On First Principles Summary

Overview (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Origen was the first Christian to write systematic theology, to explain how all the things the Bible teaches can be true, and to show how those truths relate to one another. In On First Principles, Origen begins the first book with a preface that states what is clear from the teaching of the Apostles. First, there is only one God the creator, who gave the Law and sent Jesus Christ. Second, God the Son was born of the Father, was the servant of God in the creation of all things, became a man, was born of a virgin, died, and rose from the dead. Third, the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles. Fourth, souls exist with free will and rationality, and they are rewarded or punished after death. Fifth, a devil and bad angels exist. Sixth, the world began and will end. Seventh, the Scriptures were written by the Holy Spirit and have both an obvious and a hidden meaning. Eighth, good angels help in human salvation. Origen says that anyone who wants to make a “connected series and body of truths” must begin from this foundation.

The first book of On First Principles begins by disproving the idea that God exists materially. While various Scriptures give this impression, Origen shows that they are metaphors. God is also incomprehensible, far better than any human understanding can fathom. Of God the Son, Origen says that he is also the wisdom and Word of God. Because God has always been the Father and has always possessed wisdom and his Word, God the Son must be coeternal with the Father. He is also the life by which all things live and the truth by which all things truly exist. While some might have reasoned that God exists and communicates through a divine Word, no one would think of the existence of the Holy Spirit without the revelation in Scripture. Nothing in the Bible even implies that the Holy Spirit was created, so it must be uncreated and coeternal with God the Father. This Holy Spirit works exclusively with believers. God the Father gives all beings existence, God the Son gives some beings rationality, and God the Spirit gives the rational beings who obey God holiness. Those to whom the Spirit gives holiness must continue to long for more, lest they become satiated and fall away through neglect.

Thinking of falling away through neglect makes Origen wonder whether the good angels and the bad demons were created that way or became what they are through their own choice. Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 convince him that all the spiritual powers were created good. Those who are now angels continued to obey God, but those who are demons fell away. However, Origen speculates, since every rational being has free will, it is possible that some demons may repent and be restored to their former positions.

Next, Origen wonders about the sun, moon, and stars, concluding that they are rational creatures whom God has ordained to serve humanity. Likewise, the angels discharge various functions assigned to them by God in accordance with their behavior before the earth was created. Origen concludes this first book by asserting that there can be movement by rational souls between the three ranks of angels, demons, and people. He has already asserted that angels can become demons, and demons by repenting can become angels, but in this final section he...

(The entire section is 1344 words.)