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.
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. 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.
Update #1: 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.
Good luck! Looking forward to the endeavor.
Is David Hart Bentley a universalist? Is Rob Bell a universalist? Is Mark Galli a Calvinist? Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins”. Mark Galli’s book “God Wins”. Could you write a book explaining Bell and Galli, and entitle it “God’s Love Wins”?
Will any of the Logoi of creation be falsified? Will the logos of the will of man never attain its fruition?
This is the question even if you don’t realize it-
Will the gnomic will be healed?
Craig, I have Gregory of Nyssa’s book on Moses. I have Cyril of Alexandria’s book against those who are unwilling to call Mary Theotokos (Orthodox Research Institute, Rollinsford, NH). These are 2 good books, along with Basil the great’s book On the Holy Spirit. Could you comment on these 3 books and anything else by Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, and Basil of Caesarea? Thank you.
Gnomic will may be healed because deliberation will stop–its just bad if your will is set against God.
What is “gnomic will”? I do not understand at all in any way whatsoever what this term/nomenclature actually means? And which Christian, Church Father, saint, or saints, used the term “gnomic will”? Is it heterodox or orthodox?
Maximas coined the term. Gnomic will is the tendency of the will to deliberate between good and evil. Most people who argue over “logoi” have done very little spiritual reading or any reading of the patristics, and tend to be arguing from secondary sources. Maybe “internetsecurity” does not fit this bill, but it is something I have seen.
I have done very little reading of the Fsthers pther than Basil Augustine, Gregory Nyssa, very little pf John Chrysostom, some of Cyril of Alexandria, very much of Photius and Mark of Ephesus, some of Gregory Palamas, Nil Sorsky, some of Mark the Ascetic, Philokalia. all of The Way of A Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues his way. The three. 4 most important works I have read, Basil On the Holy Spirit, Photius, Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. Mark the Ascetic, texts on those who think they are made righteous by works, Philokalia, and Frank Schaeffer, Dancing Alone, and I would add, Peter E. Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox, John S. Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism and Doctrine, Whelton, Two Paths, Whelton, The Pearl, and Ostroumoff, The History of the Council of Florence, and especially the Encyclical Letter of Saint Mark of Ephesus at the Council of Florence, in Living Orthodoxy magazine. Have you read any or all of these sources, Craig Truglia? God bless you.
The gnomic will is treated in St. Maximus the Confessor and St. John of Damascus.
It is a quality of the will being fallen- that it changes allegiances to different ideas due to ignorance. And yet Ironically it is what allows conversion to be possible.
So, to want one thing, and then the contrary, to go back and forth between opinions is the activity of a gnomic will. Because it is the result of the fall, it is not proper to human nature as such, but an accidental result of depravity, malice and ignorance.
For this reason, Christ had no gnomic will. He had a true human will that conformed to the truth which his human intellect always beheld without vacillation, without deliberation. He saw the truth and always chose it.
So the issue is, in the resurrection, will our gnomic will be restored to a will that chooses the truth without wrongly perceiving it? And will all our choices that were wrongly made in ignorance and corruption- will they be done away with?
Maximus explictly teaches the will we had when we are living eternally lasts with us afterwards. Nyssa appears to be teaching the same.
Chapter and verse?
The following is a good case study why we need to actually read the saints and not extrapolate doctrines from ideas they are alleged to have had according to secondary sources.
Ambigua of John
In the same manner, but in the case of what is contrary, the sages give the names of “perdition,” “Hades,” “sons of perdition,” and the like, to those who by their disposition have set themselves on a course to nonexistence, and who by their mode of life have reduced themselves to virtual nothingness. (20:2)
If, however, it makes the wrong or mistaken use of these powers, delving into the world in a manner contrary to what is proper, it is obvious that it will succumb to dishonorable passions, and in the coming life will rightly be cast away from the presence of the ditine glory, receiving the dreadful condemnation of being estranged from relation with God for infinite ages, a sentence so distressing that the soul will not be able to contest it, for it will have as a perpetually relentless accuser its own disposition, which created for it a mode of existence that in fact did not exist. (21:12)
…throughout the whole being of those who by their free choice have used the principle of being according to nature, the whole God suitably abides, bestowing on them eternal well-being by giving them a share in Himself…to those who have willfully used the principle of their being contrary to nature, He rightly renders not well-being but eternal ill- being, since well-being is no longer accessible to those who have placed themselves in opposition to it (65:3)
Which Ecumenical Council condemned Universal Salvation as a Heresy? If your only Answer is the Fifth then your answer is less then convincing.
The sixth and 7th, the latter explicitly so by name. But I already know that you are not actually open to the explicit written evidence so I am not going to engage in a back and forth, you have already made up your mind. May God bless you.
I have changed my mind on many things over the years. So please provide the Quotes from the Canons of those Councils?
Read Canon 2 of trullo. Here is nicea II: https://orthodoxchristiantheology.com/2019/08/07/nicea-iis-teaching-on-eternal-damnation-origen-and-apocatastasis/
I left a comment there.
The fact that you think Universalism is an ‘authoritatively condemned heresy’ speaks to your lack of knowledge and wisdom. Laughable.
1. Canons schmanons! Nicea Ii explicitly condemns the teachings of origen in it’s sentence and the council explicitly identified apocatastasis as the heresy being spoken of.
2. Your comment is uncharitable and quite unchristian