Monday, February 19, 2018

Some Anticlimactic Consequences of Atheism

One aspect of the atheist argument against religion does not hold for the very simple reason that according to the atheist's worldview, religion is the legitimate result of natural selection. Adaptation being a law of nature would make adaptiveness essentially self-justifying. According to the atheist's worldview, religion can and does exist merely because it is an adaptive trait, rendering religion justified on adaptive grounds alone.

There is therefore no truly reasonable ground for the atheist on his own terms to debate the religionist, because the religionist is simply operating according to historically adaptive traits,  i.e. consistently reproducing religionists. Neither from logic nor illogic, religion according to the atheist is the result of natural selection, of genetic and social Darwinism. There can be no blaming of religion in this case, for it is simply a competing complex of traits that proved adaptive. Thus whether religion is true or false can be of only secondary importance to the atheist, for the fact that religion exists and reproduces means it obeys Darwinian natural law and so does not need to answer to any additional bar of truth in order to justify its existence.

The atheist, on the other hand, is simply some other complex of naturalistic traits, traits he would like to believe are more adaptive simply due to the complex of factors to which he is enthralled. But whether or not atheism is adaptive is not determined through argument or rational discourse, but through reproduction. In reality, atheism may be utterly unadaptive and unsustainable, a fact which history would seem to corroborate. Even so, atheism according to its own consequences is not a matter of rational discourse, nor are any beliefs. Reproductive realism, which is to say the actuality of instances of reproduction, is the only relevant law. The atheist's argument is thus anticlimactically emptied of its force because ultimately even his beliefs are only passively retained due to social and genetic Darwinian determinism, and only the presence or absence of reproduction can in principle decide the case.

If freedom of belief, however, is granted over and against reproductive determinism (i.e. those who reproduce determine the case), then again the atheist fails because the religionist according to atheist belief must then also be equally free, belief no longer being about truth but about free competition for existence, truth again being relegated to secondary importance.

But if the argument is about truth, where atheism considers itself more adaptive because it is true, then the atheist would again have to betray his own worldview because truth would have to be shown to be an adaptive trait he uniquely possesses over against non-atheism. This would beg the question since it assumes the possession of the very thing in question, becoming "true" merely because he asserts it.

Moreover, if an atheist has truth as an adaptive trait, it would be in principle impossible to show non-atheists since they lack this trait, destroying rational discourse since only the atheist could rightly be said to reason. The ability to know truth is here reduced to a product of social and genetic Darwinism, and so if this is the case it again destroys the atheist's argument because his truth becomes merely the resulting consequence of his accidental traits, and thus not a function of truth. The knowledge of truth is just an accident of nature.

Worse, if knowledge of truth is merely the benefit of Darwinian adaptation, then it would never in principle be able to be known as truth because Darwinian adaptation equally produced falsehood  (i.e. religion). Thus, absurdly,  only the presence of atheism could demonstrate possession of truth, reducing atheist truth claims to rank tautology.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Conversion to Christ in the Orthodox Church

Are you a convert to the Orthodox Church?

There is a common way of discussing members of the Orthodox Church, a way which places them in two categories: cradle and convert.

The first group are said to be Orthodox “from the cradle,” which is to say from their earliest years, from the time they were still in diapers, still in a baby’s cradle.

The second group includes those who come to Orthodoxy later in life. They weren’t necessarily raised Orthodox, but come to the Church through what is called a process of conversion.

Are these categories helpful? Are they legitimate? In order to understand, it will be helpful to have a look at what Scripture says about conversion.

There is at least one instance where the term convert appears in English translations of the Bible: “Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert (ἀπαρχή) to Christ from Asia” (Romans 16:5).

This particular translation comes from the NASB, famous for being a literal translation. This choice of translation can also be found in the ESV, NET, RSV, NIV, and CSB, which is to say a lot of scholarship has gone into the choosing of this term as an appropriate interpretation of the Greek ἀπαρχή, which more literally translates as firstfruits.

Biblically, firstfruits means: “to take away the firstfruits of the productions of the earth which was offered to God. The first portion of the dough, from which sacred loaves were to be prepared. Hence the term is used of persons consecrated to God for all time.”

From the Latin convertere, meaning turn around or transform, the dictionary definition of convert includes: 1. To change the character, appearance, or operation of something. 2. Someone who is converted to something; is persuaded to accept new preferences or beliefs; someone who accepts a new religion or belief.

Taking all of this together, to convert refers especially to turning to Christ. It means turning from evil to Good, from self to God, from death to Life, from error to Truth, and not in a general or superficial way, but in a fundamental way. It is a firstfruits, not a refinement, a repair, or a retrofitting. Nor is it a transition. It is an offering, a consecration of self to God.

There is another relevant Biblical term, one which gets translated as conversion: “Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion (ἐπιστροφή) of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren” (Acts 15:3).

This translation choice is shared by all the major English translations of the Bible. The Greek ἐπιστροφή refers to the conversion of the Gentiles, and comes from the root word ἐπιστρέφω, which means to turn, in this case, to the worship of the true God, or to cause to return or bring back, say, to the love and obedience of God, and shares an interconceptual corralary with Biblical repentance, which is to say metanoia or the changing and transformation of one’s mind, as when Peter declares in Acts: “Therefore repent (μετανοέω) and return (ἐπιστρέφω), so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Both concepts go naturally together.

A dictionary definition of conversion includes: 1. change from one religion, political belief, viewpoint, etc., to another. 2. a change of attitude, emotion, or viewpoint from one of indifference, disbelief, or antagonism to one of acceptance, faith, or enthusiastic support, especially such a change in a person's religion.

Taking these together, conversion, like convert, refers to a fundamental shift, a turning away from evil to Good, from self to God, from death to Life, and from error to Truth.

Now, Good, Life, and Truth are a Person, not a thing, and so conversion refers essentially to the root movement towards God. The notion of conversion is essentially and substantially to Christ, as it says in Romans 16:5 quoted above. Other Biblical examples include:

“Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning (ἐπιστρέφω) to God from among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:19).
“Whenever a person turns (ἐπιστρέφω) to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16).
“Let him know that he who turns (ἐπιστρέφω) a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
“For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned (ἐπιστρέφω) to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

Nowhere is there a Scriptural notion of conversion “to” the Church per se. Conversion is always to Christ. Although that may seem like a pedantic distinction, it is, however, a truism that no one is born Christian, because Christianity is not a hereditary trait. People convert to Christ. A Christian is not Christian through birth, but rebirth (John 3:3). It is therefore possible to be cradle Orthodox, to be born into the community of the faithful, receive baptism as an infant, identify with the Church, and yet not be converted to Christ, to have spent all of one's life in an Orthodox parish and yet never to have lived according to Christ, nor to have offered oneself as a firstfruits to God or transformed one’s thought or action so as to conform oneself to one’s baptism.

Problems arise, for the dual categories of cradle and convert are misleading and unhelpful. There can even be witnessed a disdain towards converts, the idea that one is never quite as Orthodox as the cradle Orthodox are. What is more, the category of cradle, which in no wise indicates whether or not one is actually converted, can give the impression that Orthodoxy is not essentially about conversion to Christ and His Gospel, but that conversion “to the Church” is instead conversion to a set of beliefs related to but distinct from Christ and the Gospel.

For example, many “converts” to Orthodoxy have been converted to Christ for decades, and then found the fullness of faith in the Orthodox Church. They came to the Church therefore not as a conversion to Christ, but as an entering into the fullness of the faith. To then equate their joining of the Church with conversion can trivialize sometimes decades of true conversion to Christ.

It is also entirely possible for a cradle Orthodox to be knowledgeable of Orthodoxy, well-versed in the Church's practices and customs, and yet still be unconverted to Christ.

What is worse, the cradle/convert dichotomy can promote a sense of having a two-tiered congregation comprised of, on the one hand, the cradle Orthodox, who may in fact be totally unconverted, and “converts,” on the other hand, whose late-coming to Orthodoxy may be predicated upon decades of conversion to Christ. Converts can sometimes even be treated by cradle Orthodox as if decades of conversion to, and training and education in, Christ are somehow neither legitimate nor significant, even suspect.

In light of the foregoing, “conversion” to the Orthodox Church is a dubious category. The dual categories of cradle and convert can thus be abandoned as neither helpful nor legitimate categories of Orthodox Christians. There are not different "types" of Orthodox Christian. One enters and joins the Orthodox Church, is grafted into the Body of Christ, but one converts to Christ. In reality, everyone who is truly a Christian is so by conversion.

That being said, within the Orthodox Church are both wheat and tares, and without conversion to Christ one can be in the building but not truly in the Church, which is to say one can be Orthodox in name only. One can be called, but not chosen.

To close with a warning from St. Gregory Palamas’ homily on Matthew 22:1-15, “On the Gospel of the Fourteenth Sunday of Matthew, On the Parable That Invites Us to the Son’s Wedding”:

“Why, therefore, did the Lord say, that many were called, but not all? [Matthew 22:14] Because at this point He was speaking about those who had come to Christ, which is why He put this statement later, after the parable. If, when someone was invited, he were to obey the summons, and, having been baptized, were to be called by Christ’s name, but were not to behave in a way worthy of his calling, nor fulfill the promises made at his baptism to live according to Christ, then, although he was called, he was not chosen” (St. Gregory Palamas, Homily Forty-One, pg 326).

Those of us who are baptized and yet do not “live according to Christ” he states are “evil people” that “are like who, having been called, drawn near and been baptized, have not undergone any change for the better, nor laid aside through repentance the filth that comes from wicked pleasures and passions” (ibid, 332).

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ontological Participation: Origen's Theology of Scripture

[I was regrettably unable to incorporate the numerous footnotes from the original study into this blog post format, and so if anyone is interested in seeing the full paper including the footnotes, please email me.]

Origen’s understanding of Scripture was based on the belief that, in reading it, one participated in God Himself. Not mere texts, at their most fundamental level the Scriptures were actually a primary means of communion with God. In other words, as I hope to show, for Origen the body of Scripture was essentially the body of Christ, and much like Ezekiel eating the divine scroll, a primary act of communion was actually reading, meditating on, and participating in God’s Word. This, for Origen, is what constituted a profound dimension of participation in the life of God, for the Logos Himself was understood to be actively speaking through the “flesh” of the letters, therein generating what could be understood as an interpenetrating matrix of minds, a transformative or efficacious “blending” of His Mind with the mind of the reader in the very act of reading.
Rather than discuss the modes or “senses” of interpretation, either literal or allegorical, it seems instead yet more essential to place these interpretive modes in the larger context of Origen’s basic theological paradigm, the one which gave such great importance to the need for interpreting in the first place: divinizing participation. It ought to go without saying that Origen’s interpretive framework does not operate as an end in itself, but serves toward the genuinely Christian goal of salvific participation in the life of Christ. In order to make this claim, then, at least two crucial things need to be established. The first will be to determine what the essential nature of the Scriptures are in Origen’s thought, and the second will be to determine the root and scope of what he means by “participation” in God. These together will then demonstrate how Scripture is the vehicle of this process, rendering participation a technical term perhaps better understood, in this light, as ontological interpenetration.

Since it contains Origen’s most extended discussion of the Scriptures, the fourth book of his On First Principles will function as the primary text in the present study. Other passages from On First Principles shall be used as necessary when they seem to bear on the discussion at hand. Beyond these there are a few works that, although they will not figure directly, inform the present study and therefore hover informatively in the background. These include Henri de Lubac’s foundational investigation of Origen’s understanding of Scripture. Also, a particularly perceptive article by Daniel Shin, entitled Some Light from Origen; Scripture as Sacrament, will operate behind the scenes so as to avoid undue duplication of research as well as provide an impetus for this study’s desire to go further than a concept of pedagogy if one is to fully appreciate the depth of Origen’s comprehensive theology of Scripture. Finally, a fascinating dissertation completed at the University of Michigan by one Jason B. Parnell, for a doctorate in Philosophy, will indirectly supplement certain of this study’s insights concerning especially the efficacy of Scripture as understood by Origen.

I. Origen’s View of the Scriptures as per Book IV of On First Principles
To begin, according to Origen, the basic nature of the Scriptures is that they are divine writings having, therefore, a divine character. Now, it does not seem that this is an optional adjective in Origen’s mind, so a word of emphasis seems appropriate. For example, it is not as though the holiness of Scripture can be likened unto the fuel-efficiency of a car; for fuel-efficiency is not essential to a car. It is likewise not comparable to a man who is strong, for a man is not essentially strong. Likewise, it is not an outstanding or meritorious distinction like Alexander the Great’s so-called “greatness,” for Alexander was not necessarily great but only became so as a result of great action. Essentially an hypostasized divine speech act, the divinity of Scripture is not a feature added or attributed ex post facto to an otherwise neutral or passive content; neither is it merely reflecting a divine incidental quality. Like man’s being essentially rational, so Scripture is essentially divine.
A Scriptural analogy for this position can be found in the books of Exodus and Leviticus, where certain objects only become holy upon contact with the altar. Another analogy would be that of a spotless lamb, which is especially suitable for ritual use. These are things which are clean, neutral, or even profane, yet not essentially so, for they only become holy through contact with the holy. For Origen, on the other hand, the Scriptures are fundamentally different from an indirect or mediated holiness, for their divinity does not represent an added quality or a mere mark of excellence, as if divinity were an “accident” ascribed or pasted onto an essentially mundane thing.
Origen is saying the opposite; he is saying that an essentially divine mind is clothing itself in the flesh, which is to say letters and words, of Scripture; and so, when one interprets them, the interpretation is then not merely of these letters and words but “of the mind of Christ.” The outward and obvious aspects of the Scripture are merely its flesh, its skin; where the divinity is not like a garment clothing or overlaying said skin, but the deep heart inside. The point may seem obscure, but it goes towards establishing a non-material and non-corporeal origin for the text, and more than that, a non-corporeal divinity expressing itself corporeally as text. Rather than being merely a physical tome with letters referring to something standing apart or pointing away from an inert block of text out of which one takes or abstracts something like “meaning,” or puts some meaning into, or in some way pragmatically “uses,” Scripture is actually something divinity is clothing itself in and speaking through, Mind to mind.
Taken from another angle, the essence of a key is not the lock but the treasure it keeps. This is an analogy of inwardness, and Origen uses just such an image when speaking of the Scriptures. He says they are the “key of knowledge,” and that they contain, again as if inwardly, “the secrets of knowledge and the all-perfect mysteries.” The Scriptures are “treasure in earthen vessels.” Again, these are not “things,” for Origen sees their essence as inward, invisible, and ineffable rather than material or even verbal, and that this ineffable nature is actually the mind of Christ clothed in letters and whose truth is concealed in the words. It is God’s speech, and not something created by man. It is then a real Person with a real Mind, expressing Himself as text and in the guise of letters and words, and so Scripture is not merely pointing at a real person or concerning itself with an abstract mind; it is the divine mind, and “he who approaches the prophetic words with care and attention will feel from his very reading a trace of their divine inspiration.”
In the very act of reading, then, one is therefore encountering in a startlingly personal way the mind of Christ. Rufinus’ Latin of the previous quote is translated: “it is certain that in the very act of reading and diligently studying them his mind and feelings will be touched by a divine breath and he will recognize that the words he is reading are not the utterances of man but the language of God.” In other words, a person’s mind and feelings will encounter a touch of God’s holy breath as He speaks in the reading of Scripture. This is because, according to Origen, one is not merely holding a book with abstract content, but a living oracle through which God is presently speaking in a manner coterminous with “the very act of reading.” It may even be permissible to say that it is not possible to divorce the act of reading Scripture from that of God speaking, for they are likely understood as different perspectives on the selfsame action.
This is why Origen spends so much time with Scriptural exegesis. This is why he says that one ought to “devote himself with his whole soul to the words of God.” For according to him these very words, being the manifest mind of Christ touching our mind “within the ‘frail vessel’ of the poor letter,” stamp God’s wisdom in and upon us. It is thus from Mind to mind that He, the Wisdom of God, stamps His image on the believing soul; and we, for our part, “conform our mind” precisely through this interaction with the words coming in Scripture. As such, the Scriptures are at the heart of Origen’s theology, “a treasure of divine meanings,” for “all the king’s glory is within.” Thus it is within the Holy Scriptures that one approaches, with “the mind, which is capable of receiving God,” the Mind of God. The soul is therein shaped according to His image; and thus on this foundation Origen established the purpose and scope of his exposition, the very reason for his seeking the various senses of interpretation. Interpretation is interpenetration.
Without this framework undergirding one’s understanding of Origen’s three-fold Scriptural sense, Origen’s exegesis runs the too-easy risk of seeming naught but a fascinating, endless, ultimately tiresome, arbitrary, and yet largely Christocentric foray into excessive allegorization, eisegesis, and over-interpretation. For, if it were just a text with valuable or even vital information, what would be the purpose? It would still be mere information. On the other hand, when one understands Origen’s paradigm, one sees that he is more like Jacob wrestling with the Angel, where the point of contact between persons is the flesh of the letter; and then one begins to perceive what is at stake in the contest. There is in this sense an almost kinesthetic dynamism to Origen’s exegesis.
Origen wrestles with Scripture, and this is why. As he himself said, “we must acknowledge a diversity of participation in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, varying in proportion to the earnestness of soul and the capacity of the mind.” In other words, since man is “created by God as a mind or rational spirit,” and Origen further equates mind with soul, it follows thus that, Mind to mind, what is at stake in the Scriptural senses is participation in God according to one’s ability or capacity to “portray the meaning of the sacred writings in a threefold way upon one’s soul.” Again, being incorporeal Mind to incorporeal mind, this is a mutual and even cooperative interpenetration of being. It can even be understood as Soul to soul, for just as man’s soul is incorporeal and “implanted throughout the whole body,” so God, according to Origen, can be understood to have a “soul,” which is “his only-begotten Son” who is “implanted in him” and who, to complete the link to the human, is approached in Scripture.
Though running the risk of overstatement, it is nevertheless clear that for Origen the depth of so-called allegorization to which one is able to plumb is the corresponding depth to which one is indwelt or “implanted” by the Logos Himself. This, again, is what was at stake in Origen’s various “senses” of Scripture. It was certainly not a rationalistic exercise, nor a flight of fancy, nor an accumulation of information. Knowledge has an ontological dimension, and as such is the currency of reason, the blood through which “men have a kind of blood-relationship with God,” which is “implanted” by the Word which is also Reason. It follows from this that the reading of the Word actually “implants” God within the mind via the currency, the medium of exchange, which is knowledge. In other words, Scriptural knowledge of God is not just information about God’s real presence, but formation by God’s real presence. Therefore it is God’s presence in Scripture effecting and making possible a change in the reader by implanting Himself in the reader through the act of reading, interpreting, and meditating on what is read: “This then is the way by which the word of God promises to implant knowledge in those who come to it,” enabling “them to walk in the divine commandments and to keep the divine ordinances.”
As Origen says, “the divine word promises to take away those who come to it” (emphasis added). The ambiguity of Christ as Word, on the one hand, and Scripture as Word, on the other, is at full tilt, for Origen does not divide them ontologically. When Origen says that those who come to “it,” are also told that “it” speaks of a “stony heart,” one can remember that the Incarnate Christ in the New Testament narratives never refers to a “stony heart.” The Word of the Lord speaks of a stony heart in Ezekiel 11:19, a reference Origen began at the opening of the section. The only way one can “come to it,” that is, the divine Word so that knowledge can be “implanted,” is directly in Scripture. It is thuswise not and cannot be a process of abstract cogitation. That would be to assert an overly pedagogical role to the reading, as if the text were merely pointing to Christ somewhere else. No, for Origen it goes much further than that, for the Logos is not becoming present merely conceptually or abstractedly to the human logos via Scripture, but in the human logos through participation as Christ Himself emerges within the faithful reader in the act of reading. The non-corporeal God is thus speaking within the reader, actually becoming present within the reader, enfleshing Himself, so to speak, in the words which are present in the reader’s mind. If Origen’s paradigm be taken to its natural conclusion, the conclusion which evidence seems to declare was his own, God actually incorporates Himself in the reader in direct proportion to the depth of sense to which the reader is able to plumb.
In support of this, Origen says, “Every mind which shares in intellectual light must undoubtedly be of one nature with every other mind which shares similarly in this light.” In reading Scripture, then, which Origen has already declared is the mind of Christ, one is therefore sharing in the light of Christ, and participating in His very nature. This is how, in other words, one can encounter Christ. Origen’s theology of Scripture is thus of a startling intimacy, and is a functional means of salvation, a salvation by adoption through participation. As he says, “by participation in the Son of God a man is adopted among God’s sons, and by participation in the wisdom of God he becomes wise, so, too, by participation in the Holy Spirit he becomes holy and spiritual.” Participation therefore takes center stage in Origen’s soteriology, for it is through participation in the Son that one is “adopted among God’s son,” and shares in God’s holiness, “for this [participation] is one and the same thing as to receive a share of the Holy Spirit,” which furthermore implies all of God for “the nature of the Trinity is one and incorporeal.” Therefore one becomes united to Him in nature through participation; and the Scriptures, the hypostatized speech-acts and eternal mind of God, are presented by Origen as a primary and efficacious means for this sharing and participation; which above all is necessary, “for every rational creature needs to participate in the Trinity.”

II. Evidence from the Rest of Origen’s On First Principles
With that said, it will be helpful to include further statements of Origen concerning the Scriptures from among the larger work On First Principles so as to gain a surer vision of his outlook. To begin, On First Principles’ introductory preface bears testimony to what has so far been observed. The entire edifice of this work is built on the opening line, really an all-encompassing thesis: “All who believe and are convinced that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ and that Christ is the truth… derive the knowledge… from no other source but the very words and teaching of Christ.” Now, when one first reads this they may not glimpse the scope of what is meant when he says such a thing, but the whole of the present study thus far has illustrated just how far-reaching the implications of a statement such as this coming from Origen are. Scripture, as found in the Church, is the only location for these words and teachings, and is coextensive with the very Person to which a Christian entrusts himself.
Furthermore, as touched on above, by knowledge Origen does not mean merely informational knowledge, but ontologically participatory knowledge. Man is at his root a “rational nature.” Men are “souls that make use of bodies.” To be essentially rational or intellectual in nature is to share in, really derive from, the ultimate rational and intellectual principle which is God. It is thus from this position that Origen says, “Everyone who shares in anything is undoubtedly of one substance and one nature with him who shares in the same thing.” Thus, Christ being the truth, the root Intellect, the “first principle himself,” knowledge of Him must correspond to relationship, to participation, to an intermingling, and to sharing in His nature and substance, and this knowledge-relationship comes, as said above, “from no other source but the very words and teaching of Christ.” In this way the very opening lines indicate Origen’s comprehensive theology not just of grace, truth, and Christ, but also of Scripture.
Origen’s next statement presses this further, for “by the words of Christ we do not mean only those which formed His teaching when he was made man and dwelt in the flesh, since even before that Christ the Word of God was in Moses and the prophets.” Transcending His historical Incarnation, what Origen is establishing is a continuity between the Old and New Testaments, and, more than a continuity, he is establishing a shared identity between them in Him. Furthermore, that together they are the selfsame Word of God which is expressed as Scripture, Scripture thus functioning as a type of Incarnation of Christ. Scripture, then, forms not only a vital component of Origen’s soteriology and Christology, but also functions holistically as the access point to salvation through participation in Christ, in Scripture, because Scripture is ontologically coextensive with Christ the Word.
From the above quote we also see the primacy of Scripture, for Origen says: “from no other source.” He does not even speak of the historical Cross or the historical Resurrection in this manner, and yet the logic for this is likely quite simple. It is through the Scriptures that one learns of the historic Passion, but it is through the faithful reading and contemplating of them in Scripture that their ontological ground, which is to say His Person, Mind, and Life, is effectively participated in. Rather than merely stimulating the memory of an historic Christ, the Scriptures are given primacy of place due to their participatory nature, for knowledge finds its ground in Scripture, Scripture which is coextensive with the Divine Mind, Scripture which renders the living Person of Christ Himself present within the soul. To place the historic economy first could, for Origen, appear as a type of historicizing obfuscation of the present reality of the living Christ who is actively participated in through the Scriptures. Immediately prior to his extended discussion of asomaton, the conclusion of the Preface seems to confirm this: “For the contents of scripture are the outward forms of certain mysteries and the images of divine things.” In this reading the Passion is no less profound, but it is more than a holy memory preserved in a text; what is read on the literal level is the historical image of a still more present truth, an eternal truth coming from the Mind of Christ who is present Truth, who cannot be merely an historical or even philosophical cognitive content, but is a Person met in the flesh of Scriptures.
Moving forward, Origen’s notion of participation seems especially rooted in his understanding of the intellectual nature that is man, the mind that is at the root of who he is. Along these lines Origen says, “there is a certain affinity between the mind and God, of whom the mind is an intellectual image.”  In other words, the mind of man is the incorporeal and invisible image of God. He also equates the intellectual faculty with the mind as well as the soul. Thus there is this constellation of concepts uniting God with man who is mind, soul, intellect, and rational nature; a constellation which ought not to seem too surprising. What is most unique in Origen’s usage of these, however, is precisely in his exalted notion of Scripture; for, “from no other source,” Scripture serves as the bridge linking man and God. Christ is the Mediator, an idea not lost on Origen, and so in his uniting of Christ the Word with the Word as Scripture it follows that he has functionally rendered the Scriptures as the corresponding access point into Christ and therefore God. Scripture, as the manifest mind of Christ, thus functions likewise as the salvific mediator between man and God for the person who entrusts himself to it as his instructor.
This then adds further weight to Origen’s statement that “the right way… of approaching the scriptures and gathering their meaning… is extracted from the writings themselves.” This goes much further than the Protestant dictum which states that Scripture interprets Scripture; for what Origen understands Scripture to contain is not at its basis a “content” to which one is merely obedient, a collection of holy memories of past actions, but the presence of the Logos Himself. They are divine and therefore living words, “words of God and the utterances of Wisdom,” not human; and so to “gather meaning” from them is, for Origen, more essentially like gathering the precious and life-giving flesh itself, communion, an ontological interpenetration from Mind to mind, and not simply something from which to derive pious feelings, ideas, or doctrine, but God Himself.
Furthermore, when Origen says that the right “way” is derived from Scripture, one must remember Origen’s fondness for Christological names and titles. “The Way,” being one of Christ’s names, is a correspondence not likely lost on him, and so when one sees that the right “way” of approaching the Mind that is Christ is through the mind of Christ, that is, the Scriptures, one gains a deeper insight into how textuality and interpretation are interwoven with participation in Christ Himself. Again, interpretation is interpenetration. Taken further, this is the very gospel. Since “everyone who shares in anything is undoubtedly of one substance and one nature with him who shares in the same thing”; and since “intellectual light,” which is “of the divine nature,” is also “mind, which is capable of receiving God,” and does so expressly “from no other source” than Scripture, it follows for Origen that to receive what Scripture truly is, is to receive salvation. God, like a fountain, is the Mind from which all other minds derive their existence; with Scripture, then, operating as the cup of communion joining the minds in unity.
Though it has only been touched on so far, much of Origen’s view of Scripture hinges on his general understanding of the mind. Not only non-corporeal, mind is in a manner of speaking permeable. Christ, who is identified by Origen as Wisdom, is not as though He were “some wise living being, but a certain thing which makes men wise by revealing and imparting itself to the minds of such as are able to receive its influence and intelligence.” Though one may be tempted to argue his apparent reduction of Wisdom to a “thing,” the focus here is instead on its “imparting” of “itself” to the “minds” its “intelligence.” It is not merely then some datum being shared, as if it were a letter from a wise being dropped in a mailbox, but is an actual imparting of essence, a sharing of “itself” to the mind. Intelligence, or Wisdom, cannot be divided. For Wisdom to impart wisdom means that Wisdom is actually coming into the person such that the person receives Wisdom, the same Wisdom that is Wisdom. Again, this is because Wisdom cannot be divided from itself. Wisdom thus personally abides in the person who receives it, and this is made possible because of the “permeable” nature of the mind to receive into itself that which is like unto it. This is also why Origen could say that “the mind… is capable of receiving God” Himself in itself.
In his “exposition” on Christ’s names, Origen provides further evidence in support of the above. He says, “the Son is the Word,” and therefore imperceptible to the senses. This is a basic rationale for the centrality of Scripture. How does one perceive or commune with something incorporeal and imperceptible? One cannot, unless that thing clothes itself in something corporeal and perceptible. Even more than an historical Jesus, the Scriptures remain as the very thing that operates to render an access point into the invisible Word, for these Scriptures “are the outward forms of certain mysteries and the images of divine things.” The human body operates similarly for Origen. In short, like the body, he sees Scripture as bringing the Person of the Word into a literally communicable medium.
Taking this further, Origen observes concerning the Image-bearing Son of the Father: “This image preserves the unity of nature and substance common to a father and a son.” In other words, “the Son, whose birth from the Father is as it were an act of will proceeding from the mind,” is in a real sense coextensive with the Father. Since there is no “splitting of the divine nature into parts,” it would be “not at all consistent… to think that a physical division of an incorporeal being is possible. Rather must we suppose that as an act of will proceeds from the mind without either cutting off any part of the mind, or being separated or divided from it,” it only makes sense that this unity of Mind, the eternal communion of Father and Son, is communicated in just such a unitive way in the soul communing with Christ. The point here is to demonstrate that from mind to mind there is no division, thus establishing more firmly what is being called a blending or “intermingling” of being. Christ’s mind is therefore interpenetrating our mind as our mind communes with His in Scripture and, since we are at root a mind, as He is the divine Mind, it follows from Origen’s anthropology and theology of Scripture that in reading and meditating on the words, on the “certain mysteries and divine images,” there is an ontological participation in the Person of the Word.
Although examples could be multiplied, the above is intended to indicate more directly how the nature of the mind plays a key role in Origen’s understanding of God, His Word, and man. The mind actually lies at the heart of the matter, as does its incorporeality, which serves as a theme running throughout the entire On First Principles. God is the root Mind, the intellectual principle; and man is likewise a mind created in His image. In fact, “all rational beings are partakers of the word of God, that is, of reason”; and not only this, but all things also “derive their share of being from him who truly exists.” Furthermore, “Christ is ‘in the heart’ of all men, in virtue of his being word or reason, by sharing in which men are rational.” Not only do word, reason, intellect, rational nature, soul, and beingness get treated more or less interchangeably here and throughout, they in fact lie at the root of what makes man who he is.
Concerning incorporeality, it might seem quite odd for Origen to stress it to the degree he does, unless one understands how it is essential to his vision of communion. Since there is no division in divinity, incorporeality implies a potential for both continuity and permeability with God. It is because of this very incorporeality of the mind that it is able to share in “the whole of company virtues; which exist in God essentially.” Since they exist in God “essentially,” it is a participation in God’s essence that gives man the potential to share in them.
As Origen says, “the marks of the divine image in man may be clearly discerned, not in the form of his body… but in the prudence of his mind… and may exist in man as a result of his… imitation of God” The implication is that imitation is possible only because of a basic continuity or similarity of intellectual nature, for a man can only truly imitate another man because they are alike; whereas a worm cannot imitate a man because there is a basic dissimilarity. Incorporeality is in this sense what allows a permeability of that nature which exists in God essentially, an incorporeality which is therefore at the root of man’s capacity to “partake” in God’s essence, enabling “through our imitation of him” the real possibility of becoming “partakers of the divine nature.” Corporeality not only interrupts this through an implied separation, but also through an incommensurable ontological gap.
This is why Origen presses the issue of incorporeality, “For if the Son is something separated from the Father and an offspring generated from him… then both he who generated and he who was generated are of necessity [corporeal] bodies.” By delimiting divinity within bodies and rendering it expressive of a fundamental separation, this would also render the full humanity of the Word impossible, Jesus no longer conceivable as existing “united in a spotless partnership with the Word of God.” It would thus preclude man’s sharing in the divine nature, no longer able “through imitation of him, [to become] partakers of the divine nature.” Origen, however, in preserving the incorporeality of the divine nature renders sharing and participation in God possible.
Origen further links incorporeality, or invisibility, with the mind when he writes: “setting aside all thought of a material body, we say that the Word and Wisdom was begotten of the invisible and incorporeal God… like an act of will proceeding from the mind.” This demonstrates the conceptual link between the two ideas of incorporeal begetting and mind proceeding. With these two held together one can see how pivotal Origen’s concept of the incorporeal mind is in his theology, for “all souls and all rational natures… are incorporeal in respect of their proper nature.” It is thus a matter of joining like with like, mind with mind, light with light, and Scripture provides the literary flesh with which man can accomplish this, with which he can approach the incorporeal Word. It is then from this foundation that Origen says a person can “receive a share of God’s Word, or of his wisdom or truth or life.”
With the centrality of the mind considered, a fuller significance can be given to Origen’s statement, quoted above, that “Every mind which shares in intellectual light must undoubtedly be of one nature with every other mind which shares similarly in this light.” Earlier this had been looked at from the perspective of participation, of “sharing,” yet now it can be seen that the very context of sharing is the mind, the rational nature comparable with light that man shares with God. Origen, it can be further noted, is also well aware that Light serves as a name of Christ. Tying this together, he observes that it is an “intellectual light” which “intermingles” with the mind, and this intellectual light is “of the divine nature, in virtue of the fact that they share in wisdom and sanctification”; the last concepts again being names of Christ. Now, “if the soul of man receives a share of the same light and wisdom,” then this is tantamount to sharing and participating in the very Person who is incorruptible Light, transformative Sanctification, and eternal Wisdom.
Sharing in this light, sanctification, and wisdom, “undoubtedly therefore the substance of the soul of man will also be incorruptible and immortal. And not only so, but since the nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to whom alone belongs the intellectual light… it follows logically and of necessity that every existence which has a share in that eternal nature must itself also remain for ever incorruptible and eternal,” for they have in a manner of speaking internalized, through sharing, the essence of that which is participated in. In other words, the soul has the ability to partake of the Light that comes from God alone, and when it does the soul is transformed through this Light so as to become like God. This potential for transformation, then, provides further depth to Origen’s saying that “the mind… is capable of receiving God,” for it is not possible to receive God and not be transformed, for reception and transformation are coterminous.
In accordance with the above principle, perhaps even to safeguard it, he acknowledges a “rule [which] must control our interpretation even of the divine writings, in order that what is said therein may be estimated in accordance not with the meanness of the language but with the divine power of the Holy Spirit who inspired their composition.” This is not merely artful language, but is geared towards a commitment to He who speaks with divine power in the Scriptures. The meanness of the language cannot be taken as a stopping point, or even really a starting point, for even if it is somewhat of a beginning point, it is not essentially so. One must estimate Scripture in accordance with the First Principle which speaks in and through it.

III. Conclusion
This then brings the present study full circle with Origen’s view of Scripture. To conclude, though many important things have had to be omitted from this present study, it has been shown that the theology of Scripture plays an absolutely critical role in Origen’s thought. It is not merely a text, but the flesh of the Word of God and His Mind manifested in letters. Scripture is thus coextensive with Him, with the mind of He who is Mind. The person, then, who reads Scripture, must understand that he is not reading merely with his own isolated mind, but is actually joining his mind to the Mind that is Christ. He is thinking His thoughts, and embodying His incorporeal presence thereby. This joining, then, results in nothing less than salvation through deification.
If, as Psalm 10:4 says of the wicked, that “God is in none of his thoughts”; then Origen is seeing the other side of this. He is seeing how one can come to have God in his thoughts, his mind, his very being. Man, being essentially a soul, which for Origen’s anthropology includes being a mind, is therefore capable of receiving God: Mind to mind. The Scriptures therefore create the access and contact point for what amounts to ontological interpenetration. A sharing of spirit, of essence, is not then merely made possible, but made actual to the degree with which one applies himself to more deeply reading and being read by Scripture. This then was the reality he saw concerning what the Scriptures most fundamentally are, a vision which worked to structure his “senses” of Scripture and give impetus to his incredible intuition which saw Christ throughout. His writings, then, operated to communicate the insight generated from his communion with the Lord. For Origen, and as he would have it, for all Christians, perhaps made possible by Saints Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian who together adopted much of Origen’s thought on Scripture in their Philocalia, Christ is the Light found especially in Scripture, and if a closing analogy be permitted: the Scriptures are like frozen light; and much like ice, which is but frozen water, when one chews on the Scriptures the frozen speech melts, becoming like liquid light warming and transforming our souls from the inside out in union with the Mind of God Himself.