Friday, 18 December 2015

Did Justin Martyr believe in Universalism?

In this article, we are going to take a look at Justin Martyr's First Apology to see if he held to a universalist perspective. Here is the letter if you want to read for yourself.

Justin Martyr, First Apology
We observe the following in the context of Justin's letter. Firstly, let us take a look at Chapter 8:
"And reckon that it is for your sakes we have been saying these things; for it is in our power, when we are examined, to deny that we are Christians; but we would not live by telling a lie. For, impelled by the desire of the eternal and pure life, we seek the abode that is with God, the Father and Creator of all, and hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him, and loved to abide with Him where there is no sin to cause disturbance, can obtain these things. This, then, to speak shortly, is what we expect and have learned from Christ, and teach. And Plato, in like manner, used to say that Rhadamanthus and Minos would punish the wicked who came before them; and we say that the same thing will be done, but at the hand of Christ, and upon the wicked in the same bodies united again to their spirits which are now to undergo everlasting punishment; and not only, as Plato said, for a period of a thousand years. And if any one say that this is incredible or impossible, this error of ours is one which concerns ourselves only, and no other person, so long as you cannot convict us of doing any harm."

Justin isn't saying that hellfire came from the pagans, He is however saying that the pagans are teaching similar things to the Christians but points out Christ is the one to dispense judgement. He also points out that hell is eternal and NOT merely for a period of time, specifically, not for 1000 years only.

Let's also take a look at a section in Chapter 12:
"And more than all other men are we your helpers and allies in promoting peace, seeing that we hold this view, that it is alike impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and for the virtuous, to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions. For if all men knew this, no one would choose wickedness even for a little, knowing that he goes to the everlasting punishment of fire; but would by all means restrain himself, and adorn himself with virtue, that he might obtain the good gifts of God, and escape the punishments. For those who, on account of the laws and punishments you impose, endeavour to escape detection when they offend (and they offend, too, under the impression that it is quite possible to escape your detection, since you are but men), those persons, if they learned and were convinced that nothing, whether actually done or only intended, can escape the knowledge of God, would by all means live decently on account of the penalties threatened, as even you yourselves will admit. But you seem to fear lest all men become righteous, and you no longer have any to punish. Such would be the concern of public executioners, but not of good princes."

This is a very telling statement indeed, very similar to what was mentioned in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, If men know and believe that there is eternal judgement to come in the future, They would be begging God to rescue them from their evil ways and repent. Telling someone that judgement only last for a brief time isn't going to compel them to repent.

We also take a look at Chapter 20:
"And the Sibyl and Hystaspes said that there should be a dissolution by God of things corruptible. And the philosophers called Stoics teach that even God Himself shall be resolved into fire, and they say that the world is to be formed anew by this revolution; but we understand that God, the Creator of all things, is superior to the things that are to be changed. If, therefore, on some points we teach the same things as the poets and philosophers whom you honour, and on other points are fuller and more divine in our teaching, and if we alone afford proof of what we assert, why are we unjustly hated more than all others? For while we say that all things have been produced and arranged into a world by God, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of Plato; and while we say that there will be a burning up of all, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of the Stoics: and while we affirm that the souls of the wicked, being endowed with sensation even after death, are punished, and that those of the good being delivered from punishment spend a blessed existence, we shall seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers; and while we maintain that men ought not to worship the works of their hands, we say the very things which have been said by the comic poet Menander, and other similar writers, for they have declared that the workman is greater than the work."

It is of paramount importance to note that Justin isn't saying that hellfire itself comes from the stoics or pagans, he is affirming the opposite, that the pagans are actually BORROWING from the Christians and that the Christians have the true, fuller picture of biblical truth. The same can be said of the following passage in Chapter 21:

The point of the pagans borrowing from the Christians I have already mentioned and can be found in the chapter, but let us look here at this particular statement:

"But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire."

Observe also Chapter 29:
"For among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, and Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. And that he would be sent into the fire with his host, and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold. For the reason why God has delayed to do this, is His regard for the human race. For He foreknows that some are to be saved by repentance, some even that are perhaps not yet born. In the beginning He made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God; for they have been born rational and contemplative. And if any one disbelieves that God cares for these things, he will thereby either insinuate that God does not exist, or he will assert that though He exists He delights in vice, or exists like a stone, and that neither virtue nor vice are anything, but only in the opinion of men these things are reckoned good or evil. And this is the greatest profanity and wickedness."

Justin makes the point here very effectively:
1. Satan and the demons and those who follow them are thrown into the fire for eternal punishment.
2. Those who follow Satan  and the demons are thrown into the fire for eternal punishment.
3. The word eternal isn't merely a duration
4. God has delayed judgement to give the human race a chance to repent
5. Only a few shall repent and turn to Christ with no indication of a second chance after death
6. All men are without excuse, a point that echoes Paul's own words (Romans 1:20)
7. Those who deny God exists and live in their sins are condemned.

Moving on to Chapter 45:
"And that God the Father of all would bring Christ to heaven after He had raised Him from the dead, and would keep Him there until He has subdued His enemies the devils, and until the number of those who are foreknown by Him as good and virtuous is complete, on whose account He has still delayed the consummation— hear what was said by the prophet David. These are his words: The Lord said unto My Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool. The Lord shall send to You the rod of power out of Jerusalem; and rule You in the midst of Your enemies. With You is the government in the day of Your power, in the beauties of Your saints: from the womb of morning have I begotten You. That which he says, He shall send to You the rod of power out of Jerusalem, is predictive of the mighty word, which His apostles, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere; and though death is decreed against those who teach or at all confess the name of Christ, we everywhere both embrace and teach it. And if you also read these words in a hostile spirit, you can do no more, as I said before, than kill us; which indeed does no harm to us, but to you and all who unjustly hate us, and do not repent, brings eternal punishment by fire."

I think this passage speaks for itself.

And finally Chapter 52:
"Since, then, we prove that all things which have already happened had been predicted by the prophets before they came to pass, we must necessarily believe also that those things which are in like manner predicted, but are yet to come to pass, shall certainly happen. For as the things which have already taken place came to pass when foretold, and even though unknown, so shall the things that remain, even though they be unknown and disbelieved, yet come to pass. For the prophets have proclaimed two advents of His: the one, that which is already past, when He came as a dishonoured and suffering Man; but the second, when, according to prophecy, He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils. And that these things also have been foretold as yet to be, we will prove. By Ezekiel the prophet it was said: Joint shall be joined to joint, and bone to bone, and flesh shall grow again; and every knee shall bow to the Lord, and every tongue shall confess Him. Ezekiel 37:7-8; Isaiah 45:24 And in what kind of sensation and punishment the wicked are to be, hear from what was said in like manner with reference to this; it is as follows: Their worm shall not rest, and their fire shall not be quenched; Isaiah 66:24 and then shall they repent, when it profits them not. And what the people of the Jews shall say and do, when they see Him coming in glory, has been thus predicted by Zechariah the prophet: I will command the four winds to gather the scattered children; I will command the north wind to bring them, and the south wind, that it keep not back. And then in Jerusalem there shall be great lamentation, not the lamentation of mouths or of lips, but the lamentation of the heart; and they shall rend not their garments, but their hearts. Tribe by tribe they shall mourn, and then they shall look on Him whom they have pierced; and they shall say, Why, O Lord, have You made us to err from Your way? The glory which our fathers blessed, has for us been turned into shame."

Many will bow to the knee of Jesus when he returns, but it will be too late to accept him and they will be chucked into eternal hellfire.

That's all that I have to say on Justin Martyr, at least for the time being.

Answering Judaism.

1 comment:

  1. First question is, is Aionos the word Trnalsated Everlasting?

    ReplyDelete