Origen on the reconciliation of all to God


Origen (185-255)

The Reconciliation of All things to God (Including the Devil!)

The restoration to unity must not be imagined as a sudden happening. Rather it is to be thought of as gradually effected by stages during the passing of countless ages. Little by little and individually the correction and purification will be accomplished. Some will lead the way and climb to the heights with swifter progress, others following hard upon them; yet others will be far behind. Thus multitudes of individuals and countless orders will advance and reconcile themselves to God, who once were enemies; and so at length the last enemy will be reached. …
De Principiis, III.vi.6

Through His Repentance, the Devil Shall Be Destroyed

When it is said that ‘the last enemy shall be destroyed’, it is not to be understood as meaning that his substance, which is God’s creation, perishes, but that his purpose and hostile will perishes; for this does not come from God but from himself. Therefore his destruction means not his ceasing to exist but ceasing to be an enemy and ceasing to be death. Nothing is impossible to omnipotence; there is nothing that cannot be healed by its Maker. De Principiis, 1.vi.1-4

The Remedial Judgments of God

[Isa. I. II … ‘the fire which you have kindled’.] This seems to indicate that the individual sinner kindles the flame of his persona! fire and that he is not plunged into some fire kindled by another, …
God acts in dealing with sinners as a physician … the fury of his anger is profitable for the purging of souls. Even that penalty which is said to be imposed by way of fire is understood as applied to assist a sinner to health …[cf. Isa. xlvii. 14,15, x. 17, Ixvi. 16; Mal. iii. 3]
De Principiis, II.x.4,6


the first quote interests me. it evokes for me this image of souls climbing up a mountain to the top, getting closer through struggle and suffering, though finally making it. would this idea be in some way comporable to purgatory, or the EO understanding of hell?

how accepted were these UR ideas of Origen in his lifetime, and immediately after? i’ve heard him condemned for other beliefs, but am not clear on whether his UR was included in the list of doctrines which eventually got him anathema-ed.


Origen was a respected writer in his day, but was condemned later for some of his views. However his teaching concerning universal salvation was not one of them.

What follows is a link to a book written in 1899 which you can read online called:

Universalism The Prevailing Doctrine Of The Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years

If you are not interested in the first part, you might want to skip to chapter VI where he begins discussing the understandings of Christian teachers immediately after the apostles. Yes, Origen is best known for his beliefs in the reconciliation of all to God. He may have learned it from his teacher, Clement of Alexandria, who taught the reconciliation. Gregory of Nyssa, from a later time, was a reconciliationist also.

Here is a link to the book:

The Prevailing Doctrine


Amen! Thanks Paidion for finding and posting this stuff. At least in this area, Origen seems spot on :sunglasses:

I’ve tried to use the tentmaker.org/books/Prevailing.html book before to convince my friend Luke, a Calvinist, unfortunately, he wasn’t very impressed by it (post-apocalyptictheology.blogspo … trine.html). Although from Talbott’s book p16, where he quotes Augustine:

I think that it’s may well have been at least very common!

Similarly James Goetz said:


Unfortunately Philip Schaff doesn’t define what he means by early church “schools” or provide any evidence for this apparently wide spread universalism. Putting Origen aside for one moment, the early church evidence from Clement only shows us that the debate may of existed not that it was the dominate view of the early church. As to it’s extent or how mainstream it was we’d have to look at the evidence further. If the early church really was predominately universalistic then there would have to be evidence for a dramatic break when retributive judgement and eternal Hell were introduced.


Luke, what about Augustine?


Yes, thank you Paidion for posting this! I was so fascinated with the quotes from Origin, especially as so many of the concepts are exactly what Talbott has set forth and I am very familiar with them. It’s confirmation, to me, that these views did not orginate with Talbott, as if they were new. And it’s not just one leader back then that was sympathetic with the view. I think most Christians today are unaware that these ideas existed at all in the early church, putting aside whether or not they were the dominant view.

I’ll be interested to read the book you mention. Does Phillip Schaff say where Augustine mentions there is widespread universalism? Sure seems like, if one wanted to, they could do some research to confirm or deny these things.

Luke, my understanding, not that it is correct, is that Augustine, when he came on the scene, influenced people away from universalism. This would be the dramatic break that discouraged a universalistic outlook.

Augustine is admitting to Talbott’s point that the reason we don’t yield to God is because we rely on our human feelings…that just as the bible says we are ignorant, blind. I guess he, like Calvin, agreed that God could save, if he wanted to (bring people to the truth such that they would repent/be saved), but, instead, God only chooses to elect to love some in a saving way? They never would have disagreed that God could, if he wanted, bring all men to repentance/salvation?

Isn’t it true of most Calvinists, that they would agree God could save all if he wanted to , he just doesn’t want to? It’s not his plan? Isn’t the logic, then, that what would bring the most glory to God is not to have all bowing willingly, but rather that some- if not many - would go to hell? God glories in having many people go to hell? Maybe my reasoning, at such a late hour, is faulty.

Now I remember, a Calvinist one said I should put the emphasis on God’s benevolence to save the elect and not worry about the damned because they more than deserve it. I guess they see the cup half full and I see the cup half empty. In this case, maybe, I might permit myself to be so negative. Half empty seems appropriate as lots and lots of people will be suffering for all of eternity. Are we really to think that God cares so little for a lot of the world. What a terrible world this would be! Though I have my difficulties with Arminianism I have never been able to get my head around how people can be ok with the god of Calvinism.


that seems to be a pretty big contradiction right there, though. God could save all, He just doesn’t want to. when the Bible clearly says in a number of places that God wills for all to be saved! and that God does not rejoice in the destruction of the wicked?

it occured to me the other day that there might be an eternal reason why the worst of sinners and persecutors tend to have the most remarkable stories of conversion and forgiveness. it’s not as though they deserved to be saved, from our point of view. but God saved them, and allowed them to have faith in His Son. perhaps because God truly does wish to reconcile us all to Himself through Christ. and give those who would have certainly died in their sins and been in the most danger the chance to see the Light in the here and now.


Grace, Calvinists, from what I understand, apply the passages about God’s love, not wanting anyone to perish, to only the elect. All does not mean all in their vocabulary, like it would for you and I. But I agree with you that God most certainly does love the whole world and gave himself up for the all, that is them.

I can appreciate your view of God’s grace that allows the worst of us to discover God and that it so often results in a wonderful story. I see your point, too, that it hints at God’s intention to save all. I was always amazed with the testimonies of the girls in our church that were in the women’s recovery home for drug addiction. They truly felt set free, loved despite their failures, and it showed!


As it says in the good book ‘he who is forgiven most loves most’.


someone else raised the point of wondering how, exactly, prevalent the idea of UR was in the early Church? Origen affirmed it, Clement of Alexandria affirmed it, Gregory of Nyssa affirmed it…

List of Early Christian Universalists

so it looks as though there were quite a few early, highly respected theologians who held the UR position! still, seems like by the 5th Century, UR was falling out of favor.


JeffA, I love how you hit the nail on the head with the incite of one simple verse, or example. :smiley:


According to Talbott and others, I think it was more a matter of suppression & persecution, not helped by Origen being labeled a heretic for some of his other ideas :frowning:


Alex and Amy, that would be a fairly radical take on church history to say the early church was Universalist for four hundred years until Augustine.

Later in December it would be good to examine the evidence for universalism in the very early church, Justin Martyr etc.


I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was all Universalistic but I think it was at least very common. For example:

You know I’m not very knowledgeable in this area but I’ll try… hopefully, Talbott or Robin or someone else who actually studied the area will help me out!


Luke, my understanding is, though I would - like you - need to do more study on it, that Universalism was prevalent, but not the only belief around. Maybe someone can confirm this that of the 6 earliest seminaries one endorsed ECT, another one Annihilationism, and the other 4 Universalism. So, it’s not that Universalism was the only way of believing, but it was most dominant for those years before Augustine.

I would so love to know what the early church, before Augustine, thought about things. From the little I know of Augustine, who influenced Calvin, he really switched up the scene. Did limited election originate with him? It seems so plausable, to me, that Augustine understood universalism, but felt a need to limit it based on his understanding of the hell passages and thus, to get around it, focused his efforts on emphasizing that God only elected to save some, that all does not mean all?