Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Barnes, Michael R.

Second Advisor

Mattox, Mickey

Third Advisor

Cover, Michael


Origen has traditionally been famous for his universalism, but many scholars now express doubt that Origen believed in a universal and permanent apocatastasis. This is because many scholars are convinced that Origen’s teaching on moral autonomy (or freedom of choice) is logically incompatible with the notion that God foreordains every soul’s future destiny. Those few scholars who do argue that Origen believed in both moral autonomy and universal salvation either do not know how to reconcile these two views in Origen’s theology, or their proposed “solutions” are not convincing. In this dissertation I make two preliminary arguments which allow the question of logical compatibility to come into focus. First, I argue that vague phrases such as “free will” or “freedom of the will” are not helpful descriptions of Origen’s thought, but instead we must understand the careful and technical way Origen defined moral autonomy. Second, I make the argument that Origen did, in fact, believe in a universal and permanent restoration of all fallen souls (the apocatastasis), and that this restoration was predetermined and foreordained by God. These two arguments introduce the follow-up question: how does Origen think it is possible for God to achieve this predetermined outcome of cosmic history, an outcome completely facilitated through the free and contingent decisions of creatures, without God somehow coercing those who might choose to consistently resist him? My aim is to demonstrate that Origen reconciled his belief in universal salvation and moral autonomy by drawing upon his multi-layered understanding of God’s foreknowledge in order to show how God uses his foreknowledge in the planning of salvation-history. Careful analysis of key passages reveals Origen’s belief that God not only foreknows our future choices, but that God also knows what free choices creatures would make in any hypothetical situation. Therefore, I argue, Origen believed that God preselects and arranges into a future timeline only those free choices of creatures which God foresees would eventually result in a universal restoration. In this way God is able to infallibly bring about the foreordained apocatastasis without violating moral autonomy as Origen defined it.



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