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While reading a fascinating answer on universalism and apocatastasis, I found 1 Corinthians 15:28 quoted as evidence for the idea that all people will ultimately be restored/saved:

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (ESV)

According to the linked answer, Origen believed that "all would eventually be reconciled to God," a sort of Christian universalism. But I notice that 1 Corinthians 15:28 doesn't say "all people" – it says "all things." And it would seem that the devil and his demons could be included in this "all things," according to this interpretation of the verse.

So, for now, let me ask: did the prominent advocates of apocatastasis in the early church believe that the devil and his demons would ultimately be restored or reconciled to God?

Since "prominent advocates" may not be sufficiently specific, let's limit ourselves to the views of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa. If modern scholars have analyzed their writings in order to answer this question, that analysis, in conjunction with quotes from the writings of these fathers, would be great.

  • Unfortunately the book that covers this in depth costs way too much. But I'll try to find some of the quotes in what I do have if I get a chance. Great question! – Dan Sep 17 '16 at 13:37
  • askelm.com/news/n020806.htm askelm.com/news/n020812.htm askelm.com/news/n020820.htm This is a site I found a few years ago. It's a three part series and Part 1 is mostly bible quotes; but whereas most sites will just say "so and so said this..." this site actually provides sources. Hope it helps! – Cannabijoy Sep 17 '16 at 15:21
  • I don't have references or quotes on hand so I won't give an actual answer, but from my past readings my understanding is that yes, all things means all things, and that Origen and Gregory of Nyssa both believed that the demonic powers would be restored to their former glory – TheIronKnuckle Jan 27 '17 at 2:28
  • Given the somewhat heated argument I got into with a deacon at our church, about the hypothetical -- If Satan would in sincere humility admit his sin of Pride and ask for God's forgiveness, would he too be redeemable?" --- I won't touch this with an answer. Great question. – KorvinStarmast Apr 4 '17 at 19:53
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Origen does seem to have included demons in his concept of apocatastasis, but this specific teaching as well as the doctrine of apocatastasis in general - the teaching that everyone will be saved in the end - was roundly condemned by the local Council of Constantinople in 453. The acts of this Council were later accepted by the whole Church at the 5th Ecumenical Council in 553, which explicitly excommunicated anyone following his teachings. Canon XV of this Council reads:

If anyone shall say that the life of the spirits (νοῶν) shall be like to the life which was in the beginning while as yet the spirits had not come down or fallen, so that the end and the beginning shall be alike, and that the end shall be the true measure of the beginning: let him be anathema.1

All told, there are 24 anathemas against the teachings of Origen that came out of this particular council.

The teaching is summarized in Michael Pomazanski's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (3rd. ed):

The teaching of a restoration (apokatastasis) of creation at the Second Coming of Christ is found in Acts 3: 19– 21: Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come fom the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, Who was before preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution (apokatastaseos) of all things*.... Here apokatastasis is to be understood as the change, renewal and transfiguration of man and the cosmos at the time of the General Resurrection, as outlined in the present chapter. It is not to be understood as “universal salvation,” that is, the heretical Origenist notion that all human beings and even all the demons will ultimately enter into everlasting blessedness. The Orthodox understanding of apokatastasis is presented in the Ambigua of St. Maximus the Confessor, which contain both a refutation and a correction of Origenism. (See St. Maximus the Confessor, On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, p. 56.)2

A primary text of Origen's in this regard seems to come from Book III of his First Principles, wherein it is written:

Into this condition, then, we are to suppose that all this bodily substance of ours will be brought, when all things shall be re-established in a state of unity, and when God shall be all in all. And this result must be understood as being brought about, not suddenly, but slowly and gradually, seeing that the process of amendment and correction will take place imperceptibly in the individual instances during the lapse of countless and unmeasured ages, some outstripping others, and tending by a swifter course towards perfection, while others again follow close at hand, and some again a long way behind; and thus, through the numerous and uncounted orders of progressive beings who are being reconciled to God from a state of enmity3

Some of the writings of Gregory of Nyssa also supported Origen's concept of apocatastasis, which he himself appeared to have accepted from Origen. These writings were subsequently rejected, however, by numerous Church Fathers, including Barsanufius the Great, Herman of Constantinople, Mark of Ephesus, Maximus the Confessor, and Photius the Great.

Origen was the pupil of Clement of Alexandria. Clement was charged later with heresy by Photius the Great for some of his Christological teachings, but I could not find any evidence that he influenced Origen's doctrine of apocatastasis (Clement of Alexandria is not acknowledged as a Church Father by the Eastern Orthodox Church. He is not to be confused with Clement of Rome or Cyril of Alexandria, both of whom are acknowledged in the east to be important Church Fathers.)

I could not locate anything that would substantiate the claim that Gregory of Nazianzus (also known as Gregory the Theologian in the east) ever supported anything like what you suggest.


1 Canons against Origen of the Fifth Ecumenical Council
2 p.349n
3 First Principles, III.VI.6

  • Thanks! This is helpful; the Pomazanski quote hits on what I'm looking for when he mentions "even all the demons" in association with Origen. But I'd really like to see quotes from Origen et al. that back this up... ideally in his surviving writings, but if not, in those of his opponents. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 4 '17 at 1:51
  • I was able to identify one writing, but I don't know if it is necessarily the key one. New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia article implies that Origen was not so explicit about believing that demons also would be saved, but his universalist theology seems to be foundational for the notion. – guest37 Apr 4 '17 at 2:54
  • The condemnation of Origenism at that council is generally accepted as a fake by scholars today: afkimel.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/… – Stephen Saucier Oct 11 at 22:34
  • Ah, the scholars – guest37 Oct 22 at 2:01

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