Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Origen on Gentleness in God's Discipline

I have begun reading Origen of Alexandria: Exegetical Works on Ezekiel, Roger Pearse, ed., Mischa Hooker, trans.  Those who have a general knowledge of Origen know that he would stretch the allegorical application of scripture beyond proper measure.  This is disappointing because Origen's grasp of scripture and ability to communicate are quickly coming to the fore in this work.  Consider the following as this church father describes the goodness of God in discipline.

But there might be someone who, taking offense at the very word “anger,” would complain of it in God.  To such a one, I will answer that the anger of God is not so much anger as necessary providential direction.  Hear what the action of God’s anger is: to reprove, to correct, to improve.  “Lord do not rebuke me in your anger, and do not reprove me in your fury.”*  He who says this knows that the fury of God is not without use for health, but that it is applied for the purpose of curing those who are sick, for improving those who scorned to hear his words.  And the Psalmist prays that he may not be “improved” by such remedies for this reason: that he may not receive back his former good health with the medicine of punishment.  It is as if a slave who has already been put into position in the midst of the whips were to beseech his master, promising again that he will carry out [the master’s] orders, and were to say: “Master, do not rebuke me in your anger, and do not reprove me in your fury.”  All things that are of God are good; and we deserve to be reproved.  Also in the curses of Leviticus, it is written: “If after this they do not obey, and do not return to me, I will apply seven afflictions to them for their sins.  If, however, after this they do not return, I will improve them.”†  All the things of God which seem to be bitter contribute toward education and remedies.  God is a doctor; God is a Father; he is a Master—and not a harsh one, but a gentle Master.  (Homily 1.2.3)
After reading a few pages of the first homily, I believe this will be worthwhile for understanding the book of Ezekiel.  I plan to post my thoughts upon completion, but if the beginning pages are any indication, I will be commending this book for the reader’s edification.

*  Psalm 6:2
†  Leviticus 26:27-28, apparently modified by Origen.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I wouldn't promote Origen too much - he had a lot of weird ideas.

Roger Pearse said...

Thank you very much, Steve. The homilies are expository and valuable, whatever we may think of some of his work.