Origen, Gregory Nyssen, and Maximus on Apokatastasis

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8 Responses to Origen, Gregory Nyssen, and Maximus on Apokatastasis

  1. Tom says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! 😀


  2. Tom,

    What are your thoughts?

    So Jesus says –

    “Father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me…”

    Now as I understand this, here’s a momentary example of his hypostatic ‘Gnomic will’ expressing itself over his ‘Natural will’ – if we can say such a thing? However, “Within the theology of St Maximus, which was endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in condemning ‘monothelitism’, Jesus Christ possessed no gnomic will. St Maximus developed this claim particularly in his Dialogue with Pyrrhus. According to St Maximus, the process of gnomic willing presupposes that a person does not know what they want, and so must deliberate and choose between a range of choices. However, Jesus Christ, as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was omniscient. Therefore, St Maximus reasoned, Christ was never in a state of ignorance regarding what he wanted, and so never engaged in gnomic willing.”

    “Is it possible for human, angelic and even demonic souls at the moment of their bodily and psychic restoration to repent, be forgiven and be accepted in the kingdom of God, since they cast off their deliberative, gnomic will, and should be able to see the difference between good and evil, or will the return be restricted to the ones who repented during life on earth? This is the big question.”

    Andreas Andreopoulos is not kidding when he sates – “This is a big question”! If we take Christ as our ultimate template as we should, then this begs the question – did he have two minds and wills, or one?

    “Some conclude that when Jesus took on his human nature he possessed two minds, a human mind and a Divine mind, with the human mind responsible for Jesus’ knowledge rather than the Divine mind. Others hold that Jesus had one mind but while in his mortal body he chose to have a subconscious mental part that was inaccessible to the conscious mind and then, after his resurrection, his humanity became dominated by the Divine so his subconscious became accessible.”

    This is tangential speculation but it ties loosely into the questions that the paper makes. The idea of our ‘gnomic will’ being psychically expunged, thus allowing us to see things as they really and truthfully are – (knowing good from evil) is appealing pre or post resurrection. If we are here in Christ, our ‘Apokatastasis’ begins now and later sees it’s completion and fulfillment in the Resurrection.


    • Tom says:


      I don’t have any educated answers. 😀 I mean, I’m trying to find my feet in this as well.

      Take Ambiguum 7. What a view of things! When Maximus talks about the orientation of created things in/toward the Good, the irreducible grounding and goodness of the logoi of all created things in God, the giveness of this orientation even in its detours into sinful privation, even the way he talks about 1Cor 15.28 (i.e., God’s being ‘all in all’ being convertible with the creature’s final rest in God), I can’t avoid the conclusion that Maximus was a convinced universalist. True, he knew this wasn’t ‘dogma’. But his apophatic “honor by silence” (an interpretation of apokatastasis unspoken generally though shared among the mature—am I reading that rightly?) can hardly be read as anything but final salvation.

      Others more informed and capable will have to weigh in on the question of the gnomic will. It came up on that long conversation we had early last summer when DBH was hanging out here. As I understand things, the two wills in Christ is a separate question (i.e., the two wills in question are the divine and human natural wills). The gnomic will is just a particular, contextualized exercise of the human will, i.e., the will exercised under the conditions of epistemic distance relative to good/evil. So the denial of the gnomic will in Christ is just the denial that his human will was at liberty with respect to good/evil. But don’t take my word on that.

      I do remember asking Hart (because it comes up in Beauty of the Infinite) whether he thought human beings in their perfected state will retain a gnomic exercise of the will relative to a scope of equally loving, beautiful expressive forms. He was fine with it; i.e., the divine will for us terminates in the determining of a multiplicity of beautiful expressions from which the individual self-determines in shaping his/her particular expressive form.

      That said, Maximus did (explicitly) believe in an apokatastasis (1 of 3) as the restoration of the natural will. What his convictions were about what followed this restoration is what we’re not sure about. But however one understands that restoration to occur (bringing the wicked to rock bottom clarity instantaneously and irrespective of any cooperation on their part OR bringing the wicked through the painful process of embracing the truth about their choices and increasingly taking responsibility to arrive finally at rock bottom clarity—I’m inclined to the latter), it seems to me pretty clear what that final position of Maximus was about which he chose to remain silent.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Tom – lots of super great food for thought!

        “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2

        With an emphasis on the first phrase – our mystery of Faith in Him.


        Liked by 2 people

    • Maximus says:


      St. Maximus says that the soul of one estranged from God for infinite ages is incapable of contesting their sentence of condemnation because it has imprisoned itself in nothingness and delusion:

      [I]f the soul, as I have said, uses its own powers properly, and if, consistent with God’s purpose, it passes through the sensible world by way of the spiritual principles that exist within it, so that with understanding it arrives at God. 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 divine 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. (Ambigua to John, Ambiguum 21)


  3. Maximus says:

    From the Life of St. Maximus:

    And when they [St. Maximus and his co-Confessors] had been dismissed to the prisons, Menas laid hold of the old man, saying in the presence of the officials: ‘God has struck you and brought you here so that you might accept the consequences of what you did to others, when you led everyone into the teachings of Origen.’

    The servant of God said to him in the presence of everyone: ‘Anathema on Origen and his teachings, and on everyone of the same mind as himself.’

    And the patrician Epiphanius said: ‘The censure adduced by you against him, Lord Menas, has come to an end, such that, even if he were an Origenist, he freed himself from a charge like that when he pronounced the anathema. From now on I won’t have a charge of that nature made about him any longer.’ (Record of the Trial, 5. Maximus the Confessor and His Companions: Documents From Exile edited by Pauline Allen and Bronwen Neil, p. 59-61. Oxford Early Christian Texts)


  4. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Tom, I know that you recently read Andreopoulos’s essay on the eschatology of Maximus in The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor. Has he altered his interpretation of Maximus in any ways? Anything different between the essay he wrote back in 2004 and his more recent contribution?


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