The Father of Biblical Theology
Origen was a truly exceptional theologian who managed to slip under the radar for a long time. He wasn’t declared a heretic until he had been dead for three centuries… but by then it was too late! He was already famous! Origen was heir to both Socrates and Plato and is regarded as the greatest philosopher/theologian of the early church. He also produced its first systematic theology. It is not an exaggeration to call him the father of Biblical Theology! Many have viewed him as “the greatest genius the early church ever produced.”
Origen Became a Heretic!
In order to be deemed an official heretic you just need to disagree with the majority. That is exactly what happened to Origen! He was mostly acceptable in his lifetime but the opinions of church leaders changed after he died! Eventually his work fell out of favor with most theologians and there wasn’t much he could do about it. His story is interesting because it took the church 300 years after his death to brand him a heretic. There is no doubt Origen had some pretty wild ideas! He never achieved sainthood, and like Tertullian, he wasn’t granted the title of church father. In spite of his tremendous influence Origen never won any official honors! Fortunately, he was already dead by the time he was excommunicated so it probably didn’t bother him too much.
A Master of Greek Philosophy
Moderator: Well brethren, it’s time to honor another old heretic who achieved a lot in his life but never quite made the grade. He was a notable scholar and at least during his lifetime he seemed like a pretty respectable guy! His epic work On First Principles developed a foundation for the trinity based on Platonic philosophy. Even his critics acknowledged that he had mastered the Greek philosophical tradition in his interpretation of the Bible! Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep him out of trouble. He upset a lot of people by denying the co-equality of “persons” in the Godhead! Eventually, his chances of becoming an official church father went right out the window.
The Origen of the Trinity Award
You all know who I’m talking about! It’s none other than Origen of Alexandria! We thought long and hard about what kind of award you give to a man who wrote so much that some legends say he kept seven secretaries busy! We finally decided to create a special Wordy Award for him called the Origen of the Trinity Award! How’s that for a nifty play on words!
Audience: Groaning and rolling of the eyes.
Moderator: Well sorry about that but it’s the best we could come up with! Here to accept his award is Origen of Alexandria!
Audience: How come we keep giving awards to people like Tertullian, Arius and now this guy? He doesn’t even agree with our creeds! This is really going to upset Athanasius!
What a Surprise!
Origen: Greetings everyone! I am so glad to be at this reunion and I’m as surprised as anyone to be here at all! That seafood buffet is sure better than anything I ever had in my lifetime! It’s almost too good to be true. Now that I’m dead I’ve pretty well decided to give up on asceticism, as long as we’re here in Las Vegas anyway. It was just great to be allowed to come here in the first place and then I found out I’m even getting an award!
Is There One Person in a Thousand?
I have to admit I was pretty surprised to learn that I had become a heretic after I died. I was just talking about this very thing with Tertullian and Arius at dinner. Tertullian was surprised to learn he had become a heretic too! Arius knew his reputation was in the tank after the great Council in Nicaea so he was more surprised than anyone to get an award. It’s a good thing that the theologians who decide who is approved and who isn’t don’t speak for God! Athanasius still says that unless you think of the trinity like his creed says you can’t be saved. I say there isn’t one person in a thousand who can think like that!
How Origen Imagined God
Athanasius’ insistence on the co-equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was based on just one word! Using homoousious to make that claim still seems a bit over the top to me! After all, I was the first Christian philosopher to ever use the term homoousious! I was also the very first Christian philosopher to use the term hypostases to describe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Where did Athanasius ever get the idea that his theories were any better than mine? We had a very nice scheme of things in Platonic philosophy that made a lot of sense to us. I imagined God as a descending triad just like in classic platonic philosophy! The Father is greater than the Son and the Son is greater than the Spirit. What’s so bad about that?
It Was a Fine Theory!
We thought we had a fine theory about God and a lot of people signed on to our ideas. Just because some later theologians disagreed was no reason to start all the name calling! I don’t think of any of them who wrote nearly as much stuff as I did. Besides, without the foundations I laid for the trinity I don’t think Athanasius would have ever hit the big time in the first place!
Thanks to Everyone Who Helped!
In closing I want to thank all the people who helped me win this award. I want to thank my Mom and Dad, Philo, Plato and Aristotle too. I would also like to thank the Awards Committee for naming my award after me! Finally, I want to thank all the great cooks and staff who put together that incredible buffet! Good night everyone! It has been great to be here!
Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes