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15 Reasons Why I Left Church


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#21 Ryan H.

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 08:42 AM

I'm not Orthodox or Catholic yet, mind you. I'm just a lifelong Protestant who has gradually come to the realization that Protestantism isn't quite as stable as he once thought it was. So, at this stage, I'm kind of homeless, untethered to any specific Christian tradition. But once you've abandoned Protestantism, you don't really have many options left open to you.

#22 Anders

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 11:31 AM

I'm not Orthodox or Catholic yet, mind you. I'm just a lifelong Protestant who has gradually come to the realization that Protestantism isn't quite as stable as he once thought it was. So, at this stage, I'm kind of homeless, untethered to any specific Christian tradition. But once you've abandoned Protestantism, you don't really have many options left open to you.


Yeah. That's pretty true to my experience.

I guess that's why I'm currently making my home in the Anglican tradition, which has always seen itself as a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism.

#23 Attica

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 05:08 PM


I'm not Orthodox or Catholic yet, mind you. I'm just a lifelong Protestant who has gradually come to the realization that Protestantism isn't quite as stable as he once thought it was. So, at this stage, I'm kind of homeless, untethered to any specific Christian tradition. But once you've abandoned Protestantism, you don't really have many options left open to you.


Yeah. That's pretty true to my experience.

I guess that's why I'm currently making my home in the Anglican tradition, which has always seen itself as a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism.



Yeah thats true for me as well. I'm attending an Anglican church but feel that I've been led to study/practice the theology and ways of the old "Celtic Church" (although they wouldn't have called themselves that back in the day), and the small remnant that has kept to that tradition.. It holds to many of the beliefs and teaching of Christianity in the first 300 or so years with beliefs from the early Jewish Essense converts to Christianity.

Many Anglicans know and respect the old Celtic Church as Anglicanism (being from England) looked back to it when they separated from Rome..... and therefore have brought some of the Celtic church's thought into Anglicanism (not all though). It's simple, profound, deep, beautiful, and has remained pretty much unchanged in beliefs since it's start. I'm finding that their belief system and ways very much line up with myself and where God has led me in my understanding (mind you I am a Celt by hertitage as well). I sometimes tell my friends that it's almost as if there was a mixture of Eastern Orthodox and Anabaptist. It has close to an Anabaptist understanding of baptism and community, but close to an Eastern Orthodox undertanding of human nature and free will (synergy), the divine uncreated energies of God, sacramental thought, and the atonement....mixed with a greater undertanding of, and love for the cosmic aspects of the creation (itself being considered a sacrament), than probably any other Christian tradition. As a matter of fact there is a existing communion called the Celtic-Anabaptist ministries.

So be encouraged Ryan. There are other options out there. They just aren't as well know in North America.

Oh.... and I agree with what Andy wrote earlier. I have nothing against Christians who are in other traditions...... we're all just trying to find our way. I do have big problems with some of the Christians from times gone by who have muckied up Christianity through selfish or political means.

Edited by Attica, 25 March 2012 - 05:10 PM.


#24 Ryan H.

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 06:30 PM

I guess that's why I'm currently making my home in the Anglican tradition, which has always seen itself as a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism.

I have spent a great deal of time in Anglican communities over the past five or six years. They have been some of the most wonderful Christian communities I've ever known. But I am not convinced the "via media" position they have often held is tenable, even though it is very attractive.

So be encouraged Ryan. There are other options out there. They just aren't as well know in North America.

Oh, I don't despair that Orthodoxy and Catholicism are the clear alternatives here. On the contrary, I am encouraged that the alternatives are indeed so very clear. While I am aware there are many obscure branches of Christianity that lie outside of the mainstream, I have little interest in pursuing them.

I am not particularly interested in choosing a community based on how well its beliefs match my own, but instead on how well it makes its claim to authenticity and authority. Whatever tradition I side with, I intend to submit my own theological notions to that tradition, even if it means the dismantling of the theology that I have very carefully constructed for myself. God demands submission of intellect as well as submission of conscience.

#25 Greg P

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 09:12 PM

What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of...

Which "Old" Christianity are you referring to? Who was the comedian who recently said "In the Good Old Days, people were still mostly assholes"? It's human nature to romantasize the past-- this is demonstrated for us in religious, political and artistic circles every day, by folks lamenting some long, lost Day Zero of ultimate doctrinal or ideological purity. In actuality it never existed.

Edited by Greg P, 25 March 2012 - 09:30 PM.


#26 Attica

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 10:13 PM

Ryan H. said:

:I have spent a great deal of time in Anglican communities over the past five or six years. They have been some of the most wonderful Christian communities I've ever known. But I am not convinced the "via media" position they have often held is tenable, even though it is very attractive.


I think that one of the reasons Anglican's say this is because they are interested in some form of ecumenicism, and have been reluctant to straight forwardly say "We're right and your wrong". Also from my understanding when they began their movement they wanted to have something that was attractive to Roman Catholics but still be part of the reformation, not of course that they have always treated Roman Catholics well. I'm leaning towards thinking that the Anglicans were right in wanting to retain some "Catholic" aspects such as the eucharist and Apostolic Succession (although I'm not entirely convinced yet on Apostolic Succession).




:While I am aware there are many obscure branches of Christianity that lie outside of the mainstream, I have little interest in pursuing them.

I am not particularly interested in choosing a community based on how well its beliefs match my own, but instead on how well it makes its claim to authenticity and authority. Whatever tradition I side with, I intend to submit my own theological notions to that tradition, even if it means the dismantling of the theology that I have very carefully constructed for myself. God demands submission of intellect as well as submission of conscience.




I'm not as interested in a tradition whose beliefs match my own, as much as I'm interested in a tradition that helps me to make sense of what I feel God has shown me, and is leading me into. I've found that the tradition mentioned above does this, and as well, has encouraged me that I'm not alone in my understanding and have been walking on a path that others are walking on (or even, have walked since the time of Christ). It is small and little known in North America but not really obscure in a certain sense. They had Bishops attending the early Synods and at one time the Celtic group was larger than the Romans (believe it or not), probably at least partially because at the beginning the Roman Christians were under severe persecution, whearas there never really was much persecution of Christians in the Celtic lands. In fact to a large degree the people found it quite compatible. There is some debate as to how close the Celtic Christians were connected with Roman Christianity though, which is for another discussion.

Don't get me wrong I'm not trying to convert you, or even really lead you for that matter..... I just think that God knows our journeys and this is an example of how he often links us up with Christians who are either going in the same direction, or can help us on our path. Four or five years ago Holy Spirit "told me" (in that still small voice) to hop aboard this tradition, and when I did I started to realize that God had actually been moving me in that direction for over a decade.... but I hadn't fully realized it. For me it wasn't as much a dismantling of my theology as a progressive movement into a theological understanding of something that I've kind of sensed all along..... one of the main instigators of this movement, was a belief that the Evangelicals which I had observed (both in my church and in a general sense) had an understanding of the arts (and in particular film) that I just couldn't follow. I knew to much about storytelling to follow their understanding and therefore always thought that there was something wrong. I wanted to figure out why this was wrong, which lead me to looking into the core belief systems that led to these views.

But you see I spent years in a fairly conservative Evangelical church..... and 12 years ago if somebody had of told me some of the stuff that I now believe I would have thought they were completely astray, not because it wouldn't have lined up with what I had been sensing, but because I had been indoctrinated to think that way. So I do understand where people are at in some of these things (although I am sometimes frustrated). I also came to realize that the church I was in has believed in every single one of the changes I had mentioned above (except baptism and Icons). Then I saw one of the great ironies, being that the more "conservative" branches of Christianity that are (in our time period) the most resistant to change, have actually often followed a great many of the earlier changes that have been made over the last 2,000 years. So in this sense in modern Christianity the "Conservatives" are often the "old Liberals".

One of the nice things I've found about Anglicanism is that they happily allow me to continue in this direction, while welcoming me to share in their community and sacraments. As a matter of fact the things I say often make good sense to them (being of course the ones I'm associating with)...... and yes they are a friendly bunch. I think this can be summed up in one of the things a little old lady said to me at a Monday night Eucharist service... "You'll never be condemned in an Anglican church". Which works for me. The Bible says that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, and that Satan is the condemner or the brethern.

Edited by Attica, 25 March 2012 - 11:04 PM.


#27 Attica

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 10:23 PM

What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of...

Which "Old" Christianity are you referring to? Who was the comedian who recently said "In the Good Old Days, people were still mostly assholes"? It's human nature to romantasize the past-- this is demonstrated for us in religious, political and artistic circles every day, by folks lamenting some long, lost Day Zero of ultimate doctrinal or ideological purity. In actuality it never existed.



There has never been a time when human beings haven't acted like assholes. But there was a time when they didn't view God as one. ::blush::

Hopefully that isn't a blasphemous statement. But I truly think that the early church (before Constantine and Augustine) believed in a much more loving, gentle and kindhearted, and less wrathful God than much of the current church does. I'm convinced that some of the stuff modern Christians say about God would have been crazy talk to them. As a matter of fact they wrote against some of these things as heresies. I've sometimes said to friends that their beliefs were different enough that either much of modern Christianity is wrong or they were. Me.... I'm going with their gentler more loving God.

There was never a time where they were in pure agreement on every subject..... but they did hold an awful lot of their main doctrines pretty close.

Edited by Attica, 25 March 2012 - 10:33 PM.


#28 Ryan H.

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 11:03 PM

What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of...

Which "Old" Christianity are you referring to?

All of it, good and bad. These days, American Christianity seems scarcely aware of the history of the Reformation, much less its background before that. Any healthy formulation of Christianity will continually grapple with its origins and development throughout the centuries, not because the origin represents doctrinal purity--indeed, there was a lot of doctrinal confusion in those days, as there is now, and there were many awful betrayals of the Gospel, as there are now--but because they were the carriers of Christ to us. We have received what we have now only because of those who have gone before us, and because they were the vessels that carried the Gospel, they deserve our respect and consideration. The Body of Christ not only spans place, but time.

Edited by Ryan H., 25 March 2012 - 11:11 PM.


#29 Greg P

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 06:19 AM


What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of...

Which "Old" Christianity are you referring to?

All of it, good and bad. These days, American Christianity seems scarcely aware of the history of the Reformation, much less its background before that. Any healthy formulation of Christianity will continually grapple with its origins and development throughout the centuries, not because the origin represents doctrinal purity--indeed, there was a lot of doctrinal confusion in those days, as there is now, and there were many awful betrayals of the Gospel, as there are now--but because they were the carriers of Christ to us. We have received what we have now only because of those who have gone before us, and because they were the vessels that carried the Gospel, they deserve our respect and consideration. The Body of Christ not only spans place, but time.

You and I have come to different conclusions about solutions and what we are looking for in a faith community, but I read a similar lament: we have ceased to identify with most of the distinctives of American Protestantism and/or Evangelicalism.

I'll take it a step further-- as did Rachel in the original link-- and say, I find Evangelicalism nigh insufferable, and I resent being put on the defensive about my conviction by those in her ranks, as if my decision to leave was a rash decision or really about sin, selfishness or some covert personal backsliding. I have intellectual, spiritual/theological reasons for my departure, but they take a back seat to this: I still have some semblance of self-respect and dignity.

As Andy pointed out, for those who love Jesus of Nazareth, the step away from Protestantism leaves you with basically two alternatives: Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. As someone raised in the Greek Orthodox Church and who agrees with much in that tradition, I have no real interest to return. I find services novel and occasionally fascinating, but I don't truly identify with it. The only Church I've attended in the past two years has been Catholic and I've gone only because a good friend is very involved in ministry there. I've been to several dry-as-bones services where I teetered on the brink of coma and one odd-ball service where I wept like a baby because it was so beautiful. Go figure. My friend continues to proselytize me at every burger-n-beer we share, but I am vehemently opposed to so much in Catholicism I know no matter how wonderful an individual church service may be, I have massive ideological disagreements with it that will forever keep me from calling it home.

Edited by Greg P, 26 March 2012 - 07:55 AM.


#30 SDG

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 08:35 AM

I truly think that the early church (before Constantine and Augustine) believed in a much more loving, gentle and kindhearted, and less wrathful God than much of the current church does. I'm convinced that some of the stuff modern Christians say about God would have been crazy talk to them. As a matter of fact they wrote against some of these things as heresies. I've sometimes said to friends that their beliefs were different enough that either much of modern Christianity is wrong or they were. Me.... I'm going with their gentler more loving God.

Can you clarify what some of these post-Constantinian/Augustinian heresies of divine wrath might be?

Edited by SDG, 26 March 2012 - 08:35 AM.


#31 Andy Whitman

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 10:21 AM



What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of...

Which "Old" Christianity are you referring to?

All of it, good and bad. These days, American Christianity seems scarcely aware of the history of the Reformation, much less its background before that. Any healthy formulation of Christianity will continually grapple with its origins and development throughout the centuries, not because the origin represents doctrinal purity--indeed, there was a lot of doctrinal confusion in those days, as there is now, and there were many awful betrayals of the Gospel, as there are now--but because they were the carriers of Christ to us. We have received what we have now only because of those who have gone before us, and because they were the vessels that carried the Gospel, they deserve our respect and consideration. The Body of Christ not only spans place, but time.

You and I have come to different conclusions about solutions and what we are looking for in a faith community, but I read a similar lament: we have ceased to identify with most of the distinctives of American Protestantism and/or Evangelicalism.

I'll take it a step further-- as did Rachel in the original link-- and say, I find Evangelicalism nigh insufferable, and I resent being put on the defensive about my conviction by those in her ranks, as if my decision to leave was a rash decision or really about sin, selfishness or some covert personal backsliding. I have intellectual, spiritual/theological reasons for my departure, but they take a back seat to this: I still have some semblance of self-respect and dignity.

As Andy pointed out, for those who love Jesus of Nazareth, the step away from Protestantism leaves you with basically two alternatives: Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. As someone raised in the Greek Orthodox Church and who agrees with much in that tradition, I have no real interest to return. I find services novel and occasionally fascinating, but I don't truly identify with it. The only Church I've attended in the past two years has been Catholic and I've gone only because a good friend is very involved in ministry there. I've been to several dry-as-bones services where I teetered on the brink of coma and one odd-ball service where I wept like a baby because it was so beautiful. Go figure. My friend continues to proselytize me at every burger-n-beer we share, but I am vehemently opposed to so much in Catholicism I know no matter how wonderful an individual church service may be, I have massive ideological disagreements with it that will forever keep me from calling it home.

Move to Ohio?

I don't know, Greg. There are also 47,287 (and counting) different flavors of Protestantism, and that's both its weakness and strength. As important as doctrinal issues are, what it comes down to for me is this: I want to be involved in a church where people love each other, love Jesus, and love and welcome sinners, both inside and outside the church, of every stripe and persuasion. Since I presumably have to show up at this hypothetical church, I'd like to see that kind of love and grace extended to me, and, by extension, to everyone else. If you're not sure you believe in Jesus, if your theological framework consists of nothing but doubts and questions, that's fine. You're welcome anyway. You'll hear the same teachings and be involved in the same discussions as me. If you're ashamed of much of your past life, and wish you could undo months, years, maybe decades, welcome to the club. Me too. Come on in. If you're willing to be challenged, to consider the notion of becoming a better, more whole person through following Jesus, and befriending a bunch of other people in the same boat, and serving the people in our culture who are marginalized, ignored, and shunned, some of whom are here and some of whom don't yet know about Jesus, then please show up. We'll welcome you.

These churches do exist. I'm a part of one of them. Like every church, people come and go. Some people leave because the pastor won't tell them how to vote. Other people want more formal programs. There are probably hundreds of reasons to leave. And that's okay. We encourage those folks to check out one of the other 47,286 options. Or the Catholic Church. Or the Orthodox Church. It's all good, or at least it can be. People have to find home. I would just encourage you to keep looking for home. Figure out what's negotiable (because you're not going to find a perfect church) and what's not negotiable, and learn to live with the distasteful but negotiable beliefs and practices. In that sense, I completely agree with Christian's comments earlier in this discussion. It's better to be involved in an imperfect church than no church at all.

For what it's worth, I grew up in the Catholic Church, lived 8 years in a Christian Jesus Freak commune, spent seven years in a conservative evangelical denominational church, spent another seven years in a "liberal" mainline Protestant church, spent a couple years seriously courting Orthodoxy (the main issue: I'm not Greek, Russian, Slovenian, or Syrian, and never will be), and now find myself in a church that doesn't look much like any of them. I'm home, and I'm not going anywhere. But it took 28 years to find it, and some portion of those 28 years was spent kvetching and moaning. Don't get me wrong. There were good, godly people along every stop. But it wasn't home. And as much as I was told, insistently, time and again, that it was wrong to church shop, I still believed that it was possible to find home. Eventually I did. Don't give up.

#32 Greg P

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 12:50 PM

Move to Ohio?


Heh. One move in the last couple weeks is enough for me, thanks!

There are technically many flavors of Protestantism, but they often seem like 47,287 variations on vanilla.

I'm really not that picky. Really! I don't care at all about the style of music-- none, would be preferable, but instrumental hymns are awesome and so is whirling, raging Hammond B3. I fully expect the music in most american churches to be the top 40, sing songy worship variety. That music sucks but I can endure it. I don't care if the pastor is a great speaker as long as he keeps it short and is well-read. Youth programs are not high on my priority list either because I want my kids to have a social circle in the neighborhood, school and community in which we live. I don't want Republican politics-- or any politics for that matter-- and I don't want a lot of flag waving. Dogma and historic considerations are frequently enriching, but not essential.

I'd like a place that encourages quiet prayer and contemplative practices, in earnest or a place that embraces the mystery of God like my Orthodox brethren. And maybe a place with people my own age. But I'm negotiable with those too. In fact I'm negotiable with all of the above.

Maybe the only essential thing is that I can be myself in a faith community... and be accepted. And that's why I stopped attending Evangelical services, in a nutshell. My sins: I embraced a homosexual couple who attended our church a few years ago and didn't try to convert them. I questioned some long standing traditions in the evangelical food court. I was known to drink alcohol-- in moderation of course-- but that didn't matter... spiritual people were expected to abstain from all appearance of evil, including R-Rated movies and secular music. And I could go on and on. It was hard to take a church seriously that was more concerned about teen christians masturbating in the shower than whether they were educated, critical thinkers who had a special place for the compassionate God of the Cosmos in their hearts.

The bottom line was that I had invested my life, my money and my energy into something that did not embrace me back. I expect that from the world, but not from a community of grace. Chip on my shoulder? Maybe. But deep down I want the same thing as everyone else-- to be embraced and accepted. I haven't given up finding that, but as the years go on I become increasingly skeptical.

Edited by Greg P, 26 March 2012 - 12:55 PM.


#33 Attica

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 01:46 PM

Andy Whitman said:


I don't know, Greg. There are also 47,287 (and counting) different flavors of Protestantism, and that's both its weakness and strength. As important as doctrinal issues are, what it comes down to for me is this: I want to be involved in a church where people love each other, love Jesus, and love and welcome sinners, both inside and outside the church, of every stripe and persuasion. Since I presumably have to show up at this hypothetical church, I'd like to see that kind of love and grace extended to me, and, by extension, to everyone else. If you're not sure you believe in Jesus, if your theological framework consists of nothing but doubts and questions, that's fine. You're welcome anyway. You'll hear the same teachings and be involved in the same discussions as me. If you're ashamed of much of your past life, and wish you could undo months, years, maybe decades, welcome to the club. Me too. Come on in. If you're willing to be challenged, to consider the notion of becoming a better, more whole person through following Jesus, and befriending a bunch of other people in the same boat, and serving the people in our culture who are marginalized, ignored, and shunned, some of whom are here and some of whom don't yet know about Jesus, then please show up. We'll welcome you.



Amen



Greg P said:

Maybe the only essential thing is that I can be myself in a faith community... and be accepted. And that's why I stopped attending Evangelical services, in a nutshell. My sins: I embraced a homosexual couple who attended our church a few years ago and didn't try to convert them. I questioned some long standing traditions in the evangelical food court. I was known to drink alcohol-- in moderation of course-- but that didn't matter... spiritual people were expected to abstain from all appearance of evil, including R-Rated movies and secular music. And I could go on and on. It was hard to take a church seriously that was more concerned about teen christians masturbating in the shower than whether they were educated, critical thinkers who had a special place for the compassionate God of the Cosmos in their hearts.



Amen



FWIW. I really sympathize with what you guys are saying.... and I think it's fitting with my thought for a follow up to Steven's post. I've come to a conviction that God is above all ..... compassionate and merciful, and therefore we are to live that way as well. For me this means not only accepting those who are not of the same mindset into our midst, but also in going out and wholeheartedly embracing them, because I think God's heart is full of compassion for them and he wants us to..... I'd venture to say deeply desires us to. I would think this could include having conversations with people about an R rated movie over a good beer. I once told one of the more conservative fellows in my church that it was easier to witness to someone when you were drunk, because then your inhibitions were down...... He didn't find that joke as funny as I did. 8O

But you see I grew up in a fairly good, salt of the earth type, churchgoing home and still have issues that I need to sort through (as does everybody if they are honest with themselves). I've come to the understanding that if I still have "stuff" how much more do some of the folks out there who have grown up in or been involved with, less savory enviroments..... or are dealing with mental illnesses, disease, bodies that don't function as well as they should.... ect. ect.

Some of the human ailments are wound in deep and are not easily fixed (althought God can do it). I lean more towards the Eastern understanding of Christianity and the church being a medicinal place where God sets the captives free. I truly believe the scriptures that say that Jesus came not to condemn the world, and that Christ came to set the captives free...... these both speak of compassion and mercy.

Edited by Attica, 04 April 2012 - 02:40 PM.


#34 SDG

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 02:12 PM

I'm still not clear what you're driving at, Attica. I gather that the ideas of mercy and compassion are important to you. I'm pretty sure I've read about mercy and compassion in St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas too. I'm not sure what it is you feel crept into the Church, or was lost, in the time of Constantine and Augustine. Perhaps you could provide some specific examples?

#35 Attica

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 05:22 PM

I'm still not clear what you're driving at, Attica. I gather that the ideas of mercy and compassion are important to you. I'm pretty sure I've read about mercy and compassion in St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas too. I'm not sure what it is you feel crept into the Church, or was lost, in the time of Constantine and Augustine. Perhaps you could provide some specific examples?



Hi Steven.. I'm writing out some thoughts and quotes for you. I'll send them in a bit.

My beef is more with Augustine then Constantine. I think that he really threw the church for a loop. I'm not discounting that Augustine believed in compassion, because he clearly believed that God's grace was towards him.... but I do think that he was one of the main guys who muckied up some of our understanding of God's wrath, including what happened at the fall and its results. Don't get me wrong.... I do believe in God's wrath and judgment. I just don't think the early Christians would have had quite the same view of it's purposes, and how it functioned, as what can often be found in Christianity since Augustine.


Yes... mercy and compassion are very important to me.

Edited by Attica, 27 March 2012 - 01:47 PM.


#36 SDG

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 08:40 AM

Thanks, Attica. I hope you're including citations from the writings of the pre-Augustinian fathers against the heretical views you ascribe to Augustine.

FWIW, my feeling is that anyone or anything as massively influential as Augustine is a target for criticism, both fairly and unfairly, and that any subject as complex, subtle, vast and formative as Augustine's thought is likely to be oversimplified both by its proponents and its critics.

#37 Attica

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 12:34 PM

Thanks, Attica. I hope you're including citations from the writings of the pre-Augustinian fathers against the heretical views you ascribe to Augustine.

FWIW, my feeling is that anyone or anything as massively influential as Augustine is a target for criticism, both fairly and unfairly, and that any subject as complex, subtle, vast and formative as Augustine's thought is likely to be oversimplified both by its proponents and its critics.


Yep. I am..... and it's probably to oversimplified ;)

Yeah. I kind of agree with you. For awhile I was really kind of ticked off with Augustine (actually I still kind of am... a little). But I've moved to viewing him through a bit different lense the more I've learned about him. Now I see him as being a bit of a tragic figure. Being that he had a pretty horrific past, and I don't think he ever really, truly, healed from it. We sometimes just look at these guys thoughts and writings, and forget about the complexities of their humanity (as well as their cultural context).

Edited by Attica, 27 March 2012 - 12:35 PM.


#38 Greg P

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 08:04 AM

If one takes M Scott Peck's "Four Stages of Spiritual Growth" to heart (and i have, recently), the move away from evangelicalism or more strict, organized church services, can be easily seen for what it is-- less of a backsliders taboo and more of an essential part of healthy, human development. I think this is the distinction I would add as a footnote to Rachel's blog post and our discussion here: many of us stop attending church because we are growing!!!

Why is that concept so anathema to those who believe in Christ?

I think from my teens till my late 20's or early 30's I was very entrenched in Stage 2, i.e. a course of spirituality characterized by the Formal, Institutional and Fundamental. During that period I was very involved in ministry and church services, attending 2-3 times a week and typically leading the services on at least one or more of those occasions. After this came a gentle breeze of questioning and searching... some disillusionment and skepticism, which ramped up in my mid-30's and included me formally stepping down from leadership at church and slowly discontinuing attendance at regular church services. I find myself at the tail end of Peck's Stage 3 now, in my early 40's. Still very skeptical of american religious meetings in many ways and also utterly convinced neither evangelicalism or Catholicism offer me anything by way of "membership". I have flirted with atheism.

And yet... I am moving somewhere different now. I find myself searching for Community -- albeit from a much different angle than when i was 18 years old. I'm not searching to join a movement or apply for church membership or lead anything. I find myself embracing some of the mystical qualities of Christianity anew. It's another phase and not an entirely comfortable one, I admit... but it's all part of growth. How that will play out in the fast food religious pop culture is totally unknown to me.

Edited by Greg P, 30 March 2012 - 08:19 AM.


#39 Attica

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:50 AM

If one takes M Scott Peck's "Four Stages of Spiritual Growth" to heart (and i have, recently), the move away from evangelicalism or more strict, organized church services, can be easily seen for what it is-- less of a backsliders taboo and more of an essential part of healthy, human development. I think this is the distinction I would add as a footnote to Rachel's blog post and our discussion here: many of us stop attending church because we are growing!!!



I fully agree. A couple of days ago I listened to a Podcast where Brian McLaren was interviewed about his newest book "Naked Spirituality". One of the things he touched on is that many Christian churches aren't much able to help the people in stage 3. They just aren't set up that way.

Of course his understanding of the four stages might be a little different than what you had linked to.

Link to podcast



FWIW I can relate to the stage three aspect of being an active truth seeker and re-assessing or taking a deeper look at my own belief system and why I see the world the way I do, but not at all the atheistic part (I did question that aspect 14 or 15 years ago). I also at times can relate with the mystical apsects of Shalom as seen in stage 4, and also the aspects of trancending cultures and understanding to connect with those outside Christianity for the sake of community. So I guess maybe I'm fluctuating between these last two stages.

Edited by Attica, 30 March 2012 - 10:51 AM.


#40 Attica

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 02:06 AM

I truly think that the early church (before Constantine and Augustine) believed in a much more loving, gentle and kindhearted, and less wrathful God than much of the current church does. I'm convinced that some of the stuff modern Christians say about God would have been crazy talk to them. As a matter of fact they wrote against some of these things as heresies. I've sometimes said to friends that their beliefs were different enough that either much of modern Christianity is wrong or they were. Me.... I'm going with their gentler more loving God.

Can you clarify what some of these post-Constantinian/Augustinian heresies of divine wrath might be?



Hi Steven.

Here's my response, complete with poor structure, and bad grammar. I apologize for it being so ridiculously long. B) Feel free to private message me if you'd like to comment off of the boards, being that this is a bit of a sidetrack. But not completely, I think. :)

From my understanding they probably would have had a problem with some (not all) of the current churches understanding of divine wrath being the idea that God gets "glory" from punitively punishing sin and evil, although I've never read any direct evidence that they would have found this heretical. Having said that, I'm pretty sure that they would have found that belief to be troubling, as do I. Of course this comes from an interpretation of Romans 9. I believe there is a sound interpretation of this text that aligns with a more loving, merciful God. But that's for another time.

A good book that touches on some of this with a deep study of God's judgement throughout the bible is this...... God's Glory in Salvation through Judgement


Also.. I'm not sure exactly what the early church would have thought of this, but I'm troubled by the notions found in some Christian circles that God has to judge sin because he is Holy. I mean really... really. How does that line up with Jesus and the adulteress where he says that those without sin should throw the first stone and then goes ands her to go and sin no more. If God had to judge sin because of his holiness wouldn't Jesus have had to have her stoned to death. Yet he showed her mercy instead.


Anyhow.... I digress. Of course this response is about what the early Christians had to say about judgement, and how Augustine differed. You had asked what they would have considered to be heresies. I believe they would have considered Augustine's doctrine of original sin, being linked to God's judgement of mankind at the fall, and it's results, to be heretical. As I've mentioned the Eastern branches, the Coptic, Celtic, Syrian, and Ethiopian Orthodox have rejected this. Also from my understanding the Roman church has moved away from a full Augustinian belief.

The Jewish tradition has also rejected this understanding, and they have lived with the story of the fall of Adam and Eve much longer than the Christian churches.

Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz, in his commentary on the Pentateuch and Haftorahs, on the topic of the "fall of man" writes: “Strange and somber doctrines have been built on this chapter of the Garden of Eden, such as the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. . . . Judaism rejects these doctrines. Man was mortal from the first, and death did not enter the world through the transgression of Eve. . . . There is no loss in the God-likeness of man, nor of man's ability to do right in the eyes of God; and no such loss has been transmitted to his latest descendants”.


I realize that what I'm saying is quite controversial here in Western Christianity though..... but bear with me, I'm not trying to be a jerk about it. In fact the opposite.... I believe a non Augustinian understanding leads to a God that's a pretty good guy. If folks like some of these new atheists heard more of the understanding I'm going to try and set forth (in which I'll link to early Christian writings), then I don't think they'd be so inclined to writing books like "God is not Good".

You see, the following is very different from what I used to believe. I was a good Evangelical kind of guy, and I remember at a Bible study teaching that Jesus was born of Holy Spirit and not man, in order that he could be born without a sin nature because it was through the father that original sin is passed. But ..... If Eve was the first to sin then shouldn't that mean that original sin would be passed through the woman's womb?


But anyhow. Here are some quotes from some of the more well known founding fathers to start showing what I'm getting at.


Justin Martyr wrote:

For it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first on meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And gain, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions.... Justine Martyr (c. 16o, E), 1. 177

Justin Martyr wrote

I have proved in what has been said that those who were fore-known to be unrighteous, whether men or angels, are not made wicked by God's fault. Rather each man is what he will appear to be through his own fault..... Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.269



In and around 180 A.D. Irenaeus wrote:

"Therefore the prophets used to exhort men to what was good, to act justly and to work righteousness.... because it is in our power to do so".


"This expression.... sets forth the ancient law of human liberty. For God made man free from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the commandments of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God".

c (180) E/W. 1.518


"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds"... And "Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?".......all such passages demonstrate the independent will of man".

(c.180, E/W), 1.519



In 210 Tertullian wrote.

"The corruption of our nature is another nature having a god and father of it's own - namely the author of corruption. Still, there is a portion of good in the soul of that original divine, and genuine good, which is it's proper nature. For that which is derived from God is obscured rather than extinguished. It can indeed be obscured because it is not God. However it cannot be extinguished because it comes from God..... Thus some men are very bad, and some are very good. And even in the best person, there is something bad... Just as no soul is without sin, so neither is any soul without seeds of good".



In 195 AD Clement of Alexandria wrote

"The Lord clearly shows sins and transgressions to be in our own power, by prescribing modes of cure corresponding to the maladies". ..... Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.363

" Neither praises nor censures, neither rewards nor punishments, are right if the soul does not have the power of inclination and disinclination and if evil is involuntary...... In no respect is God the author of evil. But since free choice and inclination originate sins,..... punishments are justly afflicted ..... Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.319


In 303 lacantius said.

Nobody can be born vicious. Instead if we make a bad use of the affections, they become vices. If we use them well, they become virtues. The Son clothed himself with flesh so that the desires of the flesh being subdued, he might teach us that to sin was not the result of necessity, but of man's purpose and will....... Lactantius (c. 304-131, W), 7.127


In 210 Tertullian wrote.

"Is not the doctrine of the Gnostics from the beginning and everywhere an invective against the flesh? According to them it is unclean against its first formation of the dregs of the ground. According to them (the Gnostics), it is worthless, weak, covered with guilt, laden with misery, full of trouble"...... Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.548


In and around 225 Origen wrote:

"Certain men who hold different opinions (i.e. heretics) misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation (choosing salvation)...... Origen (c.225, E), 4.308

"This is also clearly defined in the teaching of the church (meaning the church at large not just Origen), that every rational soul is possessed of free will and volition and that it has a struggle to maintain against the devil."...... Origen (c.225,E), 4.240




These are just a few quotes of the early fathers that I've taken from this book...... a Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. What I've written is far from exhaustive but I think it gives a fairly good sample of what the early Christians thought of God's judgement during the fall, and the resulting nature of mankind. It shows that they would have had different views than the Augustinian understanding of original sin, and human nature after the fall, which Christians in the west believe in to varying degrees, and would have disagreed with this view. Of course there are also a few quotes that touch on the idea of this kind of thought being heretical as being related to the Gnostics...... Don't be upset with me .... I didn't write these. But I think it's fairly safe to say that their main problem with Augustinian thought, which has influenced the church, would have been the idea that through original sin we are created evil, or with evil in us...... which of course is connected with how God's divine wrath functioned during the fall, and the idea that humanity is born with an inherited nature towards sin, resulting from the fall.


Here is a quote from St. Basil the Great's book "On the human condition"....(page 73)

"But living beings were created with the bodily faculties suited to them according to nature, and brought into life complete in their limbs and organs, but they became ill through a perversion of what is according to nature. For a disruption of health occurs either because of a bad lifestyle or because of some other cause of illness. Therefore, God created the body, but not illness; and likewise God created the soul but not sin. Rather, the soul is made evil through a perversion of what is according to nature. But what was the good set before the soul? It was the attentiveness to God and union with him through love. Once the soul has fallen away from this, it is made evil by various and manifold weaknesses. But for what reason is it entirely capable of receiving evil? Because of the impulse of free choice........ For having been freed from all necessity, and receiving self determined life from the Creator, because it came into being according to the image of God, it understand the Good and knows his joy and possesses authority and power, abiding in the contemplation of the beautiful and the enjoyment of spiritual things, guarding carefully in itself the life according to nature. Yet it also had authority to turn away from the beautiful at any time. And this happened to it when it received a satiety of blessed delights and was is it were weighed down by a kind of sleepiness and sank down from the things above...."



Here is a excerpt from the above mentioned book "A dictionary of early Christian beliefs".

In the following lengthy discussion of free will, Origen counters the arguments being made by certain Gnostics, who said that humans have a ruined nature because of being created by the inferior DemiUrge. These Gnostics taught that, as a result of these ruined natures, salvation was purely a matter of grace and election by the father of Jesus.



Yes... I know Origen had fallen out of favour with the church (although that is being restored as of the last half century).... but the early church was quite fine with him, even if they didn't agree with him on a couple of points (his ideas relating to a Christian form of reincarnation were a little nuts). Origen wasn't condemned until hundreds of years after his death..... and that council and condemnation is another discussion.



With the above quotes in mind.... some information from wikipedia (and we all know that wikipedia is never wrong). ;)


The Greek Fathers emphasized the cosmic dimension of the Fall, namely that since Adam human beings are born into a fallen world, but held fast to belief that man, though fallen, is free. It was in the West that precise definition of the doctrine arose.

Compare this with Augustine's understanding of original sin.

Having committed this particular sin human nature was henceforth transformed. Adam and Eve, via sexual reproduction, recreated human nature. Their descendants now live in sin, in the form of concupiscence which makes the original sin pass from parents to children, is not a libido actualis, i.e. sexual lust, but libido habitualis, i.e. a wound of the whole of human nature. Augustine's view (termed "Realism"), all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned. Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all humans inherit. As sinners, humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace. Grace is irresistible results in conversion, and leads to perseverance


Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin equated original sin with concupiscence, affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom.



So, Augustinian thought has made it's way, to varying degrees, into most of Western Christianity.... Both Luther and Calvin were strongly influenced by it. But really, if we have inherited a sin nature, isn't that saying that there is some sort of evil inherent in humanity, otherwise how would we have this inclination to do evil.


The following is taken from the book.... Sin and Fear: the emergence of a Western Guilt Culture.

The doctrine of original sin had such a profound impact that "all future theological reflection on this problem in the Christian West was geared toward it, whether to lighten it (as with Aquinas, Erasmus, or Molina), or to darken it a bit more, as especially with Luther......


.......It was therefore in the sixteenth century, an specifically in Protestant theology, that the accusation of man and the world reached its climax in Western civilization. Never before had they been so totally condemned, and never had this condemnation reached such a large audience. Luther and his successors urged all Christians to "despair totally of themselves in order to be able to receive Christ's grace" "Having grown into a bad tree, man can only want and do evil"........

......Christian civilization placed the Fall at the centre of its preoccupations and construed it as a catastrophe initiating all history.......Although the story of Adam and Eve's crime appears in the first book of the Old Testament (Genesis 3: 1 - 24), ancient Judaism did not focus its theology on the first sin."

- Jean Delumeau, Sin and Fear: the Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture 13th - 18th Centuries (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), 1.



So. If original sin, and a sin nature is passed on to humanity though sexual reproduction..... and people are thoroughly cleansed of this sin through baptism..... then how is it that two baptized Christians can pass it on to their children?

Also If one follows the Augustinian belief that we are born with sin in us then Mary would have sin in her genes and should therefore have transmitted it to Jesus since He was still conceived in her womb. Some Christians recognize this problem and maintain that Mary was born sinless so that she could deliver Jesus sinless into the world. To this, my question would be..... so then how did Mary get to be sinless since she was conceived and born a human?



After the influence of Augustine's understanding of the original sin the general view amongst much Christianity is that during the fall God was more or less full of wrath against Adam and Eve for their infraction, and gave them the boots out of Eden. Yet here are a few quotes relating to how at least some of the fathers viewed God's judgement in the fall.


Irenaeus (130 to about 200 A.D. from his book Against the Heretics

Wherefore also He drove Adam out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some dare to assert, but because He pitied him and desired that he should not continue always a sinner, and that the sin which surrounded him should not be immortal, and the evil interminable and irremediable (Irenaeus - Against the Heretics Book 3, chapter. 23, 6



Gregory of Nazianzen (330 - 390 A.D) wrote.

Adam receives death as a gain, and (thereby) the cutting off of sin; that evil should not be immortal: and so the vengeance turns out a kindness, for thus I of opinion it is that God punishes.: - (Nazianzen. Orat. xlii)



In 180 AD Theophilus wrote:

Because of his disobedience, man extracted as from a fountain, labour, pain and grief. At last, he fell prey to death. God showed great kindness to man in this, for He did not allow him to remain in sin forever. Instead, by a kind of banishment, as it were, He cast man out of Paradise. God did this so that man could expiate his sin through punishment, within and appointed time. Having been disciplined, man could afterwards be restored .... (Theophilus to Autoclycus, Book 2, chap. 26)





Here we see an understanding of the fall and God's judgement, written from some major and highly respected Bishops and theologians, that is very different from what Augustine taught and much of the church believes (in the West at least). Compare this to what Augustine said in City of God

- book 14 - chapter 15

Therefore, because the Sin was a despising of the authority of God―who had created man; who had made him in His own image; who had set him above the other animals; who had placed him in Paradise; who had enriched him with abundance of every kind and of safety; who had laid upon him neither many, nor great, nor difficult commandments, but, in order to make a wholesome obedience easy to him, had given him a single very brief and very light precept by which He reminded that creature whose service was to be free that He was Lord,― it was just that condemnation followed, and condemnation such that man, who by keeping the commandments should have been spiritual even in his flesh, became fleshly even in his spirit; and as in his pride he had sought to be his own satisfaction, God in His justice abandoned him to himself, not to live in the absolute independence he affected, but instead of the liberty he desired, to live dissatisfied with himself in a hard and miserable bondage to him to whom by sinning he had yielded himself, doomed in spite of himself to die in body as he had willingly become dead in spirit, condemned even to eternal death, had not the grace of God delivered him, because he had forsaken eternal life. Whoever thinks such punishment either excessive or unjust shows his inability to measure the great iniquity of sinning where sin might so easily have been avoided.

- Book 13 - chapter 3

To this infantine imbecility the first man did not fall by his lawless presumption and just sentence; but human nature was in his person vitiated and altered to such an extent, that he suffered in his members the warring of disobedient lust, and became subject to the necessity of dying. And what he himself had become by sin and punishment, such he generated those whom he begot; that is to say, subject to sin and death. And if infants are delivered from this bondage of sin by the Redeemer's grace, they can suffer only this death which separates soul and body; but being redeemed from the obligation of sin, they do not pass to that second endless and penal death.

-Book 13 - chapter 13

For, as soon as our first parents had transgressed the commandment, divine grace forsook them, and they were confounded at their own wickedness; and therefore they took fig-leaves, ......and covered their shame; for though their members remained the same, they had shame now where they had none before. They experienced a new motion of their flesh, which had become disobedient to them, in strict retribution of their own disobedience to God. (Edit - what about the fact that God later graciously covered them.)

Book 13 - chapter 15

we are subject to the death of the body, not by the law of nature, by which God ordained no death for man, but by His righteous infliction on account of sin; for God, taking vengeance on sin, said to the man, in whom we all then were, “Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.”


So basically the early theologians believed that judgement of the fall was an act of corrective kindness, where mankind inherited death for the purpose of not having to live forever in a world impacted by sin. The early church (with the exception of the Gnostics) believed that mankind after the fall was born with the full ability to choose goodness, and therefore God (in fact Basil the Great mentioned the soul "abiding in the contemplation of the beautiful and the enjoyment of spiritual things", relating to the nature that it was born with). Otherwise for them it wouldn't have been just for God to punish their sins. Yet they believed that God's judgement was remedial... even to the point of using sacramental language, and using the examples of the pain induced through medicinal purposes. In a bit I'll write out a few quotes from some major early theologians showing how they thought the afterlife judgement was corrective and medicinal in nature.

In contrast Augustine's thought has led and a good portion of Christianity to believe that God's wrath burned against humanity during the fall, and that because of the fall we have inherited a sin nature from Adam and Eve (Why would God have created a world where we inherit a sin nature because of Adam and Eve sinning)? Thus, in this opinion we are born with and evil inclination towards sin, and yet God has people to be eternally tormented without mercy for their sins, even when they are born with said inclination to do them in the first place. And then to make matters worse Augustine taught (and some current Christianity still teaches), that these people were incapable of choosing salvation on their own, because of this sin nature which they had inherited. Which was pretty much the exact opposite of what the early fathers taught (see Basil the Great's quote above).


So you see how different the Post Augustinian church's views are (in the West at least) from these highly respected theologians of early church. Basically the early church thought that we sin by choice and God's judgement on sin was corrective "restorative justice" from a loving father,and now much of Christianity teaches that we sin (at least partially) because we were born with that inclination, and that God's judgement on humanities sin is punitive from an angry God whose upset because said sin (which they are born inclined to do in the first place) was an insult to God's holiness. Some even teach that God gets his glory from these judgements ( (Later I'll touch on a few scriptures that connects God's holiness and Glory with his mercy).

So honestly.... which view portrays God In a worse light?


I know that I've talked here before about the doctrine of eternal torments (probably ad-nauseam), but the fact of it is.... is that there are writings, including from Augustine, that prove that this doctrine had the least dogmatic followers in the early church. That seems pretty clear. What is open to argument is how many of the early Christians fully believed in the Apocatastasis (the ultimate reconciliation of all) compared to how man only had a certain hope in this. There were also some fathers such as Irenaeus that seemed to lean towards some form of annilhation belief. As far as I can tell, the only well known founding father, before Augustine, that really truly seemed to believe in eternal conscious torments (this without holding to any hope at all), was Tertullian. Although I suppose there were others.

So Augustine was the first Christian to dogmatically teach the doctrine of eternal torments, although it wasn't completely unheard of in the early church. Of course, since Augustine's teachings, the vast majority of Christianity believes in the doctrine of eternal conscious torments, even to the state that for most Christians in the west the idea of ultimate restoration would be considered to be unheard of or unfathomable. It also would be considered to be a "Liberal doctrine" with liberal meaning changing Christianity. But if many of the early Christians held to the doctrine of Apocatastasis (or at least a certain hope for this), wouldn't Augustine's more dogmatic views on eternal torture be that which is "Liberal" (or novel) at the time?

You see. The idea that we haven't inherited a sin nature, or the belief in Apocatastasis would make many modern Christians squirm in their seats and cry heresy ..... but the early Christians would have been quite comfortable with this. In fact, in regards to Apocatastasis Augustine considered those who believed in this doctrine to be "tender hearted doctors" but he still considered them to be among the Orthodox. He is even quoted as saying that most men (Christians) of his time believed in this. Now a days Rob Bell comes out as only being agnostic about the idea, and he gets flamed for it.


Which of course leads me to some of the early Christian's views on the afterlife judgements Just for the record - I don't know if they would have considered differing views on this to be heretical. Also, I think it's safe to say that the following quotes don't just reflect their understanding of the afterlife judgements, but also, surely reflect their understanding of God's judgements in this life. That being restorative justice instead of angry punitive punishing (although I'm not sure if they would have used those terms).

First some quotes from Gregory of Nyssa. It's interesting to note that Gregory was invited to be on the council that gave us the Nicene creed, and actually wrote up the final draft of this creed. This council was of course a major council the church put together to fight against heresies.... and some of Gregory of Nyssa's writings clearly taught Apocatastasis (the ultimate restoration of all). In fact a sermon by Gregory about this, still exists.

So if he was invited to be on this council, and in fact wrote up the final draft of the Nicene Creed, then they obviously didn't consider him to be a heretic even when it was plainly known that he taught the doctrine of Apocatastasis . Of course from this I can't know how many of the Bishops at this time taught it, but I think I can safely say that they didn't have a huge problem with it. As a matter of fact Gregory Nazianzus who was voted to be the head of that council also had some writings that were inclined towards this teaching.

As well.... if this doctrine was known at this time (which it obviously was) then the Bishops at this council obviously didn't consider it to be a problem....because not only does the Nicene Creed not speak against it.... they in fact had at least a couple of Bishops (who knows how many more) on that council that believed in it, and then to boot, Gregory of Nyssa was the guy the got to make up the final draft of this Creed.



Anyhow some Quotes from Gregory of Nyssa. (taken from the book - Universal Salvation - Eschatology in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa - By Karl Rahner)


Perhaps someone, taking his departure from the fact that after three days of distress in the darkness even the Egyptians shared in the light, might be led to perceive the final restoration which is expected to take place later in the kingdom of heaven (by using the words "is expected" he implies that more than just him have this expectation) of those who have suffered condemnation in Gehenna. For that darkness that could be felt, as the history says, has a great affinity both in its name and in its actual meaning to the outer darkness. (page 79)

snip

We learn from these things that there will be no destruction of humanity, in order that the divine work shall not be rendered useless being obliterated by non-existence. But instead of humanity, sin will be destroyed and reduced to non being. (page 80)

snip

When evil shall have some day been annihilated in the long revolutions of the ages, nothing shall be left outside the world of goodness but that even from those evil spirits shall rise in harmony the confession of Christ's lordship. (page 80) (Note here how he talks about the annihilation of evil in the long revolutions of the ages, this is very significant when one considers that Gregory of Nyssa read Greek and was reading from the original Greek scriptures It indicates that he understood that there were ages (aionos) to come.)


Some Ante-Nicene fathers discreetly, propagated, Christian universalism as something that only mature Christians could accept, as did Gregory Nazianzen and Maximus the Confessor (Cf. von Balthasa, Dare we Hope?, 63.)





Gregory of Nazianzen - (Greek speaking Christian who was voted president of the second great Ecumenical Council by over 100 Bishops.)

"Today salvation has been brought to the universe to whatsoever is visible and whatsoever is invisible...... (today) the gates of Hades are thrown open" (Or xl 11).

"Adam receives death as a gain, and (thereby) the cutting off of sin; that evil should not be immortal: an so the vengeance turns out a kindness, for thus I am of opinion it is that God punishes" (Nazianzen. Orat xl 11).

"....they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism which consumes all vanity and vice'(Orat. xxx1x, 19 - n)




These Ante - Nicene fathers use the word baptize to describe the correction in fire. This is a sacramental language that of course is related to the use of Baptism mentioned in Romans 6: 6 - 7.
Here Baptism is mentioned as being a process that destroys sin and cleanses the person. Of course this very much aligns with a restorative justice view of God's punishments.


The Bible uses a baptismal type cleansing language in describing judgement.


Isaiah 4: 2 - 4

In that day shall the Bud of Yahweh become beautiful and glorious........Everyone written unto life in Jerusalem, When My Lord shall have bathed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, And the blood guiltiness of Jerusalem he shall wash away out of her midst, - by the Spirit of judgement, and by the Spirit of thorough cleansing.




Now when it comes to the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation much is made of Origen. I'm not going to quote from Origen (although he did have much of value to say), mainly because I'm going to stick with non-controversial fathers, who have always remained in good standing within the eyes of the larger Christian community. But it's also worth noting that many Christians say that Origen was the first to teach Ultimate reconciliation of all, yet this thought can be found in some even earlier Christian writings. Namely Clement of Alexandria and the Sibyline books.


Clement of Alexandria (taken from "Her Gates Will Never be Shut" - page 121)

Clement's importance, to my mind, is that he clarifies the NT language for "punishment". Clement insists that God's "correction" (paideia - Heb 12:9) and "chastisement" (kolasis - Matt 25:46) is as a loving father, only an always meant for the healing and salvation of the whole world. He denies that God ever inflicts "punishment" (timoria - Heb 10:29 - vengeance) in the vengeful sense, a word Jesus never used. Watch how Clement ties judgement to correction with a view to universal redemption.

Clement of Alexandria -

"For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and particularly..... But necessary corrections, through the goodness of the great overseeing Judge....... by various acts of anticipative judgement, and by the perfect judgement compel egregious sinners to repent (Strom.7.2).

snip

"He, indeed, saves all; but some (He saves) converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily (He saves) with dignity of honour; so that every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, that is, angels, men and souls that before His advent have departed from this temporal life (Strom. 7.16).



Indeed the Sibylline books in the 2nd, 3rd centuries.... state the beliefs current in those days. -

"All things, even Hades are to be melted down in the divine fire in order to be purified All just and unjust pass through the fire. The lost are finally to be saved at the request of the righteous." (Lib.ii., vv. 195-340)........ "The Sibyl asserts that the pains of the damned are to be terminated." (Fabric., Bibl. Grec.I. p. 203)



Here some more quotes.


Ambrose - Bishop of Milan, (340 - 397 A.D.)

The mystery of the Incarnation is the salvation of the entire creation..... as it is elsewhere said, "the whole creation shall be set free from the bondage of corruption"....... So the Son of Man came to save that which was lost, for as in Adam all die, so too, in Christ shall all be made alive. The subjection of Christ consists not in few, but in all....... Christ will be subject to God in us by means of the obedience of all..... when vices having been cast away, and sin reduced to submission, one spirit of all people, in one sentiment, shall with one accord begin to cleave to God, Then God will be All in All..... (Ambrose. De fide lib. v. 7)


Titus - Bishop of Bostra, (364 A.D.)

The very pit itself is a place of torments and of chastisement, but is not eternal. It was made that it might be a medicine and help to those who sin. Sacred are the stripes which are medicine to those who have sinned. "Therefore we do not complain of the pits of abyssis- but rather know that they are places of torment, and chastisement, being for the correction of those who have sinned" ......(Titus _ Adv. Man. lib. i. 32


Diodorus, (376 A.D.) - Bishop of Tarsus

"For the wicked there are punishments not perpetual.... according to the amount of malice in their works.... The resurrection, therefore, is regarded as a blessing not only to the good but also to the evil....(Diodorus. ASSEM.Bibl. Or. 3. p. 324)


Theodoret - Bishop of Cyrus (423 A.D.)

"After his anger, God will bring to an end His judgement; for He will not be angry onto the end nor keep His wrath to eternity." .....(Theodoret.InIs.xiii)

.... "He shews here the reason for punishment, for the Lord, the lover of men, torments us only to cure us, that He may put a stop to the course of our iniquity" (Theodoret. Hom in Ezech. cap. Vi. vers 6)


Chrystostom - (400 A.D.)

"If punishment were an evil to those who sin, God never would have added evils to evils."..."God kindly inflicts vengeance"..... (Chrystostom - Gen.iii.Hom.xviii)


Gregory of Nyssa - (332 - 398)

The Divine judgement does not as its chief object cause pain to those who have sinned, but works good alone by separating from evil, and drawing to a share in blessedness. But this severance of good from evil causes pain (of the judgement). In other words, the penalty is the cure; it is merely the unavoidable pain attending the removal of the intruding element of sin.....(Gregory. Dialogue of the Soul and Resurrection)



So....Here the founding fathers are using language like sacrament, medicine, baptism, cure, sacred stripes.... to explain God's judgement


Yet compare that to what Augustine said in the following.


City of God - book 19 - chapter 28

But, on the other hand, they who do not belong to this city of God shall inherit eternal misery, which is also called the second death, because the soul shall then be separated from God its life, and therefore cannot be said to live, and the body shall be subjected to eternal pains........But in the world to come the pain continues that it may torment (compare Augustine's use of the word torment to Clement of Alexandria's understanding of the Greek word Kolasis), and the nature endures that it may be sensible of it; and neither ceases to exist, lest punishment also should cease. Now, as it is through the last judgement that men pass to these ends, the good to the supreme good, the evil to the supreme evil. (compare this last sentence to Chrystostom's quote above)



So according to Augustine supreme evil will continue eternally. How does that line up with a God of love that desires to destroy evil? Augustine made a big deal of God's sovereignty......so then is God almighty or not? Will not an Almighty God eventually destroy evil?


Also compare that to what Augustine said in City of God books 20 and 21. Augustine was quite probably the first Christian to really describe a punitive torturous hell, which has greatly influenced Christianity's thought and imagery.


Mind.... much of the Western church's imagery of hell comes from the poem Dante's Inferno.

Yes. think about it. Christianity has largely based it's understanding of how it's loved ones will be eternally tortured...... on a poem written in the 1300's......1300 or so years after Christ. Western Christian art is full of images of demons torturing people. It's everywhere from our books to Cathedrals. Now, we know that Demons are evil and hate humanity, and want to torture us...... so this would mean that God will reward them for rebelling against him and causing thousands of years of evil and pain to his world.....by letting them torture 90% of humanity for all eternity. It's kind of a rotten deal for the human race I would think, after all we fell in the first place, in part, because of the devil's temptation. Yet he gets to torture humanity.

So now many Christians are saying that God's judgement comes because sin is an offence to a "Holy God". So therefore his "Holy Wrath" burns and he hurts people, causing terrible earthquakes, where little children are torn and maimed. Yet isn't being often offended a sign of insecurity? So then, is God insecure? How is causing an earthquake, leading to a place where children are raised without the nurturing environment of their parents, going to stop sin?

They then say that we should grow in holiness...... so does that mean that I should grow into the place where I punitively punish people for offending my growing holy nature. Some even say that God gets glory from punitively punishing evil.


But wait. The Bible associates God's holiness and his glory with his mercy. The nations are to glorify God for his mercy.


When the choir of Israel sang the praises of God, they magnified his holiness.


2 Chronicles 20: 21

He appointed singers unto the Lord, and that they should praise the beauty of holiness.


And here is what they sang.


2 Chronicles 20: 21

Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures for the ages.



There are other texts that relate to this understanding of God's Holiness. A couple being.


Isaiah 57: 15-16

For thus says the high and lofty One Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy..... “I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wrath.....”


Hosea 11: 9

I will not execute the fierceness of my anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, an not man; the Holy one in the midst of you.



Of course Jesus also showed the connection between the Holiness of God and his mercy in his earthly life. The one “who is Holy” and “separate from sinners” was here on Earth as a “friend of sinner” (c.f. Hebrews 7: 26; Matthew 11:9)


In His book “A Passion for Justice” Johnston McMaster touches on the afore mentioned Hosea text.

Yet in the history of Israel's experience and understanding Hosea produced the groundbreaking vision of God the deeply compassionate One. Ultimately the prophet pushed beyond the destructive culture of violence to a God who was God and not human, i.e. violent, to a God of solidarity and compassion who suffered alongside and whose deep compassion would never let go or give up. Hosea highlighted the power of transforming compassion (Hosea 11: 1-9).

Jesus was in this Jewish prophetic tradition. He too pushed beyond the boundaries of truth in his own community. The faith community has often had the same problem. It more often mirrors the popular value system, the comfortable, self-serving ethics of the domination systems. the Matthean Beatitudes turn the domination system values upside down. Jesus points to God's upside-down kingdom. The fifth Beatitude pronounces the blessedness of the merciful: 'for they will receive mercy' (Matthew 5: 7). In the Sermon on the Mount in which the Beatitudes are placed, Jesus also visions God as merciful to all, without favouritism or exception. God's love, mercy and compassion are for the good and bad alike, chosen people and hated imperialists, no distinctions. Luke repeats this God vision in his Sermon on the Plain, using a word even closer to relational compassion. For both Matthew and Luke the ethical imperative is to imitate the compassion of God....

(A passion for Justice – Social Ethics in the Celtic Tradition – by Johnston McMaster - Page 127)


Now with this in mind I'll move back to Romans, and touch on what Paul has to say about mercy being connected to God's glory in;


Romans 15: 6 – 12

..... that , with one accord, with one mouth, you may be glorifying the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore be taking one another to yourselves according as Christ also took you to Himself, for the glory of God.

For I am saying that Christ has become the Servant of the Circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises. Yet the nations are to glorify God for His mercy.



As well. Some Christians have the explanation for these things, that "Gods ways are higher than our ways". But wait again. That text in Isaiah is talking about God's mercy. It's saying that God is merciful even when we wouldn't be. But some Christians use this as an explanation as to why God would punitively punish people in ways that we think are horrifying.




There are other writings from the early fathers. But this should suffice in this regard for now. Yet the following is and interesting quote that reflects what the majority of Ante-Nicene Christians thought on the matter.


Basil the Great - (b. AD 329)

Basil says in one place in a work attributed to him "the mass of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished".....(Basil the Great - De Asceticis)





So then the question arises..... Why were Augustine's doctrines so different from that of the founding fathers. Some say that it was because of the influence of the Pagan Gnostic cult in which he had been involved in before his conversion. But there is another good reason, being that Augustine didn't know Greek. He was reading from the Latin Vulgate translation that Jerome had recently translated, and it's flaws were an influence on Augustine's thought.


One of my Bishop friends once passed on the following to me.


The doctrine of Original Sin was based on a poor translation of the Greek into the Latin Vulgate by Augustine’s colleague, Jerome. That passage is Romans 5:12, which says “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned”. The Latin Vulgate renders this passage differently as “because of Adam in whom all have sinned” – the Latin, “in quo omnes peccaverunt”, is a poor translation of the Greek, ‘eph' O pantes emarton’ which actually says because all men have sinned. The scriptural support for this doctrine of inherited sin arises out of a misinterpretation of the Greek into Latin in the Vulgate bible.


But now this scripture also seems to argue against what would become Augustine's doctrine of original sin.


Ezekiel 18:19 - 20

Yet you say "Why should no the son suffer for the iniquity of the father? When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all of my statutes, he shall surely live.

 “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the  iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”. 




Also, to my understanding Augustine was the first Christian to use human philosophy and reasoning to try and figure out what the Greek word aionos ment. The early Greek Christians didn't need to use philosophy to understand the meaning of this word. Why..... because it was in their mother language, and they new darn well what it ment. So then my question would be.... why use human reasoning to figure out a Greek word when one could just look to the early Greeks for their understanding of the word? (To my understanding the Greeks of Augustines time were speaking in a slightly different form of Greek than the original Koine Greek of the Bible, this is part of what has led to errors in the Latin Vulgate and other Bibles).

But of course Augustine didn't do this, he reasoned out what the word means, and this particular reasoning is what many still hold to today.

His thought went thus. Because the word aionos speaks of the Christian's life with Christ in Matthew 24: 26 it must be eternal, and so therefore in that same passage aionos must also be referring to eternal torments.

But that is not how the early Koine Greek speaking Christians understood this word.


The following is taken from the book "Christianity and Classical culture" in it's glossary of Greek technical terms.

"Gregory of Nyssa (in his writings) maintains a clear distinction between the terms aeonios (from aeon) and aidios (from aei.) He never applies the second term to the torments, and he never applies the first term to bliss or the Deity. "Aei" designates that which is superior to time or outside of time. This is the sphere of the Divinity. Creation however, abides within time and can be measured by the passing of the centuries. Aeon designates temporality, that which occurs within time".


I could send a whole essay showing how Biblically the word aionos must refer to a limited age and not eternity. But for now I'll just show this quick example.


First.


1 Corinthians 15: 25

For he must be reigning until he should be placing all of his enemies under his feet. The last enemy is being abolished: death.


Compare this to.


Revelation 11: 15

"The Kingdom of this world became our Lord's and his Christ's, and He shall be reigning for the ages (aionos) of the ages (aionos.)



Now very many Bibles translate aionos, in the verse to be "eternities of the eternities" (although certainly not all of them - there are dozens that do not). But if Paul said that Jesus is reigning "until", meaning that he will eventually give up his reign...... then how could he be reigning for the eternities of the eternities in Revelation 11: 15?


This shows that aionos should be translated as ages (or eons), which is consistent with how the early Koine Greek speaking fathers understood the word.


Of course Revelation also uses this same phrase to describe the lake of fire.


Rev 20:10

And the adversary who is deceiving them is cast into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. And they shall be tormented (basanizo - better translated as "testing") day and night for the ages (aionos) of the ages (aionos.)................And death and the unseen were cast into the Lake of fire. This is the second death the lake of fire. And if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.



This shows that the lake of fire cannot be of eternal duration..... because it burns for the same description of time as Jesus reigns..... and the Bible says that Jesus will eventually give up his reign. Being that it will eventually end.


What I have said is consistent with Gregory of Nyssa's understanding of the word... ... and this quote which I've already mentioned above, being - "When evil shall have some day been annihilated in the long revolutions of the ages, nothing shall be left outside the world of goodness".


It's obvious then that Augustine's interpretation of the word is completely inconsistent with this. So what's the answer...... We'll Revelation says that the Lake of Fire is burning for the ages of the ages, and the "the Bride" will reign in the City of God (or be the City of God depending on ones views) for these ages of the ages. The people in the City of Fire will progressively repent, and walk into the City of God through the gates that are always open. When it's all said and done... everybody will be in the City of God, then Jesus will give up his reign, God will be all in ALL..... and the ages end, and we move into eternity.


So, now the church at large is following the Latin speaking Augustine's understanding of the word aionos, and is using his philosophical reasoning to argue for his interpretation of this word, instead of the understanding of the Koine Greek speaking founding fathers...... God help us.



There are some literal Bibles that don't translate aionos the Augustinian way. If one researches them online he/she will find that they are regarded as the most accurate English translations.



Young's Literal translation translates the verse in question as follows.


Matthew 25: 46

And these shall go away to punishment age-during (aionos), but the righteous to life age-during (aionos).


The Concordant Bible translates this verse thus:


Matthew 25: 46

And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian (aionos), yet the just into life eionian (aionos).




Also remember what I had quoted earlier about the Koine Greek speaking Christian, Clement of Alexandria.


"Clement's importance, to my mind, is that he clarifies the NT language for "punishment". Clement insists that God's "correction" (paideia - Heb 12:9) and "chastisement" (kolasis - Matt 25:46) is as a loving father, only an always meant for the healing and salvation of the whole world."



Here's this verse from the Emphasized Bible.


Matthew 25: 46

And these shall go away into age-abiding (aionos) correction (Kolasis), but the righteous into age-abiding (aionos) life.




The Jonathan Mitchell Bible has the fullest rendering of this verse.

Matthew 25: 46

"And so, these folks will be going off into an eonian pruning (a lopping-off which last for an undetermined length of time; and age-lasting correction and rehabilitation; a pruning which brings betterment and which has its source and character in the Age; a cutting off during the ages), yet the fair and just folks who are in right relationship with people and are in accord with the Way pointed out [go off] into eonian life (life which has its source and character in the Age; life pertaining to the Age; or the life of and for the ages).




So. Compare that to what Augustine said in his book "the City of God", and the vast majority of Christian imagery and thought that has existed since.



Just to be clear. I don't think that Augustine was the only culprit that changed much of Christianity's understanding..... but I do think that he was very influential. Of course there are other arguments against other thought that Augustine entered into Christianity..... but I've already gone on long enough.


Getting back to original sin.



Having said what I've said above about the rejection of original sin. Then the question is.... Why do people sin. I feel that I should attempt to give some sort of explanation of my understanding. First... we live in a world full of sin and temptations. Second we live in a world where demons are leading us astray. Third.... we have simply inherited death through the fall and sin. as mentioned above. Which leads to a quick explanation of this.




From the Concordant literal Bible.


Romans 5: 12

Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed through onto mankind, on which all sinned.


Thus mankind did not inherit a sin nature from Adam's fall. We inherited death.


Now to look at another misleading translation in this area.

First from the NIV Bible


Romans 6: 19

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves.


From the NRSV Bible.


Romans 6: 19

I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.



Both of these translations imply that we sin because of an inherited problem with our natures. But, again, here is what two of the more accurate literal translations say.



From the Emphasized Bible.


Romans 6: 19

In human fashion I am speaking because of the weakness of your flesh.



From the Concordant Literal Translation.


Romans 6: 19

As a man I am saying this because of the infirmity of your flesh.



The Greek word that these more accurate Bibles translate as flesh is "Sarx". When one looks in a Bible Concordance it is easy to see that this word should be translated as flesh, and has nothing to do with a sin nature.

Remember what Tertullian had said about the flesh.


"Is not the doctrine of the Gnostics from the beginning and everywhere an invective against the flesh? According to them it is unclean against its first formation of the dregs of the ground. According to them (the Gnostics), it is worthless, weak, covered with guilt, laden with misery, full of trouble"...... Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.548


Also Romans 2: 14 connects human nature with the ability to do what the law demands, as God's law is written on humanity's hearts.

"For whenever they of the nations that have no law, by nature may be doing that which the law demands, these having no law are a law to themselves, who are displaying the action of the law written on their hearts.




Thus in Romans Paul does not talk about an inherited sin nature but instead talks about the problem of death passing into all mankind, on which all sinned. He then goes on to say more about this subject.


Romans 5: 14

Nevertheless death reigns from Adam ono Moses, over those also who do not sin in the likeness of the transgression of Adam.


Romans 5: 17


For if by the offence of the one death reigns through the one, those obtaining the superabundance of grace, and the gratuity of righteousness shall be reigning in life through the one Jesus Christ.


Romans 5: 20

Yet where sin increases grace superexeeds, that even as sin reigns in death, Grace should also be reigning through righteousness for life eonian, through Jesus Christ.


Romans 7: 22 - 25

For I am gratified as to the law of God as to the man within, yet I am observing a different law in my members, warring with the law of my mind, and leading me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. A wretched man am I. What will rescue me out of this body of death. Grace. I thank God through Jesus Christ my lord. Consequently, then I myself, with the mind, indeed am slaving for God's law, yet with the flesh for sins law.


Romans 8: 1 - 3

Nothing consequently is now condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Not according to flesh are they walking but according to Spirit, for the Spirit's law of life in Christ Jesus frees you from the law of sin and death.


Romans 7: 13

But sin, that it may be appearing sin, is producing death to me, yet I am fleshly having been disposed of under sin.


Romans 8: 10 - 12

Now if Christ is in you the body, indeed is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness........ He who rouses Christ Jesus from among the dead will also be vivifying (bringing to life) your mortal bodies because of his Spirit making its home in you.


Romans 8: 13

For if you are living in accord with flesh you are about to be dying. Yet if, in spirit, you are putting the practices of you body to death, you will be living.




Just for the record... I'm sure that you were aware of those scriptures and I wasn't trying to be condescending in relating this.

But anyhow we see here that the problem with mankind's flesh is not that it is evil or depraved but that it is dead and dying. It was death that passed through into mankind, not total depravity or a "sin nature". The human race is born as "spiritual lepers" as such. Our flesh is born in the state of "death" similar to the disease of leprosy (mentioned often in the Bible), and like in leprosy the flesh becomes more and more corrupted. We cleanse our leprous flesh first through Baptism, then through life giving things such as the Eucharist (communion), God's creation, and things of the spirit.


So now the human puts himself into a "vicious circle". Through death and pride of life, and deception he sins. This causes various problems. But sin causes death. So now he goes to more sins trying to find life. Which of course leads to addiction. Our flesh is craving life but sin causes more death, causing our flesh to crave more life. Therefore we have scriptures from which some Christians teach that the flesh is "evil or sinful". Yet this concept comes from the Gnostic influences on Christianity . The flesh is simply craving life and has become addicted to false things.

Thus we have the following scriptures.

Romans 7:14 Yet I am fleshly having been disposed of under sin. For what I am effecting I know not, for not what I will, this I am putting into practice, but what I am hating, this I am doing....Yet now no longer I who am effecting it, but sin making it's home in me.

14:18 For I am aware that good is not making it's home in me (that is my flesh), for to will is lying beside me, yet to be effecting the ideal is not. For it is not the good that I will that I am doing, but the evil that I am not willing, this I am putting into practice. Now if what I am not willing this I am doing, it is not longer I who am effecting it, but Sin which is making it's home in me.


Note the highlighted text that says that Sin is making it's home in him. If he had a sin nature wouldn't sin already be at home in him, if so why would sin **need** to make it's home in him.


These scriptures are not saying that the flesh is evil but that it has become addicted to sin for the reasons mentioned above. This scripture does not say that the flesh is not good. But that good is not making it's home in the flesh. These are different things...... Evil is making it's home in the flesh because it has become addicted, through it's craving of life. As mentioned earlier this addiction causes more death which causes more craving of life. Which causes the person to seek after more evil in order to try and find life.. which causes Evil to make it's "home in the flesh".


But, of course Jesus gives the solution.... Life. Like the afore mentioned Baptism, and the Eucharist (communion). But unfortunately many Christians throughout the centuries have resorted to punishing themselves in order to overcome their "sin nature"..... this punishment (sometimes self mutilation) is not life giving, it's "death giving", and so of course makes the problem worse.


So when a child is born it isn't born with a "sin nature" or inherited sin, or accountable to God for Adams sin. We simply come into the world... dying from birth... because of Adam's sin which brought death to the human race. A human is born, made in the image of God with ineffable dignity. I believe that this is consistent with early Christian thought.


Here's another quote from a previously mentioned book.


In 180 Irenaeus wrote.

By means of our first parents, we were all brought into bondage by being made subject to death.

For death came upon those who had eaten. Along with the fruit, they fell under the power of death, because they ate in disobedience. And disobedience to God entails death. For that reason they came under the penalty of death. Thus in the day that they ate, in the same day they died. For they became deaths debtors.




In his book "Against the Heretics" Irenaeus is consistent in this kind of thought. He never associates the fall with inheriting a sin nature.


So therefore. I would argue that at the time of the fall. God gave Adam and Eve death as an act of mercy so that they wouldn't be in the sin state forever. But from this we have the problem of sin and death, yet God's judgement is restorative justice. Not only justice for those who are wronged, but also a means of restoring those who do the wrong back to righteousness and Christ.... and life. All who died in Adam will eventually be made alive in Christ (Romans 5). This life to come will be better than before the fall because we will have a greater understanding of God's mercy and love.... and thus will love and glorify God.

Christ died for the forgiveness of sins.... and is the only way to God..... We repent of our sins and accept Holy Spirit into our hearts then get baptized for cleansing and to become part of the ecclesia. We live out a life giving sacramental Christian life.

Those who reject God are corrected (like Gregory said "in the long revolutions of the ages") to the point where they eventually come to repentance....... This is justice for those who have been hurt, and restoration and purification for those who have done wrong. It is not separate from God's love, and mercy.... but is also consistent with God's justice. It is not a dualistic God.

Also, it is consistent with the Ante-Nicene quotes which I have mentioned above, and it is not unbiblical (of course that's another essay).


So I believe that The Gospel message is to repent and accept Christ into your hearts now, get baptized, and begin your LIFE journey into deeper loving union (at-one-ment or theosis) with Christ..... and in this also bypass the judgement to come (being the medicinal sacrament of correction, pruning, and restorative justice). This is completely consistent with what the pre-Augustinian Bishops and theologians quoted above believed.

It's good news.


For the record (and I'm not trying to be arrogant or overbearing in this) I could argue for Apocatastasis historically and scripturally (although of course some would argue that I'm wrong), and it is of course fairly easy to argue philisophically. But I expect most people would probably need more than that, which I do understand. For myself there has been different times when Holy Spirit has "impressed" things on me in my search. So for me this isn't just an intellectual understanding.... it's a deep spiritual "knowing". I know, that I know, that I know.

Edited by Attica, 31 March 2012 - 02:23 AM.