Saint Irenaeus (125-202) was a Greek-born luminary of the early Christian Church who had been acquainted with disciples (most notably Saint Polycarp) who, in turn, had known the apostles. As bishop of Lyons in Gaul he wrote Against Heresies, a fierce attack on Gnosticism.
In his writing against the Gnostics, who claimed to possess a secret oral tradition from Jesus himself, Irenaeus maintained that the bishops in different cities are known as far back as the Apostles — and none were Gnostic — and that the bishops provided the only safe guide to the interpretation of Scripture. He emphasized the unique position of the bishop of Rome.¹
The scholar of religion and philosophy John Hick wrote about the Irenaean Theodicy (Irenaeus’ defense of God’s Goodness given the reality of evil) in the book Evil and the God of Love (1966). Hick said that, according to Irenaeus, a soul which freely chooses the good over evil is more valuable than one that, if such a thing were possible, automatically did the good like a robot.
However, before the ultimate goodness of souls freely cooperating with God comes about, sins will be committed and evil will manifest in this world until souls learn that choosing the good is the better option.
Tradition has it that Irenaeus was martyred and beheaded in 202 CE by Septimus Severus.
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