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Author Topic: universalism/Rob Bell  (Read 847 times) Average Rating: 0
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nrse
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« on: August 04, 2011, 06:58:30 AM »

a newer, younger "brand" of evangelicalism has been labeled "the emergent church"...one of its most popular pastors is Rob Bell, who pastors a mega church in MIchigan, i think maybe Saginaw or that general area....he is a prolific writer...early on he produced some thought provoking videos that we played for the youth group and i was favorably impressed (this is when i attended and helped with the youth group at an Assembly of God Church)...now i am not so sure...

his latest book is making waves...it is titled "Love Wins"....you can bring it up on Amazon and read several pages to get a feel for it....i do not trust my theological backround to get the book and properly assess it....(thank our God for the Church to direct us in these matters!)

i believe it may just be bringing up an old train of thought called "universalism"...the questions Rob Bell brings up are questions all of us have pondered if we have done any thinking at all....

how do the Fathers weigh in on them? What does the Church say?

thanks, Georgiana

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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2011, 07:11:51 AM »

I know i dont have any info that you asked for pacifically but what i have IS relavent.

I listened to a debate with him Rob Bell, defending his book http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable here, if you look down the side pictures the podcast is #1

He was rubbish at his points, evasive and generally defensive and i didn't like what he said i think hes a scary bloke with agenda that hes not being honest about. It was a bit annoying that the host of the debate was a bit of a suck up to Mr Bell which was obvious. But the debate was worth listening to.
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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2011, 07:52:57 AM »

Here's a recent thread on him. http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,34122.0.html

As for universalism, it was once popular in the theology schools of Antioch and St. Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist. But like with premillennialism (known as chiliasm back then), the Church eventually decided to condemn it.

There is however a line of thought, possibly represented by St. Maximus the Confessor, that one may hope that somehow God will eventually save all without stating He absolutely will.
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« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2011, 08:26:47 AM »

Here's a recent thread on him. http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,34122.0.html

As for universalism, it was once popular in the theology schools of Antioch and St. Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist. But like with premillennialism (known as chiliasm back then), the Church eventually decided to condemn it.

There is however a line of thought, possibly represented by St. Maximus the Confessor, that one may hope that somehow God will eventually save all without stating He absolutely will.
The Church, at council, condemned apokatastasis, but not universalism.
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« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2011, 09:07:51 AM »

What's the difference?
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« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2011, 09:56:16 AM »

Apocatastasis is the doctrine that all good and evil will ultimately end up in harmony with God and is related to the universalist teaching that all will be saved but it's not the same thing.

wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocatastasis
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« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2011, 10:36:39 AM »

NRSE, you may find of interest this essay by Met Kallistos Ware:  "Dare we Hope for the Salvation of All?" in *The Inner Kingdom*.
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« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2011, 10:50:54 AM »

St. Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist.

Fwiw, this has been challenged by some, such as Met. Hierotheos.
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« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2011, 11:20:46 AM »

What's the difference?
Apokatastasis is the return to one's previous condition.

Since the previous (pre-conception) condition of each soul, in orthodox Christianity, is nothingness, apokatastasis would be a return to non-existence.

In the theology of the Origenists, the pre-conception condition of the soul was communion with God; thus, for Origenists, apokatastasis would be a return to that primal communion with God.

Council condemned the Origenist idea of apokatastasis, in part because of the un-orthodox idea of pre-existence of the soul.

Council did not condemn the idea that each soul, being created ex nihilo, may be saved, that each soul, created ex nihilo, may more and more fully enter into theosis.
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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2011, 11:29:45 AM »

Does St. Paul's statment (1st Timothy 4:10),"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men,specially of those that believe." (KJV) have any bearing to those who consider universalism?
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« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2011, 11:34:34 AM »

For an overview of eschatology in the patristic period, see Brian E. Daley, The Hope of the Early Church.  What one discovers is that a wide diversity of beliefs about the Last Things existed in both the East and the West. 

It is safe to say, though, the universalism of Origen and St Gregory Nyssen represented a minority opinion.  Whether the anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, if in fact they belong to the authoritative decrees of the council (another controversial question), touch upon the universalism expressed by St Gregory Nyssen is debated by scholars.  One can certainly argue that the council was attempting to define the Christian faith over against the extreme Origenism that was popular at the time: within this Origenism the hope of universal reconciliation was interwoven with all sorts of other stuff, e.g., the pre-existence of souls, complete abolition of material reality, and the absorption of created spirits into undifferentiated unity with the eternal Logos.  The council did not explicitly condemn the eschatological speculations of St Gregory.

I'm not sure what to make of Met Hierotheos's claim that St Gregory has been misunderstood by just about ... well, everybody.  Until stronger proof is presented, I'm going to go with Fr Daley's position:  "Gregory clearly shares Origen's hope for universal salvation.  Although a few passages in his works allude to the exclusion of sinners from God's city ... or to eternal punishment ..., Gregory makes it plain in many other places that he believes God's plan will ultimately be realized in every creature."   

Also see John Sachs, "Apocatastasis in Patristic Theology."
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« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2011, 08:20:07 PM »

What's the difference?
Apokatastasis is the return to one's previous condition.

Since the previous (pre-conception) condition of each soul, in orthodox Christianity, is nothingness, apokatastasis would be a return to non-existence.

In the theology of the Origenists, the pre-conception condition of the soul was communion with God; thus, for Origenists, apokatastasis would be a return to that primal communion with God.

Council condemned the Origenist idea of apokatastasis, in part because of the un-orthodox idea of pre-existence of the soul.

Council did not condemn the idea that each soul, being created ex nihilo, may be saved, that each soul, created ex nihilo, may more and more fully enter into theosis.
Ah. Thanks.
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« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2011, 08:21:34 PM »

St. Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist.

Fwiw, this has been challenged by some, such as Met. Hierotheos.
Thanks.
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« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2011, 09:13:19 PM »


It is safe to say, though, the universalism of Origen and St Gregory Nyssen represented a minority opinion. 

Is it safe to say that?  A Catholic site I referenced in an earlier thread has a list of about 12-15 Church Fathers who supported universal salvation.

Apokatastasis still exercises its fascination on Eastern Christians, although it is not an approved belief.   In the first centuries it seems to have been widespread among Christians.  Saint Augustine tells us that it was a widely held early Christian belief.

"Some, nay, very many" (nonnulli, quam plurimi), pity with human feeling, the everlasting punishment of the damned, and do not believe that it is so."

~St Augustine. Enchiridion, chapter 112.


And an interesting quote from Saint Martin of Tours which backs up Saint Augustine's statement that in the early Church there was a belief in the possibility of universal salvation, even including for the devil.

“If thou, thyself, wretched being, wouldst but desist from attacking mankind, and even, at this period, when the day of judgment is at hand, wouldst only repent of your deeds, I, with a true confidence in the Lord, would promise you the mercy of Christ.

Chapter XXII.

Martin preaches Repentance even to the Devil.

Now, the devil, while he tried to impose upon the holy man by a thousand injurious arts, often thrust himself upon him in a visible form, but in very various shapes. For sometimes he presented himself to his view changed into the person of Jupiter, often into that of Mercury and Minerva. Often, too, were heard words of reproach, in which the crowd of demons assailed Martin with scurrilous expressions. But knowing that all were false and groundless, he was not affected by the charges brought against him. Moreover, some of the brethren bore witness that they had heard a demon reproaching Martin in abusive terms, and asking why he had taken back, on their subsequent repentance, certain of the brethren who had, some time previously, lost their baptism by falling into various errors. The demon set forth the crimes of each of them; but they added that Martin, resisting the devil firmly, answered him, that by-past sins are cleansed away by the leading of a better life, and that through the mercy of God, those are to be absolved from their sins who have given up their evil ways. The devil saying in opposition to this that such guilty men as those referred to did not come within the pale of pardon, and that no mercy was extended by the Lord to those who had once fallen away, Martin is said to have cried out in words to the following effect: “If thou, thyself, wretched being, wouldst but desist from attacking mankind, and even, at this period, when the day of judgment is at hand, wouldst only repent of your deeds, I, with a true confidence in the Lord, would promise you the mercy of Christ.” O what a holy boldness with respect to the loving-kindness of the Lord, in which, although he could not assert authority, he nevertheless showed the feelings dwelling within him! And since our discourse has here sprung up concerning the devil and his devices, it does not seem away from the point, although the matter does not bear immediately upon Martin, to relate what took place; both because the virtues of Martin do, to some extent, appear in the transaction, and the incident, which was worthy of a miracle, will properly be put on record, with the view of furnishing a caution, should anything of a similar character subsequently occur.

Source :: Sulpitius Severus "On the Life of St. Martin" Chapter XXI
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« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2011, 08:14:23 AM »


It is safe to say, though, the universalism of Origen and St Gregory Nyssen represented a minority opinion.

Is it safe to say that?  A Catholic site I referenced in an earlier thread has a list of about 12-15 Church Fathers who supported universal salvation.

I think it is safe to say that universalism was a minority position in the Church Fathers.  See Daley's survey.  Besides Origen, St Gregory Nyssen, St Gregory Nazianzen (perhaps), St Ambrose (who said contradictory things on the topic but appears to have at least entertained the possibility of the salvation of all human beings but not the demons), and St Isaac of Ninevah (not covered in Daley's book), I can't think of any one else who advanced it. 

St Jerome appears to have believed that all baptized believers will eventually be saved:

Quote
We should leave this to the knowledge of God alone, who holds in his scales not only mercy but punishments, and who knows whom he should judge, and in what way, and for how long.  Let us only say, as befits our human fragility, "lord, do not reproach me in your anger; do not destroy me in your rage" [Ps 6.1].  And as we believe that the devil and all apostates and impious sinners, who say in their heart, "There is no God," will undergo eternal punishments, so we think that those who are sinners--even impious ones--and yet Christians will have their works tried and purged in fire, but will receive from the judge a moderate sentence, mingled with mercy. (In Is 18.66.24)

I wish there was stronger support amongst the Church Fathers for universal reconciliation. 

The belief that some (though not the truly wicked and impious) will be saved after death from Hell by the prayers of the Church appears to have enjoyed wider support.  Even St Augustine appears to have believed this:

Quote
Some people suffer temporal punishments in this life only, others after death, others both now and then, but they suffer them before that most severe and final judgment.  Not all, however, who undergo temporal punishments after death will come to everlasting punishments, which will take place after that judgment.  For some, as we have said above, will be forgiven in the age still ahead for what has not been forgiven in this age, so that they will not be subjected to the eternal punishments of the coming age.

Though often cited in support of the later Latin formulation of Purgatory, Augustine does not appear to have made a distinction between Purgatory and Hell.  "Although, as we have seen, he often affirms that some sinners are only punished within history, not eternally, and that the prayers of their fellow Christians are effective in moving God to pardon their offenses," Daley explains, "Augustine never presents this temporal punishment as being carried out in a distinctive 'place,' or as having, of itself, a healing or cleansing effect on the sinner.  In fact, Augustine always seems hesitant to speak of punishment for sin as purgatve or medicinal, presumably because he is contemptuous of the attempts of other 'tender-hearted' Christians to see all punishment as purgative and therefore temporary.  Augustine's understanding of punishment is, in fact, wholly vindictive: God's truth and justice require that the creature who turns away from him, the one authentic source of its being, should suffer as a result. Punishment is simply the natural, painful effect of sin: 'when God punishes sinners, he does not inflict an evil of his own on them, but sets them loose amid their own evils' (Enarr in Ps 7.16)." 

Other Church Fathers, including apparently St John Chrysostom and St John of Damascus, appear to have denied the possibility of post-mortem repentance: the prayers and alms-giving of the Church may bring relief to the damned, but it does not save them.   


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