Dangling Feet Dangerously over the Side

See, a king will reign in righteousness
    and rulers will rule with justice.
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
    and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
    and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
    and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The fearful heart will know and understand,
    and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
No longer will the fool be called noble
    nor the scoundrel be highly respected.

  • Isaiah 32:1-5

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

  • Mark 4:21-23

”Origen set out the apostolic tradition which he took as the test of orthodoxy. The apostles delivered certain doctrines in plain terms to all believers. Origen lists them. These are to be accepted as the foundation for theology. But wise, spiritual Christians can move beyond these doctrines, as long as they do not contradict them. This openness to speculation follows Clement, though it contrasts sharply with both Irenaeus and Tertullian. As with Clement, the foundation is Christian while the further development tends to be thoroughly Greek. This is seen clearly in his doctrine of salvation. He can explain how Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross and ransomed us from the devil. But this is teaching for the common herd, for those who can understand no more. Origen’s real interest lies elsewhere. For him the essence of salvation is becoming like God, being ‘deified’ through contemplating him. The soul needs to rise from the world of becoming to the realm of being. The Word appeared to enable this. The knowledgeable Christian will penetrate beyond the earthly Jesus to the eternal Word and achieve salvation through contemplating him. This concept of salvation is thoroughly Greek and has more in common with Gnosticism than with biblical Christianity.
“ ‘It seems necessary first of all to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding [fundamental questions] and then move on to investigate other points …The teaching of the church has been transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles and remains in the churches to the present day. That alone is to be accepted as true which in no way conflicts with the tradition of the church and the apostles. The holy apostles, when preaching the faith of Christ, took certain points which they believed to be necessary for everyone and delivered them in the clearest way. These they taught even to those who appeared rather dull in the investigation of divine knowledge. They left those who would deserve the higher gifts of the Spirit to examine die grounds of their statements … The kind of doctrines which are clearly delivered in the teaching of the apostles are as follows: First, that there is one God. Secondly, that Jesus Christ himself was born of the Father before all creatures. … Thirdly, that the Holy Spirit was associated in honour and dignity with the Father and the Son.  After these points the apostolic teaching is that the soul shall after its departure from the world be rewarded according to its deserts … Regarding the devil and his angels and the opposing spiritual powers, the teaching of the church lays down that these beings indeed exist … It is also part of the church’s teaching that the world was made and began at a certain time and that it is to be destroyed on account of its wickedness …Then, finally, that the Scriptures were written by the Spirit of God and that they have not only an obvious meaning but also another meaning which escapes the notice of most people.’ (Origen,
First Principles, Book 1, Preface 2-8)”

  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought

As for the Scriptures, anyone who reads the Gospels can recall the many times Jesus ends a parable or metaphor with “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”  We all have ears.  Some people are deaf, but then they would never hear Jesus say that.  Jesus is talking about “spiritual ears” to understand beyond the words that were spoken.  Unlike Origen, who might have been full of himself, a bit, thinking that only a few gifted, super intelligent people could understand beyond the literal meaning, God grants some bit of understanding to all who are saved.  And that understanding is a result of salvation through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not a means to salvation.

As for the photo, this is a photo of my wife sitting on a rock, far from the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but have you ever been to a cliff side and the “brave” little boys, usually boys, will go up to the edge and dangle a foot over the side, and then scream like they were falling?  One little slip, and it might not be funny, as if it was funny to anyone other than themselves.  But when you dangle your feet into things that are not biblical and try to persuade that they “don’t contradict” the Bible, you might have students that go a little further toward or beyond the edge … into heresy.

Origen Adamantius of Alexandria (185?-253?) makes a clear statement of faith in the second paragraph, up to his last point which is dangerous ground.  He was a student of Clement of Alexandria who while fighting against Gnosticism, as did Irenaeus and Tertullian, but he slipped into Gnosticism, trying to justify certain points that might not totally go against Christian Orthodoxy.  Origen does the same thing but he dangles his feet over the precipice even further, thinking that salvation can be earned through intellectual means, and that you can become god-like, if you are intelligent enough and specially gifted, as he thought himself to be.

I have often said “keep your eyes on Jesus” and “we must strive to become more like Jesus,” but these are essential parts of our walk with God.  These are things that we do once we are saved, not to become saved by our own merit.  Origen stumbled a little bit in that description, or it was lost in translation.  Those who go before the Great White Throne and are not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, something of their own merit.  Those who go before the Judgment Seat of Christ will be rewarded based on what they did for the less fortunate or did in God’s service.  But that is after the greatest reward of all, that we get to be with Jesus forever.

Being more God-like?  I wrote a post about the Sculptor some time ago, and I likened it as to each time we fully repent of some sin and never look back in longing for the temporary pleasure of that sin, it is like God chisels off a small chip of stone, making us look like Jesus a little more.  But the largest chunk that does not look like Jesus is chiseled away when we leave this earth.  While we still live in a body with a brain that can look at something sinful and yearn for it, we will never be God-like, not even the most pious among us.

And please, never blindly take what I have written as gospel truth.  I try, but rather test it versus the Gospel.  As I have heard many Gospel singers say, “I am nothing special.  I am just a fellow beggar showing someone who is hungry where to find the food.”

If Origen took that attitude, he might not have dangled his feet too far over the edge.  The book that is quoted above subtitled Origen with “Father or Heretic?”  I pray that those who blog consider that subtitle.  We have a responsibility to be accurate when spreading the Gospel of Christ.  I can live with “Teacher who on occasion did not get everything right,” but I never mean heresy.  I can beg forgiveness when I get something wrong.

Origen may have written a lot of good explanations of orthodox thought, but if you are too self-absorbed, you may never find your mistakes, and thus never repent and never beg for forgiveness.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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