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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

Concerning those who slander Christianity on account of the heresies in the Church. Book III. against Celsus

1. Then, as if he would like to blame the Word for the evils of heresy associated with Christianity, he reproaches us, saying, “Having grown in numbers and being widely dispersed, they are further split and divided; every body wants to have his own party.” And again he says, “Being too numerous to keep together, they refute one another; they share, so to speak, if they do share it, the one name, the only thing that in spite of their divisions they are ashamed to give up; as for the rest they are all one here, one there.” In reply, we will say that you never find different sects in any department of thought unless the principle involved is one of grave importance and practical use. Take the science of Medicine. It is useful and necessary to the human race, and the questions which arise as to the healing of the body are many. This is why, as is admitted, there are several sects among the Greeks, and I suppose among Barbarians also, as many as profess to practise the healing art. Let us take another illustration, Philosophy, inasmuch as it professes the pursuit of truth and the knowledge of realities, suggests the proper mode of life, and endeavours to teach things profitable to our race. But the points in question involve much diversity of opinion, and this is why there arose such an incredible number of philosophic sects of more or less distinction. Nay, even Judaism had a pretext for the rise of sects, through the varied interpretation of the writings of Moses and the words of the Prophets. Similarly, because Christianity appeared, not only to the low-minded, as Celsus says, but also to many learned Greeks, to be a matter of grave importance, sects of necessity arose, and not altogether through factiousness or contentiousness, but because so many even of the literary class were anxious to understand the meaning of Christianity. In consequence of this, because scholars differently interpreted what were believed on all sides to be Divine utterances, sects sprang up bearing the names of thinkers who had a reverent regard for the origin of the Word, but somehow or other through specious and plausible reasoning were brought into conflict with one another. But no man of sense would shun the science of Medicine because of its different sects; nor would a man of proper aims make the many sects of philosophy a pretext for hating it; and, similarly, we must not condemn the sacred books of Moses and the Prophets on account of the Jewish sects.

2. If all this hangs together, may we not offer a similar apology for the sects of Christianity? What Paul says concerning them seems to me truly marvellous: “There must be also sects among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” For as a man “approved” in the science of Medicine is he who is familiar with the practice of many different sects, and having fairly considered their claims, has chosen the best; and as the advanced student of Philosophy who, having an extensive knowledge of his subject, is familiar with its details, and therefore gives his adhesion to the stronger reasoning, may be called “approved”; so, I would say, he who carefully examines the sects of Judaism and Christianity becomes the wisest Christian. But any one who blames the Word on account of our sects would also blame the teaching of Socrates, because from the study of that Philosopher many different schools of thought have arisen. Nay, a man might blame even the doctrines of Plato because Aristotle gave up the study of him and took a line of his own, a point to which we have already referred. But Celsus seems to me to have become acquainted with certain sects which do not even share the name of Jesus with us. Rumours may have reached him of the Ophites and Cainites, or the holders of some other opinion altogether alien to the teaching of Jesus. But Christian doctrine is not in the least to be blamed for this.

3. Granting that there are some amongst us Christians who do not allow that our God is the same as the God of the Jews, it by no means follows that they are to be blamed who prove from the same Scriptures that one and the same God is God of the Jews and of the Gentiles; Paul plainly shows this, when, after leaving the Jewish religion and embracing Christianity, he says, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience.” Let us grant, too, that there is a third class composed of those who call some persons psychical and others spiritual (I suppose Celsus means the Valentinians); but what have we who belong to the Church to do with that? We are the accusers of those who introduce the doctrine of natures so constituted that they must be saved, or must perish. Let it further be granted that there are certain persons who also profess to be Gnostics, like the Epicureans who call themselves Philosophers; our answer is that men who destroy a belief in Providence could not really be Philosophers, nor can they be Christians who foist upon us these monstrous fictions so distasteful to the followers of Jesus.

4. Celsus goes on to say, “And they even say the most shameful things of one another; they would not make the least concession in the interests of harmony; for they utterly detest one another.” In reply, even in Philosophy, as we have already said, rival sects may be found, and so it is in Medicine. We, however, following the Word of Jesus, and having made it our study to think and speak and do whatever He has said, being reviled, bless: being persecuted, we endure: being defamed, we entreat; and we would not say shameful things of those whose views differ from our own; but we would do all in our power to raise them to a higher level through persevering loyalty to the Creator alone, and by acting as men who will one day be judged. But if the heterodox will not be persuaded, we have our rule for dealing with them. “A man that is heretical after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such a one is perverted and sinneth, being self-condemned.” And again, men who understand the words, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and “Blessed are the meek,” would not utterly detest opponents who debase Christianity.

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