People so universally and consistently assume Gregory of Nyssa is a universalist, it unsettles the faith of many. For some, it encourages their authoritatively condemned heresy. For others, it makes them afraid to read Gregory. For yet more, it calls into doubt the integrity of the Church’s canonizations, as we supposedly have a “saint” who teaches condemned heresy.
But to quote Pseudo-Morpheus: “What if I told you Saint Gregory…”
- Was not a universalist.
- Explicitly and repeatedly taught eternal damnation.
- Explains in his own words what he means, showing that universalist passages are rhetorical and poetic flourishes.
- Was a thoroughly Orthodox and nuanced thinker who’s speculations of the purgation of souls in Hades have been completely misapprehended by too many people who should know better?
The following installments are published:
- Questioning Gregory of Nyssa’s Universalism: In Illud
- Questioning Gregory of Nyssa’s Universalism: On the Soul and the Resurrection
- Questioning Gregory of Nyssa’s Universalism: The Great Catechism
- Questioning Gregory of Nyssa’s Universalism: Life of Moses (there is also an addendum to this article)
I already anticipate the ad hominems that will come. “You are not a scholar or clergyman. Who are you to disagree with so many?”
Ad hominems are logically fallacious and do not demand a response. They are simply the arguments of the ignorant as those with facts do not have to attack a person to undercut an argument.
My exegetical method is simple. I took for granted that the saints should be given the benefit of the doubt and did not automatically presume that the only way to interpret Gregory was in a heterodox sense. My articles went through three re-writes. The first time through, I thought that the universalist consensus was probably correct. However, the more I meditated upon what was said and the more of Saint Gregory I read, I have found this position untenable.
At this point, I have come to the conclusion that, indeed, Adolf Hitler’s theory of the “Big Lie” theory applies to how people have treated Gregory’s eschatology:
In the Big Lie there is always a certain force of credibility…It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. (Mein Kampf, Vol 1, Chap 10)
The universalists that call into question the time-honored teaching of Christendom, considering eternal damnation a Big Lie, like Hitler themselves have pushed their own Big Lie pertaining Saint Gregory of Nyssa.
People popularly assume Gregory is a universalist because it is asserted so confidently and categorically. However, how many of these same people have actually read what he wrote? And not just a single passage here or there, but the works themselves cover to cover?
The answer is very few. Of course this has not stopped ignorant people from passing comments on things they never read, but that is between them and God.
As for everyone who is reasonable, would these reasonable people still feel that Gregory is a universalist if they saw, from his own works, he clearly and repeatedly taught eternal damnation and that in the same breath writes something that sounds universalist? Would they realize that the universalist passages are not meant to be taken literally?
Pray for me during this endeavor. And, I ask Saint Gregory of Nyssa, pray for all of us that we may appreciate your work and your words, so that we may profit from what you intended to teach. Amen.
As a primer, it may help many to read a chapter from Trinity and Man by Fr. Giulio Maspero. This was pointed out to my attention after I penned my articles and it independetly corrborates my own reading. Maspero does not dig extensively in specific books from Gregory, which my articles do, so read it as a good general overview.
Also, I have since read another section of Life After Death by Metropolition Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and he largely follows my reading of Gregory of Nyssa.
Also, as a side note for those with very low reading comprehension. I am comparing the universalists to Nazis like Hitler–not endorsing Hitler’s ideology. Hitler ironically posed his own Big Lie to the masses and brought the destruction of his people. This is precisely what the universalists are doing.
I am 50 percent Ashkenazi Jew and I do not need “goyim” lecturing me on anti-semitism.