Saint to Heretic to Saint Again…..

With this post I will begin looking at some of the early church leaders.  We will start with Origen.

Here a quote from another Diana Butler Bass book. This one is entitled A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story

While Tertullian emphasized the negative aspects of the military to Christian discipleship, Origen pointed out the positive vision of a life of Christian peacemaking. He criticized the army as a society of “professional violence,” pointing out that Jesus forbids any kind of violence or vengeance against another. “We will not raise arms against any other nation, we will not practice the art of war,” he wrote, “because through Jesus Christ we have become the children of peace.” To him the spiritual life means rejecting all forms of violence, an “absolute pacifism.”

Origen lived between 185 – 254AD. He was considered one of the most distinguished writer of the early church. One of his beliefs was in the pre-existence of souls and universal reconciliation. That is he believed that all our souls have been in existence just waiting for our time on earth. He also believed that because God loves all of mankind and wishes all of them to be saved that he will indeed bring all souls back to him. Origen was not the first prominent person in the church to believe this as Clement of Alexandria, whom we will be studying soon was also in the group.  When Constantine era bishops took power this is one the ideas that they rejected. They therefore deemed Origen a heretic. But today he is again generally regarded as one of the Church Fathers by the Catholic church.

Origen also believed that there was just too much inconsistencies within the documents that made up the then bible for it to be taken literally. He believed that it was necessary to gather all of the existing copies of many documents in order to try to discern just what the original writer intended. This included many of the document that later made up the “official bible”.

Origen’s views of the Trinity were also contrary to later authors. He saw the Son of God as subordinate to God the Father and not as an equal. This later became a common view of many of the “ante-Nicene Fathers” For this and many other beliefs that were later purged in the post-Constantine church where he was deemed a heretic but fortunately, unlike many declared heretics that followed him, some of his writings survived the purge to be included in church history.

Here are some additional comments made about him in Wikipedia:

Origen was born in Alexandria to Christian parents. He was educated by his father, Leonides of Alexandria, who gave him a standard Hellenistic education, but also had him study the Christian Scriptures. Name of his mother is unknown.

In 202, Origen’s father was martyred in the outbreak of the persecution during the reign of Septimius Severus. A story reported by Eusebius has it that Origen wished to follow him in martyrdom, but was prevented only by his mother hiding his clothes…

Eusebius reported that Origen, following Matthew 19:12 literally, castrated himself. This story was accepted during the Middle Ages.  Scholars within the past century however have questioned this, surmising that this may have been a rumor circulated by his detractors.

As you can see from this commentary Origen held many beliefs that are not part of the “official” beliefs of the current day church. But it was not until the purges of the post-Nicene period that he posthumously felt the sting of the “church”. To end this post Origen was one of those mentioned previously who was a  Saint then a Heretic and then a Saint again.

Church history is messy indeed….

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