By Mark Chenoweth
“There was no universalist saint after the fifth ecumenical council (553 CE) because it condemned universalism as heresy!” Although this exact sentence has never been uttered verbatim (as far as I am aware), many popular websites certainly seem to believe it. In contrast to that prevalent assumption, in what follows, I’m going to argue that there is at least one crucially important post-553 universalist or universalist-sympathetic saint: Maximus the Confessor.1 If Maximus was a universalist or at least considered universalism a permissible theological opinion, then he did not interpret the 553 Origenist anathemas as forbidding a belief in universal salvation. In this essay I will demonstrate:
- that the entire thrust of Maximus’ theology points almost unequivocally in a universalist direction;
- that in an often overlooked passage in Ambiguum 42, Maximus supports universalism, while at the same time clueing us in to the actual aim of those mysterious 553 Origenist anathemas;
- that the passages of “honorable silence” make the best sense when interpreted as referring to universal salvation—spiritual beginners should never be let in on the “universalist secret,” lest it make them spiritually lazy;
- that the terrifying passages in Maximus’ writings must be interpreted within the larger context of his theology.
While it is true that Hans Urs von Balthasar, Ilaria Ramelli, and Andreas Andreopoulos have trod similar ground before me, there are certain nuances of Maximus’ thought that have not yet been sufficiently explored relating to universal salvation.
In the introduction to his new and helpful translation of Gregory of Nyssa’s Catechetical Discourse, Fr Ignatius Green argues that Maximus did not see Gregory as a universalist and also lacked a belief in universal salvation himself. As evidence of this, he quotes a particular passage from the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts where Maximus discusses Gregory of Nyssa’s understanding of the term apokatastasis. This passage from Maximus deserves to be quoted in full:
The third meaning [of apokatastasis] is used by Gregory especially in reference to the qualities of the soul that had been corrupted by sin and then are restored to their original state. Just as all nature will regain, at the expected time, its completeness in the flesh [at the resurrection], so also will the powers of the soul, by necessity, shed all imprints of evil clinging to them; and this after aeons have elapsed, after a long time of being driven about without rest [stasis]. And so in the end they reach God, who is without limitations [peras]. Thus they are restored to their original state [apokatastēnai] through their knowledge [of God], but do not participate in [his] gifts. It also will appear that the Creator cannot be blamed for any sinfulness.2
Green rightly goes on to point out that this apokatastasis should not be equated with universal salvation, since in Maximus’ Ecclesiastical Mystagogy, he says the soul of the saved will experience rather than merely know God. It seems that for Maximus, experience or participation should be linked with salvation, while knowledge should not. Nevertheless, as we shall see, this passage is not Maximus’s last word on universal salvation, though it may indeed be his last word on apokatastasis. Having plumbed the depths of Gregory of Nyssa’s universalism, Morwenna Ludlow argues that the modern scholarly community has too quickly equated the Greek word apokatastasis (which simply means “restoration”) with universal salvation, whereas Nyssa himself didn’t necessarily do so.3 She writes, “Gregory clearly does believe that all humanity, indeed the whole cosmos, will be saved and purified of evil; however, he does not appear to think that the word [apokatastasis] necessarily carries with it any universalist implications.”4 In the above passage from Maximus, he may simply be laying out how he saw Gregory use the word, and like Ludlow, he may not have equated the Greek word apokatastasis with Gregory’s belief in universal salvation, though for both authors, there is no question that the two concepts share an extremely intimate connection. Maximus may have also been wary of linking “necessity” (see the above passage) with universal salvation. Perhaps wanting to allow for free will, he only said that purified souls would reach a knowledge of God “through necessity,” while not participating in God. However, as Ramelli says, “this participation … can well come later,”5 and as we will soon see, Maximus speaks of universal participation in several other passages. In fact, in his Commentary on Psalm 59, he speaks of a universal restoration of “deliberative will and free choice” that takes place at the “end of time,” which implies that all humans will eventually freely choose Christ.6
Universal Salvation Proclaimed Through Abstraction
Even though the above passage on apokatastasis is not Maximus’ most universalist passage, it does offer a number of insights into Maximus’ use of Gregory of Nyssa, which will help us understand why Maximus’ theology points heavily in the universalist direction. Brian Daley, a scholar who is skeptical that Maximus espoused universalism, nevertheless believes that in the passage quoted above, Maximus was referring to a particular section of Gregory of Nyssa’s On the Making of Humanity. In this passage, Gregory writes that
when [a being] has finished the course of wickedness and reached the extreme limit of evil, then that which is ever moving, finding no halting point for its impulse natural to itself when it has run through the lengths that can be run in wickedness, of necessity, turns its motion towards good.7
When compared with Maximus’ passage above, it is obvious that Maximus seems to approve of the Nyssen’s understanding of motion, a theme featured prominently throughout all of Maximus’ theology. Both fathers’ understanding of movement or motion leads in a universalist direction. For both Maximus and Gregory, a being will remain in some type of motion until it reaches God. A being whose motion is towards evil can remain in wickedness until, through necessity, it finally finds itself unsatisfied due the limitedness and finiteness of evil and will then turns its motion towards the unlimited and infinite good (God), eventually finding rest. Although Gregory does not say that all beings find their rest in God through necessity, he does say that it is impossible for a being to remain eternally satisfied with evil, and in Maximus’ passage above on apokatastasis, he supports Gregory’s assertion. This would imply that there will always be hope for every individual’s salvation; that it is not possible for a being to irrevocably cut itself off from God. That Maximus supports Gregory’s understanding of motion is also emphatically confirmed throughout his corpus, but most noticeably in Ambigua 7 and 15, his Two Hundred Chapters on Theology 2.86, and his Ecclesiastical Mystagogy 370-405.
At the end of his proof of the limitedness of evil, Gregory of Nyssa does say that “paradise therefore will be restored, that tree will be restored which is in truth the tree of life.”8 Maximus, as we saw, says that everyone is restored to knowledge but not participation, which leads some to think he is saying that those who have reached this knowledge but lack participation will stay that way forever. However, as we have already seen, in his Commentary on Psalm 59, Maximus seems to imply the opposite. Furthermore, surely Maximus was aware that it sounds quite contradictory for a being that has shed all memory of evil and whose motion has come to rest in God to never find salvation. Not surprisingly, in other passages, Maximus follows his own logic and does speak about the experience of and not just knowledge of God for those beings whose motion has come to rest in God. For example:
And this [God’s creation of the universe] is because it is for the sake of Christ—that is, for the whole mystery of Christ—that all the ages and the beings existing within those ages [i.e. everyone] received their beginning and end in Christ. For the union of the limit of the age and the limitlessness, of measure and immeasurability, of finitude and infinity, of Creator and creation, and of rest and motion, was conceived before the ages. This union has been manifested in Christ at the end of time, and through itself bestows fulfillment of God’s foreknowledge, so that creatures in motion by nature might find rest around that which is absolutely immovable by essence, departing completely from their movement toward themselves and each other, so that they might acquire by experience, an active knowledge of him in whom they were made worthy to find their stability, a knowledge which is unalterable and always the same, and which bestows upon them the enjoyment of the One they have come to know.9
While it is true that Maximus speaks of this enjoyment, experience, and rest in God in the subjunctive (“that they might acquire by experience, an active knowledge of him”), which implies no complete “eschatological closure,” he nevertheless speaks of this participation as the fulfillment of God’s foreknowledge. Moreover, if only some beings and not all beings eventually “acquire by experience, an active knowledge” of God, then it is very difficult to see how all beings are receiving their “end” in Christ, which he so clearly speaks about at the beginning of this passage. Surely, this “end” in Christ, of which he says all beings will receive, should be connected to the “experience” and “enjoyment” and “rest” that he speaks about near the end of this passage. It could be argued that perhaps some creatures never achieve this “end,” though Maximus seems to imply the opposite in the above passage, and as has been shown on this blog before, and as Ramelli has demonstrated, Maximus seems to say in several different places that through God’s providence, all beings will eventually fulfill the logos or purpose for which they were created.
In Maximus’s Responses to Thalassius, Maximus says that the logos (the “teleological code” or principle) of “beings” has been fulfilled through Christ because each logos is given well-being by God,10 a term that Maximus only associates with those who are saved.11 If every logos is given well-being, then it seems to follow that every creature is saved. Elsewhere, he writes of a restorative reorientation of every human will where Christ’s crucifixion “effects the utter abolition of all unnatural qualities and movements that have added themselves to our natures owing to the disobedience, and restores all the original natural qualities and movements. In this apokatastasis, not even one of the logoi of creatures will be found falsified.”12 Maximus elsewhere differentiates between a being’s logos and its mode or tropos of existence.13 According to Maximus, Christ came to unite humanity’s current mode of existence to its logos of existence. Maximus refers to the logos as “divinely perfect.”14 If “not even one logoi … will be found falsified,” (i.e. every mode of existence will align with its “divinely perfect” logos) it seems to follow from this, that all will be saved. Maximus says in abstraction what he never is entirely comfortable saying in every-day language (this relates to his “honorable silence,” which we will speak about later).
As another example of Maximus’ very abstract way of pointing towards universal salvation, his understanding of universals (for example, human nature) and particulars (for example, a human being: Fr Aidan, myself, Hitler, etc.) seems to clearly point in a universalist direction. For Maximus, if one particular is not united to its universal, then the universal cannot itself be unified, or really even exist. As Maximus scholar Jordan Daniel Wood puts it, for Maximus, “universals subsist only in particulars.”15 In Amb. 41, Maximus states:
For nothing that is universal, or which contains something else … can be divided in any way by what is particular, contained, and individual. For that which does not draw together things that are naturally separated is no longer able to be generic, but rather divided up together with them and so departs from its original unity.16
This strongly implies that only if every single “particular” of human nature is saved (i.e. every human being) can human nature itself be saved or restored. In Ad Thal. 2, Maximus states that God will unite all particulars and universals “to each other and to the whole universe in an identity of movement.”17 If all particulars and universals are united, again, it seems to follow that all will be saved.
If we follow Maximus’ own logic, it appears to lead inexorably to the conclusion that, as David Bentley Hart pithily puts it, “either all persons must be saved, or none can be.”18 Some may object and say that human nature can be restored and God can be “all in all” because at the parousia, He will be equally present in each person, only for the wicked, His presence will be experienced as unending hell. However, for Maximus, the unification of particulars to universals seems to imply more unity than this popular Orthodox picture of hell allows. Maximus concludes Amb. 41 by writing that Christ
sustains the universals of beings, and through the prudence of understanding embraces the parts from which they are completed, since He is by nature the Creator and Provider of all things, and through Himself draws into one those that are separated, dissolving strife among beings, and binding together all things, in peaceful friendship and undivided concord, both in heaven and on earth, as the divine apostle says.19
Are we to imagine humans freely misusing their natural powers in hell while existing in “peaceful friendship and undivided concord” with those in heaven? It seems unlikely that this is what Maximus has in mind. Just as Maximus shares his understanding of universals and particulars with Gregory of Nyssa,20 this “peaceful friendship and undivided concord” sounds quite similar to the Nyssen’s speculation that after those in hell have been purged of every last evil, there will be a universal thanksgiving that arises from all creation. These statements are scattered throughout Nyssa’s various works:
One and the same gladness will be set before all, with no difference any longer dividing off the rational nature [Maximus also speaks of no more division above] from an equal participation in the good, for those who through vice are now outside shall be admitted within the inner shrine of the divine blessedness…21 even from these [the previously damned but now fully purified] shall arise in accord the confession of Christ’s Lordship…22 there will be thanksgiving in unison from all creation, both from those who have been chastised in purification [hell] and also those who had no need of purification from the beginning.23
Maximus certainly knew of all these statements,24 and therefore his language of “concord,” “peace,” “dissolving of strife,” and of course, the uniting of all particulars to universals, seems to at least hint at universal salvation. The language is of course scriptural (e.g. Phil. 2:10-11; Rev. 5:13), but Origen and Nyssa gave the scriptures a very particular interpretation. Given the context of this passage in Maximus, he seems to be following their lead. What else could this language be referring to?
Given Maximus’ understanding of particulars and universals, when he speaks of human nature being saved, in at least some cases, we should probably understand the implication of this to mean that all human beings will be saved, though as we will see below, Maximus hesitates to explicitly spell out these implications. For example, in his Commentary on Our Father 1.82, he speaks of the entire human nature’s participation in and not just knowledge of God. Moreover, he uses the Greek word aidion to describe this participation, which unequivocally means eternal. Maximus uses this word only to describe the life of the saved, never the damned. He says that human nature will be bestowed
participation [not just knowledge] in absolutely eternal life [tēn aidion zōēn], restoration [apokatestēsen] of the human nature, which will return to harmony with itself in apatheia, [and] destruction of the law of sin [Nomou tēs hamartias katalēsin].25
If, as I suggest, we interpret at least some of Maximus’ statements regarding Christ saving the entire human nature as meaning Christ saving every human individual, this would push the number of universalist statements by Maximus to a fairly high number.26
The Fire of Judgment in Maximus
Maximus’ understanding of the nature of God’s eschatological judgment is also in-line with Origen and Nyssa. When commenting on 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, Maximus separates people into two groups, the righteous and sinners. For the righteous, he says fire will reveal their good deeds.
And in the case of sinners, the works are completely consumed while discernment renders conscience righteous and diminishes the sins through repentance and saves the human being; and he is responsible for the loss of time that has passed as a result of the neglect of the virtues. But also, in the future age, the works of sin give way to nothingness and nature saves its own powers by taking them through the fire of judgment.27
He says that sinners suffer a “loss of time” because of their “neglect of the virtues.” Here, Maximus seems to be speaking of the time in between Christ’s second coming and the wicked individual’s eventual restoration to God through the refining fire of judgment. If the fires of hell make sinners righteous, and the sinners are said to be saved (which Maximus does say above), the “loss of time” spoken of cannot be an eternal loss of time. Maximus also speaks about human nature itself being “saved” through the “fire of judgment” which implies (based on the analysis above) that the fire saves all humans.
Maximus’ interpretation of the fire of judgment as the burning away of sin in individuals rather than eternally burning the individuals themselves also seems to be confirmed in a passage in Amb. 46.6, where he interprets Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:38-42, 3:12; Lk 3:17). Origen of course interpreted the parable as speaking about God burning away the evil or chaff in individuals rather than burning sinners for all eternity.28 Gregory of Nazianzus subtly followed Origen in this interpretation,29 as does Gregory of Nyssa, but also, in Maximus’ view, Basil of Caesarea in his commentary on Isaiah (its attribution to Basil is now questioned by some scholars, though it was not by Maximus).30 Basil (or possibly deutero-Basil) spoke of God burning away “darnel” or weeds:
[Evil] will be devoured by fire like dry darnel, and will be burnt out … if we put off sin by means of its acknowledgment, we shall transform it into dry darnel, worthy of being devoured by the purifying fire.31
Similarly, at the end of the Nyssen’s On the Soul and the Resurrection, he says that the farmer [God] will gather up the tares that have grown along with the seed, and the fire will consume
whatever is contrary to nature [a phrase Maximus seems to have picked up from Gregory], then the nature of these people also will flourish and will ripen into fruit … each of the better qualities will enter in their place: incorruptibility, life, honor, grace, glory, power, and whatever else we recognize in God Himself and in His image, which is our human nature.32
Given Maximus’ previous statement on the nature of the fire and his great admiration of all the Cappadocians, it is very probable that Maximus followed them in his own interpretation of Jesus’ parable. If this was Maximus’ understanding of the “chaff,” and “tares,” his statement in Amb. 46.4 can be interpreted in no other way than a statement of universalism:
[God] deigned to vary the modes of His presence so that the good things He planted in beings might ripen to full maturity, until all the ages will have reached their appointed limit. At that point He will gather together the fruits of His own sowing—unmixed with tares, and having not so much as even a trace of dust from any chaff—and the whole reason for the movement of things in motion will reach its completion. 33
Maximus follows Gregory of Nyssa in seeing the seeds not as good people but “good things” which themselves are then planted “in beings,” and it is these “good things” in beings that will ripen. If the seeds are “good things” rather than “good people,” the chaff has to be “bad things” or evil, rather than “bad people.” The good things in people grow, while the evil in people will be burned away so that “not so much as even a trace of dust from any chaff” will remain. This is probably his subtle way of saying that the fire of judgment will finally eliminate all traces of evil, and all beings will, after much burning, be made “worthy” (one of Maximus’ favorite terms, which he uses here) to “receive the promised, ultimate beatitude of Divinization.”34 The notion that the reference to “chaff” refers to eternally suffering sinners makes no sense given Maximus’ previous discussion of the nature of judgement, his theological influences, his overall philosophy of motion, and the construction of the passage itself including its universal language (i.e. “the whole reason for the movement of things in motion”). As for why Maximus only gives an interpretation of the “seeds” in the parable while leaving us to guess at what the “chaff” means, an answer will have to wait until our section on Maximus’ “honorable silence.”
Maximus’ Explicit Universalist Statements
Perhaps the most traditional affirmation of universalism from Maximus comes from Ambiguum 7. At this particular point in the ambiguum, he references Origen and Gregory of Nyssa’s favorite universalist passage: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Gregory of Nyssa interpreted the passage as affirming that all creatures would eventually voluntarily submit to Christ. Gregory, following Origen, argues that if God is to be “all in all,” as St. Paul says, then evil will at some point no longer exist since God could never be in evil. We already saw that for Maximus, the ultimate elimination of evil does not automatically equate with universal salvation, but what exactly is supposed to happen to these individuals who have no evil left in them? Since it is evil to turn away from God, what else could these individuals do but turn towards God? In fact, in Amb. 7, this universal voluntary subjection to God and turning away from evil is what Maximus seems to envision:
The Godhead will really be all in all, embracing all and giving substance to all in itself, in that no being will have any movement separate from it and nobody will be deprived of its presence. Thanks to this presence, we will be, and will be called, gods and children, body and limbs, because we shall be restored to the perfection of God’s project.35
It is very difficult to see how Maximus could possibly call those in hell gods since the language of being made gods is the language of deification, which is almost a synonym for salvation. It is also a stretch to argue that Maximus is saying God’s project has been “perfected,” that no being has any movement apart from God, and that all will be part of Christ’s body (this is the language used to refer to members of the Church) while some are still misusing their natural powers in hell. Earlier in the same ambiguum, Maximus states that “man as a whole will be divinized, being made God by the grace of God who became man.”36 The most plausible interpretation of Maximus in these passages is that he is indeed endorsing the universalist vision of Gregory of Nyssa. This is one of the few places where Maximus appears to explicitly endorse Nyssa’s universalist vision without either speaking very abstractly (i.e. “not even one of the logoi of creatures will be found falsified”37) or secretively.
On another occasion, he does give an even more explicit endorsement of universal salvation that he does not attribute to himself but a wise elder, which Ramelli sees as evidence of Maximus’s reticence to speak about the issue openly (more will be said about this reticence below). He says that Christ “accomplished the complete salvation of all humanity (holēn eirgasato tou genous tēn sōtērian) making ours what is his own … [Christ] divinized all humanity.”38 These statements do not exhaust Maximus’ rather straightforward sounding universalist statements, although his other ones are connected with themes that will be discussed later on.
There are certainly objections that can be raised at this point. The critic can point out numerous passages where Maximus speaks in absolutely horrifying terms of an age-enduring (aiōnion), even “infinite” (apeiros) or “unending” (ateleutētos) punishment.39 However, we will need to explore more facets of Maximus’ theology before looking more closely at these passages. Whatever the explanation of them may be, and I believe there is a plausible one,40 we have several abstract affirmations of universalism and a few straightforward universalist statements by Maximus after the alleged condemnation of universalism at the 553 ecumenical council.
Maximus on the Type of Apokatastasis Condemned in 553
Another line of evidence that Maximus did not consider Gregory of Nyssa’s universalism to be condemned in 553 is the fact that he mercilessly criticizes those who believe in an apokatastasis where the bodies of each person are shed while not uttering a word of criticism towards those who believe in an apokatastasis of universal salvation. We will look at what exactly Maximus says below, but before we do, it is important to consider the significance of what Maximus says on this topic. If what I argue is true, it seems we have a saint extremely close in time to the fifth ecumenical council that supports Met. Kallistos Ware’s interpretation of the 553 Origenist anathemas. Ware has argued, as has David Bentley Hart, that what was condemned in the 553 Origenist anathemas was not the universalism of Gregory of Nyssa, but the restoration (apokatastasis) to a bodiless undifferentiated unity of souls at the end of time. Ware’s interpretation has come under criticism by some over at the Ancient Faith blogs, but also, more noteworthily, by Fr Ignatius Green in his introduction to his translation of Gregory of Nyssa’s Catechetical Discourse. In support of the idea that universalism was indeed condemned in the Origenist anathemas of 553, certain saints of the Church are quoted who believed that universalism was condemned in 553. I will grant that a few centuries after the council was held, it was a widespread assumption that universalism was condemned, but an historical assumption is not the same thing as Holy Tradition, even if it becomes the majority assumption for over a thousand years.41 Furthermore, surely Maximus is a more trustworthy guide to what was actually condemned at the council than saints who lived several hundred years after the council was held. Maximus would have been a young man when at least some of those who had attended the council had not yet died. It is by no means implausible to think Maximus would have spoken with those who attended the council and almost certain that he spoke with those who knew someone who had. Therefore, what Maximus has to say on this topic is of more historical import than what almost any other saint of the church has ever said.
In Amb. 42, Maximus launches into a couple different digressions against those who believe souls preexisted bodies, but also against those who believe that souls postexist bodies. We can find belief in both of these things condemned in the 553 Origenist anathemas: “If anyone advocates the mythical pre-existence of souls and the monstrous restoration [apokatastasis] that follows from this, let him be anathema.” What seems to be condemned here is a belief that before bodies existed, souls existed in some sort of undifferentiated unity, and at the end of time, they will exist, without bodies, in this undifferentiated unity again. Some have asserted that because the word apokatastasis (restoration) is used here, universal salvation is also condemned, but this opinion seems to too closely associate the word apokatastasis with universal salvation. Maximus does not seem to associate the apokatastasis condemned here with universal salvation. In fact, he seems to presuppose universal salvation in the midst of his criticism of a restoration (apokatastasis) to bodiless existence:
Who would be so obstinate and reckless (as if he knew aught but to rush impetuously into battle against things that are perfectly clear and obvious) to entertain even the merest thought that bodies will pass into nonbeing after (pote)rational beings will have completed their progress to perfection—for this is precisely what they argue but how, I wonder, could anyone think such a thing, believing at the same time that our Lord himself, the God of all, is now and will be forever embodied, for it is He who grants to others the power enabling them to make progress, and it is He who leads and calls everyone to His own glory (as much as is possible for them) by the power of his incarnation, inasmuch as He is the pioneer of the salvation of all (pantōn), totally (holois) cleansing them from their defilement? But it is not the case—even if they should dare to think such a thing—that the tokens of his perfection lead to the casting aside of the body.42
Maximus helps to inform us of an “Origenist” eschatology that is crucially important to the apokatastasis condemned in 553. He tells us that these (most likely Neo-Evagrian) heretics envision the shedding of bodies not at the resurrection, but after the resurrection, only after “rational beings will have completed their progress to perfection.” The apokatastasis condemned in the first 553 anathema is to be made distinct from the progress of all beings to perfection, which can only be interpreted as universal salvation. Nowhere does Maximus say that those who believe in this progress of all beings to perfection are wrong. He only says those who assert a shedding of bodies after this perfection is achieved are wrong. In addition to making a distinction between the shedding of bodies and universal salvation, if Maximus believed that Constantinople II condemned universalism, he certainly would not have spoken of “the salvation of all” a few sentences after discussing other items condemned at the council. Without question, he would have feared looking like a heretic. And yet, this is exactly what he does in the above passage. In essence, Maximus seems to be arguing that yes, Christ does bring about perfection for all, but the shedding of bodies is not part of the perfection that Christ imparts to the human race. There is no criticism of universalism here or in the rest of his criticism of this strange apokatastasis to a bodiless existence.43 Rather, Maximus seems to support universal salvation in the midst of speaking of topics condemned at Constantinople II. Having made our way through Maximus’ abstract and explicit statements of universal salvation, along with his conspicuous absence of criticism of the doctrine, we will now take a look at his more implicit or secretive statements of universalism, or “honorable silences” as Balthasar put it.
The great Maximus scholar Hans Urs Von Balthasar was the first to argue that there are certain passages where Maximus implicitly refers to universal salvation as a theological opinion to be “honored with silence.” Balthasar argues that Maximus saw universal salvation as a secretive doctrine that should only be disclosed to the spiritually mature. Maximus would not be the first early Christian to have referred to universalism in such a manner. Origen (and in my judgment as well as Balthasar’s and Ramelli’s, Gregory of Nazianzus) also spoke about universal salvation as a somewhat secretive theological opinion to be kept under wraps.44 Origen explains his reasoning behind concealing this great reconciliation of all things from the public in a crucial passage that we will quote in full so that we can compare it with strikingly similar passages in Maximus:
The remarks which might be made on this topic [of hell/universal salvation] are neither to be made to all, nor to be uttered on the present occasion; for it is not unattended with danger to commit to writing the explanation of such subjects, seeing the multitude need no further instruction than that which relates to the punishment of sinners; while to ascend beyond this is not expedient for the sake of those who are with difficulty restrained, even by fear of age-enduring punishment, from plunging into any degree of wickedness, and into the flood of evils which result from sin.45
With this passage from Origen in mind, we can look at Maximus’s alleged instances of “honorable silence,” and then begin to analyze them. It is not necessary for my argument that Maximus would have been aware of this exact passage in Origen, only that he was aware of a tradition within the Church of not speaking openly of universal salvation.
In relation to Christ’s conquering the “principalities and authorities,” or Christ’s victory over evil, Maximus says,
It would have been possible to give this theme a more mystical and sublime interpretation. But because, as you know, the deeper secrets of the divine doctrines must not be committed to writing [notice that Origen says the same exact thing above], let the above be enough to satisfy those who seek a more detailed understanding of this question. When God grants us to come together again, we shall inquire assiduously into the apostolic mind regarding this question.46
In another classic “honorable silence,” passage, Maximus speaks about the two trees in the garden of Eden by again saying it would be possible to offer another interpretation of the trees, but most of the Fathers refrained from doing so because they discerned that “the minds of most people are not able to reach the depth of the written words … Thus, for your sake, I will say what is suitable for all, and meaningful for both beginners and the more advanced.”47 If the Fathers did offer this more mystical interpretation, “it was only after they first discerned the capacity of their listeners.”48 Again, in relation to Adam’s state free of sin before he fell, Maximus states in Ambiguum 45 that “it would have been possible to venture a contemplation of this particular difficulty by means of another, more sublime mode of interpretation, but for now let us leave that aside for the reason I gave at the outset of my remarks.”49 The comment he made “at the outset” of his remarks is in regard to Gregory of Nazianzus speaking of Adam’s “prelapsarian” way of life. Maximus tells us that the Nazianzen wrote of these things in such a way that “secretly reveals” the meaning of the biblical theme “to those who have received his same gift of wisdom and knowledge.”50 Maximus humbly seems to know what is secretly revealed but refuses to enlighten his reader(s).
All these silences have one main theme in common: humanity’s state in the garden before sin was brought into the world. Even in relation to Maximus’ first statement on Christ’s victory over evil, the first thing he mentions in his response to Thalassius’s question is Adam’s original creation “free from corruption and sin.”51 The two trees of the garden, which, as we saw above, he honors with silence, are obviously connected with humanity’s original state, and the last silence mentioned above is explicitly related to humanity’s prelapsarian state. Maximus was surely aware of Gregory of Nyssa’s numerous statements regarding humanity’s eventual restoration to a life free from sin just as humanity was free from sin in the garden,52 and this universal restoration is probably what Maximus says is the more “sublime” interpretation of humanity’s prelapsarian state: we were sinless once, we will be made sinless again. In Gregory of Nyssa’s clearest statement of this thesis, he says that “every being that had its origin from God will return such as it was from the beginning, when it had not yet received evil.”53 Gregory also makes it clear that this restoration will bring all to salvation: “No creature will fall out of the kingdom of God,” and the category of “the saved” will include every being.54
In another instance of “honorable silence,” Maximus almost certainly alludes to universal salvation when he interprets the parables in Luke 15 of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. Origen connected the parable of the return of the lost sheep to the return of every last person to God at the end of time.55 Origen’s interpretation was picked up by Hilary of Poitiers in his commentary on Matthew,56 in the mysterious fourth century Origenian “Dialogue of Adamantius,”57 by Peter Chrysologus,58 and of course, Gregory of Nyssa. The Nyssen wrote that before humanity fell into sin,
we too went to make up the sacred hundred sheep, the rational beings. But when the one sheep—our nature—was led astray from the heavenly way of evil … the flock which had not strayed did not add up to the same number as before, but are said to be ninety-nine … Therefore [Christ] came to seek and save that which was lost … so that the total of God’s creation should be complete again, when the lost has been restored to those who are not lost.59
When Maximus mentions the meaning of the numbers in the parables (the return of the one sheep to make a flock of 100, the return of the one coin to make a set of 10, the return of the son to complete his family), he says, “we can for the moment refrain from commenting on these numbers, and God granting us the opportunity, undertake at some later time a detailed study of their hidden meaning.”60 Again, Maximus seems aware of an interpretation that he is unwilling to commit to writing,61 as he says elsewhere. Unlike the other instances of “honorable silence,” however, he seems to “slip up” here when he says a few lines later that God placed humanity “in the ranks of the heavenly powers thereby filling the void in each heavenly number by the salvation of humanity … [Christ brought about] on his own the salvation (sotērian) of all (pantōn).”62
One other possible “honorable silence” is Maximus’ interpretation of the “eternal chains” of the demons spoken of in Jude 6.63 At the beginning of the passage, he says that the “exact account of these matters is known only to those who have the mind of the apostles to whom the Word directly taught the true knowledge of beings and their good and just administration by wise Providence.” He then humbly says that he is “earthbound and [possesses] many obstacles hindering the Word’s passage to his mind,” and goes on to answer the question in an “earthbound” manner. Though he does not say that he himself knows of an interpretation he refuses to offer, he says that others know of an interpretation that he will not offer. It is possible, though not as certain as his other instances, that this is another one of Maximus’ “honorable silences,” perhaps keeping Gregory of Nyssa’s opinion on the salvation of the devil safe from “earthbound” individuals, again, out of fear of scandalizing them.
It is only in reference to themes traditionally connected with universal salvation that Maximus says he knows of one particular interpretation that he refuses to commit to writing.64 On many other occasions, he does offer various reasons for not giving other interpretations, but nowhere else does he say he only knows of one interpretation that he simply won’t offer. For example, on one occasion, when interpreting “the bodies and the blood of irrational animals that the Jews used in their worship,” Maximus tells us that there are too many beneficial interpretations to write on all of them.65 On another occasion, when discussing his interpretation of the Lord’s sending an angel to destroy everyone in the camp of Ashur in 2 Chronicles 32, he exhorts his reader(s) to give their own interpretation since it may be more beneficial than his own.66 Elsewhere when speaking of a more mystical interpretation of scripture’s precise numbering of mules and donkeys returning from exile, Maximus says that the higher and mystical interpretation can actually benefit those of lower intellectual and spiritual capacity, which is the opposite of what he says in his passages of “honorable silence.”67 Again, in Ad Thal. 65, he says that the spiritually immature cannot understand the Scriptures, but since he knows his reader has experienced Divine things, he again proceeds to offer his mystical interpretation of why “justice [was] demanded of David … after the death of Saul,” in 2 Kings 21.68 Again, only on themes traditionally connected with universal salvation does Maximus say he knows of one interpretation that would be inappropriate to disclose.
Beyond the thematic elements common to universalism in the “honorable silence” passages, there are a number of similarities between what Maximus says in these passages and what we see in Origen’s passage quoted above. One obvious similarity is that both Origen and Maximus say that whatever it is they are referring to should not “be committed to writing.” Secondly, they both argue that what is to be said on their secret topic should only be said to the spiritually mature. Moreover, both Origen and Maximus agree on what “beginners” in the spiritual life should focus on: punishments in hell. Origen reveals this in the passage quoted above, while Maximus tells us this in his Chapters on Theology:
the fear of Gehenna prepares beginners to flee from vice; the desire of the reward of good things encourages eagerness for the performance of the virtues in those who are progressing; yet, the mystery of love elevates the mind above all things after God. For the Lord makes wise only those who have become blind to all things after God, showing them more divine things.69
In his Ecclesiastical Mystagogy, Maximus again says that spiritual beginners are “those who, because of the fear of threats, are faithful and fulfill the commandments of their master,” whereas the perfect are those who love the good simply because it is good and not “because of the fear of threats.”70 Maximus states explicitly regarding his “honorable silence” in Ad Thal. 43 that he will say “what is suitable … for both beginners and the more advanced.”71 If, as Maximus says above, beginners grow in their salvation through the fear of hell, it would certainly not be “suitable” for them to hear an interpretation of a passage that denies hell’s eternity. By Maximus’ logic, if he spoke to the spiritually immature about universal salvation, this would be cause for them to become lazy in their spiritual efforts, and Maximus would be partially to blame for this. This would be unthinkable to Maximus. The theologoumenon of universal salvation should only be revealed to the “perfect.”
In response to Patristics scholar Brian Daley, Balthasar has also persuasively argued that Maximus’ silence is not simple apophaticism.72 Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite, following earlier Fathers, said that we cannot describe God’s essence because it cannot be fathomed. Nothing can be said about it. He did not say that we can only speak of God’s essence to the spiritually mature. There simply was nothing one could possibly utter regarding it. To say otherwise would be heresy. Yet Maximus tells us he knows of an interpretation, that it would have been possible to offer another interpretation, but he won’t reveal it. The very fact that an interpretation exists means Maximus is not simply being apophatic. Given that Maximus only honors “with silence” passages that are traditionally connected with universalism, and the striking similarity between Origen and Maximus’ statements both in concept (beginners grow through fear of hell) and wording (“not committed to writing”), the most natural explanation for Maximus’ silence on this topic is that he believes these scriptural and patristic passages hint at universal salvation.
These instances of “honorable silence” help us make sense of Maximus’ “hell” passages. Without the “silence,” we would simply have two irreconcilable sets of statements in Maximus. The “silence” passages clue us into the fact that his “eternal hell” statements are designed to be “threats,” as Maximus says.73 They exist more to keep people from spiritual laziness than to give us an accurate picture of what Maximus actually believes. Nevertheless, because Maximus’ “hell” passages show up not just in rhetorical texts, but serious theological ones as well, we will look in-depth at the most frightening.
Maximus’ “Hell texts”
As Ramelli notes, although Maximus speaks in several places of damnation, he never uses the Greek word aidios to describe it, which is the Greek word that unequivocally means eternal. Maximus reserves this word only for the telos once beings have completed their progress through all the ages and arrived at perfection. That Maximus envisions an end to the progression of ages where all beings reach God is evident in Maximus’ passage on the meaning of the word apokatastasis quoted at the beginning of this article, but also in other passages like In Ps. 59: “[Transformation of humanity’s gnomic will will happen] because of the general change and renewal which will take place in the future, at the end of the ages, through God our Savior: a universal renewal of the whole human race, natural but by grace.”74 In his Questions and Doubts, he also says, “for [the telos, or “eighth day”] is beyond a state of time and characterizes the future condition.”75 That Maximus envisioned an “end to all aeons” where time itself would be transformed into a nonlinear eternity beyond time is not a theory concocted to avoid a Maximian eternal hell. It is in fact supported by Sotiris Mitralexis who devoted an entire book to Maximus’ concept of time.76 In light of this fact, when Maximus says that wicked individuals will be punished for “infinite” (apeirois) or “unending” (ateleutētos) aeons, or perpetually (diaiōnizon), his use of these words are probably an exaggeration or “threat,” as he says, intended to horrify spiritual beginners and keep them vigilant in fighting their passions.77
Keeping Maximus’ timeline of the cosmos in mind also helps to make sense of his passages that speak of God uniting himself to all humans at their resurrection, both to those who have moved against nature, and those who have moved in accordance with nature.78 Some have cited passages such as these as indicating that Maximus interpreted Paul’s statement of God being “all in all” as simply meaning He would unite himself to all human beings, both the worthy and unworthy, and this situation would endure for all eternity. However, it seems more likely, given Maximus’ love of Gregory of Nazianzus, that he, like Nazianzus, did not feel comfortable explicitly mentioning the notion of a final restoration after the resurrected “unworthy” have endured aeons of purgative chastisement in Gehenna.
Nazianzus did speak of a possible restoration to God of all people long after Christ’s parousia when the purgative chastisements of hell will have reached their completion. Regarding Christ’s coming in judgment at his parousia, Nazianzus says, “we will inherit either the fire or you, God, the originator of light; but if God, will it then some day be all of us? That is for another to decide.”79
As for whether God can be “all in all” while there are still some misusing their motion in hell, the Nazianzen seems to forbid the idea. When he speaks of God being “all in all,” he says that God cannot currently be “all in all” in us because we have a “multiplicity of impulses and emotions” in ourselves contrary to God.80 According to Nazianzus, we currently have “little or nothing of God in us” due to our evil impulses, and yet Nazianzus assures us that in the end, God will be “all in all.”81 He connects the “all in all” exclusively with human beings having been purified of all evil.
Maximus surely knew of this twofold sequence of events from Nyssa, probably noticed subtle nods to it in Nazianzus and followed Nazianzus’ subtlety on this front. When Maximus speaks of beings completing their progress towards perfection,82 or of all beings finding “rest” in God,83 or every logoi being fulfilled,84 or all particulars being united to universals,85 or of peace and friendship in heaven and on earth,86 these statements sound nothing like the terrifying judgment of the righteous and wicked. These are statements he applies to all beings, and there is no mention of anyone suffering in hell. More likely than not, they apply to the universal restoration after the wicked have been purified through long ages in the fire of judgment. On the other hand, when Maximus speaks of God uniting himself to the worthy and unworthy, these statements most likely apply to the judgment at Christ’s parousia before the final restoration.
One interesting test case for this eschatological distinction is Maximus’ troubling statement in Ad Thal. 61 that at Christ’s parousia and judgment, the sinner will “be like a part of the body utterly bereft of the soul’s vital energy.”87 The “body” being referred to appears to be the eschatological body of Christ. Maximus is saying that the sinner will be part of Christ’s body, but nevertheless a rotting, gangrene member. Some type of dramatic unification with Christ is implied here, but is this the same unification Maximus speaks about when he says that humans “will be called, gods and children, body and limbs, because we shall be restored to the perfection of God’s project”?88 It certainly does not sound like Maximus is describing the same situation.
This suspicion seems to be confirmed only a paragraph later when Maximus uses the same image of Christ’s eschatological body, but this time, says that if God becomes
’all in all’ in proportion to their righteousness … where will the impious man and sinner appear? For ‘where’ will one, who is unable to receive the presence of God, actualized in the state of well-being ‘appear’ after having suffered separation from the divine life, which transcends age, time and place?89
First of all, Maximus only says that God becomes “all in all” in the righteous, though these righteous seem to be righteous in different proportions. He is not said to be “all in all” including in sinners. So where are the sinners? The “diseased members” spoken about in his first interpretation do not exist in the second interpretation, and it is only in this interpretation that God is said to be “all in all.” It doesn’t seem likely that these sinners were simply annihilated either, since in Amb. 42, Maximus emphatically states more than once that each “essential existence” that God created “cannot pass into nonbeing.”90
Interestingly, the same image of God being the “soul” of the body is used, but this time, no member is said to be “bereft of the soul’s vital energy.” Instead, the “soul” (i.e. God) is said to “sustain” the life of each part of the body.91 As for “where” the sinner is actually located when God is “all in all,” Maximus says that “there is no ‘where’ by which he [the sinner] might appear.”92 According to Jordan Daniel Wood, when God is truly “all in all,” the place of the sinner is in fact nowhere, because “there is no sinner at all to be anywhere at all.”93 In other words, when God is all in all, and Christ’s eschatological body has reached perfection, the fires of judgment have purified every individual from every last sin so that only “the righteous” or “the worthy” exist.
In another very similar discourse, when Maximus specifies that “all flesh” in Luke 3:4-6 only means “all flesh that is faithful,” everything we have seen up until this point, especially his understanding of particulars and universals, informs us that Maximus’ statement here is probably not a definitive anti-universalist statement.94 Rather, it becomes more obvious near the end of the passage that Maximus speaks this way to encourage great ascetical effort while slightly concealing the fact that all flesh will indeed be found faithful in the end. Just as in the passage above, he implies a more universalist interpretation of the same Lukan pericope in what he calls a “loftier” contemplation. Here, he does not equivocate on the meaning of “all.” Instead, he appears to speak in very universal terms of the Word’s descent to every different type of person God created: “Time will fail the contemplative intellect in its cognitive efforts to grasp the divine ascents of the Word, and to adapt His transcendent and loving manifestations to each according to which he “becomes ‘all things in all’ that He might ‘save all through the riches of his goodness.’”95 Maximus appears to be saying that there is no class of people that Christ does not descend low enough to save and convince to be faithful to him.
In another troubling “hell” passage, Maximus seems to state the non-eternity of hell but only immediately before stating its eternity. Commenting on Gregory Nazianzen’s discussion of types of fire in scripture, he says,
[The flames] burn the conscience in imitation of “the devil” and his “angels” who through pride enviously slander the providence of God and employ treachery towards their neighbor. And the fire “which proceeds before the face of the Lord” burning “his enemies” is the activities of God. For they characterize the face of God, that is, his goodness, love of humankind, meekness, and things similar to these. These activities enlighten those who are like them and burn up those who oppose and have been alienated from the likeness. And the passage did not say these, the forms of fire, are perpetual (diaiōnizein), because according to Gregory of Nyssa, nature must recover its own powers and be restored by full knowledge to what it was from the beginning, so that the creator may be proven not to be the cause of sin. And he called that the “more feared” fire, that “which is fused with worms in the coming age, not able to be quenched, but existing perpetually (diaiōnizon) for the wicked.” For this reason, when the divinity appears and is offered to the worthy for their enjoyment, they who do not, through good works, illumine themselves, like a little worm which always uproots one’s memory, are devoured, evaluated up by their failure and endless deprivation of the good, and are continually put to the test by a more violent fire.96
Is Maximus saying that there are multiple forms of fire in the afterlife, one that burns perpetually and one that does not? It seems unlikely, since in the other passage on this fire in Q. et Dub., he separated humanity into two groups and said that the fire saves the sinners. Similarly, Gregory of Nazianzus’ speaks often about the purifying function of the fire of Gehenna while failing to mention any third class of people incapable of being purified unto salvation.97 In addition to this, the idea of wicked people remaining wicked forever implies the eternality of evil, which is something Maximus insists is not the case only one sentence earlier, but also in Q. et Dub. 13, 159, and In. or. Dom. 1.82.
The main cause of impenetrable confusion in this passage is the fact that Maximus uses the Greek word diaiōnizein to reassure us that the fires are not perpetual, and then in the very next sentence quotes Nazianzus who called the “more feared fire” perpetual using a modified form of the same Greek word (diaiōnizon). Maximus has to know that what he says here seems to be an outright contradiction. Given this seemingly obvious contradiction, it’s possible that he is following Gregory of Nazianzus even more closely than the casual reader realizes. Though not quoted by Maximus in Dub., after his sentence on the “more feared fire” quoted above, the Nazianzen immediately adds this qualification: “For all these fires belong to the destroying power, unless some prefer even here to understand this fire as showing more love to humankind, in a way worthy of the punisher.”98 Nazianzen’s probable “wink” at his friend Gregory of Nyssa here is evident to his translator Nonna Verna Harrison when she writes in a footnote:
Gregory is saying that he considers universal salvation … as a possibility. However, unlike his friend Gregory of Nyssa, whom he probably has in mind here, he stops short of affirming it as a necessary outcome of God’s infinite goodness and patience with creaturely freedom.99
It’s equally possible the Nazianzen “stops short of affirming” it not due to any theological disagreement with Nyssa, but due to a pastoral disagreement, where like Origen and Maximus, he is afraid of encouraging spiritual laziness in his listeners by openly proclaiming universal salvation. It is virtually certain that Maximus was well aware of this statement from the Nazianzen and was probably imitating his reluctance to proclaim universal salvation, which unfortunately resulted in a convoluted and contradictory passage. The perplexing fact that Maximus lets Gregory’s comments on a fire more “worthy” of God go completely unmentioned seems to confirm Maximus’ reticence to speak openly about universal salvation.
Ambiguum 65: Maximus’ Most Theologically Rigorous “Hell” Text
The most difficult passage to explain if Maximus was sympathetic towards universalism would be his separation of humanity into two groups in Amb. 65, one half of which appears to be irrevocably cut off from God for all eternity. In the Sabbath, at the end of the ages, to those who have used their logos according to nature, God bestows “being always well” (to eu aei ainai) but to those who have used their logos “against nature,” God renders “being always badly” (to kakōs aei ainai).100 Maximus even goes as far as to say that
Being-always-well is no longer accessible to those who have placed themselves in opposition to it, and they have absolutely no motion after the manifestation of what was sought, by which what is sought is naturally revealed to those who seek it.101
The fact that Maximus appears to say a being’s motion or movement has actually stopped, and in a sense, reposed in evil, given Maximus’ theological system, seems to definitively rule out universalism. But it also seems to contradict Maximus’ theology altogether.
First of all, if Maximus is saying that a being can actually come to rest in evil, he is contradicting his insistence on several separate occasions (see above) that evil will eventually completely disappear. David Bradshaw seems to imply that Maximus’ conception of “being always badly” might correspond to the state of those who reach only a knowledge of God without reaching participation in God. This could be true in a temporal sense since an individual could conceivably remain in a state of “being badly” for many aeons in Gehenna, but not in an eternal sense because of Maximus’ insistence on the eventual disappearance of all evil (see above). “Being always badly (kakōs)” could well be translated “being always evil,” which, if taken to imply an eternal state, would certainly mean an eternity of evil. If interpreted to be eternal, “being always badly” has no coherent home in Maximus’ theology.
Second of all, if taken as a complete immobility in evil, this statement also directly contradicts Maximus’ meticulously thought-through philosophy of motion. For example, the entirety of Amb. 15 stands in stark contradiction to the statement in Amb. 65, as does Amb. 7, 60.4, and 9, Ad Thalassium 65, Ecclesiastical Mystagogy 370-405, and Chapters on Theology 2.86.
In one particularly striking passage in Amb. 15, Maximus categorically states the exact opposite of what he seems to say in Amb. 65:
The end of the natural motion of whatever has been originated is rest, which, after the passage beyond finite things, is produced completely by infinity, for in the absence of any spatial or temporal interval, every motion of whatever is naturally moved ceases, henceforth having nowhere, and no means whereby, and nothing to which it could be moved, since it has attained its goal and cause, which is God, who is Himself the limit of the infinite horizon that limits all motion. Thus the beginning and end of every origin and motion of beings is God, for it is from Him that they have come into being, and by Him that they are moved, and it is in Him that they will achieve rest … Thus when the word “rest” is spoken, I understand it to mean solely the cessation of motion.102
In this passage, the only way any being can come to “rest” (stasis) and cease from its motion is for it to reach God. It follows counterfactually that anything that has not found its rest in God and is trying to seek its end in evil will continue its movement. This is why Maximus states in his discussion of Gregory’s apokatastasis that “the powers of the soul, by necessity, [will] shed all imprints of evil clinging to them; and this after aeons have elapsed, after a long time of being driven about without rest [stasis]. And so in the end they reach God, who is without limitations [peras].”103 Throughout Amb. 7, we find the same emphatic emphasis that a soul will continue its motion until it reaches God:
Accordingly, no created being has yet ceased from the natural power that moves it to its proper end, neither has it found rest from the activity that impels it toward its proper end, nor harvested the fruit of this passible movement, by which I mean impassibility and immobility. For it belongs to God alone to be that end.104
These passages from Maximus are only snapshots of a much larger canvass on which he paints the same picture of souls never ceasing from motion till they find their rest in God.105 In all the cases above, it is also clear that the soul arrives at this cessation of motion only because it finds itself satisfied and rejoicing in God. There is no room in these descriptions for the popular Orthodox refrain, “hell is heaven experienced differently.” Cessation of motion is only equated with salvation, never with damnation. This is made abundantly clear in Amb. 7, where Maximus describes what occurs to beings who eventually cease from motion:
[If a being] knows, it surely loves that which it knows; and if it loves, it certainly suffers an ecstasy toward it as an object of love. If it suffers this ecstasy, it obviously urges itself onward, and if it urges itself onward, it surely intensifies and greatly accelerates its motion. If its motion is intensified in this way, it will not cease until it is wholly present in the whole beloved, and wholly encompassed by it … in the same way that air is thoroughly permeated by light, or iron in a forge is completely penetrated by the fire, or anything of this sort.106
Words like love, ecstasy, and beloved could not apply to anything else other than a being that has found its salvation in God. Other than resting in God, in no other way, other than in Amb. 65, is a being said to cease from its motion.
In addition to “rest” or immobility, all of Maximus’ unique terminology parallels the same universal trajectory or teleology towards God with deviations from this trajectory only making sense as temporal not eternal deviations. The idea of one eternally turning away from one’s logos contradicts his statements regarding the future eventual fulfilment of every single logos,107 since those who use their logos against nature eternally will never have it fulfilled. In addition to this problem, all the particulars of human nature could no longer be united to their universals, which Maximus speaks about on more than one occasion.108
Due to the section from Amb. 65 seemingly contradicting the thrust of Maximus’s entire corpus, Panayotis Tzamalikos does not even believe Maximus wrote it, and Ramelli seems to at least consider it as a possibility.109 Some scholars have used Amb. 65 to help them craft an entire Maximian theology of hell and free will, but given that it goes against more than one of his central theological tenets, and at least two well-respected scholars are raising questions about its authenticity, its value for a “Maximian theology” is dubious to say the least.
The themes and vocabulary of Ambiguum 65 are certainly Maximian and the phrase “being badly” also appears in Amb. 10, but (significantly) without the word “ever” or “always” (aei) attached to the phrase.110 The idea of a being moving “against nature” after one’s life on earth is also spoken of throughout the Maximian corpus. However, the notion of a possibly absolute immobility in evil is curiously only found in one other location in Maximus’ writing: in the same passage where a possible “honorable silence” regarding the salvation of the demons is found. After his possible “honorable silence,” he says that the “eternal chains” of the demons in Jude 6 may be “the total and continuous immobility of their free will to do good, as a result of which they will never in any way enjoy divine rest.”111 Though a possible (and thus, orthodox) interpretation of the eternal chains, what he says regarding the immobility of the will of the devils may not be an interpretation that Maximus personally favors. He does, after all, offer a totally different explanation as well: “Or [the eternal chains] signify the providential power of God, which for the sake of our salvation restrains their fury against us.”112 He ends his response by saying that the fate of the demons on the day of judgment (scripture makes clear the “eternal chains” only bind demons till judgment day) “is something known only to the just judge.”113 Since both the “eighth day” (which is what Amb. 65 is about) and the judgment of demons are two themes connected with universal salvation,114 Maximus may have let himself seem somewhat at odds with his other statements regarding motion in order to avoid giving the spiritually immature an opportunity to indulge in licentiousness, as discussed above regarding his “honorable silences.”
However, there is still a possibility that Maximus is not technically contradicting himself in Amb. 65. Despite what it looks like at first glance, he may not be implying complete, total and irrevocable immobility in evil. Maximus does not say that a being that is bestowed “ever being badly” has absolutely no motion whatsoever. He says that the being has absolutely no motion towards God. The Greek preposition here, meta, which Nicholas Constas translates as “after,”could mean that a being completely stops all of its motion chronologically after Christ’s parousia, but the preposition around Maximus’ time could also mean “towards” or “in accordance with,” and is used by Chrysostom and Nazianzus in this way.115 If this is how Maximus is using the preposition, he is not implying a total and irrevocable rejection of God. Rather, he is speaking of a being with absolutely no current motion towards God and all of its motion towards evil,116 currently having no movement towards “the good.” This is why Maximus says that “well-being is no longer accessible to those who placed themselves in opposition to it.”117 If one reads Amb. 65 carefully, nowhere does Maximus say that this being enters into the “eighth day,” where beings receive a “cessation from all motion.”118 Rather, the being bestowed “ever being badly” is on the outside of the eighth day, waiting to enter into it. It is still lost pursuing evil, and as Gregory of Nyssa says, which Maximus offers his stamp of approval to in his Q. et Dub. 13, once this being “has finished the course of wickedness and reached the extreme limit of evil [Maximus speaks of this limit above], then that which is ever moving, finding no halting point for its impulse natural to itself when it has run through the lengths that can be run in wickedness, of necessity, turns its motion towards good.”119 Therefore, although certainly a quite philosophical “hellfire” passage, Amb. 65 does not seem to outright contradict Maximus’ philosophy.
If beings moving against nature are interpreted to be devoid of motion in a relative rather than absolute manner, the ambiguum would fit with the rest of Maximus’ corpus quite comfortably. For example, in Ad Thal. 22.7, after the resurrection and parousia, all beings are said by Maximus to exist in a passive state, which could be understood as relatively motionless. Maximus even speaks about beings reaching their “limit,” which is the same language he uses in Amb. 65:
Existing here and now [“the age of the flesh,” as Maximus says elsewhere in this response to Thalassius], we will reach the end of the ages [the end of the “age of the flesh,” inaugurated at the Parousia] in a state of activity, at which point our power and ability to act will reach its limit. In the ages that will follow, we shall passively experience by grace the transformation of divinization, no longer being active but passive, and for this reason we will not cease being divinized.120
Based on Maximus’ own definitions, those who have just began to exist in the ages that follow the parousia have not yet fully come to rest in God, and so are awaiting or only beginning their Divinization so their motion has not yet come to complete rest. As to whether the wicked departed still have a chance at this Divinization, we saw that Maximus says that “sinners” will suffer a loss of time away from God in the fire of judgment, but ultimately, the fire will burn away their sin and save them.121
David Bradshaw says that for Maximus there must be a category of sinners completely incapable of postmortem conversion, but given Maximus’ understanding of the fire of judgment, his universalist passages and the theological thrust of his corpus, this seems implausible. Moreover, whenever Maximus speaks of Christ’s descent into Hades, he never says that there is a certain class of sinners so wicked that Christ is totally incapable of ever persuading them to follow Him.122 Although sinners remain relatively motionless in the afterlife, it remains possible for God to “move” towards them and for them to respond by “faith alone,” as Maximus says in Amb. 59 of those in Hades.123
Critics will allege that I am “discarding” the importance of Amb. 65 from Maximus’ theology because I want Maximus to be a universalist. While I can’t deny that I would like it if Maximus were sympathetic to some form of universalism, I certainly hope that out of a love for truth and responsible scholarship, I would be able to accept the importance of Amb. 65 if I thought it sat well with the rest of his theology. Universalists and anti-universalists alike are all in danger of looking “down the long well of history and [seeing our] own face reflected at the bottom.”124 Nevertheless, I have presented multiple examples from more than one area of Maximus’ theology that seem to contradict Amb. 65 if it is read in a way that totally excludes the possibility of universal salvation. I have shown how it can be read in a manner more consistent with what Maximus says of motion and the non-subsistence of evil throughout the rest of his corpus. Letting one questionable reading of one particular passage in Maximus guide the rest of our interpretation of Maximus’ work turns a great deal of his theology on its head.
Although Fr Aidan’s article “Apokatastasis: The Heresy that Never Was” has helped to respond to a lot of misunderstandings about what Constantinople II did or did not condemn, many critics seem to believe they have a trump card: All the Church Fathers after Constantinople II believed that the fifth ecumenical council condemned universalism and who are we to question this consensus? The most common response from universalists is that simply counting heads doesn’t make something true. While both sides have good points, rarely are anti-universalists questioned on the factual accuracy of their claim that every Church Father after 553 believed universalism had been ecumenically condemned. In Maximus, we have a saint that still had a chance to talk to those who were alive in 553, and he gives us no indication that he believed universalism was condemned. His theology of motion and rest, modes and logoi, particulars and universals all point exclusively in the universalist direction. His “honorable silences” and the conspicuous absence of criticism of the doctrine when given the perfect opportunity to do so also push us towards the conclusion that not only did Maximus consider the doctrine permissible but probably held to some form of it himself. Those who want to declare universalism an absolutely impermissible opinion should thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the figure of Maximus before pronouncing David Bentley Hart, Kallistos Ware, and anyone who follows them heretics. Maximus may be wrong, of course, but as Fr Thomas Hopko wrote of the daringly confident universalist Fr Sergius Bulgakov, “whatever he was … [he] was not a heretic.”125
1 Anastasius of Sinai may be another post-553 universalist saint, though he also may have strongly opposed the doctrine. On one occasion, he writes that “our holy Fathers define resurrection as the restoration (apokatastasin) to the original condition of the first human being” (Questiones et Responsiones 19.11). Elsewhere, he uses Maximus’ language of silence referring to the two trees in the garden of Eden, which, as argued below, is an indication of universalism (On the Hexaemeron 8). However, in a different quote, he also argues that Gregory of Nyssa’s writings on apokatastasis were interpolated (Viaea Dux 22.3). Given the well-known ambiguity regarding the authorship of all of Anastastius’ works, it seems that these texts probably come from different authors. Nevertheless, whoever wrote the universalist passages was certainly writing after 553.
2 Questiones et Dubia 13, PG 90:796AC. I took this translation from Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved?”, 2nd Edition (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2014), Location 2887 of 2937, Kindle Edition.
3 Morwenna Ludlow, Universal Salvation: Eschatology in the Thought of Gregory of Nyssa and Karl Rahner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 44.
5 Ilaria Ramelli, A Larger Hope? Universal Salvation from Christian Beginnings to Julian of Norwich (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2019), 179.
6 Exp. Ps. 59, trans. Paul Blowers, “A Psalm Unto the End: Eschatology and Anthropology in Maximus the Confessor’s Commentary on Psalm 59,” in Brian Daley and Paul Kolbet, eds., The Harp of Prophecy: Early Christian Interpretation of the Psalms (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014), 270.
7 De Hom. Op. 21.2. Notice that beings aren’t saved through necessity, but evil, due its very nature, or by necessity, will never fully satisfy human desire, or for Gregory and Maximus, a being’s movement will never find its “rest” in evil.
8 De Hom. Op. 21.4
9 Ad Thal. 60.4, in St. Maximus the Confessor, On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thallasios, trans. Maximos Constas (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2018), 429. Emphasis added. 10 Ad. Thal. 2. Taken from Ramelli, A Larger Hope?, 84.
11 For a good discussion of this, see Paul Blowers and Robert Wilken’s introduction to Maximus in On the Cosmic Mystery of Christ (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Press, 2003), 38-43.
12 Ad. Thal. 445-51, taken from Ramelli, A Larger Hope, 185, emphasis added.
13 Amb. 42.5 (1317d), Maximus the Confessor, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, Volume II, ed. and trans. Nicholas Constas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2014), 127.
14 Amb. 42.4 (1317c), trans. Constas, 127.
15 Jordan Daniel Wood, private email correspondence.
16 Amb. 41.10 (1312c), trans. Constas, 116-17; Cf. Amb. 10.101 in Constas, 314-15; Amb. 17.4 (1225b-c) in Constas, 384-85.
17 Ad Thal. 2, trans. Constas, 98.
18 David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019), Location 2163 of 3097, Kindle Edition. I must state that Hart’s language of necessity (“must”) makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, Kallistos Ware’s warning that we should never say “all must be saved” is in reference to a type of universalism where God forces people into heaven against their will, and Hart would never affirm this. See Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, 2nd ed. (London, England: Penguin), 262.
19 Amb. 41.11 (1313b-c), trans. Constas, 119.
20 See Johannes Zachuber, “Once Again: Gregory of Nyssa on Universals,” Journal of Theological Studies Vol. 56, Part 1 (April, 2005): 87-9. In Nyssa’s Ad Ablabium, he states: “We say, then, to begin with, that the practice of calling those who are not divided in nature by the very name of their common nature in the plural, and saying they are many men, is a customary abuse of language, and that it would be much the same thing to say they are many human natures … Thus there are many who have shared in the nature—many disciples, say, or apostles, or martyrs—but the man in them all is one; since, as has been said, the term man does not belong to the nature of the individual as such, but to that which is common.” For one example of how this theory relates to his universalism, see his Catechetical Discourse (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2019) 27.1-2, trans. Green, 121.
21 De Anima 10.23-24. Anna M. Silvas, Macrina the Younger, Philosopher of God (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2008). Taken from Ignatius Green’s introduction to Gregory’s Catechetical Discourse, 49, emphasis added.
22 De Anima 4.17, trans. Silvas, taken from Green, 49, emphasis added. 23 Cat. Or. 26.8, trans. Green, 120, emphasis added.
24 There is no modern Maximian scholar that questions Maximus’ knowledge of the Nyssen’s corpus. For example, see Doru Costache, “Living above Gender: Insights from Saint Maximus the Confessor,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 21, no. 2, (2013); Luis Joshua Sale’s introduction to Maximus’ Two Hundred Chapters on Theology (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2015), 36; Paul Blowers, Maximus the Confessor: Jesus Christ and the Transfiguration of the Cosmos (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 252.
25 In. Or. Dom. 1.82, trans. Ilaria Ramelli, from her book The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 748.
26 See Balthasar’s list in his Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2003), 355, n. 293. Just a few on Balthasar’s extensive list include Ambigua 1044b and d, 1280a, 1280c, and 1314ab.
27 Q. et Dub. 159, trans. Despina Prassas, taken from her St. Maximus the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010), 122. Emphasis added.
28 Hom. in Ier. 1.15–1, Hom. In Mat. 10.1-3.
29 See PG 36,356BC; Or. 39.15; Or. 40.34.
30 See Ramelli, Apokatastasis, 360.
32 Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection, trans. Catherine P. Roth (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 120-22.
33 Amb. 46.4 (1357b), trans. Constas, 205.
35 Amb. 7.31 (1092c). From Ramelli, A Larger Hope, 184. Emphasis added.
36 Ibid. 7.26 (1088c), trans. Constas, 113.
37 Ad. Thal. 445-51, taken from ibid., 185, emphasis added.
38 Amb. 4 (1044a-b).
39 See, e.g. On the Ecclesiastical Mystagogy (CCSG 44); Amb. 21.12; Ep. 1 (389 a8-b9).
40 This explanation will be dealt with in the section on “honorable silence” in Maximus. I will say here, however, that I find it very implausible that a thinker of Maximus’ caliber simply did not have his theology of hell fully developed and so says very different things at different times regarding the subject. In my estimation, he knew exactly what he was doing in both his “hell” statements, and his universalist statements.
41 As for what does constitute Holy Tradition, one source beyond the seven ecumenical councils that would seem to offer clear authority would be the universal canonization of a particular person for defending a particular doctrine. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, this would include saints like St. Mark of Ephesus, and St. Gregory Palamas. The Orthodox Church has not canonized anyone for either defeating or upholding the theologoumenon of universal salvation. Even with the canonized saints, it goes without saying that what these saints declared needs to be interpreted, and it is not always glaringly obvious what opinions of theirs they were canonized for upholding.
42 Amb. 42 (1332d), trans. Constas, 157, emphasis added.
43 Amb. 42 (1326d-1336c).
44 Gregory of Nazianzus has several statements pushing forth the idea of universal salvation without making his support of it explicit: “For all these fires belong to the destroying power, unless some prefer even here to understand this fire as showing more love to humankind, in a way worthy of the punisher,” from Or. 40:36; “God, who formed us when we were nothing, and formed us anew when we had afterward [in death] disintegrated: we will inherit either the fire or you, God, the originator of light; but if God, will it then some day be all of us? That is for another to decide.” (Poemata de seipso; PL 37:1010); “If he descends into hell, descend with Him. Learn to know the mysteries of Christ there also: what is the providential purpose of the twofold descent, to save all humans by his manifestation or there, too, only them that believe? (Or. 45.24, PG 36:357a).
The first quote is borrowed directly from Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Dare We Hope, Kindle Ed., n. 37, 82 percent. The second is translated by Nonna Verna Harrison, Festal Orations: Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press), 132. The last quote was taken from Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009), 58.
For more explicit statements from Nazianzen in support of universalism, see Ramelli, A Larger Hope, 129-134. Perhaps Gregory’s strongest statement is in Or. 30.6.
45 C. Cels. VI, 26 (SC 3:242-44), in Origen, Against Celsus, trans. Frederick Crombie, D.D., in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, emphasis added. I also changed Crombie’s translation of aioniou kolaseus as “eternal punishment” to “age-enduring punishment,” since this fits better with Origen’s use of aionion elsewhere. Quoted in Balthasar, Dare We Hope, Kindle Ed., 71 percent.
46 Ad Thal. 21,8, trans. Constas, 148. 47 Ad Thal. 43.2, trans. Constas., 246.
49 Amb. 45.4, (PG 1353-1356a), trans. Constas, 199. Emphasis added.
50 Amb. 45.2 (PG 1352b), trans. Constas, 193.
51 Ad Thal. 21.2, trans. Constas.
52 See De Virg. 12, GNO VIII/1, 302; De hom. op. PG 44:188CD; De perf. GNO/VIII/1, 194-195. For more on this theme, see Ramelli, A Larger Hope, 118-19.
53 In Illud 14D, trans. Ramelli, 110-11.
54 In Illud 21 and 14D., trans. Ramelli, A Larger Hope, 110-11.
55 See Origen, Hom. In Jer. 11.16, Fr. In Ps. 18.6.
56 See his Commentary on Matthew, 18.
58 Ramelli, Apokatastasis, 572.
59 Homilies on Ecclesiastes 2 (304.23), trans. Stuart George Hall and Rachel Moriarty (De Gruyter, 1993) 52-53. 60 Amb. 31 (1277c-d), trans. Constas.
61 Ad Thal. 21.8.
62 Ibid., trans. Constas
63 Ad Thal. 11.3, trans. Constas.
64 See Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy, 356.
65 Ad Thal. 36.1 and 36.9, trans. Constas.
66 Ibid., 50.14, trans. Constas.
67 Ibid., 55.2.
68 Ibid., 65.1, trans. Constas.
69 Cap. Theol. 2.9, trans. Sales, 111. Cf. Cap. Theol. 2.99, p. 179 in Sales.
70 Myst. 1060-70, trans. Armstrong, 93.
71 Ad Thal. 43.2, trans. Constas, 246, emphasis added.
72 See Balthasar’s lengthy footnote 21 in Dare We Hope, 99 percent, Kindle version.
73 Myst. 1060-70, trans. Armstrong, 93.
74 In Ps. 59 (PG 90, 857-A4-15), trans. by Andreas Andreopoulos in “Eschatology and final restoration (apokatastasis) in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor,” in Theandros, Vol. 3, 2004.
75 Q. et Dub., 191, trans. Despina Prassas (Dekalb, IL: Northern University Press, 2010), 138.
76 See Sotiris Mitralexis, Ever Moving Repose: A Contemporary Reading of Maximus the Confessor’s Theory of Time (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017), see chapter 9 and 10. Though Mitralexis does not consider Maximus to be a universalist, he never says how an eternal hell could fit within Maximus’ trajectory of time. When Mitralexis discusses the concept of hell, he sees some passages in Maximus that point towards free will annihilationism and others that points towards an eternal conscious rejection of God, and he is unsatisfied with both options. See pp. 60-64.
77 E.g. Ecclesiastical Mystagogy (CCSG 44); Amb. 21.12; Ep. 1 (389 a8-b9).
78 E.g. Cent. On Love 1.71, cited in Ramelli, Apokatastasis, 747.
79 Poemata de seipso; PL 37:1010, trans. Von Balthasar, Dare We Hope, Kindle Ed., n. 37, 82 percent.
80 Gregory of Nazianzus Or. 30.6, On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius, trans. Frederick Williams and Lionel Wickham (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 98.
82 Amb. 42 (1332d), trans. Constas, 157.
83 This is spoken of throughout my posts, but for one example, see Ad Thal 60.4, trans. Constas, 429. 84 Ad. Thal. 445-51, taken from Ramelli, A Larger Hope, 185.
85 Ad Thal. 2, trans. Constas, 98.
86 Amb. 41.11 (1313b-c), trans. Constas, 119.
87 Ad Thal. 61.13, trans. Constas, 444.
88 Amb. 7.31 (1092c). From Ramelli, A Larger Hope, 184. Emphasis added.
89 Ad Thal. 61.14, trans. Constas, 444-45.
90 Amb. 42.15, trans. Constas, 151.
92 Ad Thal. 61.15, trans. Constas, 445.
93 Private correspondence.
94 Ad Thal. 47.8, trans. Constas, 262.
96 Q. et. Dub. 99, trans. Prassas, 96.
97 See Or. 39.15; PG 36: 365bc; PG 37:773 and 1010. See Ramelli’s discussion in Apokatastasis, 447-453. 98 Or. 40.36, trans. Nonna Verna Harrison, Festal Orations, 132. 99 Ibid.
100 It is important to note that Maximus never indicates that those who are evil enter the eighth day or sabbath celebration and simply experience God as hell, as David Bradshaw seems to suggest.
101 Amb. 65 (1392d), trans. is mainly Constas’s from The Ambigua Vol. II, 281, though I inserted a few words from Ramelli’s translation and took out Constas’s. Ramelli, Apokatastasis, 749.
102 Amb. 15 (1217c- 1220d), trans. Constas, 369, 371, 375. Emphasis added.
103 Q. et Dub. 13, PG 90:796AC. Trans. Balthasar, Dare We Hope, Location 2887 of 2937, Kindle Edition.
104 Amb. 7, (1073a-1073b), trans. Constas., 85. Emphasis added.
105 Cf. Amb. 60.4 and 9, Cap. Theol. 2.86.
106 Amb. 7 (1073c-1076a), trans. Constas, 87-89. Emphasis added.
107 Ad. Thal. 445-51, Cf. Amb. 41 (1309a-1313c).
108 Amb. 41.10 (1312c), trans. Constas, 116-17; Cf. Amb. 10.101 in Constas, 314-15; Amb. 17.4 (1225b-c) in Constas, 384-85; Ad Thal. 2, trans. Constas, 98.
109 See Ramelli, Apokatastasis, 751. 110 PG 91: 1116a-d.
111 Ad Thal. 11.3, trans. Constas, 121. In an ironic way, this passage seems to confirm that Maximus only associates Divine rest with the saved.
114 See Ramelli, Apokatastasis, 748-50 on the “eighth day.”
115 See G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, 848.
116 Of course, this being would mistake in some sense, evil for “the good,” rather than choosing evil as evil. 117 Amb. 65.3 (1392d), trans. Constas, 281.
118 Amb. 65.3 (1392c), trans. Constas, 279.
119 De Hom. Op. 21.2. Notice that beings aren’t saved through necessity, but evil, due its very nature, or by necessity, will never fully satisfy human desire, or for Gregory and Maximus, a being’s movement will never find its “rest” in evil.
120 I am following Andreopoulos in “Eschatology and final restoration (apokatastasis) in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor,” and his suggestion regarding how Ad Thal. 22 may help to untangle the mysterious Amb. 65.
121 Q. et Dub. 159.
122 See Amb. 59.3 (1384c); Ad Thal. 7.2-3. In the passage in Ad Thal., he does specify that at least in 1 Peter 4:6, those being referred to were already “judged in the flesh,” so they might respond to Christ when he descended to Hades. However, as we have seen, Maximus sees the final judgment itself as ultimately salvific for “sinners.” Maximus also makes a very general statement in Ad Thal. 7 that Christ descended to hades to “save the dead,” without specifying a certain class of “the dead” who are beyond redemption.
123 Amb. 59.3 (1384c), 261.
124 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Third Edition) (Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books. 2008), 218. Craig is summarizing George Tyrell’s Christianity at the Cross-Roads (London: Longman, Green, 1910), 44. The original quote was in the context of a summary of the results of the first and unsuccessful quest for the “historical Jesus.”
125 Thomas Hopko, foreword to The Orthodox Church, by Sergius Bulgakov, trans. revised by Lydia Kesich (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988), X. Emphasis added. Hopko did believe Bulgakov was mistaken in his universalism but not to a heretical extent.
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Mark Chenoweth received his M.Div. and Th.M. from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and is currently an adjunct professor of theology at St. John’s University.