Friday, August 10, 2007

Apocatastasis redux

Recently, there was a debate at Triablogue over the question of whether the Orthodox tradition is tolerant of universalism. I’d like to broaden out the question.

As I recall, Origen’s position didn’t stop with universal salvation. That would be the optimistic or utopian version of apocatastasis. But, consistent with his commitment to libertarian freewill, he held to a more pessimistic or dystopian version according to which the Fall might repeat itself. And libertarian freewill certainly opens the door to a cyclical view of history—“the myth of eternal return”—in Eliade’s felicitous phrase.

And, in this respect, every theological tradition that denies the perseverance of the saints subscribes to modified form of apocatastasis. Although a theological tradition may deny universal salvation, if it also denies the doctrine of perseverance, then it does apply the principle of apocatastasis at an individual level and local scale.

For it takes the position that a fallen creature can be redeemed, then fall away once more. So this is apocatastasis in miniature. Distributive rather than collective; local rather than global; historical rather than eschatological—but the underlying dynamic is the same.

Libertarian traditions arbitrarily deny perseverance to the saints on earth while they affirm perseverance to the saints in heaven. Grace is resistible here-below, but irresistible in the hereafter.

So, apart from Calvinism, every other theological tradition is Origenistic, but less consistent than Origen.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Orthodox, that's a stellar example of a cyclical view of eternity - not to mention heresy.

    Man falls
    God redeems
    Man falls again
    God redeems again

    You'd make an excellent pagan.

    But let's just play with libertarian freedom a bit shall we, Orthodox.

    Why does an agent make a choice, given the constraints of libertarian freedom? Please account for causality.