The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Lawrence R. Farley

Hi friends,

I was wondering if anybody has read Unquenchable Fire: The Traditional teaching about Hell? His Biblical arguments do not seem to be very strong, but he does make a decent case using Patristic evidence that Universalism was not as mainstream as some argue. I am looking forward to reading Ilaria Ramelli’s new book as a healthy counter balance. This book is well written and better than other books I have read defending the traditional position. Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts who have read this book.

For those who are wondering, Lawrence Farley is a “father” in the EO church. I have his pro endless tortures book on order & am looking forward to what he has to say, especially the alleged “Patristic evidence”. My money is heavily on it not being as solid as he thinks, if not even quite weak. IOW the usual unproven claims. For example, does he commit the common error Iilaria Ramelli refers to here:

"“Of course there were antiuniversalists also in the ancient church, but scholars must be careful not to list among them…an author just because he uses πῦρ αἰώνιον, κόλασις αἰώνιος, θάνατος αἰώνιος, or the like, since these biblical expressions do not necessarily refer to eternal damnation. Indeed all universalists, from Origen to Gregory Nyssen to Evagrius, used these phrases without problems, for universalists understood these expressions as “otherworldly,” or “long-lasting,” fire, educative punishment, and death. Thus, the mere presence of such phrases is not enough to conclude that a patristic thinker “affirmed the idea of everlasting punishment” (p. 822).”

What is the “evidence” Farley gives re the Epistle of Barnabas, which on his blogs he claims opposes universalism? Here are some forum thoughts here re that epistle:

.Thoughts On This?
Doesn't the lack of Universalism before Origen bother you?
Michael McClymond vs Dr. Ramelli on patristics

I’ve posted on some of his blogs & dialogued there with him a bit re his anti-UR arguments, including the following, the 2nd of which he refused to post:

.where did first century Jews learn about eternal punishment?
where did first century Jews learn about eternal punishment?

Some Universalists might concur, depending upon what is meant by “as mainstream as some argue”. What does seem evident is that a number of early church fathers implied that many, if not a majority, of the church in their day was universalist or at least anti endless punishment or torments:

FYI, for some other universalist perspectives re extrabiblical early church writers:




Some quotes from early church history:

Sibylline Oracles (80-195 AD)
And God, immortal and omnipotent, will grant another gift to these pious
persons: when they will ask him, he will grant them to save the human beings
from the fierce fire, and from the otherworldly [αἰώνιος] gnashing of teeth, and
will do so after pulling them out of the unquenchable flame and removing
them [ἀπὸ φλογὸς ἀκαμάτοιο ἄλοσ’ ἀποστήσας], destining them, for the sake
of his own elect, to the other life, that of the world to come, for immortals
[ζωὴν ἑτέραν καὶ αἰώνιον ἀθανάτοισιν], in the Elysian Fields, where there are the
long waves of the Acherusian Lake, imperishable, which has a deep bed.

Apocalypse of Peter (c. 100-150 AD)
Then I will grant to my called and elect ones whomsoever they request from me, out of the punishment. And I will give them [i.e. those for whom the elect pray] a fine baptism in salvation from the Acherousian Lake (which is, they say, in the Elysian field), a portion of righteousness with my holy ones (ApPet 14:1, translating the text as corrected by M. R. James and confirmed by SibOr 2:330-338).

Bardaisan of Edessa (154–222 AD)
“But whenever God likes, everything can be, with no obstacle at all. In fact,
there is nothing that can impede that great and holy will. For, even those
who are convinced to resist God, do not resist by their force, but they are
in evil and error, and this can be only for a short time, because God is kind
and gentle, and allows all natures to remain in the state in which they are,
and to govern themselves by their own will, but at the same time they are
conditioned by the things that are done and the plans that have been conceived
[sc. by God] in order to help them. For this order and this government that have
been given [sc. by God], and the association of one with another, damps the
natures’ force, so that they cannot be either completely harmful or completely
harmed, as they were harmful and harmed before the creation of the world.
And there will come a time when even this capacity for harm that remains in
them will be brought to an end by the instruction that will obtain in a different
arrangement of things: and, once that new world will be constituted, all evil
movements will cease, all rebellions will come to an end, and the fools will be
persuaded, and the lacks will be filled, and there will be safety and peace, as a
gift of the Lord of all natures.” (Laws of Countries, 608–611 Nau)

Clement of Alexandria (150-215)
And not only for our sins,’-that is for those of the faithful,-is the Lord the propitiator, does he say, ‘but also for the whole world.’ 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." (Fragments, 1:3, c. 2, v. 2)

Origen (c. 184 - c. 253) "So then, when the end has been restored to the beginning, and the termination of things compared with their commencement, that condition of things will be re-established in which rational nature was placed, when it had no need to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so that when all feeling of wickedness has been removed, and the individual has been purified and cleansed, He who alone is the one good God becomes to him ‘all,’ and that not in the case of a few individuals, or of a considerable number, but He Himself is ‘all in all.’ And when death shall no longer anywhere exist, nor the sting of death, nor any evil at all, then verily God will be ‘all in all’— De Prinicipiis 3.6.3

Didymus the Blind of Alexandria (310/13 ca.–395/8 AD)
This is said about rational creatures [τῶν λογικῶν]. Since, among all of them, there are also some who have become wicked, know how these will have a restoration [κατάστασιν] once they have arrived in the hands of the Son, obviously after rejecting the evilness [κακίαν] that they had, and assuming virtue [ἀρετήν]. For one should not pay attention to those who propound sophisms, claiming that only those rational beings who have sanctity [ἁγιότητα] are called. [In Comm. in Io., fr. 2]

It is impossible that wood, grass, and straw disappear in such a way as not to exist any more, but sinners will disappear insofar as they are grass and so on. Indeed, this fire of the corrective punishment is not active against the substance, but against habits and qualities [sc. bad habits and qualities]. For this fire consumes, not creatures, but certain conditions and certain habits. [Comm. in Ps. 20–21 col. 21,15]

“Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 330-394)
A certain deception was indeed practised upon the Evil one, by concealing the Divine nature within the human; but for the latter, as himself a deceiver, it was only a just recompense that he should be deceived himself: the great adversary must himself at last find that what has been done is just and salutary, when he also shall experience the benefit of the Incarnation. He, as well as humanity, will be purged.” (The Great Catechism, 26,”

"the originator of evil himself will be healed” (Catechetical Orations 26. The Catechetical Oration of Gregory of Nyssa. Edited by James H. Srawley. Cambridge, 1903, p. 101).

‘For it is evident that God will, in truth, be ‘in all’ then when there shall be no evil seen in anything. … When every created being is at harmony with itself and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; when every creature shall have been made one body, then shall the body of Christ be subject to the Father. … Now the body of Christ, as I have said often before, is the whole of humanity’ (Orat. in I Cor. xv.28).

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Thank you! Both of your responses were helpful. It is a good reminder that the fathers who quoted Biblical language about “eternal” punishment do not therefore assume an eternalist point of view. I think one of his basic contentions is that Illaria Ramelli is rounding up to the number of Universalist and that most of them were influenced by Origen. I think he is doing the opposite by rounding down the number of Universalists. I think the case could be made that most of the clear proponents of eternalism were Western until John Damascene…

I see you have challenged him on some of his Jewish intertestamental sources. He could also be challenged on his use of the Talmud. He relies on the dated work of Alfred Edersheim and misses the fact that some Rabbis thought Gehenna (the post mortem version of it) ended with restoration and for some other Rabbis it ended with destruction. He also misses the annihilationist passages in the Dead Sea scrolls.

At the same time, I though his book was much better than Michael J. McClymond’s. He has less poisoning the well and scores a few points against some of the weaker points put up by universalists.

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