« Prev III. Doctrine of Redemption and Restoration. Next »

The Doctrine of Redemption and Restoration.

In the view of Clement and Origen the proposition: “God wishes us to be saved by means of ourselves” (ὁ Θεὸς ἡμᾶς ἐξ ἡμῶν αὐτῶν βούλεται σώζεσθαι) is quite as rue as the other statement 366that no spirit can be saved without entering into fellowship with the Logos and submitting to his instruction.787787Origen again and again strongly urged the necessity of divine grace. They moreover hold that the Logos, after passing through his various stages of revealing activity (law of nature, Mosaic law), disclosed himself in the Gospel in a manner complete and accessible to all, so that this revelation imparts redemption and eternal happiness to all men, however different their capacities may be. Finally, it is assumed that not only men but all spiritual creatures, from the radiant spirits of heaven down to the dusky demons, have the capacity and need of redemption; while for the highest stage, the “spiritual Church”, there is an eternal Gospel which is related to the written one as the latter is to the law. This eternal Gospel is the first complete revelation of God’s highest intentions, and lies hidden in the Holy Scriptures.788788See on this point Bigg, pp. 207 ff., 223 f. Origen is the father of Joachim and all spiritualists. These elements compose Origen’s doctrine of revelation in general and of Christ in particular.789789See Knittel, Orig. Lehre von der Menschwerdung (Tübinger Theologische Quartalschrift, 1872). Ramers, Orig. Lehre von der Auferstehung des Fleisches, 1851. Schultz, Gottheit Christi, pp. 51-62. They presuppose the sighing of the creature and the great struggle which is more especially carried on upon earth, within the human breast, by the angels and demons, virtues and vices, knowledge and passion, that dispute the possession of man. Man must conquer and yet he cannot do so without help. But help has never been wanting. The Logos has been revealing himself from the beginning. Origen’s teaching concerning the preparatory history of redemption is founded on the doctrines of the Apologists; but with him everything takes a more vivid form, and influences on the part of the heretical Gnosis are also not lacking. Pure spirits, whom no fault of their own had caused to be invested with bodies, namely, the prophets, were sent to men by the Logos in order to support the struggling and to increase knowledge. To prepare the way of salvation the Logos chose for himself a whole people, and he revealed himself among all men. But all these undertakings did not yet lead to the goal. The Logos himself was obliged to appear and 367lead men back. But by reason of the diverse nature of the spirits, and especially of men, the redeeming work of the Logos that appeared could not fail to be a complicated one. In the case of some he had really to show them the victory over the demons and sin, a view which beyond dispute is derived from that of Valentinus. He had, as the “Godman,” to make a sacrifice which represented the expiation of sin, he had to pay a ransom which put an end to the devil’s sovereignty over men’s souls, and in short he had to bring a redemption visible and intelligible to all.790790With regard to this point we find the same explanation in Origen as in Irenæus and Tertullian, and also among the Valentinians, in so far as the latter describe the redemption necessary for the Psychici. Only, in this instance also, everything is more copious in his case, because he availed himself of the Holy Scriptures still more than these did, and because he left out no popular conception that seemed to have any moral value. Accordingly he propounded views as to the value of salvation and as to the significance of Christ’s death on the cross, with a variety and detail rivalled by no theologian before him. He was, as Bigg (p. 209 ff.) has rightly noticed, the first Church theologian after Paul’s time that gave a detailed theology of sacrifices. We may mention here the most important of his views. (1) The death on the cross along with the resurrection is to be considered as a real, recognisable victory over the demons, inasmuch as Christ (Col. II. 14) exposed the weakness of his enemies (a very frequent aspect of the matter). (2) The death on the cross is to be considered as an expiation offered to God. Here Origen argued that all sins require expiation, and, conversely, that all innocent blood has a greater or less importance according to the value of him who gives up his life. (3) In accordance with this the death of Christ has also a vicarious signification (see with regard to both these conceptions the treatise Exhort. ad martyr., as well as c. Cels. VIII. 17: I. 31; in Rom. t. III. 7, 8, Lomm. VI.; pp. 196-216 etc.). (4) The death of Christ is to be considered as a ransom paid to the devil. This view must have been widely diffused in Origen’s time; it readily suggested itself to the popular idea and was further supported by Marcionite theses. It was also accepted by Origen who united it with the notion of a deception practised on the devil, a conception first found among the Basilidians. By his successful temptation the devil acquired a right over men. This right cannot be destroyed, but only bought off. God offers the devil Christ’s soul in exchange for the souls of men. This proposal of exchange was, however, insincere, as God knew that the devil could not keep hold of Christ’s soul, because a sinless soul could not but cause him torture. The devil agreed to the bargain and was duped. Christ did not fall into the power of death and the devil, but overcame both. This theory, which Origen propounded in somewhat different fashion in different places (see Exhort. ad martyr. 12; in Matth. t. XVI. 8, Lomm. IV., p. 27; t. XII. 28, Lomm. III., p. 175; t. XIII. 8, 9, Lomm. III., pp. 224-229; in Rom. II. 13, Lomm. VI., p. 139 sq. etc.), shows in a specially clear way the conservative method of this theologian, who would not positively abandon any idea. No doubt it shows at the same time how uncertain Origen was as to the applicability of popular conceptions when he was dealing with the sphere of the Psychici. We must here remember the ancient idea that we are not bound to sincerity towards our enemies. (5) Christ, the God who became flesh, is to be considered as high priest and mediator between God and man (see de Orat. 10, 15). All the above-mentioned conceptions of Christ’s work were, moreover, worked out by Origen in such a way that his humanity and divinity are necessary inferences from them. In this case also he is characterised by the same mode of thought as Irenæus. Finally, let us remember that Origen adhered as strongly as ever to the proof from prophecy, and that he also, in not a few instances, regarded the phrase, “it is written”, as a sufficient court of appeal (see, for example, c. Cels. II. 37). Yet, on the other hand, behind all this he has a method of viewing things which considerably weakens the significance of miracles and prophecies. In general it must be said that Origen helped to drag into the Church a great many ancient (heathen) ideas about expiation and redemption, inasmuch as he everywhere found some Bible passage or other with which he associated them. While he rejected polytheism and gave little countenance to people who declared: εὐσεβέστεροί ἐσμεν καὶ Θεὸν καὶ τὰ ἄγάλματα σέβοντες (Clemens Rom., Hom. XI. 12), he had for all that a principal share in introducing the apparatus of polytheism into the Church (see also the way in which he strengthened angel and hero worship) To the rest, however, as divine teacher and hierophant 368he had to reveal the depths of knowledge, and to impart in this very process a new principle of life, so that they might now partake of his life and themselves become divine through being interwoven with the divine essence. Here, as in the former case, restoration to fellowship with God is the goal; but, as in the lower stage, this restoration is effected through faith and sure conviction of the reality of a historical fact — namely, the redeeming death of Christ, — so, in the higher stage, it is accomplished through knowledge and love, which, soaring upward beyond the Crucified One, grasp the eternal essence of the Logos, revealed to us through his teaching in the eternal Gospel.791791See above, p. 342, note 1, on the idea that Christ, the Crucified One, is of no importance to the perfect. Only the teacher is of account in this case. To Clement and Origen, however, teacher and mystagogue are as closely connected as they are to most Gnostics. Christianity is μάθησις and μυσταγωγία, and it is the one because it is the other. But in all stages Christianity has ultimately the same object, namely, to effect a reconciliation with God, and deify man. See c. Cels. III. 28: Ἀλλὰ γὰρ καὶ τὴν καταβᾶσαν εἰς ἀνθρωπίνην φύσιν καὶ εἰς ἀνθρωπίνας περιστάσεις δύναμιν, καὶ ἔναλαβοῦσαν ψυχὴν καὶ σ

VIEWNAME is workSection