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Origen's Revenge

Just prior to the ten-year persecution of the faithful between 303 to 313, there was a notable shift in the emphasis of Christendom.

Instead of calling sinners to repent and be forgiven in the name of Jesus, as we were commanded to do, the ‘faithful’ turned to philosophizing about God. The faithful were seduced into putting their light under a bowl instead of on a stand so it could give light to everyone in the house.

The devoted turned to ‘systematic theology’ in which the Christian intellectual elite attempted to make the Scripture more ‘coherent’ to the rational mind.

What could go wrong with that?

Instead of proclaiming the Gospel, our intellectual elite turned to contemplation of the nature of God. They came to believe it was more important for Christians to ‘fill in the gaps’ of God’s word. In so doing, they took ‘Christianity’ to a ‘higher level.’

Origen thought he had found the ‘key to perfection’ of the intellect. This, he claimed, is where all souls dwell in their purest form. Through quiet contemplation, he believed he could unravel the deep mysteries of God.

The fact is that the Christian faith is actually quite simple. It all revolves around the fact that Christ died for our sins. There is no need for an intellectual elite to fill in the gaps of the Gospel until it becomes so complex that only a select few can understand it.

Jesus was very clear regarding what his expectations were for us. There is really no need for the intelligentsia to clarify this for the rest of us rubes.

We were ordered by God himself to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Once a person confessed that Christ died for his sins, he was baptized.

Easy enough.

Further, we were to teach those who were baptized to obey everything Christ had commanded us. He taught us that the true meaning of the law was based on love. Everything that we do, whether it be giving, prayer, or judging others, should be done by showing the same grace and mercy that God has shown us.

Jesus even went so far as to summarize all of Scripture for us so that there would be no mistake as to what our mission was supposed to be. He commanded us to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations in his name.

That means we are to call sinners to repent and be forgiven in the name of Jesus.

Unfortunately, there are those who just are not satisfied with the simplicity of the Gospel. And they certainly do not want to deal with the retribution that comes with this proclamation.

Their dissatisfaction with this obligation is based on the fact that calling sinners to repent is not an intellectual exercise (and because being persecuted is highly undesirable). They yearn to come to us with eloquence and superior wisdom when they testify about God.

Paul was not a big fan of this approach.

He made it a point to know nothing except Christ and him crucified for our sins.

Unfortunately, the intellectual elite were not happy with this advice. In the spirit of the Pharisees, they desired to seek a means by which they could become the elect of the faith. The idea of being a servant to the unwashed masses did not appeal to them at all.

And the idea of changing and becoming like little children was downright scandalous.

This point is most salient when we consider the works of Origen who is considered to be one of the ‘church fathers.’ His accolades knew no bounds as he was thought to be the greatest genius that the church had ever produced.

When we examine his works, however, we find that, instead of being a ‘church father,’ he is much more like a ‘deadbeat dad.’ He clearly neglected his responsibilities as a teacher and failed to care for the sheep as he was commanded to do.

Origen (185-253) was a ‘Christian Platonist’ which means he was not really a Christian. Origen never stopped teaching philosophy to many learned pagans and claimed that it was impossible to be authentically religious without practicing philosophy.

Philosophy was necessary to harmonize Scripture doncha know.

He was the one of the first to use the ‘allegorical method’ of interpreting Scripture rather than rely on the plain words recorded by the apostles. The allegorical method began to replace the plain meaning of Scripture until way too much of it was no longer taken literally.

This was especially true of Scripture having to do with eschatology.

Allegorizing led to many adventures into the absurd when we consider some of his conclusions. This ‘brilliant’ man who was dedicated to ‘reason’ and was well-versed in Platonic philosophy helped lead the Christian faith off the rails.

He has rightly been accused of being a ‘universalist’ due to his assertion that everyone goes to heaven including Satan. This is what happens when you ‘allegorize’ the Book of Revelation and ignore the plain meaning of Scripture.

He also asserted that the world was created finite because God cannot conceive of the infinite.

And this is what passed for brilliance among the intellectual elite. A six-year-old could see the flaw in that assertion.

He managed to ‘reason’ himself into a theory that has been termed “The Ransom Theory of Atonement.” This theory asserted that the death of Christ was a ransom sacrifice that God paid to Satan to save the souls of humanity.

God paid off the mafia don, Satan, to buy his good will. It was as if Satan said to God, “nice little family you got there, it’d be a shame if something happened to them.”

So God paid up.

The amount of foolishness that this man proffered was legion. The works of Origen are still studied in our seminaries and taken seriously even by true members of the faith.

When we consider his teachings and how influential he was for his time, it is easy to see how the church began to degenerate into confusion and decadence. Just prior to the great persecution, Eusebius noted:

“We (Christians) began envying and attacking one another, making war on ourselves with weapons formed with words. Church leaders attacked church leaders and laymen formed factions against laymen, while unspeakable hypocrisy and pretense reached their evil limit.”

This is a strange way for people to act who are supposed to be and proclaiming repentance in the name of Christ and thereby making disciples of all nations. I guess we can call the above quote from Eusebius the fruits of systematic theology, as this problem still haunts us to this day.

The spirit of Origen is still alive and well in our churches and seminaries today. There are those who see themselves as the intellectual elite as they look down on the rest of us poor souls wandering in the darkness of our simplicity.

Today, we call our intellectual elites ‘Calvinists.’

One of the reasons I chose the title “The Gospelist” was to tweak these people. I will never understand those who wish to divide Christ and act (despite their protestations) as if John Calvin was crucified for us.

It seems that the Calvinists have come up with a new theology regarding ‘predestination’ so they can separate themselves from the rest of us sheep. Without getting into the details of this, which are mind bending and fruitless, there is no question in my mind that this theology altars our desire to call sinners to repent and be forgiven in the name of Jesus.

Why bother to proclaim anything if no one has the free will to respond?

The important thing to remember is if you decide to enter this debate, you will find the arguments keep shifting and the goal posts keep moving. First there is no free will, then there is limited free will, then the definition of free will begins to change.

The Hindu doctrine of Karma displays more stability that the Calvinist notion of predestination.

We can never arrive at a conclusion because the whole debate is fruitless. It is an intellectual endeavor that brings no one to repentance but causes division in the church.

Although some Calvinists might object, there is no question that they have removed free will from any consideration of the salvation process. The fact that the Gospel is a proclamation that requires a response is lost on them.

What is the point of calling sinners to repent if they do not have the free will to repent? In their theology, you get what you are predestined to deserve and you play no role when God gives you your just deserts.

The notion of predestination proffered by the Calvinists is complex and impractical. It is impossible to read Scripture coherently with this as our primary understanding of what God is saying to us.

Too many other Scripture conflict with it.

When you point out scripture that does show free will to your standard Calvinist, he tends to assert that you do not understand that Scripture rightly. This goes on ad nauseam until we come to the conclusion that either this understanding of Scripture is false or we have no understanding of Scripture.

And that is how Origen gets his revenge. It also leads to conflict which is how the above words of Eusebius come to life again at the end of the age.

I was once a member of a ‘reformed’ church because they did seem to be devout. However, I retreated from this church because they were not willing to say things that might upset the congregation. It was much more ‘contemplative’ than it was obedient to the Gospel which is much less upsetting to the congregation.

I realize this is true of most churches, except for a few Baptists churches in the south, but they seemed to be particularly disengaged from the evil that swirls around us. When I discovered this was probably due to the fact that almost all were Tim Keller acolytes, I saw the writing on the wall and moved on.

One of the most learned theologians of the Calvinist persuasion is Dr. James White. Like Origen, he is also considered among his disciples to be one of the greatest minds the church has ever produced.

Dr. White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries and has probably written as many books as Origen himself. His gift for words and in-depth analysis of Scripture makes him a difficult opponent to debate.

However, Brannon Howse, of Worldview Weekend fame, discovered footage of an ‘Interfaith dialogue’ between Dr. White and a Muslim Imam, Dr. Yasir Qadhi. The purpose of this interfaith dialogue was to discuss the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam.

The first question that comes to mind is ‘would Elijah have sat down with a priest of Baal to discuss the similarities and differences in their beliefs?’

Dr. White might argue that he was merely imitating Paul by becoming a slave to everyone to win as many as possible.

However, if we use the gathering of the Aeropagus in the Book of Acts as an example, we see the extent of how far Paul was willing to go to placate the pagans. He simply used their own words against them by appealing to their ‘unknown god.’

That was likely the extent of his ‘Interfaith dialogue.’

According to Brannon Howse, Dr. White never disagreed with Qahdi when the Imam made false statements about Christ. He questioned why Dr. White would dialogue with someone who sees Christians as filthy and should be treated as Dhimmis.

Dr. White lauded Qadhi as his ‘primary influence’ and that he shared a ‘kindred spirit’ with the Imam. He even asked Qadhi to critique his presentation on Islam to make sure it accurately represented Muslim orthodoxy.

Dr. White claimed that this was all part of his Gospel outreach to the Muslim community. The problem is, Dr. White attempted to use his intellect to bring the ‘gospel’ to his friend rather than obey Christ’s primary command.

Had the Gospel been utilized, Qadhi could have been dealt with far more productively. If Dr. White had followed what Jesus had told him to do, everyone would have been enlightened by the simple words of Christ.

Dr. Qadhi should have been informed that adherence to Islam is a violation of the first commandment of God, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

He would further have been informed that we have good news for all Islamists, Jesus died for those who commit that sin and he calls all Muslims to repent and be forgiven in his holy name.

There was no need for an ‘Interfaith dialogue.’ Qadhi could have received the Gospel and either repented or gone on his way. There was no need to give the Imam credibility by having him explain his religion in a church.

This intellectual exercise was utterly futile.

It is my opinion that this type of ‘witnessing’ is the fruit of the Calvinist version of predestination.

If you want to engage in over-intellectualization of Scripture, there is no better teacher than R.C. Sproul. He has built his entire theology around the concept of ‘predestination’ that he believes is expressed in Romans chapter nine.

According to Sproul, it is crucial that we understand properly the concept of predestination if we want to keep our faith on track.

The problem is, when we consider our primary functions as Christians, this concept has little to no relevance. For instance, we are to:

1. make disciples of all nations and baptize them.

2. teach all that Christ has commanded.

3. proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.

Obviously, the Calvinist understanding of predestination plays no role in any of these evangelical activities. If it did, the Calvinists idea of free would render these activities pointless.

We do not make disciples by explaining the complexities of predestination. We were not commanded by Christ to teach this doctrine. This doctrine has absolutely nothing to do with the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.

The Calvinist often object that those who reject their version of predestination are guilty of following a works-based religion. They claim those who reject their understanding are guilty of ‘Pelagianism’ and are heretics.

This, of course, is pure hogwash. It is also how Origen gets his revenge even to this day.

This mindless attack brings to life the words of Eusebius in the above quote.

“We (Christians) began envying and attacking one another, making war on ourselves with weapons formed with words. Church leaders attacked church leaders and laymen formed factions against laymen, while unspeakable hypocrisy and pretense reached their evil limit.”

Although Paul did give us a brief discourse on predestination, his primary point was not that we play no role in the salvation process.

His point in Romans Chapter nine was that the Gentiles “pursued” righteousness by faith while the Jews “pursued” righteousness through the law. Although this was predestined to occur, as everything is with God since he knows the end from the beginning, the fact is that this ‘pursuit’ is an act of free will.

It is not as if Jesus commanded us to ‘contemplate’ God to reach a higher state of consciousness. We are primarily proclaimers, not contemplators.

There are numerous problems with the Calvinist notion of predestination. First, debating it is a purely intellectual exercise. No one will come to repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus if they understand the Calvinistic notion of predestination.

Second, it displays a misunderstanding of God. It attempts to elevate God’s sovereignty over the fact that his primary attribute is love. Calvinists are rightly accused of fatalism even though they deny it. They subject themselves to the criticism that they worship a capricious god rather than one who is knowable.

It is hard to love a capricious and unknowable god.

Third, they are far more involved in ‘contemplation’ than they are in things like evangelism.

The Calvinists like to accuse those who believe in free will of arrogance. However, they are the ones who take pride in studying the Belgic Confessions, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort.

The fact is that very few people want to labor through these tomes due to their tedious nature. After they engage in this spiritual exercise, they can then show us how smart they are. Once again, Origen’s revenge.

They then immerse themselves in the Westminster Confessions of Faith, which has its own catechisms. They often follow the doctrines in the ‘Book of Concord’ which are allegedly a summary of everything written in the Bible since 1580 AD.

Of course, those people who do this often experience splits among each other in their interpretation of what this book is saying. They change their minds often due to the mind-bending exercise of trying to ‘fill in the gaps’ of God’s word.

It seems to me that these people have turned themselves into an order of monks. If we go to a search engine and enter what is the role of a monk, we find the following:

In responding to God's call to holiness, a contemplative monk fulfills an important role in the Church: he visibly witnesses in his life to the absolute priority of God to any created thing. The contemplative life, then, is the highest form of life that a Christian may live.

Maybe we should call this new Calvinist order the ‘Hermits of Ligonier.’

I will never understand why we would want to render ourselves ineffective when it comes to doing battle with the forces of evil. None of these activities will prepare us to address the wickedness and sexual perversion that is ravaging our children.

We are entering the days of Noah and Lot and, instead of calling sinners to repent, we have entered the ‘contemplative life.’

We are responding to God’s holiness by entering into ‘Interfaith Dialogue’ with the pagans. As we enter this life, we are failing to protect our children from the predatory LGBT, the race hustlers, the climate cultists, Islam, and other leftist organizations which currently own our society.

Instead of calling these people to repent, they attempt to engage them in ‘interfaith’ dialogue to convince them of their error.

It is the job of the church to stand against evil and fulfill its Gospel mission. We are to obey the Gospel and we will not do that through contemplation or interfaith dialogue.

I can almost guarantee that when these people stand before the Lord, much of their works will be burned. They have exchanged the Gospel, which is our foundation, with their notion of predestination.

This foundation is nothing more than wood, hay and straw.

On the day of the Lord, their works will be shown for what they are. These works will be revealed by fire which will test the quality of their doctrine. They will suffer loss, but they will be saved.

But only as one escaping through the flames.

In my opinion, they are deceiving themselves. They should heed the words of Paul:

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.

For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men (like John Calvin). For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's (I Corinthians 3:18-23).

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