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Another doctrine rejected by later churches was that of eternal progression. When Irenaeus was challenged to explain how man being created can partake of the uncreated glory of God, he had to fall back on this old teaching, even though it contradicted many of his own ideas. This led Irenaeus to the paradoxical conclusion that though man was not uncreated, yet in time he could become uncreated through an endless progression that would make him of the same eternal nature as God himself! If philosophy will not permit him to allow man's divine nature, religion forces him to, and so he writes: "Taking increase from his great goodness, and persisting to a fullness, the glory of the uncreated comes to them as a gift from God. As they persevere through long ages, they acquire more and more the virtue of being uncreated, and thus the begotten and molded man becomes like the image and likeness of the unbegotten God [The scriptures, incidentally, say man was made in that likeness from the beginning]. . . . It is necessary for a man first to be born, and having come into being to increase, and having increased to be strengthened, and having been strengthened to multiply, and having multiplied to become great, and having become mighty to receive glory, and having received glory to behold his Lord. For God is he who is to be seen. The sight of God is perfect immortality, and immortality makes one to be very near to God."Tertullian makes much of the doctrine frequently met with in the primitive church (e.g., in the "Letter to Diognetus"), that the Christian "is a pilgrim in a strange land, among enemies: his is another race, another dwelling, another hope, another grace, another dignity." But how can we be out of our element here if this is the only element we have ever known? Here we are lost and ill at ease. Lost from what? The theory of the later fathers is that man has an irresistible urge to get to heaven because he was created for the express purpose of filling the gap left in heaven by the fall of the angels. But the same fathers who maintain this doctrine also hold that the vast majority of spirits thus created will never see heaven—a strange inconsistency indeed.
- Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), Chapter 26, references silently removed—consult original for citations.