The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Theophilus and Polycarp are going to convince me and I hate

I have catched this from this page, what says that Teophilus believed in conditional inmortality. He says tormented, and for me is so obvious that he is referring to eternal torments. … number=843

I have fear of this because Teophillus was a pupil of Polycarp (who was a pupil of Apostle John), and he said this:

“You (referring to the proconsul) threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little
is extinguished, but [you] are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment…, reserved for the

He was a pupil of Apostle John. I´m starting to believe in ECT again. Help me.

Hmmmm – well Theophilus Apology to Autolycus focuses on the Old Testament Prophets.
He also maintains that the Sibylline Oracles are inspired on a level with the Old Testament prophets. If these are the same Sybilline Oracles that are now extant – Book 2 hints at universal salvation.

And to the pious will the almighty God
Imperishable grant another thing,
When they shall ask the imperishable God:
That he will suffer men from raging fire
And endless gnawing anguish to be saved;
And this will he do. For hereafter he
Will pluck them from the restless flame, elsewhere
Remove them, and for his own people’s sake
Send them to other and eternal life
With the immortals, in Elysian field,

Theophilus also ridicules those who maintain the spherical form of the earth and asserts that it is a flat surface; so he wasn’t infallible…

But his ‘eternal’ would have actually been ‘age long’ - he spoke and thought in Greek as an Anthiocene.

Rest you merry


You’ll do well to listen to Dick; he’s our resident historian. (And brilliant in many other matters though also not infallible :wink: )

I think it’s important to keep in mind that the fathers’ writings were not canonized by any body and they themselves (though I’m sure they believed themselves to be correct) would doubtless have resisted any suggestion that they should be. You’ll find yourself believing in literal phoenixes and in many contradicting theological ideas if you insist on believing everything the early fathers taught. They were men like you and I; nothing any more special than modern theologians. They sought God and certainly desired to be right in their theology, but they were as fallible as anyone in the church today.

On this quote, I’d like to point out that the “fire of the coming judgment” is not in this statement said to last forever (or even for the age). Fire is a frequent metaphor for purification in the OT and NT, and may or may not be literal. Based on the fact that Jesus alternately referred to the fires of Gehenna and to the outer darkness where will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, I’d say it’s probably metaphorical. That’s NOT to say it’s pleasant of course, and hell fire (whatever it turns out to be) is to be avoided. Nevertheless, should we need it, it is for our good and not for hopeless punishment.

Hello Cindy :smiley:

‘Dick’ just doesn’t have the ring of infallibility about it. Perhaps if I was named ‘Theophilus’ or even ‘Autocylus’ then indeed I would cry in the market place ‘Send word to the Emperor of Byzantium, to the Negus of Ethiopia, to Prester John the King across the mountains, and to the god-King of Ancient Cathay– to heed my oracular utterances’. But I’m not going to– my name is ‘Dick, you see. :blush:

You know Cindy – ‘I’ve called you ‘Cinders’ a couple of times and now it’s catching on with others…How annoying is that ? And I realized recently that ‘Cinders’ is actually what Buttons the bell boy in the house of Baron Hardup calls Cinderella. So always make sure you are home by midnight :laughing: ; and if I ever call you ‘Princess’ – give me a slap! :laughing:



Do you believe in an “oral gospel”, a la the Jewish “Oral Law”? …that doctrines and information on how to interpret Scripture were passed down to a privileged few? I don’t. My belief is that only Scripture has inspired authority and reliability.

BTW what did Theophilus and Polycard write about eschatology?

Well said Cindy.

This citations are not authorative for various reasons:

  • their writings might have been poorly translated

  • they might have understood “aionios” or even “aidios” not as endless if they employed these terms

  • they might have lied to convert people

  • they might have been heretics

  • their works might have been altered by suceeding clergymen or wrongly ascribed to them

George MacDonald was very obviously a Christian universalist.

C. S. Lewis, though after his death, considered MacD his teacher; but not only wasn’t Lewis a universalist, he tried very hard to interpret MacDonald as being an annihilationist like himself.

I’m very obviously in Lewis’ school of thought and consider him my teacher; but I was never an annihilationist, and became a Christian universalist from following out Lewis’ logic more coherently than he himself managed to do. Unlike Lewis I don’t try to twist my teacher around to fit my own beliefs, but such things do happen even when the students revere and respect the teacher.

From a patristic example, Athanasius was a huge fan of Origen, and clearly considered himself a disciple of the same theological school, but he didn’t quite go for Origen’s Christian universalism (even though Ath’s own logic tended to add up that way). Gregory of Nyssa was a huge fan of both men, and picked up universalism again. Plenty of Western and Eastern Catholics revere Gregory of Nyssa but sometimes can’t bring themselves to believe he taught Christian universalism. On the other hand, such people think we’re interpreting Nyssus wrongly!

So don’t panic too much. We have a number of texts either from the Apostle John or from some John closely connected to Jesus Himself. It’s even possible we have nothing from the Apostle John but a bunch of things from John Mark (including two Gospel compilations)!–the apostles had difficulty believing whatever it was Jesus was actually teaching, as we can see in the Gospel reports themselves, which they or their followers were honest enough to admit. If it turned out that 3rd or even 2nd generation disciples of the apostle, or even the apostle himself, thought he was teaching some kind of non-universalism, I wouldn’t be overly surprised (although I’d be disappointed if the apostle was teaching ECT or anni).

Whoever wrote RevJohn, GosJohn and the Johannine epistles, though (whether different people or the same guy) was writing things that add up to Christian universalism more consistently than anything else, or so I find. It isn’t impossible they thought they were teaching something else while doing so, but the truth was preserved by God’s inspiration anyway. (To be fair that could be theoretically true against universalism, too; Lewis suspected St. Paul was intentionally teaching Christian universalism but if so the truth was preserved in his writings by inspiration despite Paul’s mistake.)

CS Lewis was an annihilationist?! I haven’t read his writings, but I know his famous quote “hell is locked from within”, and I know he wrote quite a bit about hell. Based on my limited knowledge of him, I always thought he was a firm ET believer.

Excellent post, Jason!

He was kind of inconsistent about hell in several ways. :wink: On one hand he believed hell was locked from the inside, but then he also believed God evangelized in hell (and not only once but always) with a real possibility of saving people out of it. He believed God gave up on people in hell and that they in effect punished themselves but also seemed to think God acted in punitive judgment. So he started out talking about hell as ECT (although God’s action in that was to tie off how far they could descend into evil, not punishment so much), but then came to emphasize the utter destruction of the person in hell.

Around 1942 he came up with an admittedly elegant solution wherein final perdition involves souls being annihilated from the perspective of other created persons, but not so from God’s perspective. Like something splattering on a window pane instead of continuing to travel the spatio-temporal line of history. Of course, this was the same book (TPoP) where in one chapter he insisted that God would never give up saving sinners from sin, and that we would be expecting less love of God not more to want Him to do otherwise, and then a few chapters later he insisted that eventually God just has to give up because a teacher knows when it really is useless to send a student in for a test one more time. :unamused:

Anyway. Lewis can be read either way, but his final word that he doesn’t seem to have deviated on afterward came in The Great Divorce where he went far out of his way to paint George MacDonald (his own Christian universalist teacher) as being a final annihilationist and teaching that to him–despite MacD explicitly denying that he believed annihilation.

So even though the souls in hell are portrayed in TGD as thinking they’re going to live forever farther and farther from God (like Napoleon), and even though some are able to be successfully evangelized out of hell (if they’re in the right frame of mind to start with), at the end or rather the beginning of the day the Sun rising will destroy all the ghosts. The Cat in The Last Battle has his personality destroyed and becomes an unreasoning animal, and the Ape is eaten by Tash. Sure, Screwtape thinks the devils are going to keep on living in rebellion forever, but he’s demonstrably wrong about a ton of things.

(Notably there is no resurrection of the wicked as well as the good in any of his fictional accounts of final perdition. But that’s an inherent conceptual problem with annihilation – why even bother with resurrecting the impenitent wicked?) I would say, the same thing might happen if you insist on believing everything in the accepted “canon”!

Here is how Job 29:18 reads in the NKJV: “Then I said, ‘I shall die in my nest, And multiply my days as the sand.”
Of course virtually all translations are based on the Masoretic Hebrew text, a much later Hebrew text type.
But the Septuagint, based on a much earlier text type which is found in cave 4 or the Dead Sea scrolls, and also the text type from which the New Testament writers quoted, puts it differently:

“Now I said, ‘My length of life shall continue even as that of the phoenix. I shall live for a long time’.”

According to Clement, Paul’s fellow helper, when he wrote his letter to the Corinthians shortly after Paul and Peter’s death, described the phoenix as living for 500 years, and then after the bird rotted, it came to life again to begin another 500-year cycle.

But not only the phoenix is found in the book of Job, but also dragons, leviathin (a sea monster), and bethemoth, whose description is similar to that of a dinosaur.

Do you believe in dragons? In the King James, the Hebrew word (Strongs 08577) is translated as dragons in all of these places:
Deut 32:33; Neh 2:13; Ps 44:19, 74:13, 91:13, 148:7; Isaiah 27:1, 34:13, 35:7, 51:9; Jer 9:11, 10:22, 14:6, 49:33, 51:34; Ez 29:3
Micah 1:8, Malachi 1:3.

However, modern translations render it otherwise. The NKJV ususally translates the word as “jackals”. However, it also translates it as “sea creatures”, “reptiles”, “serpents”, and “monsters”. When a translation renders a word referring to a beast in such a variety of ways, one is suspicious that it may not be rendered correctly.

In conclusion, I say, that if leviathin and behemoth exist, if dragons exist, why is it so hard to believe that the phoenix exists?

As for “many contradicting theological ideas”, one can find contradictions in the Bible as well. However, if they are pointed out, they are quickly explained away, for many believe the Bible to be infallible and flawless. Yet contradictions in the early Christian writers supposedly prove that these writings are “not inspired.” Those who believe they are, can explain away those contradictions as well.

So are you saying Paidion, that the writings of the church fathers have equal authority with the writings we call the scriptures? Or are you just pointing out my inconsistencies? If the former, then I guess I just can’t go there. If the later, well – I probably deserved that.

But if you’re saying we should take Job’s menagerie literally along with everything extant written by the early church fathers . . . well . . . while I might go for sea monsters & etc., the phoenix (while a beautiful metaphor) is a bit hard for me to swallow. And I’m even painting a swirl of phoenixes just now, coincidentally. I’d love it if they did actually exist, and maybe in the age to come . . . . Nevertheless I can categorically state that I do not, in this world, believe in actual physical phoenixes.

Concerning the Phoenix, the word as it appears also can mean a palm-tree: … Dfoi%3Dnic

Brenton’s LXX translation renders it thus:

And I said, My age shall continue as the stem of a palm-tree [stelechos phoinikos]; I shall live a long while.

I do not really get your point, I do no think that fabled animals are in the Bible, but some persons may have read into it.

When Frank is swallowed by the Tragedian, his wife simply walks away. There’s no one left to talk to, nothing but a zombie.

“I cannot love a lie.” said the Lady. “I cannot love the thing which is not. I am in Love, and out of it I will not go.”

She leaves, singing. Though perfected in love, she doesn’t grieve the annihilation of the man who was once her husband…

Sorry, Mr Lewis. This makes no sense to me.

Do I understand this right, this Mr. Lewis wrote a fantasy story about the afterlife, which however can interpreted differently?

I wasn’t saying either one of the two, but if I must choose, then I would choose the former. For God’s inspiration extends far beyond the Bible. For example, the gift of prophecy continues to this day, and surely God inspires those who prophesy. There is no scripture which indicates that the gift of prophecy has been abrogated. Of course this flies in the face of sola scriptura. Some modern authors have also been inspired by the spirit of God.

In what sense does Clement’s letter to the Corinthians (which contains a description of the phoenix bird) not qualify as inspired? Clement was Paul’s fellow helper, and he wrote a very powerful letter to the Corinthians shortly after Paul and Peter’s deaths. His letter was read in the early churches along with those of Peter and Paul. In the early church, 2 Peter was considered by many to be a forgery, and Jude, James, and Revelation were questioned as well.

So on what basis do we consider the books of the New Testament which we have today, and only those, as the inspired ones? Is it because Athanasius chose these and only these as the books that ought to be read in the churches? If Athanasius chose the only truly inspired books, then he, himself, must have been inspired to select them. But if that is the case, then there IS inspiration outside of the Bible! And thus inspiration didn’t cease when the last book of the Bible was written as the believers in the exclusive inerrancy of the Bible, claim.

I’m referring to one of the encounters in The Great Divorce.


I do believe there is inspiration outside of scripture – of course! But I don’t hold the words that I believe Father gives ME to be on an equal par with scripture. I just don’t. They’re from God (mostly) as far as I can tell, but if they were to contradict scripture (meaning the whole witness of scripture), I would have to concede. Definitely modern authors have and do hear from God and no doubt at least some (and probably all) of the ancient fathers did hear from God. Some of them also heard wrong. I do hold the inerrancy of scripture while realizing the translations are not inerrant (nor can be) and our interpretation even when we have a more or less accurate translation is also not inerrant. But scripture at least gives me a foundation to work from.

Let’s take the New Testament for example.

If the translations are not inerrant then what IS inerrant? The original Greek? But we do not have the original Greek. We have only copies of the Greek, and these copies are inconsistent with each other. The copyists made many errors, and some of them actually altered the Greek in order to make statements internally consistent.

So if words of the original Greek manuscripts were inerrant, of what practical value is that? We can’t fully trust the translations, and we can’t fully trust the extant Greek manuscripts. We do not possess any New Testament, English or Greek which we can fully trust.

But more than that! There never was a time when an inerrant New Testament existed! For when the original manuscripts existed, the New Testament did not exist. It had not yet been compiled. When the “canon” of the New Testament was agreed upon by many Christians (not all) in the fourth century, the original manuscripts had been miscopied or altered.

Wow, the Chinese tour spammers are getting more creative, complaining that their first post didn’t come through; leads to irony when their posts (and accounts) are deleted. :slight_smile:

Anyway, kind of back on topic… :wink:

He wrote several fantasies about the afterlife, but they comport fairly well with what he wrote in non-fiction about the afterlife, too, since after all he was in a habit of writing apologetic fantasies, starting with his very first Christian book The Pilgrim’s Regress. (That one features ECT not annihilation, so far as I recall. I dictated all his religious works to tape years ago. :sunglasses: )

After he wrote The Problem of Pain (during WW2, his period of greatest output), which was straight up theology, he never particularly changed his beliefs on final perdition afterward.

(A Grief Observed is often cited as somehow abrogating TPoP or Miracles: A Preliminary Study or various other works, but that’s a popular misunderstanding fostered by the biographical drama Shadowlands, which among several other errors was built on the pretense that Lewis lived in an academic ivory tower sheltered existence and wasn’t acquainted with ‘real’ suffering, taking a line of self-critical humility from TPoP itself too literally. The real Lewis had converted out of Christianity as a child largely from the grief of his beloved mother’s death from cancer, and had almost died from artillery shelling in World War One, so he did in fact know something about personal physical and emotional pain. :wink: Certainly AGO has nothing to say for or against eternal conscious torment or annihilationism per se – it just isn’t a topic. )