Friday, 17 May 2019
Andrea Bianchi: Origen as "rational toolbox": philosophical-theological debates in 17th Dutch reformed thought. The case of Jean Le Clerc.
Is there in human beings a power to cooperate to the own salvation, or are they predestined to salvation or damnation? And if damned as a result of a divine choice, how is God's justice assured? These questions were the core of the hot debates in 17th century Dutch reformed thought, among orthodox Calvinists and Remonstrants (Arminians). Later in the century, that question was taken up again by the famous Pierre Bayle. In an attempt to uncover the limits of rationality in religion, he contended that the Manichean position was the best to rationally safeguard God's justice, although at the expense of human freedom. Such a position was not acceptable to the Arminian Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736) who explicitly adopted Origenian doctrines to defend both human freedom and God's justice. Following Bayle's accuse that he was an "Origenist", Le Clerc replied with a different, non-Origenian solution (or so he assumed). This paper will review Le Clerc's use of Origen's doctrines in the specific case of the debate with Bayle. It will explore the two different proposed theodicies of the Arminian and their success in defending the rationality of religion. In this way, the analysis proposed will assess the relevance of Origen's rational solution to the problem of evil in the early modern time.