial issues within Origens writings, but perhaps none caused as much conflict as his speculations on "all" being saved.
It is VERY important to remember when criticizing Origen that he says in the preface of "First Principles" that he would be presenting many arguments in the work - some of which he believed, but were not written down prior to his time. He went on to say that simple believers should not even read this work due to the controversial nature of his discussion. The work was written for theology/philosophy students to encourage thoughtful debate. WELL, he got debate!
It is also important to know that the answer to your question is "No." The belief in universalism was NOT widespread at all in the early church, nor has it ever been a widely held belief. It is, however, a belief that has been gaining ground for the past 100 years.
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