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apologetics, Apologetics of Christ, Historical Apologetics

Did the Son have a beginning? – Origen vs. heresies

Origen (184-253 AD) was one of the earliest defenders of the Christian faith.* In his work, Contra Celsum, he engaged with a Greek skeptic who brought many arguments against Christianity. In his De Principiis, he laid out the foundations of the Christian faith. (Both works are availble in The Works of Origen.) The latter work demonstrates key points to understanding the relationship between God the Father and God the Son:

John… says in the beginning of his Gospel, “And God was the Word, and this was in the beginning with God.” Let him, then, who assigns a beginning to the Word or Wisdom of God, take care that he be not guilty of impiety against the unbegotten Father Himself, seeing he denies that He had always been a Father, and had generated the Word…
This Son, accordingly, is also the truth and life of all things which exist… For how could those things which were created live, unless they derived their being from life? (Origen, De Principiis, Book I Chapter 2)

Origen, then, notes that the very descriptor of “Father” for God the Father entails that the Son has always been generated. Otherwise, one must deny that God was always the Father. But in that case, the Son must also always have been. And to deny this, one would have to deny creation itself, for all things were made through the Son.

Again, this point must not be lost: Origen, one of the earliest defenders of the church, saw the Father and the Son as distinct from each other and also co-eternal. Effectively, this goes against many false teachings, including modalism (the idea that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different aspects of one God), any form of Arianism (that Jesus is not fully God), and the like. For a modern example, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is not fully God and not co-eternal with God the Father (whom they call Jehovah). Origen would repudiate this, noting that the Father can only right so be called in eternity, which entails the Father has always been the Father, and so the Son is co-eternal with the Father.

Reading many of these ancient historians reveals much truth about Christianity and helps to correct false teachings of today. I recommend readers read the Works of Origen.

*Origen did hold many unorthodox views which were later condemned as heretical. His faith was clearly one influenced by Platonic thought in which the human soul pre-existed and was eternal. Moreover, his view of the relations between the persons of the Trinity is deficient on many levels. My point in this post is specifically to show that Origen showed that the Son is co-eternal with the Father.

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SDG.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Did the Son have a beginning? – Origen vs. heresies

  1. De Principiis is a work of genius and it may lay out the foundations of the Christian faith but that is hardly the most striking thing about it. Whatever its orthodoxy on primary issues it’s a startlingly heretical work on secondary ones (eg logically implying the ultimate salvation of the devil.) And that’s before taking account of the bits Jerome says were cut out. (eg possible reincarnation of the wicked as beasts in other worlds).
    The heresies don’t bother me. As you said before they weren’t necessarily heresy at the time and I incline to various heresies including Origen’s preexistence of souls. Just offering an observation. Also you will be aware Origen has been accused of semi Arianism notwithstanding the sayings you quote.

    Posted by Giles | October 18, 2016, 1:07 AM
  2. I can’t find the Jerome quote but I think it was de Principiis that he said originally contained the passage I mentioned. Though contrary to some claims Origen definitely rejected reincarnation in this world. He wrote at some length (too long to be an interpolation) against it.

    Posted by Giles | October 18, 2016, 1:48 AM

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