October 4, 2014

Abba Isaac the Syrian, the "Unjustly Accused" Saint (5 of 7)

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

5. The Appalling Intervention of Bishop Kallistos Ware

In 1998 Bishop Kallistos Ware of Diokleia wrote an article for the journal Theology Digest (1998) titled: "Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?" He concludes by writing: "Our faith in God’s love makes us dare to hope that all will be saved."

With this article the foundation of Orthodox Eschatology is debated, in fact the very words of Christ. Bishop Kallistos asks if an eternal hell will exist. He places the reader before the philosophical dilemma: ultimate dualism or ultimate restoration and reconciliation. Here's his reasoning:

"If we start by affirming that God created a world which was wholly good, and if we then maintain that a significant part of His rational creation will end up in intolerable anguish, separated from Him for all eternity, surely this implies that God has failed in His creative work and has been defeated by the forces of evil. Are we tο rest satisfied with such a conclusion? Or dare we look, however tentatively, beyond this duality to an ultimate restoration of unity when 'αll shall be well'?" Bishop Kallistos therefore seeks a happy end for the world's future. But this is contrary with the freedom of the love of the philanthropic Lord towards His creatures.

The Bishop uses known passages which speak of an "eternal hell", an "eternal fire", an "unsleeping worm", a "great divide" which, as he writes, "can be directly attributed to Jesus"! He implies that these are all metaphors and symbols while the adjective "eternal" can be related only with this age and not the future age. He thus implants the poison of doubt concerning the meaning of these fearsome words of the Lord and then compares these passages with another series of passages from the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, which he interprets like Origen. In regards to Origen, he writes: "Doubtless, Origen’s mistake was that he tried to say too much. It is a fault that I admire rather than execrate, but it was a mistake nonetheless." In the context of his admiration for Origen and to defend him, Kallistos Ware reaches the point where he questions the universal validity of the condemnation of Origen by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod.

To support his falsehoods regarding the apokatastasis (restoration) of all, Bishop Kallistos presents Abba Isaac as belonging to the "Church of the East", that is, as a Nestorian and he accepts as true the cacodoxies of the works of Pseudo-Isaac. He writes that Abba Isaac did not owe his allegiance to the Byzantine Emperor and therefore he did not recognize the Fifth Ecumenical Synod nor did he take into account the anathemas adopted against Origen. Behold, therefore, how Abba Isaac is a Nestorian and an Origenist and still a Saint! An oddity if nothing else.

Bishop Kallistos even writes in regards to Abba Isaac that "even more passionately than Origen, he rejects any suggestion that God is vengeful and vindictive... When God punishes us, or appears to do so, the purpose of this punishment is never retributive and retaliatory, but exclusively reformative and therapeutic." He finally argues that for Saint Isaac - or essentially for Pseudo-Isaac - "Gehenna is nothing else than a place of purging and purification which helps to bring about God’s master plan 'that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4). In this way our Abba unjustly shoulders the falsehoods of Pseudo-Isaac, and is among the supporters of the doctrine of purgatory. And of course, obliquely but clearly, this theory is embraced by Bishop Kallistos himself who observes "that Catholic and Orthodox views on the 'middle state' after death are less sharply opposed than appears at first." It therefore seems this Bishop has understood Purgatory better than the Holy Fathers and how insignificant this delusion of the Papacy really is! Behold another ecumenical bridge towards the Papists, and Saint Isaac the Syrian was chosen to play a significant role. Unfortunately for the ardent, late followers of Origenism, he refuses to play the role and his authentic teachings deny their false hope.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.