Origen lived in such a different world from our own, that it's really hard to convey, or even for a modern audience to understand that world that he lived in.
Very true. Since I was a child, though, I have always been interested in the primitive church, what it must have been like to be a Christian in those first generations after Christ. I've actually written a book on it, though I never attempted to have it published. The core issue the plot revolved around is based on beliefs I no longer hold, so it didn't seem worth pursuing, though I did get a contract with an agent for it when it was first begun. Was hard to let it go because I think the book is good. Have been toying with the idea of a rewrite if I can see the way past changing the underlying theme of it appropriately.
Who knows? Perhaps God led me to this forum so that the conversations here wil help me do that? We never know! ")
It wasn't long after the death of Peter and Paul that the doctrine of the Church became a glorification of bodily suffering and martyrdom. Clement of Rome, Bishop Onesimus of Ephesus and a small handful of others tried to get people back on the big picture of the Gospel, but I think that once the legend of the death of polycarp got out, I think that that pretty much sealed the fate of the Church for a few centuries. When their doctrine became personal suffering rather than the sufferings of Christ and all He'd redeemed us from by His suffering, then when the persecution stopped that's when they turned to self mutilation for acts of penance, etc.
I have to agree that I think the extreme of self-imposed suffering like flaggelation goes against the teachings of Christ, but as you said, the long centuries of Christian martyrdom played a big role in that.
On the other hand, I don't think joining in the sufferings of Christ is to be avoided. Even Paul rejoiced that his sufferings "filled in" the sufferings of Christ. To be honest, I think we have a lot to (re)learn about the topic and UR has made me take a new look at things like that.
I'm not sure we can understand the big picture of the gospel without understanding what it means to authentically walk the same path Christ did. For people of our culture, especially for those like me in America, it seems strange because we have been given so much and paid so little. Yet, I think the Cross is intimately tied to the Body of Christ, and the Body is intimately tied to the doctrine of UR.
American Christians tend to focus on what Christ has done for us in His death, but rarely consider what the call to follow Him implies on their part of the new covenent. Perhaps that's one reason there has been such a heavy investment into hell preaching? God gave us all this for free, we don't owe anything in return, but if we dont accept the offer, we'll pay for it.
If we look at UR as part of the invitation, then the loving response (once the traditional threat of hell is removed) is to give back what is actually asked of us. And that's what Love is, a 2 way covenant between us and God. Yes, the gift and the grace to receive it is free, but accepting that gift does carry along with it the hope of Love being returned to the Giver.
One of my grandsons is about to enter the seminary. We were having a discussion about UR recently and the subject of following Christ came up. I asked Him, " where did Christ go?" He looked suprised and asked what I meant. I said, "If Jesus said to pick up our crosses and follow Him, where did He go? where is He leading us?"
My grandson said, "to tell the people about the Kingdom of God."
I asked, "And then where?"
He answered, "To trial and suffering?"
I nodded and asked, "And then where?"
"And then where?"
"Where did He go before that?"
At that point my grandson began running through the Nicene Creed and said, "Well, he descended into hell before He rose on the third day."
So, I asked him, "Why? Why did He go there."
My grandson sort of looked at me a moment and then got it. Not sure he agreed with me but we had a discussion then about the Body of Christ being called to the same exact path Christ walked. We're called, not so that we get to heaven and other poor jerks who weren't smart enough to get it go to hell. We're called as part of the plan to free the captives there, just as Jesus did for us. That's what it means to be first fruits.
We're told that the gates of hellwon't prevail against us. We take that to mean that satan can never destroy the church Christ created. But UR changes the assumption and makes me ask if that doesnt mean that it is WE who break down the gates of hell in Christ. The gates of hell cannot hold against us as we enter in to release the captives with Christ.
And, to me, that means the Body of Christ is called so that those who do not accept Christ in this age will be freed in the next, through our doing for them (those we love) what Christ has done for us--suffering in Love for them.
So, I can't say that I think the doctrine of personal suffering has no place in UR. In fact, I believe it is an essential part of it, and that perhaps it is WE who need to understand why martyrdom was considered such a glorious option in the primitive church, rather than think that they were the ones who missed the real gospel message we're just starting to understand now.
Consider that when the martyrdom's stopped, the church opted into the world and its way of power.
I don't disagree completely with you, Martin. The excess, the seeking of it is wrong, substitutionary self-inflicted suffering is anti-gospel, but authentically taking on the suffering of Christ as if it is our own is something the church in the future may face again. I think all happens according to God's timing and plan, so I can't say I think the church wrong to gladly accept the end of the persecution that Constantine offered, but I do think it should have stayed out of politics :)
Then again, God seemed to have seen that coming and prophecized it, perhaps so we could be sure today that we are once again on the right track. Who knows? Not me, though I do admit to being interested very much in the topic.
I don't think that Origen would have been approaching the view of the body being secondary to the spirit from the standpoint of the doctrines of the gnostics which he was constantly combating. I think it was this over glorification of martyrdom that probably had Origen bewitched. And, as the historical record stands, he was martyred for his faith, although his reputation had become a casualty quite a bit before that time.
Very nice term, Martin. Over-glorification of martyrdom. Exactly what happened sometimes. And I do agree, he wasn't taking it from the gnostic point of view. Most of what he wrote to counter Celsius should prove that. I like the way you point out that this overglorification of martyrdom can lead to the same disregard of the physical body in a similar way. I hadn't really thought about that, but will. If anything, Christ's resurrection should teach us how valuable in God's eyes our physical body is to Him, so martyrdom should be avoided until necessary to preserve the faith. A no-other-option deal, imo.
I'm sure it had to have dawned on him later, that if he really wanted to die, what did clothes have to do with it?
LOL! Enjoyed that and the part about the Roman spear . . . I think it was his mom who took his clothes at the time his father was being martyred. Origen wanted to join his father.
Oddly enough saw a Christian video/song last night along the same thing. Set in the future, a father talking to his son about the gospel and how people have died for it in the past. He's in jail, they come to take him away for execution and the father says "I know you'll make the same choice because you have Jesus in your heart." It bothered me that this is meant to teach children to die willingly for CHrist. NOt that I discount the principle, but something about it botheredme. Your term today pinpointed that uneasy feeling I had. It was the over-glorification of the martyrdom, rather than the sometimes sad necessity for it, that struck me in this video.
Just like Origen's father's death must have called to him throughout his own lifetime to do the same . . .
Sorry, I went off on a tangent there a bit. But it does make evident the fine line we traavel when walking as Christ did in the world. On one extreme, we should never reject suffering as Christ did, but neither should we over-glorify it and seek it out.
When the mind is a captive of a religious tradition that has no baring on the reality of the Gospel, it's amazing how distant from reality that someone will be who holds to that particular tradition within the bounds of reality where that particular tradition is concerned.
Could you clarify for me a bit? Are you referring to the primitive church when you say "captive to a religious tradition" or to the present day church? If the religious tradition under question is martyrdom, then can we really say it has no bearing on the gospel?
Maybe it was ego. He was a great teacher of the Word, but he just absolutely had to die with his boots on
LOL! Most always IS our ego if it isn't from God! :)
I've enjoyed this, Martin. Thank you.