Whilst the article occasionally acknowledges that one of these Early Fathers taught a post-mortem destruction or punishment, it often asserts (completely without evidence), that they didn't actually mean that the destruction or punishment was everlasting.
At other times, no reference whatever is made to explicit anihilationist or torment statements made by these Early Fathers and witnesses. Instead, it is simply assumed that they were Universalists, for reasons sometimes unstated, or else otherwise asserted without evidence.
Here's one example:
Among the celebrated fathers who have left no record of their views of human destiny, but who, from their positions, and the relations they sustained, must, beyond all rational doubt, have been Universalists...
Incredibly, whilst acknowledging that these 'celebrated fathers... left no record of their views of human destiny', the article asserts without any evidence at all that they 'must, beyond all rational doubt, have been Universalists'. This kind of reasoning is intellectually dishonest.
Here is another example:
Athenagoras wrote an "Apology," about A.D. 178, and a "Treatise on the Resurrection." He was a scholar and a philosopher, and made great efforts to convert the heathen to Christianity. He declared that there shall be a judgment, the award of which shall be distributed according to conduct; but he nowhere refers to the duration of punishment.
He was, however, the head of the Catechetical school in Alexandria, before Pantænus, and must have shared the Universalist views of Pantænus, Clement and Origen, his successors.
That's all we're told about Athenagoras. There is no attempt made to actually assess what he wrote. And he wrote things like this:
'...we are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one... Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul... or if we fall with the rest, a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated.'
Plea for the Christians 31
Such a statement is as explicit a declaration of eternal torment as it is a rejection of anihilationism. Yet this is not even mentioned by the Tentmaker article, which never reveals to its reader the existence of such statements by Athenagoras.
Instead, we find that the Tentmaker article fails completely to substantiate the bold claim made in its title - 'Universalism The Prevailing Doctrine Of The Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years'.
In fact, when we read the article carefully, the first positive witness to the doctrine is not presented before 190 AD
, when Clement is offered to us. He is followed by Origen, and then Gregory Nazianzen.
And that's all we get. Out of the 'First Five Hundred Years' of the Christian church, the article can provide us with only three
witnesses to the doctrine of universal reconciliation.
Edited by Fortigurn, 12 September 2005 - 08:29 PM.