I’m working on a sermon on Romans 10 this morning. I opened up Logos Bible Software – and the first thing that popped up was this little article on Origen of Alexandria.
This third century “religious fanatic” gave up his job, slept on the floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and reportedly castrated himself for the faith. He was also the most prolific scholar of his age (with hundreds of works to his credit), a first-rate Christian philosopher, and a profound student of the Bible.
Child prodigy Origen Adamantius (“man of steel”) was born near Alexandria about A.D. 185.
The oldest of seven children in a Christian home, he grew up learning the Bible and the meaning of commitment. In 202 when his father, Leonidas, was beheaded for his Christian beliefs, Origen wanted to die as a martyr, too. But his mother prevented him from even leaving the house—by hiding his clothes.
To support his family, the 18-year-old Origen opened a grammar school, copied texts, and instructed catechumens (those seeking to become members of the church). He himself studied under the pagan philosopher Ammonius Saccas in order to better defend his faith against pagan arguments. When a rich convert supplied him with secretaries, he began to write.
Galli, M., & Olsen, T. (2000). Introduction. In 131 Christians everyone should know (pp. 332–333). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westmister California. He is author of The Christian Faith and editor of Modern Reformation magazine, and co-host of the White Horse Inn. At LATC 15 he presented a wonderful paper on Atonement and Ascension – with special attention being paid to Patristic and Reformation theology.
Atonement and Ascension
Ascension is as constitutive as atonement for the redemption of humanity.
- The Ascension highlights what he has saved us for.
A Tale of Two Ascensions
- Origen’s or Irenaeus?
- Origen’s Doctrine of Ascension
- It is the ascent of mind rather than the body – this thesis is founded upon his cosmology which originates in 1st Principles
- This world was created as a “school” to gain back our “wings”
- Logos casts of his body – passes from physical to ethereal body
- To Origin – all rational creatures will be saved and restored to their original goal of contemplation of God.
- He has a tri-partite ontology: Body, Soul, Spirit
- Applies this to Scripture as well
- In Medieval Theology – the doctrine goes back and forth between internalization & marginalization
- In Renaissance – Resurgence of Platonism & Origen – Resurgence of a split between Flesh & Spirit.
- Irenaeus Doctrine of Ascension
- The body of Christ did ascend to the height above – giving to the Father his human nature as the first fruits of the resurrection of humanity. – Christ carried our flesh into heaven.
- The Reformation – critical of the Origenest trajectory. Contra the ascent of mind.
- Von Balthasar: Protestants can’t follow Irenaeus when it comes to Ascension
Recapitulation – the Two Adams
- Protestant theology reflected the Irenean concern about the redemption of the whole of human nature.
- Ireneaus – Recapitulation : Father sends son to be reunited in his workmanship…
- First covenant with Adam & Gospel covenant
- A consummation is never a return to a beginning but an entrance into a state of glory to which no human has ever known
- This is not an allegory referring to something else
- Calvin says – it is the Son’s union with us and our union with him
- Takes Adam’s place in obeying the father
- Calvin – How does Christ abolish sin? Incarnation & course of whole life lived
- Sin Calvin says does not spring from a lower faculty (the impulses of the senses)
- What Adam lost is communion with God.
- Its not just in his divinity that Christ is life-giving – in his human nature too.
- Origen concerned with ascent of mind – Ireneaus focuses on His descent to us and our ascent in Christ.
- Calvin follows Ireneaus’ emphasis on the Humanity of Christ
- The Reformed view – Christ is the mediator in accord with both natures. The exaltation is a state gained, or a reward, for his obedience.
- Christ earns his exaltation through his obedience
- B/c of this our humanity is exalted above its prior dignity.
- This exaltation does not change the divine nature as such
- Explaining away Christ’s ascension in bodily form diminishes the importance of Pentecost
- For Zwingli – omnipresence of divinity
- For Luther – omnipresence of flesh
- For Calvin – H.S. – Spirit is not the replacement for Christ but the way to Christ
Deification & Ascension
- Deification needs the Ascension
- Deification – we keep the same nature
- Renders us like unto Christ
- Contra Origenist views of deification
- Spirit lifts us up into the life of God
- Glorification & Deification are interchangeable for the Reformers.
- Glorification is our true humanization.
- Like Ireneaus – Calvin fleshes out ascent and descent in thoroughly Trinitarian terms
- Christ Descends to us
- Calvin says that there is a manner of Descent by which Christ lifts us up into himself.
- Spirit raises us up in Christ after Christ has accomplished what needed to be accomplished in our humanity
- Calvin – If we are members of Christ we must be raised to heaven
- To be made like God is not to be less human but more fully so.
- Christ is son by nature, we are sons by adoption
- The end of the gospel is to render us eventually conformable to God, and if we may speak this way to deify us.
- Though this does not mean a change in our nature – not a loss of who we are as human beings.
- Calvin is fond of the image of “ingrafting” to explain this
- To be united with Christ is to be in communion with his body. (Church)
- The mystical union is so real – Calvin can say that this is the highest honor of the church.
- Not until we are together with him is he “complete.” (Totus Christus)
- Day by day Christ grows into one body with us until he becomes one with us.
- The identification of the ascension and resurrection of the dead (i.e. us) into one event.
- This follows from the fleshly ascension of the resurrected Christ
- Contra Von Balthasar – Protestant theology can indeed follow Irenaeus on ascension.
- The ascension forces us to lay our metaphysical cards on the table.
- With the asecntion it is not only God with us and God for us but us with God.
Ben Myers recently wrote a blog post on Origen and the problem of writing, Origen and the problem of writing, within the post he quotes Origen’s stance on apologetics….
When Origen was asked to respond to Celsus, a pagan writer who had attacked Christianity in a book called True Doctrine, Origen observed that a written response was not really appropriate for the Christian faith. “Now Jesus is always being falsely accused,” Origen says in the preface to Contra Celsum. “He is still silent in face of this and does not answer with his voice; but he makes his defence in the lives of his genuine disciples, for their lives cry out the real facts and defeat all false charges.” The only real apologetics is the life of Christ’s followers, not written arguments. Indeed Origen suggests that producing a written defence of the faith might actually diminish the vitality of the Christian community: “I would therefore go so far as to say that the defence which you ask me to compose will weaken the force of the defence that is in the mere facts, and detract from the power of Jesus.“
Do you agree with Origen?