Journey Back to God: Origen on the Problem of Evil

ISBN : 9780199841141

Mark S. M. Scott
256 Pages
195 x 237 mm
Pub date
Jun 2012
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Journey Back to God explores Origen of Alexandria's creative, complex, and controversial treatment of the problem of evil. It argues that his layered cosmology functions as a theodicy that discerns deeper meaning beneath the apparent injustices of the world. Origen asks: why does God permit cosmic disparity - that is, why do some suffer more than others? On the surface, the unfair arrangement of the world defies theological coherence. In order to defend God against the charge of injustice Origen develops a theological cosmology that explains the ontological status and origin of evil as well as its cosmic implications. It interprets suffering as a stepping stone to the soul's ascent to God. Essentially, Origen's theodicy hinges on the journey of the soul back to God. Its themes correlate with the soul's creation, fall and descent into materiality, gradual purification, and eventual divinization; the world is a schoolroom or hospital for the soul where it undergoes the necessary education and purgation. Origen carefully calibrates his cosmology and theology, and portrays God as a compassionate and judicious teacher, physician, and father who employs suffering for our amelioration. Journey Back to God frames the systematic study of Origen's theodicy within a broader theory of theodicy as navigation; that is, as the dynamic process whereby we integrate our observations and experiences of suffering within our religious worldviews. Moreover, it unites the logical and spiritual facets of his theodicy, and situatesit in its third-century historical, theological, and philosophical context, correcting the imbalanced perspectives on Origen that pervade scholarship. Furthermore, the study clarifies his ambiguous position on universalism and its place in his theodicy. It demonstrates the contemporary relevance of Origen's approach, which confronts the perennial questions of theodicy with a bold, constructive, and optimistic vision.


Chapter 1: Theodicy as Navigation: Toward a Theoretical Paradigm
Chapter 2: Framing Questions: God and Evil in Paradox
Chapter 3: Far From Home: Pre-existence, the Fall, and the Origin of Evil
Chapter 4: The Physician of Souls: Suffering as Remedial Punishment
Chapter 5: Theology of Ascent: The Journey of the Soul to Perfection
Chapter 6: Journey's End: The Triumph of Good and Universal Salvation

About the author: 

Visiting Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity, Department of Religious Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia

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