Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is Origen A Church Father?

Update 8/30/2009: Click here for my new post which answers in the negative.

1. We may predicate of Origen Adamantius of Alexandria "holiness of life," "a certain antiquity," "citations, with praise, as an authority as to the Faith by some of the more celebrated Fathers," and I'm not sure but perhaps there was "public reading in Churches in early centuries." He passes the third category with flying colors; the man was extremely influential and was loved by many saints.{1}

2. However, he fails the criteria of "citation by a general council;" he was condemned by an Ecumenical council. He also fails "public acts of popes addressed to Church or concerning Faith," and the criteria of "encomium in Roman Martyrology as 'sanctitate et doctrina insignis.'" Moreover, though he wrote many good and profitable things like the work Contra Celsum, he also must be said to fail the category of "Orthodox doctrine and learning" because he fell into myriad errors due to his unbridled speculation, including transmigration of souls,{2} apokatastasis (universalism),{3} the eternity of the world,{4} the rationality of stars,{5} and the original equality of creatures.{6}

3. So Origen passes up to four of the seven common criteria for Patristic status.{7} The Greek Orthodox apologist Dr. Fr. Michael Azkoul says in his article "Who is a Church Father?" that Origen is not a Church Father, but he also says that St. Augustine of Hippo is not a Church Father, a view not shared by most of the Eastern Orthodox faithful,{8} so his article must be taken with a grain of salt. It would seem that whether you consider this enormously influential man a Church Father boils down to whether someone who was condemned by an Ecumenical Council for various heresies{9} can still merit the title of Church Father, after you take into account the very high degree of his influence on undisputed saintly Fathers as described in the endnote of this post and the great fruits of works among his like Contra Celsum.{10} What say you?

4. O all-merciful and all-wise God, please preserve us from dangerous and heretical speculations, and make us persevere in right belief until the very last moment of this life! Amen.

Notes & References
{1} It is hard to gainsay the testimony of so many Doctors, Fathers, and ecclesial writers. Those who loved and were indebted to Origen include--according to the old Catholic Encyclopedia article "Origen and Origenism"--St. Firmilian of Caesarea, St. Alexander of Jerusalem, Theoctistus of Caesarea, Beryllus of Bostra, St. Anatolus of Laodicea, Julius Africanus, Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Hippolytus the Martyr of Rome, Patriarch St. Dionysius I the Great of Alexandria, St. Gregory the Wonderworker of Neocasarea, Heracles, St. Pamphilus, Theognostus, Patriarch St. Athanasius I the Great of Alexandria (Doctor), Pierius, Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Strido (Doctor), Pierius, Tyrannius Rufinus, Didymus the Blind of Alexandria, St. Gregory the Great Theologian of Nazianzus (Doctor), St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Eusebius of Verceil, St. Hilary of Poitiers (Doctor), Bishop St. Ambrose the Great of Milan (Doctor), Bishop St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, and St. Victorinus of Pettau. This extremely impressive list of Origen’s disciples, imitators, and intellectual heirs includes six Doctors, including five Great Doctors, and at least 15 saints. However, Syrian ascetical writer St. John Moschus the Monk recorded in Chapter 26 of The Spiritual Meadow that a Brother Theophan saw Origen suffering in Hell with the Nestorian Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, the Monophysite Archimandrite Eutyches, the Apollinarian Bishop Apollinarius the Younger of Laodicea, the Monophysite Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria, and the Monophysite Patriarch Severus of Antioch, as well as other heretics. Origen was modest, chaste, studious, industrious and prolific, zealous, and courageous. He probably died due to the tortures he suffered in prison, and was buried as a Confessor of the faith. Yet if he was a martyr it is strange that the Church has not canonized him. The point of the miraculous vision granted to Brother Theophan was to illustrate that orthodox belief is necessary for salvation and this requirement is not dispensed of by the practice of myriad other virtues; Origen was heterodox on many points. Bishop St. Methodius the Martyr, Bishop St. Epiphanius of Salamis, St. Eustathius of Antioch, St. Alexander the Martyr of Alexandria, St. Leontius of Byzantium, and Emperor St. Justinian I the Great of Byzantium condemned Origen before the entire Church did so.
{2} The first of the 15 additional anathemas against Origen by the Fifth Ecumenical Council reads, "If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema."
{3} Origen: "We think that the goodness of God, through the mediation of Christ, will bring all creatures to one and the same end" (De principiis I, vi, 1-3). This affirmation of universalism contradicts his other statements: he affirms the eternity of Heaven because "the freedom of the will will be bound so that sin will be impossible" (in Roman., V, 10), and he affirms the eternity of Hell because the will of the damned is immutably fixed in evil (De principiis, I, viii, 4).
{4} Origen: "It is absurd to imagine the nature of God inactive, or His goodness inefficacious, or His dominion without subjects" (De principiis, III, v, 3). Such was the reasoning behind his bogus and heretical thesis that the world is eternal.
{5} Origen, De principiis, I, vii, 3.
{6} Origen: "In the beginning all intellectual natures were created equal and alike, as God had no motive for creating them otherwise" (De principiis, II, ix, 6).
{7} The criteria come from Chapman, John. "Origen and Origenism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 29 Nov. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11306b.htm>.
{8} In fact the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates Bishop St. Augustine of Hippo as a saint. What kind of a theologian has no room for the great Doctor Gratiae?
{9} Anathema 11 of the first 15 anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Council reads,
If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Councils and all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned, let him be anathema.
Thus the writings of Origen and the very person of Origen were condemned by an Ecumenical Council.
{10} In the invaluable line-by-line refutation of the second century anti-Christian polemicist Celsus the Platonist of Greece, called Contra Celsum, Origen proves e.g., that Jesus was a miracle worker rather than a fraudulent magician, and he also debunks Celsus' "Jesus ben Panthera" blasphemy which claims that St. Mary divorced from St. Joseph and a Roman soldier named Panthera is the biological father of Jesus. I have posted lengthy excerpts on these two points as part of my large volume of work against apostate Roman Catholic Brian Holtz, the atheist author of the 2002 falsehood-riddled work Arguments Against Christianity. Q.V. the following:
*Huysman, Will R. "Contra Celsum on the Virgin Birth." The Banana Republican. 28 Apr. 2006. 29 Nov. 2008 <http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/04/contra-celsum-on-virgin-birth.html>.
*Huysman, Will R. "Holtz's Misplaced Appeal to Celsus." The Banana Republican. 16 Jan. 2006. 29 Nov. 2008 <http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/biblioskeptics-cite-true-doctrine.html>.

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