You are hereThe Alexandrian School and CG
The Alexandrian School and CG
by Marcus Booker
Proponents of so-called "Comprehensive Grace" would have you believe that their view is the majority perspective among the ancient schools; they relegate eternal conscious torment (ECT) to the Latins (read Roman Catholic) and only admit of one annihilationist school, claiming the rest as universalist. They appeal particularly and most strongly to the Alexandrians who, in places, seemed to reflect and speculate along the lines of universal redemption. Below is a miscellany of quotations that cast doubt on their confident assertions.Proponents of so-called "Comprehensive Grace" would have you believe that their view is the majority perspective among the ancient schools; they relegate eternal conscious torment (ECT) to the Latins (read Roman Catholic) and only admit of one annihilationist school, claiming the rest as universalist. They appeal particularly and most strongly to the Alexandrians who, in places, seemed to reflect and speculate along the lines of universal redemption. Below is a miscellany of quotations that cast doubt on their confident assertions."John, too, clearly teaches the differences of sins, in his larger epistle. He does so in these words: 'if any man sees his brother sin a sin that is not unto death, he will ask and he will give him life.'" (Clement of Alexandria Ante-Nicene Fathers, v.2 p. 362)
"Who, then, is not amazed at the exceeding majesty of the Holy Spirit, when he hears that he who speaks a word against the son of man may hope for forgiveness, but that he who is guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has no forgiveness--either in the present world or in that which is to come?" (Origen, Ante-Nicene Fathers v.4 p. 252) Notice that Origen here admits of a sin for which there is no forgiveness.
"It is not on account of the superiority of the Spirit over the Son that the blasphemy against the Spirit is a sin beyond discipline and pardon. Rather, it is because there is pardon for the imperfect. But for those who have tasted the heavenly gift and have been made perfect, there remains no plea or prayer for pardon." (Theognostus of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Fathers, v. 6 p. 156)
"After these points, also, the apostolic teaching is that the soul, having a substance and life of its own, shall, after its departure from the world, be rewarded according to its deserts, being destined to obtain either an inheritance of eternal life and blessedness, if its actions shall have procured this for it, or to be delivered up to eternal fire and punishments, if the guilt of its crimes shall have brought it down to this." (Origen, Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 4. p. 240) Notice that the aforesaid (concerning eternal rewards and punishments) Origen calls the "apostolic teaching."
"All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery." (Clement of Alexandria, ANF v. 2. p. 580) These words are as contrary to CG as words can be! Yet the CGers would have you think that Clement of Alexandria was the father (or at least proponent) of their doctrine.
"However, even the resurrected body of those who are destined to everlasting fire or to severe punishments is by the very change of the resurrection so incorruptible that it cannot be corrupted and dissolved even by severe punishments. If, then, such be the qualities of that body which will arise from the dead, let us now see what is the meaning of the threatening of eternal fire.
We find in the prophet Isaiah, that the fire with which each one is punished is described as his own; for he says, 'walk in the light of your own fire, and in the flame which ye have kindled.' By these words it seems to be indicated that every sinner kindles for himself the flame of his own fire, and is not plunged into some fire which has been already kindled by another...." (Origen, ANF, v.4 pp. 294-295) In the first paragraph above, Origen says, in essence, that because the wicked's resurrection body is immortal/incorruptible, his everlasting punishment never ends.
"To those who say that no one is delivered by Jesus to the tormentors, it must be said, 'Please, explain to us, good sirs, who is the king who delivered the wicked servant to the tormentors?'" (Origen, ANF, v.9 p. 504)
"But we defend our own procedure, when we say that our object is to reform the human race, either by the threats of punishments which we are persuaded are necessary for the whole world, and which perhaps are not without use to those who are to endure them; or by the promises made to those who have lived virtuous lives, and in which are contained the statements regarding the blessed termination which is to be found in the kingdom of God, reserved for those who are worthy of becoming His subjects." (Origen, ANF v.4 p. 501). Notice that Origen defends the legitimacy (as opposed to shallowness) of using threats of punishment as a precedure through which to proclaim the gospel.
"From what has been said, it will be manifest to intelligent hearers how we have to answer the following: 'All the rest of the race will be completely burnt up, and they alone [Christians] will remain.' It is not to be wondered at, indeed, if such thoughts have been entertained by those amongst us who are called in Scripture the 'foolish things' of the world, and 'base things,' and 'things which are despised,' and 'things which are not,'..." (Origen, ANF, v.4 p. 550)
"...and let them rest assured that punishment shall be inflicted on the wicked, and rewards shall be bestowed upon the righteous, by Him who deals with every one as he deserves, and who will proportion His rewards to the good that each has done, and to the account of himself that he is able to give. And let all men know that the good shall be advanced to a higher state, and that the wicked shall be delivered over to sufferings and torments, in punishment of their licentiousness and depravity, their cowardice, timidity, and all their follies." (Origen, ANF v.4 p. 659)
My above quotations were for instruction purposes only, to familiarize people with the saying of the Alexandrians. I am not here debating between ECT and annihilation. Rather, I am showing that the claims of CG proponents about the Alexandrian school's dogma are inaccurate.