Origenists a title of two entirely distinct classes of heretics.
1. It is the name of certain heretical Christians who professed to adopt the theological views of the Church father Origen (q.v.). They developed as a body in the 4th century, and taught —
(1.) A pre-existent state of human souls, prior to the Mosaic creation, and perhaps for eternity which souls were clothed with ethereal bodies suited to their original dignity. SEE PRE-EXISTENTS.
(2.) That souls were condemned, to animate mortal bodies, in order to expiate faults they had committed in a pre-existent state; for we may be assured, from the infinite goodness of their Creator, that they were at first joined to the purest matter, and placed in those regions of the universe which were most suitable to the purity of essence that they then possessed. For that the souls of men are an order of essentially incorporate spirits, their deep immersion into terrestrial matter, the modification of all their operations by it, and the heavenly body promised in the Gospel, as the highest perfection of our renewed nature, clearly evince. Therefore, if our souls existed before they appeared as inhabitants of the earth, they were placed in a purer element, and enjoyed far greater degrees of happiness. And certainly he whose overflowing goodness brought them into existence would not deprive them of their felicity, till by their mutability they rendered themselves less pure in the whole extent of their powers, and became disposed for the susception of such a degree of corporeal life as was exactly answerable to their present disposition of spirit. Hence it was necessary that they should become terrestrial men.
(3.) That the soul of Christ was united to the Word before the incarnation; for the Scriptures teach us that the soul of the Messiah was created before the beginning of the world (Php 2:5,7). This text must be understood of Christ's human soul, because it is unusual to propound the Deity as an example of humility in Scripture. Though the humanity of Christ was so godlike, he emptied himself of this fullness of life and glory to take upon him the form of a servant. It was this Messiah who conversed with the patriprs under human form; it was he who appeared to us on the holy mount; it was he who spoke to the prophets under a visible appearance; and it is he who will at last come in triumph upon the clouds to restore the universe to its primitive splendor and felicity.
(4.) That at the resurrection of the dead we shall be clothed with ethereal bodies; for the elements of our terrestrial composition are such as almost fatally entangle us in vice, passion, and misery. The purer the vehicle the soul is united with, the more perfect are her life and operations. — Besides, the Supreme Goodness who made all things assures us he made all things best at first, and therefore his recovery of us to our lost happiness (which is the design of the Gospel) must restore us to our better bodies and happier habitations, which is evident from 1Co 15:49; 2Co 5:1; and other texts of Scripture.
(5.) That, after long periods of time, the damned shall be released from their torments, and restored to a new state of probation; for the Deity has such reserve in his gracious providence as will vindicate his sovereign goodness and wisdom from all disparagement. Expiatory pains are a part of his adorable plan; for this sharper kind of favor has a righteous place in such creatures as are by nature mutable. Though sin has extinguished or silenced the divine life, yet it has not destroyed the faculties of reason and understanding, consideration and memory, which will serve the life which is most powerful. If, therefore, the vigorous attraction of the sensual nature be abated by a ceaseless pain, these powers may resume the goods of a better life and nature. As in the material system there is a gravitation of the lesser bodies towards the greater, there must of necessity be something analogous to this in the intellectual. system; and since the spirits created by God are emanations and streams from his own abyss of being, and as self- existent power must needs subject all beings to itself, the Deity could not but impress upon intimate natures and substances a central tendency towards himself; an essential principle of reunion to their great original. (This doctrine, in a somewhat modified form, is now advocated by some English divines. — Very recently the Rev. Edward Eliot has come out as the advocate of conditional immortality in his Life in Christ [Lond. 1875; See Brit. and For. Evang. Rep. Jan. 1876.)
(6.) That the earth, after its conflagration, shall become habitable again, and be the mansion of men and animals, and that in eternal vicissitudes. For it is thus expressed in Isaiah: "Behold, I make new heavens and a new earth," etc.; and in Heb 1:10,12, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed," etc. Where there is only a change, the substance is not destroyed, this change being only as that of a garment worn out and decaying. The fashion of the world passes away like a turning scene, to exhibit a fresh and new representation of things; and if only the present dress and appearance of things go off, the substance is supposed to remain entire. SEE MILLENARIANS.
2. Origenists is also the name given to a sect of heretical Christians who, as appears from Epiphanius, were followers of some unknown Origen, a person quite different from the father of the 2d and 3d centuries. In one place indeed Epiphanius (a very bitter opponent of Origenistic opinions) says he is ignorant whether or not the sect was derived from him. (Epiph. Panar. 63, 64); but in another he speaks of them without doubt as followers of some other Origen (Anacephal.). These Origenists are spoken of as given to shameful vices, but nothing further is mentioned of them. There was an Alexandrian philosopher of the same name, contemporary with the great Origen, but there is nothing known which connects him with the sect. Philaster is silent about them, while Augustine and Praedestinatus are only able to repeat the statement of Epiphanius.