Presentation Title

Origen’s Christian Philosophy: Misunderstood Master or Horrendous Heretic?

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Mark Frisius

Project Type

Student Scholarship

Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Throughout history, there has been no more a divisive figure than Origen of Alexandria with regards to his teachings being considered complete heresy or pure genius. Heretic or not, it is unquestionable that Origen’s innovative influence as the Father of Systematic Theology is far-reaching in Christian philosophy and systematic theology. His most important written work, On First Principles, exemplifies the most important goals of systematic theology by organizing the foundations of faith thematically to be best understood. Because he is one of the first to present theology in this manner, his method can be directly traced to secular sources. Utilizing some principles of the philosopher Plato, Origen pioneered systematic Christian philosophy in On First Principles. Within this seminal work, some concepts of dubious orthodoxy were presented, including accusations of universalism, the pre-existence of souls, and a two-fold creation narrative. In spite of Platonic philosophy leading to accusations of heresy, Origen should not be completely discounted as an important historical theologian. While being influenced by Platonism, Origen still adhered to orthodox teachings about God, Scriptural interpretation, and the existence of the Spiritual realm. By studying the contextual influences on Origen’s thinking, how accepted orthodoxy was practiced in his time, and how Origen intended his works to be read allowances can be made to retroactively redeem Origen from accusations of heresy. In my presentation, I will argue that the historical condemnation of Origen is unreasonable in light of a better understanding of who Origen was and what he taught.

Permission type

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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Apr 12th, 2:25 PM Apr 12th, 2:55 PM

Origen’s Christian Philosophy: Misunderstood Master or Horrendous Heretic?

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Throughout history, there has been no more a divisive figure than Origen of Alexandria with regards to his teachings being considered complete heresy or pure genius. Heretic or not, it is unquestionable that Origen’s innovative influence as the Father of Systematic Theology is far-reaching in Christian philosophy and systematic theology. His most important written work, On First Principles, exemplifies the most important goals of systematic theology by organizing the foundations of faith thematically to be best understood. Because he is one of the first to present theology in this manner, his method can be directly traced to secular sources. Utilizing some principles of the philosopher Plato, Origen pioneered systematic Christian philosophy in On First Principles. Within this seminal work, some concepts of dubious orthodoxy were presented, including accusations of universalism, the pre-existence of souls, and a two-fold creation narrative. In spite of Platonic philosophy leading to accusations of heresy, Origen should not be completely discounted as an important historical theologian. While being influenced by Platonism, Origen still adhered to orthodox teachings about God, Scriptural interpretation, and the existence of the Spiritual realm. By studying the contextual influences on Origen’s thinking, how accepted orthodoxy was practiced in his time, and how Origen intended his works to be read allowances can be made to retroactively redeem Origen from accusations of heresy. In my presentation, I will argue that the historical condemnation of Origen is unreasonable in light of a better understanding of who Origen was and what he taught.