Hearty Heresy

The Rise of Heresy
May 1, 2007, 11:26 am
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Hell, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology

I’ve been reading W.H.C. Frend’s The Rise of Christianity, and it’s made me wonder, “How does one get three first initials, anyway?” The book has got me thinking about other things, too. But it’s big, like over 1000 pages, and only marginally readable. You have to actually enjoy reading about things like Origen’s Hexapla, “on which he started c. 212 and worked on for the next forty years…, a vast synopsis of the various extant editions of the Old Testament.” I’m determined to slog my way through it because I figure that reading about the rise of Brand Xianity will tell me a lot about defeat of heresy in the early church. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

Here’s the deal. I’m well into the Third Century of Brand Xianity, and so far there’s absolutely nothing about it as a institution that’s even moderately impressive (that is, impressive to the point where I’d say, “Gee, Hearty, you’ve got this orthodoxy thing all wrong…maybe your really are a Brand Xian!”). Sure certain individuals stand out, some for their courage, some for their intelligence, and others for their compassion. Of course, there’s cowardice, stupidity, and cruelty as well. But it wasn’t a “pagans bad, Xians good” kind of thing. There were all kinds of people all over the spectrum of beliefs. In fact, I bet that if Belief-O-Matic were available back then, hardly anyone would have ended up being 100% pagan or Xian.

And that’s the point. There’s always a been a fudge factor in Brand Xianity. And it seems that the leadership plays hardball in only a couple of situations: one, when they feel they’re being persecuted (and it seems that Brand Xians feel persecuted whenever other religions are tolerated); and two, when someone with marginally orthodox views becomes too popular with the laity. At any rate, one of my big heresies is Universalism, and I was reconfirmed in it after reading the section on Origen. Here’s what Frend says,

Creation, however, was always sustained by God who destined it for ultimate restoration. Humankind was in this world to be educated in the love of God. None of God’s creatures therefore could be so depraved as to be incapable of any goodness…. [A]ll creation moved forward to that goal: “for there is no part of creation entirely out of harmony with that final unity and concord.”

As I’ve pointed out before, concern about the existence of Hell is still a driving force for some folks to preach the Gospel of Brand Xianity, even some of them there hip, young, bloggy pastors (like Perry Noble). My preference? Just preach the love of God. Yep, that’ll do.


8 Comments so far
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The “church” has invented this thing called “orthodoxy” to try and keep a lid on the divergent views that are out there (apparently God is not able to do this Himself). Just don’t embarrass them by asking how one decides what is and isn’t orthodox, or why there are so many versions of orthodoxy. Even worse when you dip into early church history, only to discover an astonishing spectrum of beliefs and practices from people we all now call “Christians”.
On the hell topic, if you dismiss the immortality of the soul as a Greek idea, then the second death becomes exactly what it says it is – a second death.
Great Post! Wish more people would read church history!

Comment by Jon

Sometimes I wonder about Brand Xians’ faith in God. Not only is God unable to keep a lid on divergent views, but some folks think he can’t even tell the difference between a Devil mascot for a high school sports team and the actual devil, who’s clearly real because the Bible says so.

Comment by heartyheretic

Another fascinatin post. I have tried to slog through Origen in the past. He is an interesting person (aside from the fact that he castrated himself). His view on interpretation of scripture and his unwillingness to go along with branding of specific groups that did not conform to the official line as heretics. I believe (if i am remembering back to seminary) he refused to call them heretics because he did not want to hinder the Spirit.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

You can see why I have a soft spot for Origen!

Comment by heartyheretic

HH –

Interesting quote from Origen. All things are moving to a final completion when a new creation will somehow arise from this thing called earth. I don’t know what that means about “hell”, but I know that Jesus is returning and that all of creation groans with birthpangs awaiting that moment.

Comment by j4jesus

The quote’s actually Frend’s paraphrase of Origen, but I think it gets to the heart of his Universalism. I’ve been reading Crossan lately (see my latest post) and he thinks Jesus made a shift from believing in John the Baptizer’s apocalypticism to believing in a kingdom of Heaven that was always within us and already among us. There’s no waiting for that moment. It’s the here and now.

Comment by heartyheretic

glad to see you are discussing Universalism… it is the only thing that makes sense to me. I think Organized Christianity borrowed way too much from the pagans when they became a state religion. i’m not buying into the whole god and satan are at war and only some people are going to heaven.

I will take it one step further and offer yet another heresy… God controls the interplay of good and evil. God created Satan to be the destroyer. Hell is the furnace of affliction where sould are purified 7 x 7 like gold. Gold is put into the furnace, brought out, the dross brushed off, then back into the furnace… And God created the smith that blows on the coals! I’m not asserting this is an actual location, but rather a metaphor. I’m sure every perswon here has felt at one time or another that they were in hell. And most likely came out better for it.

Comment by Robin

Yes, I agree that Brand Xianity took a bit too much from the pagans when it gave into the empire and became a state religion. I think, perhaps, that the hell bit might have a lot to do with first century Jewish apocalypticism, too. The combination, though, is pretty nasty: only the righteous know God for all eternity; the rest are doomed to eternity without God’s presence. Does the pain we experience in this life count as hell? Could be, especially if, as you suggest, it ultimately leads to greater wholeness. Thanks for your thoughts.

Comment by heartyheretic

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