But think of another example: The American Constitution and the formulas of their Amendments: they have absolute, even legal, validity; but in order to make this tolerable, there is the Supreme Court which interprets , ultimately. And interpreting always means applying to the present situation. Now the jurists of the Supreme Court do not apply the allegoric method, but rather use a method of adequacy, and the result is exactly the same. They speak of the “spirit” of the law, and the spirit of the law may often, even in evident things, contradict the letter of the law. . .
There are two classes of Christians: 1) The many simple ones, who accept on authority the Biblical message and the teachings of the Church without understanding them fully. They take the mythological elements, – of which Origen knew as well as Bultmann – literally and primitively, or, as he said, they prefer the healing stories to the story of Jesus with three apostles going to the mountain of transfiguration. This is an allegoric, or metaphoric, expression for those who go beyond the literal interpretation to the transformed meaning of it.
He calls the attitude of the primitives. . . “only faith”, “mere faith”, which is a lower degree of Christian perfection. This degree is something in which first of all all participate, because all are somehow imperfect. But on this common basis, it never shall be given up – here, Origen is exactly as we found it in Clement. To some people the charisma of gnosis is given (i. e., the grace of knowledge) as a special grace. In this way the converted, educated Greek becomes the perfect Christian, but he can become the perfect Christian only on the basis of Christian conformity to what he calls “the faith.” Now if we, as Protestants, look at this concept of faith, then we must see immediately that its meaning is: acceptance of doctrines, while in Protestant faith it is: acceptance of the reuniting grace of God. Therefore the first step is authority, in which every Christian, even Origen himself, lives. And the second step, which is not a recanting of the first but which is possible only on the basis of the first step, is the autonomous rational understanding of the Biblical message.
Now this solves the problem with which you always have to deal in your congregations, the problem of the simple ones who take the myths literally – and you have many of them – and the educated to whom you cannot speak in terms of literalism, otherwise they will turn away from you, not because of the Christian message but because of the way you give it to them. This was the same problem with which Clement and Origen had to deal and they solved it in terms of these two forms of participation in the Christian communion.
The first doctrine in Origen’s system, as in every system, is the doctrine of God. God is being-itself, and therefore beyond everything that is. He is beyond knowledge, because knowledge presupposes the cleavage between subject and object. He is beyond change. He is beyond passion. He is the source of everything. But now He has His logos, His inner word, His self-manifestation. This self-manifestation makes Him first manifest to Himself and then to the world. The Logos is the first and creative power of being. All powers of being are united in Him. The whole spiritual world is united in the Logos. The Logos is the universal principle of anything special, of anything (that has) being. This Divine Logos radiates eternally from the Ground of Being, from the Divine Abyss, as splendor radiates from the source of light. Therefore one is not allowed to say, “There was a time when the Son did not exist.” To say this is to deny the eternity of the Logos. Therefore it never should be said. There never was a time in which the Son, namely the eternal Logos, did not exist..