About Me

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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Origen on the Salvation of the Devil

Did Origen believe in the salvation of the devil? He clearly believed that all rational souls were able to be saved (Contra Celsum 4.99) and this would, on Origen's view of the nature of demonic forces, have included the devil and his demons. So the accusation was stirred up that he taught the salvation of demons. But, in a letter to his friends in Alexandria he explicitly denied that he thought the devil and his demons would be saved. So did he or didn't he? Tricky.

Perhaps the following passage explains how he could maintain both positions:

“For the destruction of the last enemy must be understood in this way, not that its substance which was made by God shall perish, but that the hostile purpose and will which proceeded, not from God but from itself, will come to an end. It will be destroyed, therefore, not in the sense of ceasing to exist, but of being no longer an enemy and no longer death. For to the Almighty nothing is impossible, nor is anything beyond the reach of cure by its maker.”
Peri Archon 3.6.5
(trans. Marguerite Harl, Gilles Dorival, and Alain Le Boulluec. Paris, 1976, p.67)
In this case, it might be that Origen denied that Satan would be saved for "Satan" is to Lucifer what "the sinful nature"/"the flesh"/"the old man" is to us. For God to save us "the old must pass away" and there must be new creation (2 Cor 5). So perhaps, for God to redeem fallen angels he must annihilate their demonic aspect. Thus it would be that Satan and his demons would be lost forever — damned — even as God saves Lucifer and his angelic followers.

Gregory of Nyssa was even more bold than Origen on this issue: He maintained that "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).

Again, it partly depends on what you think of the ontology of "the demonic." If you do not think that Satan and evil spirits are individual persons, created good yet now fallen (and there are various ways in which one may try to make that move), then they are essentially evil forces and thus irredeemable. But if you do take the classical view that demons are rational souls — non-human persons — then there is something to be said for the approach of Origen and Gregory. Food for thought.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Guest Post—James Danaher on "The Saint and the Celebrity"

Here are the reflections of philosopher James Danaher on saints and celebrities in contemporary culture and church. They are from chapter 11 of his book Contemplative Prayer (Cascade, forthcoming). Thanks to James for permission to post his reflections here.

We are familiar in our culture with the idea of some people being different from the rest of us. In our contemporary American culture, the celebrity is such an individual. The reason for their being different is that mass media gives the celebrity a notoriety that goes way beyond that of the average person. Since the celebrity is identifiable by a great multitude of people, their identity appears to be more substantial than the rest of us who are only identifiable by a handful of people who make up our rather small world. Certainly, this idea that some people’s identity is greater than others because they are identifiable by more people is an illusion, but it is an illusion deeply entrenched in contemporary culture.

In fact, this illusion that the celebrity has a greater identity than the rest of us is so deeply entrenched in our social reality that it should not be surprising that we have replaced the idea of the saintly Christian with the idea of the celebrity Christian. Evidence of this is all around us. At a recent local prayer breakfast, the guest speaker was a movie star who had, two years previously, had a conversion experience. They chose him because many people would be interested in his testimony, not because of his saintliness, but because of his celebrity. Many churches that have extensive standards for a person to be a ministering member, ironically would invite a celebrity to their pulpit with little reservation. Some time ago, I voiced a disagreement to something a television preacher was saying. My mother-in-law’s response was that I was not on T.V., and he was. Obviously, his opinion was more authoritative, not because of what he said but because of his celebrity. Go to any bookstore and you will see that celebrities make up the vast majority of those who are authoring books that purport to instruct us in the Christian life. Publishers know that in order to sell great quantities of books, the author has to be identifiable by a great many people. Consequently, television preachers, sports stars, and every other imaginable celebrity are the ones from whom we take our spiritual direction. Sadly, their spiritual authority comes from their celebrity rather than their saintliness. Our culture has taught us that what we should revere about a person is the fact that they have an identity established by a great many people. Thus, baseball players tell us what coffee to drink and movie stars what credit card to use. How strange! It is, however, more than simply strange when celebrities are the ones we look to in order to understand how to follow Jesus.

It is especially strange that the celebrity has replaced the saint in our culture because the celebrity is the complete opposite of the saint. While the celebrity draws their identity from the notoriety that masses of people provide, the saint draws her identity from God alone. Unlike the celebrity, and all who desire to be celebrities and have their identities established by great numbers of people, the saint rejects such an identity and seeks only to be who God says they are, no more and no less. The saint repeatedly turns from the identity others attempt to impose upon her and only identifies herself as God’s beloved daughter. The saint sees the notoriety and prestige that the celebrity has and the rest of us seek as the illusion that it is. It is an illusion because the masses of people who serve to provide the celebrity with their identity have no real knowledge of who the celebrity actually is. Since our identity is largely the result of our relationship and interaction with others, an identity founded upon our relationship with people who really do not know us is the least substantial identity. The celebrity’s identity may have the illusion of being more substantial because a great multitude of people establishes that identity, but they are people without any personal knowledge of the celebrity.

By contrast, the saint’s identity appears to be the least substantial since it rests upon the saint’s relationship with one person alone. It is, however, our only true source of identity, since that one person is the only one who does truly know us. This is what makes the saint so different not only from the celebrity, but from the rest of us as well. While we form an identity out of our relationships with those people who make up our small worlds, and the celebrity out of their relationship with the masses, the saint’s identity is rooted in the only one whose notice really matters.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011