On the Chasm in Hades

Lazarus in Abe's bosom_fol.16r sc 2BSt. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

I next turn my attention to the chasm [Lk 16.26] mentioned in the Gospel which the patriarch [Abraham] said was established between evil and good persons. More accurately, the Lord of the patriarch said that the damned could not pass over to the repose of the saints, nor could the saints pass over to them. I do not accept opinions with regard to this matter as true; only the Gospel should be trusted. …I do not believe that he who was included in [the patriarch’s] repose could traverse that chasm which the impious could not bridge whether they willed it or not. Thus the devil could not freely cross the chasm and deprive the saints of holiness; he was unable to do this and could not attribute evil to anyone who did not want it. For a person established in the good cannot cross over to evil; even though a person might wish to do this, the chasm does not permit it. (Letter Concerning the Sorceress [of Endor] to Bishop Theodoxios)

Fr. Florovsky on Repentance After Death and Universalism

Fr. Georges FlorovskyProtopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

Now, sin has been destroyed and abrogated—it can not be said that “sin” has been redeemed, only persons may be redeemed. But it is not enough to acknowledge by faith the deed of the divine redemption—one has to be born anew. The whole personality must be cleansed and healed. Forgiveness must be accepted and assessed in freedom. It cannot be imputed—apart from an act of faith and gratitude, an act of love. Paradoxically, nobody can be saved by love divine alone, unless it is responded to by grateful love of human persons. Indeed, there is always an abstract possibility of “repentance” and “conversion” in the course of this earthly or historic life. Can we admit that this possibility continues after death? [E]ven in the concept of Purgatory no chance of radical conversion is implied. Purgatory includes but believers, those of good intentions, pledged to Christ, but deficient in growth and achievement. Human personality is made and shaped in this life—at least, it is oriented in this life. The difficulty of universal salvation is not on the divine side—indeed, God wants every man “to be saved,” not so much, probably, in order that His will should be accomplished and His Holiness secured, as in order that man’s existence may be complete and blessed. Yet, insuperable difficulties may be erected on the creaturely side. After all, is “ultimate resistance” a greater paradox, and a greater offense, than any resistance or revolt, which actually did pervert the whole order of Creation, did handicap the deed of redemption? Only when we commit ourselves to a docetic view of history and deny the possibility of ultimate decisions in history, in this life, under the pretext that it is temporal, can we evade the paradox of ultimate resistance.

St. Gregory of Nyssa anticipated a kind of universal conversion of souls in the afterlife, when the truth of God will be revealed and manifested with compelling evidence. Just at that point the limitation of the Hellenic mind is obvious. Evidence seemed to it to be the decisive motive for the will, as if “sin” were merely ignorance. The Hellenic mind had to pass through a long and hard experience of asceticism, of ascetic self-examination and self-control, in order to overcome this intellectualistic naïveté and illusion and discover a dark abyss in the fallen soul. Only in St. Maximus the Confessor, after some centuries of ascetic preparation, do we find a new and deepened interpretation of the apokatastasis. Indeed, the order of creation will be fully restored in the last days. But the dead souls will still be insensitive to the very revelation of Light. The Light Divine will shine to all, but those who once have chosen darkness will be still unwilling and unable to enjoy the eternal bliss. They will still cling to the nocturnal darkness of selfishness. They will be unable precisely to enjoy. They will stay “outside”—because union with God, which is the essence of salvation, presupposes and requires the determination of will. Human will is irrational and its motives cannot be rationalized. Even “evidence” may fail to impress and move it.

Eschatology is a realm of antinomies. These antinomies are rooted and grounded in the basic mystery of Creation. How can anything else exist alongside of God, if God is the plenitude of Being ? One has attempted to solve the paradox, or rather to escape it, by alleging the motives of Creation, sometimes to such an extent and in such a manner as to compromise the absoluteness and sovereignty of God. Yet, God creates in perfect freedom, ex mera liberalitate, that is, without any “sufficient reasons.” Creation is a free gift of unfathomable love. Moreover, man in Creation is granted this mysterious and enigmatic authority of free decision, in which the most enigmatic is not the possibility of failure or resistance, but the very possibility of assent. Is not the will of God of such a dimension that it should be simply obeyed— without any real, that is, free and responsible, assent? The mystery is in the reality of creaturely freedom. Why should it be wanted in the world created and ruled by God, by His infinite wisdom and love ? In order to be real, human response must be more than a mere resonance. It must be a personal act, an inward commitment. In any case, the shape of human life—and now we may probably add, the shape and destiny of the cosmos—depends upon the synergism or conflict of the two wills, divine and creaturely. Many things are happening which God abhors—in the world which is His work and His subject. Strangely enough, God respects human freedom, as St. Irenaeus once said, although, in fact, the most conspicuous manifestation of this freedom was revolt and disorder. Are we entitled to expect that finally human disobedience will be disregarded and “disrespected” by God, and His holy will shall be enforced, regardless of any assent? Or it would make a dreadful “masquerade” of human history? What is the meaning of this dreadful story of sin, perversion, and rebellion, if finally everything will be smoothed down and reconciled by the exercise of divine Omnipotence?

Indeed, the existence of Hell, that is, of radical opposition, implies, as it were, some partial “unsuccess” of the creative design. Yet, it was more than just a design, a plan, a pattern. It was the calling to existence, or even “to being,” of living persons. One speaks sometimes of the “divine risk”—le risque divin, says Jean Guitton. It is probably a better word than kenosis. Indeed, it is a mystery, which cannot be rationalized—it is the primordial mystery of creaturely existence.

Brunner takes the possibility of Hell quite seriously.

There is no security of “universal salvation/’ although this is, abstractly speaking, still possible—for the omnipotent God of Love. But Brunner still hopes that there will be no Hell. The trouble is that there is Hell already. Its existence does not depend upon divine decision. God never sends anyone to Hell. Hell is made by creatures themselves. It is human creation, outside, as it were, of “the order of creation”. The Last Judgment remains a mystery. (Creation and Redemption, Vol. 3 in the Collected Works, p. 262-265. Chap VII Eschatology: The Last Things and the Last Events)

On Why Women Were the First to Witness the Resurrection

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

Since, as the Apostle tells us, “the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” [1 Tim 2: 14] and was by her disobedience foremost in the revolt from God, woman became the first witness of the Resurrection, that she might retrieve by her faith in the Resurrection the overthrow caused by her disobedience. By making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband of the counsels of the serpent, she brought into human life the beginning of evil and its train of consequences; so, by ministering to His disciples the words of Him who slew the rebel dragon, she became to men the guide to faith, whereby with good reason the first proclamation of death is annulled. (Against Eunomius, 12.1)

St. Maximus on the Fire of God

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

From the same (St. Gregory the Theologian), “I know a fire that is not purifying but avenging i.e., the fire of Sodom, which He pours down on all sinners mixed with brimstone and storms; or that which is prepared for the devil and his angels; or that which come forth from the face of the Lord and shall burn up His enemies round about; or more feared than these, that which is fused to one mass sleepless worms, unable to be quenched but existing perpetually for the wicked. (St. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 40)

“The fire of Sodom” is poured down upon those who trample on the law of nature by abusing it. And this is the reproof of the conscience, whenever, like fire, it completely burns it. And brimstone is the different circumstances, and storms are the sudden circumstances, which when mixed together injure in a more violent way. And they burn the conscience in imitation of the “devil and his angels” who through pride enviously slander the providence of God and employ treachery towards their neighbor. And the fire “which proceeds before the face of the Lord” burning “His enemies” is the energies of God. For they characterize the face of God, that is, His goodness, love of humankind, meekness, and things similar to these. These energies enlighten those who are like them and burn up those who oppose and have been alienated from the likeness. And the passage did not say these, the forms of fire, are eternal, since according to Gregory of Nyssa nature must recover its own powers and be restored by full knowledge to what was from the beginning, so that the Creator may be proven not to be the cause of sin. And he called the “more feared” fire, that “which is fused eternally into one mass with worms, not able to be quenched but existing perpetually for wicked”. For this reason, when the divinity appears and is offered to the worthy for their enjoyment, they who do not, through good works, illumine themselves, like a little worm which always uproots one’s memory, are devoured, evaluated by their failure and endless deprivation of the good, and are continually put to test by a more violent fire. (St. Maximus the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts pp. 95-96. Question 99)

Since in the [the text of] St. Diadochus, in the 100th chapter, it has been written, “Some will be judged through fires and purified in the future age,” I ask [that] the father’s aim be revealed to me by clarification.

They who have acquired the perfection of love for God and have elevated the wing of the soul through the virtues, according to Apostle “are caught up in the clouds” and do not come into judgment. And they who did not completely acquire perfection but have acquired both sin and good works, come into the court of judgment; there, they are scorched as by a fire by the comparison of their good and evil deeds, and if, in fact, the scale of their good deeds weighs downwards, they are cleansed of punishment. (St. Maximus the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts pg. 143. Various Questions and Selections from Various Passages that are Perplexing, Question I, 10)

On the Meaning of Christianity

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

If one takes upon himself the name of Christ but does not practice the way of life associated with it, he falsely bears this name. Such a person is like a soulless mask with human features superimposed on a monkey. For just as Christ cannot be if He is not justice, purity, the Truth, and the estrangement from all evil, so cannot he who does not demonstrate the characterisitics associated with this name be a Christian. Thus, if it were necessary for someone to express the meaning of the word “Christianity” in a definition, we would say that it is the imitation of the Divine Nature. (To Harmonius)

On the Dignity of Mankind

Psa 8:3-4 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

Man, who among the things that exist is reckoned as nothing, as ashes, as grass, as vanity, is made the familiar of such and so great a Majesty as can neither be seen, nor heard, nor reckoned. Man is received and accounted as son by the God of the universe. Who can discover a way of giving thanks worthily for such a gift? With what voice, with what thought, what movement of the heart, can a man sing the praises of this superlative gift? Man transcends his own nature: from mortal he is made immortal, from brazen, unalloyed, from ephemeral, eternal, and in short, from man, a god. For if he is made worthy of becoming a son of God he will have entirely in himself the dignity of the Father, and will be heir to all the paternal goods. O, the liberality of that wealthy Master! (The Beatitudes 7)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

If, then, anyone loves God, God also shares His love with him. Once a person believes in Him, God bestows on such a one a heavenly faith and so he becomes twofold. As you offer God any part of yourself, He Himself shares with your soul similar aspects of His own being, so that all you do, you may do sincerely and purely, lovong and praying in this same way. For great is the dignity of humanity. See how great are heavens and the earth, the suna and the moon. But the Lord was not pleased to find His rest in them but in humanity alone. Man, therefore, is of greater value than all other creatures, and perhaps, I will not hesitate to say, not only visible creatures, but also those invisible, namely, “the ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14). For it was not Michael or Gabriel, the archangels, that God said: “Let Us make according to Our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26), but He said it concerning the spiritual makeup of the human, I mean, the immortal soul. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.22)

On Angels and Demons

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

There is a certain opinion, having credence from its having been handed down from the Fathers, which says that when our nature fell into sin God did not leave us without protection in our misery. Rather, a certain angel from among those to whom is allotted an incorporeal nature, was appointed by Himto assist in the life of each man; but contrariwise, too, the corrupter of our nature, destructive of human life, fights against the same by the agency of a certain evil and malicious demon. Between these two, in the middle is man. The goal of each of these companion spirits is directiy opposed to that of the other, their goal being to prevail more effectively over the other. The good offers to man’s consideration the good prospects of virtue, which are viewed aright through hope; the other, material delights, in which there is not the hope of good things but things already present and possessed, visible things enslaving the senses of the very foolish. (The Life of Moses 2)

The Theotokos and the Confession of Faith

During the time that the heresy of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata began to spread, St Gregory the Wonderworker (ca. 213-270 a.d.) prayed fervently and diligently imploring God and His most pure Mother to reveal to him the true Faith. The All-Holy Virgin Mary appeared to him, radiant like the sun, and with Her was the Apostle John the Theologian dressed in archepiscopal vestments.

By the command of the Mother of God, the Apostle John taught the saint how to correctly and properly confess the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. St Gregory wrote down everything that St John the Theologian revealed to him. The Mystery of the Symbol of the Faith, written down by St Gregory of Neocaesarea, is a great divine revelation in the history of the Church. The teaching about the Holy Trinity in Orthodox Theology is based on it. Subsequently it was used by the holy Fathers of the Church: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Symbol of St Gregory of Neocaesarea was later examined and affirmed in the year 325 by the First Ecumenical Council, showing his enduring significance for Orthodoxy. Thus, the first recorded vision of the Theotokos in the history of the Church was for the purposes of revealing a trinitarian confession of faith.  St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote St. Gregory’s biography and he records this magnificient event:

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

While [Gregory] was passing a sleepless night because of these worries, someone appeared to him in human form, aged in appearance, clothed in garments denoting a sacred dignity, with a face characterized by a sense of grace and virtue. Gregory, looking frightened, rose from his bed and asked him who he was and why he had come.

The other, in a subdued voice, after soothing his distress, told Gregory that he had appeared by divine will, because of the questions that Gregory found ambiguous and confusing, to reveal to him the truth of pious faith. After hearing these words, Gregory regained his serenity and began to observe the other man with a certain joy and wonder.

The other then held up his hand, as if to point out, with his index finger, something that had appeared opposite him. Gregory, turning his gaze in the direction indicated by the other man’s hand, saw before him another figure, which had appeared not long before. This figure had the appearance of a woman, whose noble aspect far surpassed normal human beauty. Gregory was again disturbed. Turning away his face, he averted his glance and was filled with perplexity; nor did he know what to think of this apparition, which he could not bear to look upon with his eyes. For the extraordinary character of the vision lay in this: that though it was a dark night, a light was shining, and so was the figure that had appeared to him, as if a burning lamp had been kindled there.

Although he could not bear to look upon the apparition, Gregory heard the speech of those who had appeared, as they discussed the problems that were troubling him. From their words, Gregory not only obtained an exact understanding of the doctrine of the faith but also was able to discover the names of the two persons who had appeared to him, for they called each other by name.

For it is said that he heard the one who had appeared in womanly form exhorting John the Evangelist to explain to the young man the mystery of the true [faith]. John, in his turn, declared that he was completely willing to please the Mother of the Lord even in this matter and that this was the one thing closest to his heart. And so the discussion coming to a close, and after they had made it quite clear and precise for him, the two disappeared from his sight. (Life of St. Gregory the Wonderworker, PG 46, 909-12)

St. Gregory’s Confession of Faith

There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son.

There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal.

And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all.

There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.

Source for the Confession of Faith: http://www.voskrese.info/spl/thaumcreed.html

St. Gregory on Luxury

St. Gregory of Nyssa A.D. 335-395

“Those, then, whose reasoning powers have never been exercised and who have never had a glimpse of the better way soon use up on gluttony in this fleshly life the dividend of good which their constitution can claim, and they reserve none of it for the after life; but those who by a discreet and sober-minded calculation economize the powers of living are afflicted by things painful to sense here, but they reserve their good for the succeeding life, and so their happier lot is lengthened out to last as long as that eternal life. This, in my opinion, is the gulf; which is not made by the parting of the earth, but by those decisions in this life which result in a separation into opposite characters. The man who has once chosen pleasure in this life, and has not cured his inconsiderateness by repentance, places the land of the good beyond his own reach; for he has dug against himself the yawning impassable abyss of a necessity that nothing can break through.” (On the Soul and Resurrection)

Against the Dispensationalists

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

Now if we loudly preach all this, and testify to all this, namely that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, always changeless, always imperishable, though He comes in the changeable and the perishable; never stained Himself, but making clean that which is stained; what is the crime that we commit, and wherefore are we hated? And what means this opposing array of new Altars? Do we announce another Jesus? Do we hint at another? Do we produce other Scriptures? Have any of ourselves dared to say Mother of Man of the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God: which is what we hear that some of them say without restraint? Do we romance about three Resurrections? Do we promise the gluttony of the Millennium? Do we declare that the Jewish animal-sacrifices shall be restored? Do we lower men’s hopes again to the Jerusalem below, imagining its rebuilding with stones of a more brilliant material? (Letter 17)

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Origin of Evil

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

This reasoning and intelligent creature, man, at once the work and the likeness of the Divine and Imperishable Mind (for so in the Creation it is written of him that God made man in His image Gen. 1:27 ), this creature, I say, did not in the course of his first production have united to the very essence of his nature the liability to passion and to death. Indeed, the truth about the image could never have been maintained if the beauty reflected in that image had been in the slightest degree opposed to the Archetypal Beauty. Passion was introduced afterwards, subsequent to man’s first organization; and it was in this way. Being the image and the likeness, as has been said, of the Power which rules all things, man kept also in the matter of a Free-Will this likeness to Him whose Will is over all. He was enslaved to no outward necessity whatever; his feeling towards that which pleased him depended only on his own private judgment; he was free to choose whatever he liked; and so he was a free agent, though circumvented with cunning, when he drew upon himself that disaster which now overwhelms humanity. He became himself the discoverer of evil, but he did not therein discover what God had made; for God did not make death. Man became, in fact, himself the fabricator, to a certain extent, and the craftsman of evil. All who have the faculty of sight may enjoy equally the sunlight; and any one can if he likes put this enjoyment from him by shutting his eyes: in that case it is not that the sun retires and produces that darkness, but the man himself puts a barrier between his eye and the sunshine; the faculty of vision cannot indeed, even in the closing of the eyes, remain inactive , and so this operative sight necessarily becomes an operative darkness rising up in the man from his own free act in ceasing to see. Again, a man in building a house for himself may omit to make in it any way of entrance for the light; he will necessarily be in darkness, though he cuts himself off from the light voluntarily. So the first man on the earth, or rather he who generated evil in man, had for choice the Good and the Beautiful lying all around him in the very nature of things; yet he wilfully cut out a new way for himself against this nature, and in the act of turning away from virtue, which was his own free act, he created the usage of evil. For, be it observed, there is no such thing in the world as evil irrespective of a will, and discoverable in a substance apart from that. Every creature of God is good, and nothing of His to be rejected; all that God made was very good. But the habit of sinning entered as we have described, and with fatal quickness, into the life of man; and from that small beginning spread into this infinitude of evil. (On Virginity 12)

St. Gregory on the Mysteries

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

Despise not, therefore, the Divine laver, nor think lightly of it, as a common thing, on account of the use of water. For the power that operates is mighty, and wonderful are the things that are wrought thereby. For this holy altar, too, by which I stand, is stone, ordinary in its nature, nowise different from the other slabs of stone that build our houses and adorn our pavements; but seeing that it was consecrated to the service of God, and received the benediction, it is a holy table, an altar undefiled, no longer touched by the hands of all, but of the priests alone, and that with reverence. The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ. So with the sacramental oil; so with the wine: though before the benediction they are of little value, each of them, after the sanctification bestowed by the Spirit, has its several operation. The same power of the word, again, also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated, by the new blessing bestowed upon him, from his community with the mass of men. While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries; and this he does without being at all changed in body or in form; but, while continuing to be in all appearance the man he was before, being, by some unseen power and grace, transformed in respect of his unseen soul to the higher condition. (On the Baptism of Christ)

On the Celestial Gatekeepers

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

The doorkeepers of the [heavenly] kingdom are careful and they do not play games. They see the soul bearing the marks of her banishment…Then the miserable soul, accusing herself severely of her own thoughtlessness, and howling and wailing and lamenting, remains in that sullen place, cast away as if in a corner, while the incessant and inconsolable wailing takes vengeance forever. (Against Those Who Resent Correction. Migne PG 46: col. 312)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

And therefore [the angels] descrying the approach of the Lord of all, first and only Vanquisher of Death, bade their princes that the gates should be lifted up, saying inadoration, Lift up the gates, such as are princes among you, and be lifted up, O everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.

Yet there were still, even among the hosts of heaven, some that were amazed, overcome with astonishment at such pomp and glory as they had never yet beheld, and therefore they asked: Who is the King of glory? Howbeit, seeing that the angels (as well as ourselves) acquire theirknowledge step by step, and are capable of advancement, they certainly must display differences of power and understanding, for God alone is above and beyond the limits imposed by gradual advance, possessing, as He does, every perfection from everlasting.

Others, again—those, to wit, who had been present at His rising again, those who had seen or who already recognized Him—made reply: It is the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Then, again, sang the multitude of angels, in triumphal chorus: Lift up the gates, O you that are their princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. And back again came the challenge of them that stood astonished: Who is that King of glory? For we saw Him having neither form nor comelines; Isa. 53:2 if then it be not He, who is that King of glory?

Whereto answer they which know: The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory. Therefore, the Lord of Hosts, He is the Son. How then do the Arians call Him fallible, Whom we believe to be Lord of Hosts, even as we believe of the Father?

What shall we do, then? How shall we ascend unto heaven? There, powers are stationed, principalities drawn up in order, who keep the doors of heaven, and challenge him who ascends. Who shall give me passage, unless I proclaim that Christ is Almighty? The gates are shut—they are not opened to any and every one; not every one who will shall enter, unless he also believes according to the true Faith. The Sovereign’s court is kept under guard. (De Fide Bk 4.9-15)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Those who keep the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven, if they do not see in a Christian the likeness of Christ, as a son to his father, will by no means open to him and allow him to enter. (Homily 2.3-4 The Blessed State)

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

Thus he comes forth, and when he reaches the temple and comes near to it he stands before the closed doors and commands those who stand within the doors to open them for the King of Glory (Ps. 24:7,9), as he utters the very words of David. When he has heard from those who are within the words which David represents the angels as saying to each other when the Saviour ascends into heaven, and when the doors are flung open, he enters the temple with the veiled vessel upon his head. (The Life in Christ, Fifith Book: 2. The Ceremonies of Consecration)

The Divine Bait

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

… [I]t was not in the nature of the opposing power to come in contact with the undiluted presence of God, and to undergo His unclouded manifestation, therefore, in order to secure that the ransom in our behalf might be easily accepted by him who required it, the Deity was hidden under the veil of our nature, that so, as with ravenous fish, the hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of flesh, and thus, life being introduced into the house of death, and light shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active. (Great Catechism 24)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

 I am a worm and not a man (Ps. 21:7, LXX). He truly became, and was thus called, a worm because He assumed the flesh without being conceived by human seed. For, just as the worm is not born through copulation or sexual procreation, so too our Lord was not born in the flesh through sexual procreation. Moreover, the Lord mounted His flesh on the fish-hook of His divinity as bait for the devil’s deceit, so that, as the insatiable serpent, the devil would take His flesh into his mouth (since its nature is easily overcome) and quiver convulsively on the hook of the Lord’s divinity, and, by virtue of the sacred flesh of the Logos, completely vomit the Lord’s human nature once he swallowed it. As a result, just as the devil formerly baited man with the hope of divinity, and swallowed him, so too the devil himself would be baited precisely with humanity’s fleshly garb; and afterward he would vomit man, who had been deceived by the expectation of becoming divine, the devil himself having been deceived by the expectation of becoming human. The transcendance of God’s power would then manifest itself through the weakness of our inferior human nature, which would vanquish the strength of its conqueror. As well, it would be shown that it is God Who, by using the flesh as bait, conquers the devil, rather than the devil conquering man by promising him a divine nature. (Ad Thalassium 64: On the Prophet Jonah and the Economy of Salvation)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Since our Lord Jesus Christ was without sin (for He committed no sin, He Who took away the sin of the world, nor was there any deceit found in His mouth ) He was not subject to death, since death came into the world through sin. Rom. 5:12 He dies, therefore, because He took on Himself death on our behalf, and He makes Himself an offering to the Father for our sakes. For we had sinned against Him, and it was meet that He should receive the ransom for us, and that we should thus be delivered from the condemnation. God forbid that the blood of the Lord should have been offered to the tyrant. Wherefore death approaches, and swallowing up the body as a bait is transfixed on the hook of divinity, and after tasting of a sinless and life-giving body, perishes, and brings up again all whom of old he swallowed up. For just as darkness disappears on the introduction of light, so is death repulsed before the assault of life, and brings life to all, but death to the destroyer. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 3.27)

On Apollinarianism and Limited Atonement

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

“The Father raises up the dead and gives them life, and the Son gives life to whom He will.” (Jn. 5:21) We do not understand by this that some are rejected by the will of the Lifemaker. Because, however, as we have heard and do believe, all things that are the Father’s are the Son’s also, it is obvious that we perceive in the Son the will also of the Father, which is one of these things. If, therefore, the paternal will is in the Son, but the Father, as the Apostle says, “wills that all men be saved and come to knowledge of truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), certainly He that possesses all things that are the Father’s and has the Father wholly in Himself, has entirely within Himself along with the other good things of the Father the whole salvific will. If, therefore, He does not lack the perfect will, it is fully evident that those whom the Father wills to make live He too makes alive. He does not skimp in any way in the loving-kindness of His will toward men, as Apollinaris would have it; He does not will that only some and not all should be made alive. It is not the will of the Lord that is the reason why some are saved and some are lost; were that the case, the cause of their perdition would have to be referred to His will. That some are saved and some perish depends rather upon the deliberate choice of those who hear the word. (Refutation of Apollinaris 29: Jaeger, p. 176)

On Irresistible Grace and Synergy

Philip Schaff 1819-1893

The Augustinian system was unknown in the ante-Nicene age, and was never accepted in the Eastern Church. This is a strong historical argument against it. Augustin himself developed it only during the Pelagian controversy; while in his earlier writings he taught the freedom of the human will against the fatalism of the Manichaeans. (History of the Christian Church VIII The Theology of Calvin § 112. The Calvinistic System)

…[N]o man is saved mechanically or by force, but through faith, freely, by accepting the gift of God. This implies the contrary power of rejecting the gift. To accept is no merit, to reject is ingratitude and guilt. All Calvinistic preachers appeal to man’s responsibility. They pray as if everything depended on God; and yet they preach and work as if everything depended on man. And the Church is directed to send the gospel to every creature. We pray for the salvation of all men, but not for the loss of a single human being. Christ interceded even for his murderers on the cross.

Here, then, is a practical difficulty. The decree of reprobation cannot be made an object of prayer or preaching, and this is an argument against it. Experience confirms election, but repudiates reprobation.

[T]here is a logic of ethics as well as of metaphysics. God is holy as well as almighty and omniscient, and therefore cannot be the author of sin. Man is a moral as well as an intellectual being, and the claims of his moral constitution are equal to the claims of his intellectual constitution. Conscience is as powerful a factor as reason. The most rigid believer in divine sovereignty, if he be a Christian, cannot get rid of the sense of personal accountability, though he may be unable to reconcile the two. The harmony lies in God and in the moral constitution of man. They are the two complementary sides of one truth. Paul unites them in one sentence: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The problem, however, comes within the reach of possible solution, if we distinguish between sovereignty as an inherent power, and the exercise of sovereignty. God may limit the exercise of his sovereignty to make room for the free action of his creatures. It is by his sovereign decree that man is free. Without such self-limitation he could not admonish men to repent and believe. Here, again, the Calvinistic logic must either bend or break. Strictly carried out, it would turn the exhortations of God to the sinner into a solemn mockery and cruel irony. (History of the Christian Church VIII The Theology of Calvin § 114. Calvinism examined.)

Alister Mcgrath

The main external threat to the church, particularly during the second century, appears to be pagan or semi-pagan fatalism, such as Gnosticism, which propagated the thesis that humans are responsible neither for their own sins nor for the evils in the world. It is quite possible that what some consider to be the curious and disturbing tendency of some of the early fathers to minimise original sin and emphasise the freedom of fallen humanity is a consequence of their anti-Gnostic polemic. While it is true that the beginnings of a doctrine of grace may be discerned during this early period, its generally optimistic estimation of the capacities fallen humanity has led at least some scholars to question whether it can be regarded as truly Christian in this respect.

The pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will.

While there is still uncertainty concerning the precise nature of Gnosticism, it may be noted that a strongly fatalist or necessitarian outlook appears to be characteristic of the chief Gnostic systems. Far from recognising the  limitations of humanity’s free will, many early fathers enthusiastically proclaimed its freedom and self-determination (autoexousia)…God cannot be said to force the free will, but merely influence it. While God does not wish people to do evil, He cannot compel them to do good. (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, pg. 34-35)

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

As persons who are perfect, you should also aim at those things which are perfect. For when you are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you. (Letter to the Smyrneans 11)

Mathetes ca. 130

This [messenger] He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing? (Letter to Diognetus Chap. VII)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons ca. 2nd cent.-202

…Paul the Apostle says to the Corinthians, Do you not know, that they who run in a racecourse, do all indeed run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. Every one also who engages in the contest is temperate in all things: now these men [do it] that they may obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. But I so run, not as uncertainty; I fight, not as one beating the air; but I make my body livid, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when preaching to others, I may myself be rendered a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:24-27 This able wrestler, therefore, exhorts us to the struggle for immortality, that we may be crowned, and may deem the crown precious, namely, that which is acquired by our struggle, but which does not encircle us of its own accord (sed non ultro coalitam). And the harder we strive, so much is it the more valuable; while so much the more valuable it is, so much the more should we esteem it. And indeed those things are not esteemed so highly which come spontaneously, as those which are reached by much anxious care. (Against Heresies, Bk.IV:37:7)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

But the Lord replies, Because what is impossible with men is possible with God. This again is full of great wisdom. For a man by himself working and toiling at freedom from passion achieves nothing. But if he plainly shows himself very desirous and earnest about this, he attains it by the addition of the power of God. For God conspires with willing souls. But if they abandon their eagerness, the spirit which is bestowed by God is also restrained. For to save the unwilling is the part of one exercising compulsion; but to save the willing, that of one showing grace. Nor does the kingdom of heaven belong to sleepers and sluggards, but the violent take it by force. For this alone is commendable violence, to force God, and take life from God by force. And He, knowing those who persevere firmly, or rather violently, yields and grants. For God delights in being vanquished in such things. (Who is the Rich Man That is Saved? XXI)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

Such is our faith, O all ye men,–ours, I say, who are not persuaded by empty expressions, nor caught away by sudden impulses of the heart, nor beguiled by the plausibility of eloquent discourses, yet who do not refuse to obey words that have been uttered by divine power. And these injunctions has God given to the Word. But the Word, by declaring them, promulgated the divine commandments, thereby turning man from disobedience, not bringing him into servitude by force of necessity, but summoning him to liberty through a choice involving spontaneity. (Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. X, Chap. 29)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

In the book of Psalms— in the Songs of Degrees, which are ascribed to Solomon— the following statement occurs: Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. By which words he does not indeed indicate that we should cease from building or watching over the safe keeping of that city which is within us; but what he points out is this, that whatever is built without God, and whatever is guarded without him, is built in vain, and guarded to no purpose. For in all things that are well built and well protected, the Lord is held to be the cause either of the building or of its protection. As if, e.g., we were to behold some magnificent structure and mass of splendid building reared with beauteous architectural skill, would we not justly and deservedly say that such was built not by human power, but by divine help and might? And yet from such a statement it will not be meant that the labour and industry of human effort were inactive, and effected nothing at all. Or again, if we were to see some city surrounded by a severe blockade of the enemy, in which threatening engines were brought against the walls, and the place hard pressed by a vallum, and weapons, and fire, and all the instruments of war, by which destruction is prepared, would we not rightly and deservedly say, if the enemy were repelled and put to flight, that the deliverance had been wrought for the liberated city by God? And yet we would not mean, by so speaking, that either the vigilance of the sentinels, or the alertness of the young men, or the protection of the guards, had been wanting. And the apostle also must be understood in a similar manner, because the human will alone is not sufficient to obtain salvation; nor is any mortal running able to win the heavenly (rewards), and to obtain the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus, unless this very good will of ours, and ready purpose, and whatever that diligence within us may be, be aided or furnished with divine help. And therefore most logically did the apostle say, that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy; in the same manner as if we were to say of agriculture what is actually written: I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. As, therefore, when a field has brought good and rich crops to perfect maturity, no one would piously and logically assert that the husbandman had made those fruits, but would acknowledge that they had been produced by God; so also is our own perfection brought about, not indeed by our remaining inactive and idle, (but by some activity on our part): and yet the consummation of it will not be ascribed to us, but to God, who is the first and chief cause of the work. (De Principiis, Bk. III, 1.18)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

Let us, therefore, in the faith of the disciples, hold frequent converse with our Master. For the world is like the sea to us, my brethren, of which it is written, ‘This is the great and wide sea, there go the ships; the Leviathan, which You have created to play therein. ‘ We float on this sea, as with the wind, through our own free-will, for every one directs his course according to his will, and either, under the pilotage of the Word, he enters into rest, or, laid hold on by pleasure, he suffers shipwreck, and is in peril by storm. For as in the ocean there are storms and waves, so in the world there are many afflictions and trials. The unbelieving therefore ‘when affliction or persecution arises is offended Mark 4:17,’ as the Lord said. For not being confirmed in the faith, and having his regard towards temporal things, he cannot resist the difficulties which arise from afflictions. But like that house, built on the sand by the foolish man, so he, being without understanding Luke 6:49, falls before the assault of temptations, as it were by the winds. But the saints, having their senses exercised in self-possession Hebrews 5:14, and being strong in faith, and understanding the word, do not faint under trials; but although, from time to time, circumstances of greater trial are set against them, yet they continue faithful, and awaking the Lord Who is with them, they are delivered. (Letter 19.7)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

To perservere in faith is certainly a gift from God; but the first stirring of faith has its beginning in us. Our will must be such that, properly and of itself, it wills. God will give the increase after a beginning has been made. Our weakness is such that we cannot of ourselves carry through to completion; but the reward of growing to completion is in view of a beginning made in the will.

Human weakness is imbecillic if it expects to achieve anything by itself. The duty of such a nature is simply this: to make a beginning with the will, so as to attach itself to the service of God. Divine mercy is such that it aids those who are willing, strengthens those who are beginning, and assists those who are attempting. The beginning, however, is our part, that He may bring it to perfection. (Commentaries on the Psalms, 118 [119])

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

The present is the season of confession: confess what you have done in word or in deed, by night or by day; confess in an acceptable time, and in the day of salvation 2 Cor. 6:2 receive the heavenly treasure. Devote your time to the Exorcisms: be assiduous at the Catechisings, and remember the things that shall be spoken, for they are spoken not for your ears only, but that by faith you may seal them up in the memory. Blot out from your mind all earthly care: for you are running for your soul. You are utterly forsaking the things of the world: little are the things which you are forsaking, great what the Lord is giving. Forsake things present, and put your trust in things to come. Have you run so many circles of the years busied in vain about the world, and have you not forty days to be free (for prayer ), for your own soul’s sake? Be still , and know that I am God, says the Scripture. Excuse yourself from talking many idle words: neither backbite, nor lend a willing ear to backbiters; but rather be prompt to prayer. Show in ascetic exercise that your heart is nerved. Cleanse your vessel, that you may receive grace more abundantly. For though remission of sins is given equally to all, the communion of the Holy Ghost is bestowed in proportion to each man’s faith. If you have laboured little, you receive little; but if you have wrought much, the reward is great. You are running for yourself, see to your own interest. (Catechetical Lectures, 1.5)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

“It is a question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God’s showing mercy” (Rom. 9:16)…There are ome people who are so proud of their successes that they attribute everything to themselves and nothing to Him who made them and gave them wisdom and supplied them with good things. Let them learn of this saying that even to wish someone well requires God’s help; or rather, that even to choose what is right is something divine and a gift of God’s benevolence to man. That we be saved requires something from us and from God. That is why it says, “Not of him who wills”; that is, not only of him who wills; and not only of him who runs, but also God’s showing mercy. Since to will is also from God, it reasonable that Paul attributed the whole to God. However well you may run, however well you may wrestle, you still need Him who gives the crown. (Oration 37, 13)

St. Gregory Nyssa ca. 335-395

Yet, even in their reply to this, or the like, they are not at a loss for a contentious rejoinder. For they assert that God, if He had been so pleased, might have forcibly drawn those, who were not inclined to yield, to accept the Gospel message. But where then would have been their free will? Where their virtuous merit? Where their need of praise from their moral directors? It belongs only to inanimate or irrational creatures to be brought round by the will of another to his purpose; whereas the reasoning and intelligent nature, if it lays aside its freedom of action, loses at the same time the gracious gift of intellect. For upon what is he to employ any faculty of thought, if his power of choosing anything according to his inclination lies in the will of another? But then, if the will remains without the capacity of action, virtue necessarily disappears, since it is shackled by the enforced quiescence of the will. Then, if virtue does not exist, life loses its value, reason moves in accordance with fatalism, the praise of moral guardians is gone, sin may be indulged in without risk, and the difference between the courses of life is obliterated. For who, henceforth, could with any reason condemn profligacy, or praise sobriety? Since every one would have this ready answer, that nothing of all the things we are inclined to is in our own power, but that by some superior and ruling influence the wills of men are brought round to the purpose of one who has the mastery over them. The conclusion, then is that it is not the goodness of God that is chargeable with the fact that the Faith is not engendered in all men, but rather the disposition of those by whom the preaching of the Word is received. (The Great Catechism, XXXI)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-409

Is it not perfectly clear that anyone can, by his own choice, choose either wickedness or virtue? For if this were not the case, and if such a faculty did not pertain to our nature, it were not right that some be punished while other receive the reward of virtue. But since everything depend, after grace from above, upon our own choice, so too are punishments prepared for sinners and recompense and reward for those who do right. (Homilies on Genesis, 22,1)

God awaits occasions to show us His great liberality. Let us not by laziness, then, defraud ourselve of Hi gift, but hasten and be eager to begin to take the path that leads back to virtue, so that, enjoying help from above, we may be strengthened to perservere to the end; for unles we are assisted from above it is impossible for us to do right at any time. (ibid., 25,7)

That it is not because we are not able but because we are not willing that we are strangers to all His benefit is made perfectly clear by the fact that many men of the same race as ourselves are found to be shining examples of virtue. Such a one was the Patriarch [Abraham] himself, born before grace and before the law. By himself and by the knowledge that is inherent in our nature he came to so great a measure of virtue as to be able to deprive us of all our excuses. But perhaps some will say that this man enjoyed a great measure of God’s solicitous care, and that the God of the universe showered His coniderable providence in Abraham’ regard. Yes, I agree. But if Abraham had not shown beforehand what was his own, He would not have enjoyed the thing from the Master. Do not conider the latter only, therefore, but examine each case and learn how in every one of them proof was first given of personal virtue, and thus did they merit the help of God. (ibid., 42,1)

If He lights every man that comes into the world, how is it that so many continue unenlightened? For not all have known the majesty of Christ. How then does He light every man? He lights all as far as in Him lies. But if some, wilfully closing the eyes of their mind, would not receive the rays of that Light, their darkness arises not from the nature of the Light, but from their own wickedness, who willfully deprive themselves of the gift. For the grace is shed forth upon all, turning itself back neither from Jew, nor Greek, nor Barbarian, nor Scythian, nor free, nor bond, nor male, nor female, nor old, nor young, but admitting all alike, and inviting with an equal regard. And those who are not willing to enjoy this gift, ought in justice to impute their blindness to themselves; for if when the gate is opened to all, and there is none to hinder, any being willfully evil remain without, they perish through none other, but only through their own wickedness. (Homilies on John, 8.1)

Beloved, God being loving towards man and beneficent, does and contrives all things in order that we may shine in virtue, and as desiring that we be well approved by Him. And to this end He draws no one by force or compulsion: but by persuasion and benefits He draws all that will, and wins them to Himself. Wherefore when He came, some received Him, and others received Him not. For He will have no unwilling, no forced domestic, but all of their own will and choice, and grateful to Him for their service. Men, as needing the ministry of servants, keep many in that state even against their will, by the law of ownership; but God, being without wants, and not standing in need of anything of ours, but doing all only for our salvation makes us absolute in this matter, and therefore lays neither force nor compulsion on any of those who are unwilling. For He looks only to our advantage: and to be drawn unwilling to a service like this is the same as not serving at all. (ibid., 10.1)

For when he says, Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace; he shows that they also were saved by grace. And not hereby only, but likewise by saying, I have reserved unto Myself. For this is the language of One Who shows that He Himself was the chief Contributor. And if by grace, it will be said, how came we all not to be saved? Because ye would not. For grace, though it be grace, saves the willing, not those who will not have it, and turn away from it, who persist in fighting against it, and opposing themselves to it. (Homily on Romans, 18)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

When God sees in us the beginnings of a good will, He enlightens it at once and strengthens it and urges it on towards salvation, giving increase to that which either He Himself implanted or which He sees has arisen by our own efforts. (Conferences, 2.13)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

But having said above, No man can come to Me, except the Father Which sent Me draw him, He shews that it is not a compulsory nor forcible drawing, adding, Every man that hath heard of My Father and hath learned, cometh unto Me.

For where there is hearing and learning and the benefit of instruction, there is faith, to wit by persuasion and not of necessity: and the knowledge of Christ is given by the Father to them that are worthy, helpful as of love, rather than constraining. For the word of doctrine requires that free-will and free choice be preserved to the soul of man, in order that it may ask the just rewards of its good deeds, and if it have fallen from right, and from heedlessness have transgressed the Will of the Lawgiver, it may receive the doom of its transgression and that most reasonable. (Commentary of the Gospel of John, Bk. IV, Chap. 1)

He says that He so kept His disciples, and had such care for them, that none of them was lost save one, whom He called the son of perdition; as though he were doomed to destruction of his own choice, or rather his own wickedness and impiety. For it is inconceivable that the traitor disciple was by a Divine and irresistible decree entangled, as it were, in the snare of the fowler, and brought within the devil’s noose; for then would he surely have been guiltless when he succumbed to the verdict of heaven. For who shall oppose the decree of God? And now he is condemned and accursed, and it would have been better for him if he had never been born. And why? Surely the wretched man met his doom as a consequence of his own volitions, and is not convicted by destiny. He that was so enamoured of destruction may well be called a son of perdition, inasmuch as he merited ruin and corruption, and ever awaits the day of perdition as fraught with anguish and lamentation. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Bk. XI, Chap. 9)

Since the nature of man is none too firm, nor has it sufficient strength to be able to win out against vice, God give it sufficiency and He assists in the struggle. Thus it is seen that it had double grace to nourish it: for it is persuaded by admonition and dicovers assistance, and it does better than the present and tyrannizing vice. (Worship and Adoration in Spirit and in Truth, 1)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

There is need of both our efforts and the divine succour. The grace of the Spirit is not vouchsafed to those who make no effort, and without that grace our efforts cannot collect the prize of virtue. (In Ps. 31, 10 f.; 36, 23 f., in Kelly pg. 374)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

In truth God seeks neither virgin nor married woman, neither monk nor layman, but a free intent, accepting it as the deed itself, and He grants to the free will of every man the grace of the Holy Spirit, which operates in a man and directs the life of everyone who desires to be saved. (Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Christians possess a glory and beauty and an indescribable heavenly richness that come to them with hard work and sweat, acquired in times of temptations and in many trials. All of this must be ascribed to divine grace. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 5.5)

Stand firm, therefore, and think what providence has been working on your behalf. We take an example from human life since we still live in such a manner. Suppose a king came upon a certain poor person, very sick. He is not embarrased to treat his wounds with healing medicines. And when he brings him to his palace, he clothes him with the royal purple and the diadem and shares his table with him. In a similar way the heavenly King, Christ, came to suffering man and healed him. He made him a companion at his royal table. And this he does, not by forcefully constraining man’s will, but by attraction he establishes him in so great a dignity. (ibid., Homily 15.30)

Therefore, since certain persons insist that once they have accepted grace, they need have no further solicitude. But God demands even in those perfect the soul’s will to cooperate in the service of the Spirit, namely, that they freely consent. For the Apostle says: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19)…Do you see how in the matter of perfection, goodwill toward God (which is developed along with our own cooperating natural will) is found superior and richer? (ibid., Homily 17.8)

St. Vincent of Lerins + 445

Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory Chap. XXVI)

St. Gregory the Dialogist ca. 540-604

The good we do is both of God and of ourselves. It is God’s through prevenient grace, ours through obedient free will. For if it is not God’s, why do we give thanks to Him in eternity? And again, if it is not our’s, why do we hope that a reward will be given us? It is not improper that we give thanks; for we know that we were anticipated by God’s gift. And again, it is not improper that we seek a reward, because we know that by obedient free will we choose to do what is good. (Moral Teachings from Job, 33:21,40)

If whatever good there is in us is a gift of Almighty God, so that in our virtues there is nothing of our own, why do we seek eternal reward, as if for merits? But if such goodness as we have is not the gift of Almighty God, why do we give thanks for it to Almighty God? It must be understood that our wickednesses are entirely our own, but our goodnesses pertain to Almighty God and ourselves; for He anticipates us with inspiration so that we may will, and He follows us with His support, so that we do not will in vain, but may be able to carry out what we will. By prevenient grace, therefore, and by subsequent good will, that which is a gift of Almighty God becomes our merit. (Homilies on Ezechiel 1:9,2)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

In bringing into existence a rational and intelligent nature, God in His supreme goodness has communicated to it four of the divine attributes by which He maintains, guards, and preserves creatures: being, eternal being, goodness and wisdom. The first two of these He grants to the essence, the second two to its faculty of will; that is, to the essence He gives being and eternal being, and to the volitive faculty He gives goodness and wisdom in order that what He is by essence the creature may become by participation. For this reason he is said to be made “to the image and likeness of God”: to the image of His being by our being, to the image of His eternal being by our eternal being (even though not without a beginning, it is yet without end); to the likeness of His goodness by our goodness, to the image of His wisdom by our wisdom. The first is by nature, the second by grace. Every rational nature indeed is made to the image of God; but only those who are good and wise are made to the likeness. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, Third Century: 25)

Only God is good by nature, and only the one who imitates God is good by his own will. His plan is to join the wicked to Himself Who is good by nature in order that they may become good. So, then, when he is reviled by them, he blesses them; when persecuted, he endures; when slandered, he entreats; when put to death, he interecedes for them. He does all things in order not to fall away from the purpose of love, which is our God Himself. (ibid., Fourth Century: 90)

He gives adoption by giving through the Spirit a supernatural birth from on high in grace, of which divine birth the guardian and preserver is the free will of those who are born. By a sincere disposition it cherishes the grace bestowed and by a careful observance of the commandments it adorns the beauty given by grace. By the humbling of the passions it takes on divinity in the same measure that the Word of God willed to empty Himself in the incarnation of His own unmixed glory in becoming genuinely human. (Commentary on the Our Father, Prologue 2.)

St. Andrew of Caesarea ca. 6th cent.

Rev. 6:6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

The command do not harm oil and wine means to not disregard the healing through returning to Christ, which healed the one who has fallen among robbers, in order that those who through long suffering were about to renew the fight would not be carried off by death. Therefore, so that we too will gain, for the disease of our souls, the Physician-God who loves mankind, let us hurry to be such for our fallen brothers, by offering to them the oil of sympathy mingled with the wine of exhortation, in order that the maimed parts not worsen but be healed, according to the divine Apostle, so that becoming co-worker with God, we will delight forever in his blesings, by the grace and philanthropy of our Lord Jesus with whom glory (is due) together with the Father, with the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Commentary on the Apocalypse)

Rev. 22:17 And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.

For thirst is necessary for the drink of life for the firm possession of the one who has acquired it, especially because it is also granted as a gift, not to those who did not toil at all, but to those who offered not things worthy of the greatness of the gift but only a genuine and fiery resolve instead of gold and silver and pains of the body. (ibid.)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Jas 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

All saving wisdom, indeed, must be begged from the Lord, because as the wise man says, All wisdom is from the Lord God and was always with him(Sir.1:1), and no one is able to understand and be wise of his own free will without the help of divine grace, although the Pelagians argue alot [ about this ]. (Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

We must recognize that while God foreknows all things, He does not predestine all things. He foreknows the things that depend upon us, but He does not predestine those things. He does not will the doing of evil, nor does He compel virtue. (The Fount of Knowledge, Bk. III: 2,30)

God Himself has given us the power of doing good. And He made us self-determining so that the good might be produced both from Himself and from us. Whenever a choice is made that prefers the good, God is cooperating in the good in such a way that we do thing that are, while consistent with our nature, yet above our nature. (The Two Wills in Christ, 19)

Synod of Jerusalem 1672 a.d.

And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requireth as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace; which, co-operating with us, and enabling us, and making us perseverant in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonisheth us that we should do, justifieth us, and maketh us predestinated. But those who will not obey, and co-operate with grace; and, therefore, will not observe those things that God would have us perform, and that abuse in the service of Satan the free-will, which they have received of God to perform voluntarily what is good, are consigned to eternal condemnation. (Confession of Dositheus, Decree III)

St. Silouan the Athonite 1866-1938

The grace of God does not take away freedom but only helps man to fulfil God’s commandments. Adam knew grace but he could still exercise his will. Thus, too, the angels abide in the Holy Spirit, and yet are not deprived of free-will. (Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Silouan the Athonite: Chap. VI, pg. 342)


On Limited Atonement

Philip Schaff  1819-1893

This doctrine of a divine will and divine provision of a universal salvation, on the sole condition of faith, is taught in many passages which admit of no other interpretation, and which must, therefore, decide this whole question. For it is a settled rule in hermeneutics that dark passages must be explained by clear passages, and not vice versa. Such passages are the following: —

“I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord our God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live” (Ezek. 18:32, 23; 33:11). “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself” (John 12:32). “God so loved the world” (that is, all mankind) “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “God our Saviour willeth that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth “(1 Tim. 2:4). “The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Tit. 2:11). “The Lord is long-suffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). “Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for (the sins of) the whole world” (1 John 2:2). It is impossible to state the doctrine of a universal atonement more clearly in so few words.

To these passages should be added the divine exhortations to repentance, and the lament of Christ over the inhabitants of Jerusalem who “would not” come to him (Matt. 23:37). These exhortations are insincere or unmeaning, if God does not want all men to be saved, and if men have not the ability to obey or disobey the voice. The same is implied in the command of Christ to preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15), and to disciple all nations (Matt. 28:19).

It is impossible to restrict these passages to a particular class without doing violence to the grammar and the context.

The only way of escape is by the distinction between a revealed will of God, which declares his willingness to save all men, and a secret will of God which means to save only some men. Augustin and Luther made this distinction. Calvin uses it in explaining 2 Pet. 3:9, and those passages of the Old Testament which ascribe repentance and changes to the immutable God.

But this distinction overthrows the system which it is intended to support. A contradiction between intention and expression is fatal to veracity, which is the foundation of human morality, and must be an essential attribute of the Deity. A man who says the reverse of what he means is called, in plain English, a hypocrite and a liar. It does not help the matter when Calvin says, repeatedly, that there are not two wills in God, but only two ways of speaking adapted to our weakness. Nor does it remove the difficulty when he warns us to rely on the revealed will of God rather than brood over his secret will.

The greatest, the deepest, the most comforting word in the Bible is the word, “God is love,” and the greatest fact in the world’s history is the manifestation of that love in the person and the work of Christ. That word and this fact are the sum and substance of the gospel, and the only solid foundation of Christian theology. The sovereignty of God is acknowledged by Jews and Mohammedans as well as by Christians, but the love of God is revealed only in the Christian religion. It is the inmost essence of God, and the key to all his ways and works. It is the central truth which sheds light upon all other truths. (HCC Vol. VIII Chap. XIV § 114. Calvinism examined: THE GENERAL LOVE OF GOD TO ALL MEN)

Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006

What was at stake was not only the standard Christian defense of both divine providence and human responsibility against the charge of fatalism, but the Christian doctrine of salvation itself. Augustine’s teaching that the will of God must always, in sovereign grace, achieve it’s intended purpose was not easy to harmonize with the biblical assertion that universal salvation was the will of God. If not all men were saved, did this mean that God had not willed it or that the saving will of God had been frustrated? Augustine rsorted to various devices to square his position with 1 Tim. 2:4: “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “All men” meant all the predestined, because every kind of human being was represented among them… But then Augustine’s critics were right in summarizing his doctrine: “God does not desire all men to be saved, but only the fixed number of the predestined.” And it did not really resolve the ambiguities of Augustine’s position to resort to the secret counsels of God and to speak of “the reasons for a division [between the elect and the nonelect] which God’s wisdom keeps hidden in the mystery of his justice”…

In the long run, this identification of the anti-Pelagian view of grace with an absolute predestination would not work… And therefore it was unavoidable that the defense of essential Augustinism re-examine his exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:4 with a view to asserting the universal will of God for salvation, and that it distinguish more sharply between doctrine as that which was believed, taught, and confessed by the church and theology as that which was maintained by individual teachers in the church.

To affirm the doctrine of the universal will of God for salvation it was necessary to develop more fully the idea that those who were damned were “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) because they had all, in some meaningful way, been given the opportunity to respond to the call of God and had refused it. If Augustine held to any such idea, he had not made it very explicit in most of his writings. But further reflection and debate compelled Augustinism to concede that “there is no one to whom either the preaching of the gospel or the commandments of the law or the voice of nature does not transmit God’s call”(Prosp. Resp. Gall. 1.8). (The Christian Tradition, A History of the Development of Doctrine: 1 The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) pp.321-322, 325-326)

Pope St. Clement of Rome fl. ca. 80-102

Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. (Epistle to the Corinthians, 7)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ Deut. 27:26 And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practise idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God. For you did not practise piety when you slew the prophets. And let none of you say: If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognise Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours. (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Chap. 95)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

…they thus wander from the truth, because their doctrine departs from Him who is truly God, being ignorant that His only-begotten Word, who is always present with the human race, united to and mingled with His own creation, according to the Father’s pleasure, and who became flesh, is Himself Jesus Christ our Lord, who did also suffer for us, and rose again on our behalf, and who will come again in the glory of His Father, to raise up all flesh, and for the manifestation of salvation, and to apply the rule of just judgment to all who were made by Him. There is therefore, as I have pointed out, one God the Father, and one Christ Jesus, who came by means of the whole dispensational arrangements [connected with Him], and gathered together all things in Himself. Eph. 1:10 But in every respect, too, He is man, the formation of God; and thus He took up man into Himself, the invisible becoming visible, the incomprehensible being made comprehensible, the impassible becoming capable of suffering, and the Word being made man, thus summing up all things in Himself: so that as in super-celestial, spiritual, and invisible things, the Word of God is supreme, so also in things visible and corporeal He might possess the supremacy, and, taking to Himself the pre-eminence, as well as constituting Himself Head of the Church, He might draw all things to Himself at the proper time. (Against Heresies, Bk. III: 16,6)

For as by one man’s disobedience sin entered, and death obtained [a place] through sin; so also by the obedience of one man, righteousness having been introduced, shall cause life to fructify in those persons who in times past were dead. Rom. 5:19 And as the protoplast himself Adam, had his substance from untilled and as yet virgin soil (for God had not yet sent rain, and man had not tilled the ground Gen. 2:5), and was formed by the hand of God, that is, by the Word of God, for all things were made by Him, Jn. 1:3 and the Lord took dust from the earth and formed man; so did He who is the Word, recapitulating Adam in Himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling Him to gather up Adam [into Himself], from Mary, who was as yet a virgin. (ibid., Bk. III: 21,10)

In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word. Lk. 1:38 But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise they were both naked, and were not ashamed, Gen. 2:25 inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race…And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith. (ibid., Bk. III: 22,4)

Tertullian of Carthage ca. 160-220

Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection. 1 Cor. 15:21 Here in the word man, who consists of bodily substance, as we have often shown already, is presented to me the body of Christ. But if we are all so made alive in Christ, as we die in Adam, it follows of necessity that we are made alive in Christ as a bodily substance, since we died in Adam as a bodily substance. The similarity, indeed, is not complete, unless our revival in Christ concur in identity of substance with our mortality in Adam.(Against Marcion, Bk. V, IX)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

Well, as the Word shows His compassion and His denial of all respect of persons by all the saints, He enlightens them and adapts them to that which is advantageous for us, like a skilful physician, understanding the weakness of men. And the ignorant He loves to teach, and the erring He turns again to His own true way. And by those who live by faith He is easily found; and to those of pure eye and holy heart, who desire to knock at the door, He opens immediately. For He casts away none of His servants as unworthy of the divine mysteries. He does not esteem the rich man more highly than the poor, nor does He despise the poor man for his poverty. He does not disdain the barbarian, nor does He set the eunuch aside as no man. He does not hate the female on account of the woman’s act of disobedience in the beginning, nor does He reject the male on account of the man’s transgression. But He seeks all, and desires to save all, wishing to make all the children of God, and calling all the saints unto one perfect man. For there is also one Son (or Servant) of God, by whom we too, receiving the regeneration through the Holy Spirit, desire to come all unto one perfect and heavenly man. (Eph. 4:13) For whereas the Word of God was without flesh, He took upon Himself the holy flesh by the holy Virgin, and prepared a robe which He wove for Himself, like a bridegroom, in the sufferings of the cross, in order that by uniting His own power with our moral body, and by mixing the incorruptible with the corruptible, and the strong with the weak, He might save perishing man. (The Antichrist, 3-4)

St. Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

And our Savior, the great King, made the rebellious world to be at peace with His Father, though we were all sinners. He took away the sin of all of us and He became the messenger of reconciliation between God and His creature. Though we were all sinners and rebels, He sought for us our reconciliation with Him. (Treatises 14,11)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

For the Word, perceiving that no otherwise could the corruption of men be undone save by death as a necessary condition, while it was impossible for the Word to suffer death, being immortal, and Son of the Father; to this end He takes to Himself a body capable of death, that it, by partaking of the Word Who is above all, might be worthy to die in the stead of all, and might, because of the Word which had come to dwell in it, remain incorruptible, and that thenceforth corruption might be stayed from all by the Grace of the Resurrection. Whence, by offering unto death the body He Himself had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from any stain, straightway He put away death from all His peers by the offering of an equivalent. For being over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and corporeal instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt by His death. And thus He, the incorruptible Son of God, being conjoined with all by a like nature, naturally clothed all with incorruption, by the promise of the resurrection. For the actual corruption in death has no longer holding-ground against men, by reason of the Word, which by His one body has come to dwell among them.  And like as when a great king has entered into some large city and taken up his abode in one of the houses there, such city is at all events held worthy of high honour, nor does any enemy or bandit any longer descend upon it and subject it; but, on the contrary, it is thought entitled to all care, because of the king’s having taken up his residence in a single house there: so, too, has it been with the Monarch of all. For now that He has come to our realm, and taken up his abode in one body among His peers, henceforth the whole conspiracy of the enemy against mankind is checked, and the corruption of death which before was prevailing against them is done away. For the race of men had gone to ruin, had not the Lord and Saviour of all, the Son of God, come among us to meet the end of death. (On the Incarnation of the Word, 9)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

Mention is made of this sacrifice in another place in the Psalms: “A victim and an oblation you did not desire, but you have perfected a body for me”; that is, by offering to God the Father, who refused the sacrifices of the Law, the pleasing victim of the body which had been received. The blessed Apostle makes mention thus of this sacrifice: “For this He did all in a single time, offering Himelf to God as a victim,” thereby redeeming the total salvation of the human race by the sacrifice of this holy and perfect victim. (Commentaries on the Psalms, On Ps. 53 [54])

Pope St. Damasus ca. 305-384

If anyone does not say that there are three Persons of Father, and of Son, and of the Holy Spirit, equal, always living, embracing all things visible and invisible, ruling all, judging all, giving life to all, making all, and saving all: he is a heretic. (The Tome of Damasus, 21)

St. Methodius of Olympus + 311

Now, since He truly was and is, being in the beginning with God, and being God, Jn. 1:1 He is the chief Commander and Shepherd of the heavenly ones, whom all reasonable creatures obey and attend, who tends in order and numbers the multitudes of the blessed angels. For this is the equal and perfect number of immortal creatures, divided according to their races and tribes, man also being here taken into the flock. For be also was created without corruption, that he might honour the king and maker of all things, responding to the shouts of the melodious angels which came from heaven. But when it came to pass that, by transgressing the commandment (of God), he suffered a terrible and destructive fall, being thus reduced to a state of death, for this reason the Lord says that He came from heaven into (a human) life, leaving the ranks and the armies of angels. For the mountains are to be explained by the heavens, and the ninety and nine sheep by the principalities and powers which the Captain and Shepherd left when He went down to seek the lost one. For it remained that man should be included in this catalogue and number, the Lord lifting him up and wrapping him round, that he might not again, as I said, be overflowed and swallowed up by the waves of deceit. For with this purpose the Word assumed the nature of man, that, having overcome the serpent, He might by Himself destroy the condemnation which had come into being along with man’s ruin. For it was fitting that the Evil One should be overcome by no other, but by him whom he had deceived, and whom he was boasting that he held in subjection, because no otherwise was it possible that sin and condemnation should be destroyed, unless that same man on whose account it had been said, Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return, Gen. 3:19 should be created anew, and undo the sentence which for his sake had gone forth on all, that as in Adam at first all die, even so again in Christ, who assumed the nature and position of Adam, should all be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:22 (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins or On Charity: Discourse 3.6)

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

From men like ourselves there is no hope of salvation. For no one of all the men who come from Adam is able to effect our salvation… In His coming, therefore, the Lord took flesh from our flesh, and God the Word became a man like us, so that in His divinity He might give us salvation, and that in His humanity He might suffer for the sake of us men, doing away with suffering by His suffering and by his own death putting death to death…In Him the suffering of the flesh is attributed to the divinity, which really cannot suffer at all, so that the world will not place its hope in man, but in the Lordly man, since divinity itself undertakes to attribute the sufferings to Itself. (The Man Well-Anchored, 93)

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

These names however are still common to Him Who is above us, and to Him Who came for our sake. But others are peculiarly our own, and belong to that nature which He assumed. So He is called Man, not only that through His Body He may be apprehended by embodied creatures, whereas otherwise this would be impossible because of His incomprehensible nature; but also that by Himself He may sanctify humanity, and be as it were a leaven to the whole lump; and by uniting to Himself that which was condemned may release it from all condemnation, becoming for all men all things that we are, except sin;-body, soul, mind and all through which death reaches-and thus He became Man, who is the combination of all these; God in visible form, because He retained that which is perceived by mind alone. (Oration 30, 21: The Fourth Theological Oration)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Simeon prophecies also of Mary herself that, standing beneath the cross seeing what was happening and hearing His words, even after the testimony of Gabriel, even after her secret knowledge of the divine conception, and after the great showing of miracles, she too, he says, will experience a certain unsteadiness in her soul. For the Lord must taste death for the sake of all; and to become a propitiation for the world, He must justify all men in His blood. “Some doubt, therfore, will touch even you yourself, who have been taught from above about the Lord.” That is the sword. (Letter 260: Epistle to Optimus, 9)

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

“But why is it,” they ask, “that all men do not obtain the grace, but that, while some adhere to the Word, the portion who remain unbelieving is no small one; either because God was unwilling to bestow his benefit ungrudgingly upon all, or because He was altogether unable to do so?” Now neither of these alternatives can defy criticism. For it is unworthy of God, either that He should not will what is good, or that He should be unable to do it. “If, therefore, the Faith is a good thing, why,” they ask, “does not its grace come upon all men?” Now, if in our representation of the Gospel mystery we had so stated the matter as that it was the Divine will that the Faith should be so granted away amongst mankind that some men should be called, while the rest had no share in the calling, occasion would be given for bringing such a charge against this Revelation. But if the call came with equal meaning to all and makes no distinction as to worth, age, or different national characteristics (for it was for this reason that at the very first beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel they who ministered the Word were, by Divine inspiration, all at once enabled to speak in the language of any nation, viz. in order that no one might be destitute of a share in the blessings of evangelical instruction), with what reasonableness can they still charge it upon God that the Word has not influenced all mankind? For He Who holds the sovereignty of the universe, out of the excess of this regard for man, permitted something to be under our own control, of which each of us alone is master. Now this is the will, a thing that cannot be enslaved, and of self-determining power, since it is seated in the liberty of thought and mind. Therefore such a charge might more justly be transferred to those who have not attached themselves to the Faith, instead of resting on Him Who has called them to believe. For even when Peter at the beginning preached the Gospel in a crowded assembly of the Jews, and three thousand at once received the Faith, though those who disbelieved were more in number than the believers, they did not attach blame to the Apostle on the ground of their disbelief. It was, indeed, not in reason, when the grace of the Gospel had been publicly set forth, for one who had absented himself from it of his own accord to lay the blame of his exclusion on another rather than himself. (The Great Catechism, Chap. 30)

Since, then, there was needed a lifting up from death for the whole of our nature, He stretches forth a hand as it were to prostrate man, and stooping down to our dead corpse He came so far within the grasp of death as to touch a state of deadness, and then in His own body to bestow on our nature the principle of the resurrection, raising as He did by His power along with Himself the whole man. For since from no other source than from the concrete lump of our nature had come that flesh, which was the receptacle of the Godhead and in the resurrection was raised up together with that Godhead, therefore just in the same way as, in the instance of this body of ours, the operation of one of the organs of sense is felt at once by the whole system, as one with that member, so also the resurrection principle of this Member, as though the whole of mankind was a single living being, passes through the entire race, being imparted from the Member to the whole by virtue of the continuity and oneness of the nature. (ibid., Chap. 32)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 337-397

He saw that sufferers could not be saved without a remedy and for that reason He brought medicine to the ill, He brought strength and health to all, so that whoever should perish must ascribe to himself the causes of his own death, since such a one did not want to be cured although he had the remedy by which death could have been evaded. The clear mercy of Christ, however, is preached in every instance: by the fact that those who perish do perish by their own negligence, while those who are saved are made free by Christ’s purpose, “who wills all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (De Cain et Abel: 2. 3,11)

The earth, therefore, is full of the mercy of the Lord; for the forgiveness of sins is given to all. The sun is commanded to rise over all; and indeed, this sun does in fact rise daily over all. The mystic Sun of Justice, however, has risen for all, comes to all, suffers for all and rose again for all. He suffered so that He might take away the sin of the world. If, however, anyone does not believe in Christ, he but cheats himself of this general benefit. (Commentary on Psalm 118: 8,57)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

In whom also we have been called by lot, predestined according to the plan of Him that works all things according to the counsel of His will… (Eph. 1:11) Let it be noted that this προορισμος and προθεσις , that is, predestination and plan, are taken together as that in reference to which God works all things according to counsel of His will. Not that all things that come to pass in the world are brought about by the will and counsel of God, for that were to impute evil to God; but that all things that He does in His counsel He does also in His will, so that they are done with the full reason and by the power of the one doing them…He desires all men to be saved and to come to an ackowledgement of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) But because no one is saved without his own willing it (for we have free choice), He wants us to desire the good, so that, when we have willed it, then He too will Himself will that His counsel be fulfilled in us. (Commentaries on the Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1,11)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Ver. 3. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.

What is said to be acceptable? The praying for all men. This God accepts, this He wills.

Ver. 4. Who wills that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Imitate God! If He wills that all men should be saved, there is reason why one should pray for all, if He has willed that all should be saved, be thou willing also; and if you wish it, pray for it, for wishes lead to prayers. Observe how from every quarter He urges this upon the soul, to pray for the Heathen, showing how great advantage springs from it; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life; and what is much more than this, that it is pleasing to God, and thus men become like Him, in that they will the same that He does. This is enough to shame a very brute. Fear not therefore to pray for the Gentiles, for God Himself wills it; but fear only to pray against any, for that He wills not. And if you pray for the Heathens, you ought of course to pray for Heretics also, for we are to pray for all men, and not to persecute. And this is good also for another reason, as we are partakers of the same nature, and God commands and accepts benevolence and affection towards one another.

But if the Lord Himself wills to give, you say, what need of my prayer? It is of great benefit both to them and to yourself. It draws them to love, and it inclines you to humanity. It has the power of attracting others to the faith; (for many men have fallen away from God, from contentiousness towards one another;) and this is what he now calls the salvation of God, who will have all men to be saved; without this all other is nothing great, a mere nominal salvation, and only in words. And to come to the knowledge of the truth. The truth: what truth? Faith in Him. And indeed he had previously said, Charge some that they teach no other doctrine. But that no one may consider such as enemies, and on that account raise troubles against them; he says that He wills that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth… (Homily 7 on First Timothy)

Theodore of Mopsuestia ca. 350-428

He is neither God alone nor man alone; rather, He is truly both by nature, that is to say, God and Man: the Word, the one assuming, and the Man, the one assumed…The one assuming is the divine nature, which does everything for us; and the other [the one assumed], is the human nature, which was assumed on behalf of all of us, and is untied to [the divine nature] in an indescribable union which will never be severed… (Catechetical Homilies, 8)

Ambrosiaster ca. 4th  cent.

God “wills all men to be saved”; but that is if they come to Him. For He does not will that they be saved who do not want to be saved. He wills that they be saved if they themselves also will it. Thus, He that gave the law to all excludes no one from salvation. Similarly, does not a physician make it publicly known that he desires to cure everyone, so that the sick will come to him? It would not truly be salvation if it were given to someone who did not want it. (Commentaries on the Thirteen Pauline Epistles, 1 Tim. 2:4)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

As many kinds of fish fall into a net and the least useful ones immediately are tossed back into the sea, so also the net of grace spread over all men and seeks tranquility. But men do not surrender and for this reason they are thrown back again into the same depths of darkness. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.52)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Even if in Christ the law of sin was not set in motion, it is because of its having been quieted by the power and operation of the incarnate Word; but if the nature of the flesh be considered in itself, that which is in Christ is not something different from that which is found in us. We, therefore, were crucified with Him when His flesh was crucified, because the whole nature was somehow contained in Him, just as in Adam, of course, when he fell under the curse, the whole nature fell ill of the curse. (Commentary on Romans 6:6. Pusey, pg. 192)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

Again, whoever says that God does not will all men to be saved, but only the certain number of the predestined, is saying a harsher thing than ought to be said of the inscrutable depth of the grace of God, who both wills that all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), and fulfills the proposal of His will in those whom, when He foreknew them, He predestined, when he predestined them, He called, when He called them, He justified, and, when He justifed them, He glorified (Rom. 8:30)…And thus, those who are saved are saved because God willed them to be saved, and those who perish do perish because they deserve to perish. (Sent. super Cap. 8)

The true and powerful and only remedy against the wound of original sin, by which sin in Adam the nature of all men has been corrupted and has been given a death blow, and whence the disease of concupiscence takes firm hold, is the death of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was free of debt and alone was without sin, died for sins and debtors to death. in view of the magnitude and potency of the price, and because it pertains to the universal condition of the human race, the blood of Christ is the redemption of the whole world. (Responses on Behalf of Augustine to the Articles of Objections Raised by the Vincentianists, 1)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

To that end He assumed sinful human nature and justified that nature by His own deeds. He set it free from the bitter tyrants, Sin and Devil and Death, and deemed it worthy of heavenly thrones, and through that which he assumed He gave to all the race a share in liberty. (The Theology of the Trinity and the Divine Incarnation. Migne, PG 75, col. 1448)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

The righteous have received, not given, crowns: and from the endurance of the faithful have arisen examples of patience, not the gift of justification. For their deaths affected themselves alone, and no one has paid off another’s debt by his own death : one alone among the sons of men, our Lord Jesus Christ, stands out as One in whom all are crucified, all dead, all buried, all raised again. Of them He Himself said when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw all (things) unto Me. True faith also, that justifies the transgressors and makes them just, is drawn to Him who shared their human natures and wins salvation in Him, in whom alone man finds himself not guilty; and thus is free to glory in the power of Him who in the humiliation of our flesh engaged in conflict with the haughty foe, and shared His victory with those in whose body He had triumphed. (Letter 124.4)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Perfect love does not split up the one nature of men on the basis of their various dispositions but ever looking steadfastly at it, it loves all men equally, those who are zealous as friends, those who are negligent as enemies. It is good to them and forebearing and puts up with what they do. It does not think evil at all but rather suffers for them, if occasion requires, in order that it may make them friends if possible. If not, it does not fall away from its own intentions as it ever manifests the fruits of love equally for all men. In this way also our Lord and God Jesus Christ, suffered for all mankind and granted all equally the hope of resurrection, though each one renders himself worthy either of glory or of punishment. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, First Century: 72)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

It is needful to remember that God wills beforehand that all should be saved and come into His kingdom. Because He is a good God it was not for punishment that He shaped us, but to participate in His goodness. But because He is a just God, He wills that sinners are to be punished. The first, then, which is from God Himself, is called His antecedent will and good pleasure while the second, having its origin in us, is called His consequent will and permission…But of actions which are in our hands, the good ones He wills antecedently and in His good pleasure; but the evil ones and the really wicked He neither wills antecedently nor consequently; but He permits them in the exercise of free will. (The Fount of Knowledge 3,2,9)

Council of Quiercy 853 a.d.

Christ Jesus our Lord, as no man who is or has been or ever will be whose nature will not have been assumed in Him, so there is, has been, or will be no man, for whom He has not suffered- although not all will be saved by the mystery of His passion. (Denzinger, 319)

On Predestination

Josephus ca. 30-100
At this time there were three sects among the Jews, who had different opinions concerning human actions; the one was called the sect of the Pharisees, another the sect of the Sadducees, and the other the sect of the Essenes. Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate.  But the sect of the Essenes affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination. And for the Sadducees, they take away fate, and say there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the cause of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly.  However, I have given a more exact account of these opinions in the second book of the Jewish War. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13.5.9)

Now, for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason; and what that prescribes to them as good for them, they do; and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason’s dictates for practice.  They also pay a respect to such as are in years; nor are they so bold as to contradict them in anything which they have introduced; and, when they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of men can act virtuously or viciously. They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; on account of which doctrines, they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever they do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction; insomuch that the cities gave great attestations to them on account of their entire virtuous conduct, both in the actions of their lives and their discourses also. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18.1.3)

Philip Schaff 1819-1893

The Greek, and particularly the Alexandrian fathers, in opposition to the dualism and fatalism of the Gnostic systems, which made evil a necessity of nature, laid great stress upon human freedom, and upon the indispensable cooperation of this freedom with divine grace; while the Latin fathers, especially Tertullian and Cyprian, Hilary and Ambrose, guided rather by their practical experience than by speculative principles, emphasized the hereditary sin and hereditary guilt of man, and the sovereignty of God’s grace, without, however, denying freedom and individual accountability.  The Greek church adhered to her undeveloped synergism, which coordinates the human will and divine grace as factors in the work of conversion; the Latin church, under the influence of Augustine, advanced to the system of a divine monergism, which gives God all the glory, and makes freedom itself a result of grace; while Pelagianism, on the contrary, represented the principle of a human monergism, which ascribes the chief merit of conversion to man, and reduces grace to a mere external auxiliary. After Augustine’s death, however the intermediate system of Semi-Pelagianism, akin to the Greek synergism, became prevalent in the West. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Vol III, Chapter 9, sec 146. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Co.1867, reprinted)

Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov 1802-1866

When the monks of Adumetum presented to Augustine that, according to his teaching, the obligation of asceticism and self-mortification was not required of them, Augustine felt the justice of the remark. He began more often to repeat that grace does not destroy freedom; but such an expression of his teaching changed essentially nothing in Augustine’s theory, and his very last works were not in accord with his thought. Relying on his own experience of a difficult rebirth by means of grace, he was carried a long by a feeling of its further consequences….In defending the truth, he himself was not always faithful to the truth. Therefore it is not surprising that in the Eastern Church the teaching of Augustine on grace was not received with such a lively participation as it was in the west. The Ecumenical Synod of Ephesus (451) properly confirmed the condemnation of Pelagius’ teaching, but concerning the teaching of Augustine it said not a word. (Historical Teaching of the Fathers of the Church [Saint Petersburg, 1882], v.3, pp. 33, 34)

J.N.D. Kelly 1909-1997

A point on which they (the Eastern Fathers) were all agreed was that man’s will remains free; we are responsible for our acts. This was a vital article in their anti-Manichaean propaganda, but it raised the question of man’s need of divine grace. This issue is usually posed in the terms which the later Augustinian discussion is made familiar, and so viewed their postion was that grace and free will co-operate. Our salvation comes, stated Gregory Nazianzen, both from ourselves and from God. If God’s help is necessary for doing good and if the good will itself comes from Him, it is equally true that the initiative rests with with man’s free will.

Although we have only cited these two (Ambrose and Ambrosiaster), there is little doubt that their views were representative (of the Western Fathers). On the related question of grace, the parallel truths of man’s free will and his need of God’s help were maintained, although we can discern increasing emphasis being laid on the latter. ‘We must be and directed’, wrote Hilary, ‘by His grace’; but he makes it plain the initial move in God’s direction lies at our own dispostion. God’s mercy, he points out elsewhere, does not exclude man’s desert, and a man’s own will must take the lead in lifting him from sin. ‘It is for God to call’, remarks Jerome, ‘and for us to believe’. The part of grace, it would seem, is to perfect that which the will has freely determined; yet our will is only ours by God’s mercy. (Early Christian Doctrines pp. 352,356)

Henry Chadwick 1920-2008

It was the intense stress on the absolute necessity of a redeemer from the divine realm which led the Gnostics to place the natural order at so vast a distance in moral value from the supreme God. The influence of fatalistic ideas drawn from popular astrology and magic became fused with notions derived from Pauline language about predestination to produce a rigidly deterministic scheme. Redemption was from destiny, not from the consequences of responsible action, and was granted to a pre-determined elect in whom alone was the divine spark. Valentinus modified the division of humanity into light and darkness by alowing the existence of some grey twilight in between the two extremes. He took a lead from St. Paul’s phrase (1 Thess. v.23) that we consist of spirit, soul, and body, and applied the three-fold division both to humanity and to the entire cosmos. The gnostic initiates were people of the spirit, the elect, whose salvation was certain and indefectible. Ordinary church members, with faith but not ‘knowledge’, were only of psyche while the heathen were merely earthly clods without the dimmest glimmer of light or the faintest ray of hope of salvation. Valentinus allowed his followers to entertain hopes that some moderate degree of twilight happiness hereafter might be granted to those of psyche. But the three classes were determined from eternity. The natural person was constitutionally incapable of discerning the higher things of the spirit. A further consequence of Gnostic devaluation of the created order was the depreciation of the Old Testament. This was greatly accentuated by a thorough exploitation of the Pauline antithesis of law and gospel. (The Early Church, pg. 38)

Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006

Simon Magus was accused of teaching that those who were to be saved would receive salvation by grace alone, irrespective of their moral actions, so that moral responsiblity was meaningless. So far did this determinism go that the “aspect of the cosmos in which to the Gnostics its character was pre-eminently revealed is the

heimarmene, that is, universal fate.” In one way or another, the various schools of Gnosticism depicted man as the victim and slave of forces over which he had no control, and therefore they diagnosed sin as inevitable.

(The Christian Tradition, A History of the Development of Doctrine: 1 The Emergence of Catholic Tradition 100-600. Chap 6 Nature and Grace, pg. 283)

St. Justin Martyr ca. 100-165

But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made. (First Apology, Chapter XLIII [complete]; ANF, Vol. I)

Mathetes ca. 130

He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things— by whom He made the heavens— by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds— whose ordinances all the stars faithfully observe— from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed — whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject— the heavens and the things that are therein, the earth and the things that are therein, the sea and the things that are therein— fire, air, and the abyss— the things which are in the heights, the things which are in the depths, and the things which lie between. This [messenger] He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing?(Letter to Diognetus Chap. VII)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Now the followers of Basilides regard faith as natural, as they also refer it to choice, representing it as finding ideas by intellectual comprehension without demonstration; while the followers of Valentinus assign faith to us, the simple, but will have it that knowledge springs up in their own selves, who are savd by nature through the advantage of a germ of superior excellence, saying that it is as far removed from faith as the spiritual is from the animal. Further, the followers of Basilides say that faith as well as choice is proper according to every interval; and that in consequence of the supramundane selection mundane faith accompanies all nature, and that the free gift of faith is comformable to the hope of each. Faith, then, is no longer the result of free choice, if it is a natural advantage. (Stromata, II, III)

Valentinian, in a homily, writes in these words: “Ye are originally immortal, and children of eternal life, and ye would have death distributed to you, that ye may spend and lavish it, and that death may die in you and by you; for when we dissolve the world, and are not yourselves dissolved, ye have dominion over creation and all corruption.” For he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature, and that this different race has come hither to us from above for the abolition of death, and that the origin of death is the work of the Creator of the world. (Stromata, IV, XIII)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Cain and Abel, and Seth, who were in a certain sense the sources of the human race, become the fountain-heads of just as many qualities of nature and essential character. The material nature, which had become reprobate for salvation, they assign to Cain; the animal nature, which was poised between divergent hopes, they find in Abel; the spiritual, preordained for certain salvation, they store up in Seth.In this way also they make a twofold distinction among souls, as to their property of good and evil— according to the material condition derived from Cain, or the animal from Abel. Men’s spiritual state they derive over and above the other conditions, from Seth adventitiously, not in the way of nature, but of grace, in such wise that Achamoth infuses it among superior beings like rain into good souls, that is, those who are enrolled in the animal class. Whereas the material class— in other words, those souls which are bad souls they say, never receive the blessings of salvation, for that nature they have pronounced to be incapable of any change or reform in its natural condition. This grain, then, of spiritual seed is modest and very small when cast from her hand, but under her instruction increases and advances into full conviction, as we have already said; and the souls, on this very account, so much excelled all others, that the Demiurge, even then in his ignorance, held them in great esteem. For it was from their list that he had been accustomed to select men for kings and for priests; and these even now, if they have once attained to a full and complete knowledge of these foolish conceits of theirs, since they are already naturalized in the fraternal bond of the spiritual state, will obtain a sure salvation, nay, one which is on all accounts their due. For this reason it is that they neither regard works as necessary for themselves, nor do they observe any of the calls of duty, eluding even the necessity of martyrdom on any pretence which may suit their pleasure. (Against the Valentinians, XXIX-XXX)

St. Melito of Sardis died ca. 180

There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil manner of life, because you are a free man. (David Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs p. 286).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will (toward us) is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves…

If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give counsel to do some things and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free-will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free-will in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God. (Against Heresies XXXVII)

For He who makes the chaff and He who makes the wheat are not different persons, but one and the same, who judges them, that is, separates them. But the wheat and the chaff, being inanimate and irrational, have been made such by nature. But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect like to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself the cause to himself, that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff. Wherefore also he shall be justly condemned because, having been created a rational being, he lost the true rationality, and living irrationally, opposed the righteousness of God, serving all lusts; as says the prophet, “Man, being in honor, did not understand: he was assimilated to senseless beasts, and made like to them.” (Against Heresies, book 4, chapter 4, 3)


Theophilus of Antioch ca. 2nd century

But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption. (To Autolycus XXVII)

Athenagoras of Athens ca. 133-190

For this is the office of the angels,—to exercise providence for God over the things created and ordered by Him; so that God may have the universal and general providence of the whole, while the particular parts are provided for by the angels appointed over them.Just as with men, who have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice (for you would not either honour the good or punish the bad, unless vice and virtue were in their own power; and some are diligent in the matters entrusted to them by you, and others faithless), so is it among the angels. Some, free agents, you will observe, such as they were created by God, continued in those things for which God had made and over which He had ordained them; but some outraged both the constitution of their nature and the government entrusted to them: namely, this ruler of matter and its various forms, and others of those who were placed about this first firmament (you know that we say nothing without witnesses, but state the things which have been declared by the prophets); these fell into impure love of virgins, and were subjugated by the flesh, and he became negligent and wicked in the management of the things entrusted to him. (A Plea for Christians, Chap. XXIV)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

Such is our faith, O all ye men,–ours, I say, who are not persuaded by empty expressions, nor caught away by sudden impulses of the heart, nor beguiled by the plausibility of eloquent discourses, yet who do not refuse to obey words that have been uttered by divine power. And these injunctions has God given to the Word. But the Word, by declaring them, promulgated the divine commandments, thereby turning man from disobedience, not bringing him into servitude by force of necessity, but summoning him to liberty through a choice involving spontaneity. (Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. X, Chap. 29)

Origen of Alexandria ca.185-254

Let us begin, then, with those words which were spoken to Pharaoh, who is said to have been hardened by God, in order that he might not let the people go; and, along with his case, the language of the apostle also will be considered, where he says, Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. For it is on these passages chiefly that the heretics rely, asserting that salvation is not in our own power, but that souls are of such a nature as must by all means be either lost or saved; and that in no way can a soul which is of an evil nature become good, or one which is of a virtuous nature be made bad. (De Principiis Book III, Chapter I: On the Freedom of the Will VIII)

St. Cyprian of Carthage d. 258

52. That the liberty of believing or of not believing is placed in free choice.

In Deuteronomy: “Lo, I have set before thy face life and death, good and evil. Choose for thyself life, that thou mayest live.”Also in Isaiah:  “And if ye be willing, and hear me, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye be unwilling, and will not hear me, the sword shall consume you. For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things.”Also in the Gospel according to Luke: “The kingdom of God is within you”. (Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, Book III)

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356

Wherefore having already begun and set out in the way of virtue, let us strive the more that we may attain those things that are before. And let no one turn to the things behind, like Lot’s wife, all the more so that the Lord has said, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and turning back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven. And this turning back is nought else but to feel regret, and to be once more worldly-minded. But fear not to hear of virtue, nor be astonished at the name. For it is not far from us, nor is it without ourselves, but it is within us, and is easy if only we are willing. That they may get knowledge, the Greeks live abroad and cross the sea, but we have no need to depart from home for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue. For the Lord aforetime has said, The kingdom of heaven is within you . Wherefore virtue has need at our hands of willingness alone, since it is in us and is formed from us. For when the soul has its spiritual faculty in a natural state virtue is formed. And it is in a natural state when it remains as it came into existence. And when it came into existence it was fair and exceeding honest. For this cause Joshua, the son of Nun, in his exhortation said to the people, Make straight your heart unto the Lord God of Israel Josh. 24:23, and John, Make your paths straight Matt. 3:3 . For rectitude of soul consists in its having its spiritual part in its natural state as created. But on the other hand, when it swerves and turns away from its natural state, that is called vice of the soul. Thus the matter is not difficult. If we abide as we have been made, we are in a state of virtue, but if we think of ignoble things we shall be accounted evil. If, therefore, this thing had to be acquired from without, it would be difficult in reality; but if it is in us, let us keep ourselves from foul thoughts. And as we have received the soul as a deposit, let us preserve it for the Lord, that He may recognise His work as being the same as He made it. (St. Athanasius, The Life of St. Anthony Chap. XX)

St. Methodius of Olympus ca.260-311

Now those who decide that man is not possessed of free-will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate, and her unwritten commands, are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. But God is the cause of injury to no one; therefore fate is not the cause of all things. Whoever has the least intelligence will confess that God is good, righteous, wise, true, helpful, not the cause of evils, free from passion and everything of that kind. And if the righteous be better than the unrighteous, and unrighteousness be abominable to them, God, being righteous, rejoices in righteousness, and unrighteousness is hateful to Him, being opposed and hstile to righteousness. Therefore God is not the author of unrighteousness. (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins Discourse VIII, Chap. 16)

Archelaus ca. 277

For all creatures that God made, He made very good, and He gave to every individual the sense of free-will in accordance with which standard He also instituted the law of judgment. To sin is ours, and that we sin not is God’s gift, as our will is constituted to choose either to sin or not to sin. (The Acts of the Disputation with Manes)

St. Alexander of Alexandria died ca. 328

From a letter of St. Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, to Aeglon, bishop of Cynopolis, against the Arians.

1. Natural will is the free faculty of every intelligent nature as having nothing involuntary which is in respect of its essence. (Epistles on Arianism and the Deposition of Arius, 4)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

For having departed from the consideration of the one and the true, namely, God, and from desire of Him, they had thenceforward embarked in various lusts and in those of the several bodily senses. Next, as is apt to happen, having formed a desire for each and sundry, they began to be habituated to these desires, so that they were even afraid to leave them: whence the soul became subject to cowardice and alarms, and pleasures and thoughts of mortality. For not being willing to leave her lusts, she fears death and her separation from the body. But again, from lusting, and not meeting with gratification, she learned to commit murder and wrong. We are then led naturally to show, as best we can, how she does this.

Having departed from the contemplation of the things of thought, and using to the full the several activities of the body, and being pleased with the contemplation of the body, and seeing that pleasure is good for her, she was misled and abused the name of good, and thought that pleasure was the very essence of good: just as though a man out of his mind and asking for a sword to use against all he met, were to think that soundness of mind. But having fallen in love with pleasure, she began to work it out in various ways. For being by nature mobile, even though she have turned away from what is good, yet she does not lose her mobility. She moves then, no longer according to virtue or so as to see God, but imagining false things, she makes a novel use of her power, abusing it as a means to the pleasures she has devised, since she is after all made with power over herself. For she is able, as on the one hand to incline to what is good, so on the other to reject it; but in rejecting the good she of course entertains the thought of what is opposed to it, for she cannot at all cease from movement, being, as I said before, mobile by nature. And knowing her own power over herself, she sees that she is able to use the members of her body in either direction, both toward what is, or toward what is not. But good is, while evil is not; by what is, then, I mean what is good, inasmuch as it has its pattern in God Who is. But by what is not I mean what is evil, in so far as it consists in a false imagination in the thoughts of men. For though the body has eyes so as to see Creation, and by its entirely harmonious construction to recognise the Creator; and ears to listen to the divine oracles and the laws of God; and hands both to perform works of necessity and to raise to God in prayer; yet the soul, departing from the contemplation of what is good and from moving in its sphere, wanders away and moves toward its contraries. Then seeing, as I said before, and abusing her power, she has perceived that she can move the members of the body also in an opposite way: and so, instead of beholding the Creation, she turns the eye to lusts, showing that she has this power too; and thinking that by the mere fact of moving she is maintaining her own dignity, and is doing no sin in doing as she pleases; not knowing that she is made not merely to move, but to move in the right direction. For this is why an apostolic utterance assures us All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient 1 Corinthians 10:23.(Against the Heathen, Part 1.3-4)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 312-386

Next to the knowledge of this venerable and glorious and all-holy Faith, learn further what you yourself art: that as man you are of a two-fold nature, consisting of soul and body; and that, as was said a short time ago, the same God is the Creator both of soul and body. Know also that you have a soul self-governed, the noblest work of God, made after the image of its Creator : immortal because of God that gives it immortality; a living being, rational, imperishable, because of Him that bestowed these gifts: having free power to do what it wills. For it is not according to your nativity that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication, nor, as some idly talk, do the conjunctions of the stars compel you to give yourself to wantonness. Why do you shrink from confessing your own evil deeds, and ascribe the blame to the innocent stars? Give no more heed, pray, to astrologers; for of these the divine Scripture says, Let the stargazers of the heaven stand up and save you, and what follows: Behold, they all shall be consumed as stubble on the fire, and shall not deliver their soul from the flame Isa. 47:13.

And learn this also, that the soul, before it came into this world, had committed no sin, but having come in sinless, we now sin of our free-will. Listen not, I pray you, to any one perversely interpreting the words, But if I do that which I would not Rom. 7:16: but remember Him who says, If you be willing, and hearken unto Me, you shall eat the good things of the land: but if you be not willing, neither hearken unto Me, the sword shall devour you, etc. Isa. 1:19-20: and again, As you presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification. Rom. 6:19 Remember also the Scripture, which says, Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge Rom. 1:28: and, That which may be known of God is manifest in them Rom. 1:19; and again, their eyes they have closed. Matt. 13:15 Also remember how God again accuses them, and says, Yet I planted you a fruitful vine, wholly true: how are you turned to bitterness, thou the strange vine Jer. 2:21?

The soul is immortal, and all souls are alike both of men and women; for only the members of the body are distinguished. There is not a class of souls sinning by nature, and a class of souls practising righteousness by nature : but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only, and alike in all. I know, however, that I am talking much, and that the time is already long: but what is more precious than salvation? Are you not willing to take trouble in getting provisions for the way against the heretics? And will you not learn the bye-paths of the road, lest from ignorance thou fall down a precipice? If your teachers think it no small gain for you to learn these things, should not thou the learner gladly receive the multitude of things told you?

The soul is self-governed: and though the devil can suggest, he has not the power to compel against the will. He pictures to you the thought of fornication: if you will, you accept it; if you will not, you reject. For if you were a fornicator by necessity, then for what cause did God prepare hell? If you were a doer of righteousness by nature and not by will, wherefore did God prepare crowns of ineffable glory? The sheep is gentle, but never was it crowned for its gentleness: since its gentle quality belongs to it not from choice but by nature. (Catechetical Lectures IV)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 300-379

If the origin of our virtues and of our vices is not in ourselves, but is the fatal consequence of our birth, it is useless for legislators to prescribe for us what we ought to do, and what we ought to avoid; it is useless for judges to honour virtue and to punish vice. The guilt is not in the robber, not in the assassin: it was willed for him; it was impossible for him to hold back his hand, urged to evil by inevitable necessity. Those who laboriously cultivate the arts are the maddest of men. The labourer will make an abundant harvest without sowing seed and without sharpening his sickle. Whether he wishes it or not, the merchant will make his fortune, and will be flooded with riches by fate. As for us Christians, we shall see our great hopes vanish, since from the moment that man does not act with freedom, there is neither reward for justice, nor punishment for sin. Under the reign of necessity and of fatality there is no place for merit, the first condition of all righteous judgment. But let us stop. You who are sound in yourselves have no need to hear more, and time does not allow us to make attacks without limit against these unhappy men. (Hexaemeron – Homily VI, Chap VII)

St. Ephrem of Syria ca. 306-373

The Just One did not wish to give Adam the crown quite free, even though He had allowed him to enjoy Paradise without toil; God knew that Adam if wanted he could win the prize. The Just One ardently wished to enhance him, for, although the rank of supernal beings is great through grace, the crown for the proper use of free will, is by no means paltry. (Hymns on Paradise, Chap. XII.XVII)

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

For they assert that God, if He had been so pleased, might have forcibly drawn those, who were not inclined to yield, to accept the Gospel message. But where then would have been their free will? Where their virtuous merit? Where their meed of praise from their moral directors? It belongs only to inanimate or irrational creatures to be brought round by the will of another to his purpose; whereas the reasoning and intelligent nature, if it lays aside its freedom of action, loses at the same time the gracious gift of intellect. For upon what is he to employ any faculty of thought, if his power of choosing anything according to his inclination lies in the will of another? But then, if the will remains without the capacity of action, virtue necessarily disappears, since it is shackled by the enforced quiescence of the will. Then, if virtue does not exist, life loses its value, reason moves in accordance with fatalism, the praise of moral guardians is gone, sin may be indulged in without risk, and the difference between the courses of life is obliterated. For who, henceforth, could with any reason condemn profligacy, or praise sobriety? Since every one would have this ready answer, that nothing of all the things we are inclined to is in our own power, but that by some superior and ruling influence the wills of men are brought round to the purpose of one who has the mastery over them. The conclusion, then is that it is not the goodness of God that is chargeable with the fact that the Faith is not engendered in all men, but rather the disposition of those by whom the preaching of the Word is received. (The Great Catechism, Chap. 31)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397

In everything the Lord’s power cooperates with man’s efforts. (Expos. ev. Luc. 2, 84, in Kelly pg. 356)

St. Jerome ca. 347-420

It is in vain that you misrepresent me and try to convince the ignorant that I condemn free-will. Let him who condemns it be himself condemned. We have been created endowed with free-will; still it is not this which distinguishes us from the brutes. For human free-will, as I said, depends upon the help of God and needs His aid moment by moment, a thing which you and yours do not choose to admit. Your position is that once a man has free-will he no longer needs the help of God. It is true that freedom of the will brings with it freedom of decision. Still man does not act immediately on his free-will but requires God’s aid who Himself needs no aid. (Letters CXXXIII)

But when we are concerned with grace and mercy, free-will is in part void; in part, I say, for so much depends upon it, that we wish and desire, and give assent to the course we choose. But it depends on God whether we have the power in His strength and with His help to perform what we desire, and to bring to effect our toil and effort. (Against the Pelagians Book III, 10)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407

John 6:44 No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw Him.

The Manichæans spring upon these words, saying, that nothing lies in our own power; yet the expression shows that we are masters of our will. For if a man comes to Him, says some one, what need is there of drawing? But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implies not an unwilling comer, but one enjoying much succor. Then He shows also the manner in which He draws; for that men may not, again, form any material idea of God, He adds,

John 6:46 Not that any man has seen God, save He which is of God, He has seen the Father.

How then, says some one, does the Father draw? This the Prophet explained of old, when he proclaimed beforehand, and said,

John 6:45 They shall all be taught of God. (Isa. 54:13)

Do you see the dignity of faith, and that not of men nor by man, but by God Himself they shall learn this? And to make this assertion credible, He referred them to their prophets. If then ‘all shall be taught of God,’ how is it that some shall not believe? Because the words are spoken of the greater number. Besides, the prophecy means not absolutely all, but all that have the will. For the teacher sits ready to impart what he has to all, and pouring forth his instruction unto all. (On the Gospel of John, Homily 46)

Rom. 9:20-21 Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why have You made me thus? Hath not the potter power, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

Here it is not to do away with free-will that he says this, but to show, up to what point we ought to obey God. For in respect of calling God to account, we ought to be as little disposed to it as the clay is. For we ought to abstain not from gainsaying or questioning only, but even from speaking or thinking of it at all, and to become like that lifeless matter, which follows the potter’s hands, and lets itself be drawn about anywhere he may please. And this is the only point he applied the illustration to, not, that is, to any enunciation of the rule of life, but to the complete obedience and silence enforced upon us. (On the Epistle to the Romans, Homily XVI)

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Since, then, with the heart man believes in Christ, which no man assuredly does against his will, and since he that is drawn seems to be as if forced against his will, how are we to solve this question, No man comes unto me, except the Father that sent me draw him?

If he is drawn, says some one, he comes unwillingly. If he comes unwillingly, then he believes not; but if he believes not, neither does he come. For we do not run to Christ on foot, but by believing; nor is it by a motion of the body, but by the inclination of the heart that we draw near to Him. This is why that woman who touched the hem of His garment touched Him more than did the crowd that pressed Him. Therefore the Lord said, Who touched me? And the disciples wondering said, The multitude throng You, and press You, and sayest Thou, Who touched me? Luke 8:45 And He repeated it, Somebody has touched me. That woman touched, the multitude pressed. What is touched, except believed? Whence also He said to that woman that wished to throw herself at His feet after His resurrection: ‘Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to the Father. John 20:17 You think me to be that alone which you see, touch me not. What is this? Thou supposest that I am that alone which I appear to you: do not thus believe; that is, touch me not for I am not yet ascended to the Father. To you I am not ascended, for thence I never departed. She touched Him not while He stood on the earth; how then could she touch Him while ascending to the Father? Thus, however, thus He willed Himself to be touched; thus He is touched by those by whom He is profitably touched, ascending to the Father, abiding with the Father, equal to the Father.

Thence also He says here, if you turn your attention to it, No man comes to me except he whom the Father shall draw. Do not think that you are drawn against your will. The mind is drawn also by love. Nor ought we to be afraid, lest perchance we be censured in regard to this evangelic word of the Holy Scriptures by men who weigh words, but are far removed from things, most of all from divine things; and lest it be said to us, How can I believe with the will if I am drawn? I say it is not enough to be drawn by the will; you are drawn even by delight. What is it to be drawn by delight? Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. There is a pleasure of the heart to which that bread of heaven is sweet. Moreover, if it was right in the poet to say, Every man is drawn by his own pleasure, — not necessity, but pleasure; not obligation, but delight—how much more boldly ought we to say that a man is drawn to Christ when he delights in the truth, when he delights in blessedness, delights in righteousness, delights in everlasting life, all which Christ is? Or is it the case that, while the senses of the body have their pleasures, the mind is left without pleasures of its own? If the mind has no pleasures of its own, how is it said, The sons of men shall trust under the cover of Your wings: they shall be well satisfied with the fullness of Your house; and You shall give them drink from the river of Your pleasure. For with You is the fountain of life; and in Your light shall we see light? Give me a man that loves, and he feels what I say. Give me one that longs, one that hungers, one that is travelling in this wilderness, and thirsting and panting after the fountain of his eternal home; give such, and he knows what I say. But if I speak to the cold and indifferent, he knows not what I say. Such were those who murmured among themselves. He whom the Father shall draw, says He, comes unto me. (On John, Tractate 26)

Therefore, whatsoever a man suffers contrary to his own will, he ought not to attribute to the will of men, or of angels, or of any created spirit, but rather to His will who gives power to wills. It is not the case, therefore, that because God foreknew what would be in the power of our wills, there is for that reason nothing in the power of our wills. For he who foreknew this did not foreknow nothing. Moreover, if He who foreknew what would be in the power of our wills did not foreknow nothing, but something, assuredly, even though He did foreknow, there is something in the power of our wills. Therefore we are by no means compelled, either, retaining the prescience of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or, retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He is prescient of future things, which is impious. But we embrace both. We faithfully and sincerely confess both. The former, that we may believe well; the latter, that we may live well. For he lives ill who does not believe well concerning God. Wherefore, be it far from us, in order to maintain our freedom, to deny the prescience of Him by whose help we are or shall be free. Consequently, it is not in vain that laws are enacted, and that reproaches, exhortations, praises, and vituperations are had recourse to; for these also He foreknew, and they are of great avail, even as great as He foreknew that they would be of. Prayers, also, are of avail to procure those things which He foreknew that He would grant to those who offered them; and with justice have rewards been appointed for good deeds, and punishments for sins. For a man does not therefore sin because God foreknew that he would sin. Nay, it cannot be doubted but that it is the man himself who sins when he does sin, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, but that the man himself would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not. But if he shall not will to sin, even this did God foreknow. (City of God, Book V, Chapter X; NPNF 1, Vol. II)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

And so these are somehow mixed up and indiscriminately confused, so that among many persons, which depends on the other is involved in great questionings, i.e., does God have compassion upon us because we have shown the beginning of a good will, or does the beginning of a good will follow because God has had compassion upon us? For many believing each of these and asserting them more widely than is right are entangled in all kinds of opposite errors. For if we say that the beginning of free will is in our own power, what about Paul the persecutor, what about Matthew the publican, of whom the one was drawn to salvation while eager for bloodshed and the punishment of the innocent, the other for violence and rapine? But if we say that the beginning of our free will is always due to the inspiration of the grace of God, what about the faith of Zaccheus, or what are we to say of the goodness of the thief on the cross, who by their own desires brought violence to bear on the kingdom of heaven and so prevented the special leadings of their vocation? But if we attribute the performance of virtuous acts, and the execution of God’s commands to our own will, how do we pray: Strengthen, O God, what You have wrought in us; and The work of our hands establish Thou upon us? We know that Balaam was brought to curse Israel, but we see that when he wished to curse he was not permitted to. Abimelech is preserved from touching Rebecca and so sinning against God. Joseph is sold by the envy of his brethren, in order to bring about the descent of the children of Israel into Egypt, and that while they were contemplating the death of their brother provision might be made for them against the famine to come: as Joseph shows when he makes himself known to his brethren and says: Fear not, neither let it be grievous unto you that you sold me into these parts: for for your salvation God sent me before you; and below: For God sent me before that you might be preserved upon the earth and might have food whereby to live. Not by your design was I sent but by the will of God, who has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house, and chief over all the land of Egypt. And when his brethren were alarmed after the death of his father, he removed their suspicions and terror by saying: Fear not: Can you resist the will of God? You imagined evil against me but God turned it into good, that He might exalt me, as you see at the present time, that He might save much people. And that this was brought about providentially the blessed David likewise declared saying in the hundred and fourth Psalm: And He called for a dearth upon the land: and broke all the staff of bread. He sent a man before them: Joseph was sold for a slave. These two then; viz., the grace of God and free will seem opposed to each other, but really are in harmony, and we gather from the system of goodness that we ought to have both alike, lest if we withdraw one of them from man, we may seem to have broken the rule of the Church’s faith: for when God sees us inclined to will what is good, He meets, guides, and strengthens us: for At the voice of your cry, as soon as He shall hear, He will answer you; and:  Call upon Me, He says, in the day of tribulation and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. And again, if He finds that we are unwilling or have grown cold, He stirs our hearts with salutary exhortations, by which a good will is either renewed or formed in us.

For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: Behold, Adam has become as one of us, knowing good and evil? Gen. 3:22 For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith. Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: God made man upright, i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, But they have sought out many imaginations, for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before. Finally the Apostle’s words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men. Rom. 2:14-16 And with the same meaning the Lord rebukes by the prophet the unnatural but freely chosen blindness of the Jews, which they by their obstinacy brought upon themselves, saying: Hear you deaf, and you blind, behold that you may see. Who is deaf but My servant? And blind, but he to whom I have sent My messengers? Isa.42:18-19 And that no one might ascribe this blindness of theirs to nature instead of to their own will, elsewhere He says: Bring forth the people that are blind and have eyes: that are deaf and have ears; and again: having eyes, but you see not; and ears, but you hear not. The Lord also says in the gospel: Because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not neither do they understand. Matt. 13:13 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: Hearing you shall hear and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see and shall not see. For the heart of this people is waxed fat, and their ears are dull of hearing: and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and be turned and I should heal them. Isa. 6:9-10 Finally in order to denote that the possibility of good was in them, in chiding the Pharisees, He says: But why of your own selves do you not judge what is right? Lk. 12:57 And this he certainly would not have said to them, unless He knew that by their natural judgment they could discern what was fair. Wherefore we must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas you have thought in your heart to build a house to My name, you have well done in having this same thing in your mind. Nevertheless you shall not build a house to My name. 1 Kings 8:17-19 This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord? It remains then that we must take it as good and from man. And in the same way we can take our own thoughts today. For it was not given only to David to think what is good of himself, nor is it denied to us naturally to think or imagine anything that is good. It cannot then be doubted that there are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator: but unless these are quickened by the assistance of God, they will not be able to attain to an increase of perfection, for, as the blessed Apostle says: Neither is he that plants anything nor he that waters, but God that gives the increase. 1 Cor. 3:7 But that freedom of the will is to some degree in a man’s own power is very clearly taught in the book termed the Pastor, where two angels are said to be attached to each one of us, i.e., a good and a bad one, while it lies at a man’s own option to choose which to follow. And therefore the will always remains free in man, and can either neglect or delight in the grace of God. For the Apostle would not have commanded saying: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, had he not known that it could be advanced or neglected by us. But that men might not fancy that they had no need of Divine aid for the work of Salvation, he subjoins: For it is God that works in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure. Phil. 2:12-13 And therefore he warns Timothy and says: Neglect not the grace of God which is in you; and again: For which cause I exhort you to stir up the grace of God which is in you. Hence also in writing to the Corinthians he exhorts and warns them not through their unfruitful works to show themselves unworthy of the grace of God, saying: And we helping, exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain: 2 Cor. 6:1 for the reception of saving grace was of no profit to Simon doubtless because he had received it in vain; for he would not obey the command of the blessed Peter who said: Repent of your iniquity, and pray God if haply the thoughts of your heart may be forgiven you; for I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. Acts 8:22-23 It prevents therefore the will of man, for it is said:  My God will prevent me with His mercy; and again when God waits and for our good delays, that He may put our desires to the test, our will precedes, for it is said: And in the morning my prayer shall prevent You; and again: I prevented the dawning of the day and cried; and: My eyes have prevented the morning. For He calls and invites us, when He says: All the day long I stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people; Rom. 10:21 and He is invited by us when we say to Him: All the day long I have stretched forth My hands unto You. He waits for us, when it is said by the prophet: Wherefore the Lord waits to have compassion upon us; Isa. 30:18 and He is waited for by us, when we say: I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me; and: I have waited for your salvation, O Lord. He strengthens us when He says: And I have chastised them, and strengthened their arms; and they have imagined evil against me; Hos. 7:15 and He exhorts us to strengthen ourselves when He says: Strengthen the weak hands, and make strong the feeble knees. Isa. 35:3 Jesus cries: If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink; John 7:37 the prophet also cries to Him: I have laboured with crying, my jaws have become hoarse: my eyes have failed, while I hope in my God. The Lord seeks us, when He says: I sought and there was no man. I called, and there was none to answer; Songs 5:6 and He Himself is sought by the bride who mourns with tears: I sought on my bed by night Him whom my soul loved: I sought Him and found Him not; I called Him, and He gave me no answer. Songs 3:1

And so the grace of God always co-operates with our will for its advantage, and in all things assists, protects, and defends it, in such a way as sometimes even to require and look for some efforts of good will from it that it may not appear to confer its gifts on one who is asleep or relaxed in sluggish ease, as it seeks opportunities to show that as the torpor of man’s sluggishness is shaken off its bounty is not unreasonable, when it bestows it on account of some desire and efforts to gain it. And none the less does God’s grace continue to be free grace while in return for some small and trivial efforts it bestows with priceless bounty such glory of immortality, and such gifts of eterna bliss. For because the faith of the thief on the cross came as the first thing, no one would say that therefore the blessed abode of Paradise was not promised to him as a free gift, nor could we hold that it was the penitence of King David’s single word which he uttered: I have sinned against the Lord, and not rather the mercy of God which removed those two grievous sins of his, so that it was vouchsafed to him to hear from the prophet Nathan: The Lord also has put away your iniquity: you shall not die. 2 Sam. 12:13 The fact then that he added murder to adultery, was certainly due to free will: but that he was reproved by the prophet, this was the grace of Divine Compassion. Again it was his own doing that he was humbled and acknowledged his guilt; but that in a very short interval of time he was granted pardon for such sins, this was the gift of the merciful Lord. And what shall we say of this brief confession and of the incomparable infinity of Divine reward, when it is easy to see what the blessed Apostle, as he fixes his gaze on the greatness of future remuneration, announced on those countless persecutions of his? for, says he, our light affliction which is but for a moment works in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor 4:17 of which elsewhere he constantly affirms, saying that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom. 8:18 However much then human weakness may strive, it cannot come up to the future reward, nor by its efforts so take off from Divine grace that it should not always remain a free gift. And therefore the aforesaid teacher of the Gentiles, though he bears his witness that he had obtained the grade of the Apostolate by the grace of God, saying: By the grace of God I am what I am, yet also declares that he himself had corresponded to Divine Grace, where he says: And His Grace in me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: and yet not I, but the Grace of God with me. 1 Cor. 15:10 For when he says: I laboured, he shows the effort of his own will; when he says: yet not I, but the grace of God, he points out the value of Divine protection; when he says: with me, he affirms that it cooperates with him when he was not idle or careless, but working and making an effort. (Conferences XI, XII, XIII)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

But having said above, No man can come to Me, except the Father Which sent Me draw him, He shews that it is not a compulsory nor forcible drawing, adding, Every man that hath heard of My Father and hath learned, cometh unto Me.

For where there is hearing and learning and the benefit of instruction, there is faith, to wit by persuasion and not of necessity: and the knowledge of Christ is given by the Father to them that are worthy, helpful as of love, rather than constraining. For the word of doctrine requires that free-will and free choice be preserved to the soul of man, in order that it may ask the just rewards of its good deeds, and if it have fallen from right, and from heedlessness have transgressed the Will of the Lawgiver, it may receive the doom of its transgression and that most reasonable.

But we must know that even though the Father be said to instruct any in the Mystery of Christ, yet He will not work alone to this end, but will rather effect it through His Wisdom, i. e., the Son. For it is convenient to consider, that not without Wisdom will the revelation to their understanding be given to any from the Father. But the Son is the Wisdom of the Father. By means of Wisdom therefore will the Father effect the revelation of His Own Offspring in them that are worthy. And in fact to speak the whole truth, and nothing else, one would not do wrong in saying that all the operations of God the Father toward any, or His Will toward them, are those of the Whole Holy Trinity, similarly also are those of the Son Himself, and those of the Holy Ghost. For this reason, as I suppose, when God the Father is said to reveal His Own Son, and to call to Him those who are more apt to believe, the Son Himself is found doing this, and no less the Holy Ghost. (Commentary of the Gospel of John, Bk. IV, Chap. 1)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

We must confess that God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Secondly, there can be no doubt that all who actually come to the knowledge of the truth and to salvation, do so not in virtue of their own merits but of the efficacious help of divine grace. Thirdly, we must admit that human understanding is unable to fathom the depths of God’s judgements, and we ought not to inquire why He who wishes all men to be saved does not in fact save all.  (The Call of All Nations, 2.1)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

There is need of both our efforts and the divine succour. The grace of the Spirit is not vouchsafed to those who make no effort, and without that grace our efforts cannot collect the prize of virtue. (In Ps. 31, 10 f.; 36, 23 f., in Kelly pg. 374)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

In order that man’s free will which God gave to man from the beginning might more clearly be manifested and confirmed, a great providence might more clearly be manifested and confirmed, a great providence is at work in this matter, and the dissolution of the bodies takes place so that it is a question of man’s will choosing to embrace what is good and evil. For even the man confirmed in evil, or the one completely immersed in sin and making himself a vessel of the devil by whom he is totally bound, caught in a certain necessity, still enjoys free will to become a chosen vessel (Acts 9:15), a vessel of life. Similarly, on the other hand, those who are intoxicated with God, even if they are full and dominated by the Holy Spirit, still are not bound by any necessity, but they possess free will to choose and do what pleases them in this life. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.40)

St. Faustus of Riez ca. 407-493

We assert that whoever is lost is lost by his own volition, but that he could have obtained salvation by grace had he cooperated with it. On the other hand, whoever, by means of [this] cooperation attains perfection may, of his own fault, his own negligence, fall and lose it and [become] lost. Certainly we exclude all personal boasting, for we declare that all that we have has been gratuitously received from God’s hand” (Epistle to Lucidus, LIII:683).

St. Vincent of Lerins ca. 445

But some one will say, What proof have we that the Devil is wont to appeal to Holy Scripture? Let him read the Gospels wherein it is written, “Then the Devil took Him (the Lord the Saviour) and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, that they may keep thee in all thy ways: In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perchance thou dash thy foot against a stone.” What sort of treatment must men, insignificant wretches that they are, look for at the hands of him who assailed even the Lord of Glory with quotations from Scripture? “If thou be the Son of God,” saith be, “cast the, self down.” Wherefore? “For,” saith he, “it is written.” It behoves us to pay special attention to this passage and bear it in mind, that, warned by so important an instance of Evangelical authority, we may be assured beyond doubt, when we find people alleging passages from the Apostles or Prophets against the Catholic Faith, that the Devil speaks through their mouths. For as then the Head spoke to the Head, so now also the members speak to the members, the members of the Devil to the members of Christ, misbelievers to believers, sacrilegious to religious, in one word, Heretics to Catholics.

But what do they say? “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;” that is,. If thou wouldst be a son of God, and wouldst receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast thyself down; that is, cast thyself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which is imagined to be nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? he has the answer ready, “For it is written;” and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory Chap. XXVI)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

After quite some time, three men of high rank, Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea in Bithynia, and the patricians Paul and Theodosius, were sent by Constans and Patriarch Peter to win over the saint. They were joined by the Bishop of Bizye, and alternately flattered and threatened Maximus, testing his faith and posing various questions. They began by introducing themselves, then requested Maximus to sit down. Bishop Theodosius asked, “How are you faring, my lord Abba Maximus?”

“Exactly as God knew I would before the ages,” replied the saint. “He foreordained the circumstances of my life, which is guarded by providence.”

“How can that be?” objected Theodosius. “Did God foreknow and actually foreordain our deeds from eternity?”

The saint said, “He foreknew our thoughts, words, and deeds, which nevertheless remain within our power to control; and He foreordained what befalls us. The latter is not subject to our control, but to the divine will.”

“Explain more exactly what is in our power, and what is not,” requested Bishop Theodosius.

“My lord, you know all this,” answered Saint Maximus. “You only ask to try your servant.”

The Bishop admitted, “Truly, I do not know. I wish to understand what we can control and what we cannot, and how God foresaw one and foreordained the other.”

The venerable Maximus explained, “We do not directly control whether blessings will be showered upon us or chastisements will befall us, but our good and evil deeds most certainly depend on our will. It is not ours to choose whether we are in health or sickness, but we make determinations likely to lead to one or the other. Similarly, we cannot simply decide that we shall attain the kingdom of heaven or be plunged into the fire of Gehenna, but we can will to keep the commandments or transgress them.” (The Life of Our Holy Monastic Father Maximus the Confessor and Martyr)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

We ought to understand that while God knows all things beforehand, yet He does not predetermine all things. For He knows beforehand those things that are in our power, but He does not predetermine them. For it is not His will that there should be wickedness nor does He choose to compel virtue. So that predetermination is the work of the divine command based on fore-knowledge. But on the other hand God predetermines those things which are not within our power in accordance with His prescience. For already God in His prescience has prejudged all things in accordance with His goodness and justice.

Bear in mind, too, that virtue is a gift from God implanted in our nature, and that He Himself is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help we cannot will or do any good thing, But we have it in our power either to abide in virtue and follow God, Who calls us into ways of virtue, or to stray from paths of virtue, which is to dwell in wickedness, and to follow the devil who summons but cannot compel us. For wickedness is nothing else than the withdrawal of goodness, just as darkness is nothing else than the withdrawal of light While then we abide in the natural state we abide in virtue, but when we deviate from the natural state, that is from virtue, we come into an unnatural state and dwell in wickedness. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chap XXX)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 942-1022

You say, “What is the cause that one is hardened, and another readily moved to compunction?” Listen! It springs from the will, in the latter case a good will, in the former an evil one. It springs also from the thoughts, in the former case evil thoughts, in the latter from the opposite; and similarly from actions, in the former case actions contrary to God, in the latter godly ones. Examine, if you wish, all who have ever lived and you will find that it from these three causes only that many who were good became evil, and many who were evil became good. To recount them from the beginning, why did Lucifer fall (cf. Is. 14:12)? Was it not by consenting to evil in will and thought? Why did Cain become a fratricide (Gen. 4:8)? Was it not by his evil will? He preferred himself to his creator and followed after evil thoughts and so became abandoned to envy and committed muder. Why did Saul seek to apprehend and kill David whom he formerly honored as himself and greatly loved as benefactor (cf. 1 Sam. 18:24ff.)? Was it by nature or an evil will? Obviously it was out of ill will. No one is born evil by nature, since God did not create evil works but things that were very good (Gen. 1:31) …Thus it is not, as some think, by nature but by will that every man becomes either humble, and apt for compunction, or hard-hearted, hardened, and insensitive. (Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses. The Classics of Western Spirituality, trans. C.J. deCatanzaro. Chap IV [On Tears of Penitence] pp. 71-72, 73)

Synod of Jerusalem 1672 a.d.

We believe the most good God to have from eternity predestinated unto glory those whom He hath chosen, and to have consigned unto condemnation those whom He hath rejected; but not so that He would justify the one, and consign and condemn the other without cause. For that were contrary to the nature of God, who is the common Father of all, and no respecter of persons, and would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; {1 Timothy 2:4} but since He foreknew the one would make a right use of their free-will, and the other a wrong, He predestinated the one, or condemned the other. And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requireth as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace; which, co-operating with us, and enabling us, and making us perseverant in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonisheth us that we should do, justifieth us, and maketh us predestinated. But those who will not obey, and co-operate with grace; and, therefore, will not observe those things that God would have us perform, and that abuse in the service of Satan the free-will, which they have received of God to perform voluntarily what is good, are consigned to eternal condemnation.

But to say, as the most wicked heretics do and as is contained in the Chapter answering hereto — that God, in predestinating, or condemning, had in no wise regard to the works of those predestinated, or condemned, we know to be profane and impious. For thus Scripture would be opposed to itself, since it promiseth the believer salvation through works, yet supposeth God to be its sole author, by His sole illuminating grace, which He bestoweth without preceding works, to shew to man the truth of divine things, and to teach him how he may co-operate therewith, if he will, and do what is good and acceptable, and so obtain salvation. He taketh not away the power to will — to will to obey, or not obey him.

But than to affirm that the Divine Will is thus solely and without cause the author of their condemnation, what greater calumny can be fixed upon God? and what greater injury and blasphemy can be offered to the Most High? For that the Deity is not tempted with evils, {cf. James 1:13} and that He equally willeth the salvation of all, since there is no respect of persons with Him, we do know; and that for those who through their own wicked choice, and their impenitent heart, have become vessels of dishonour, there is, as is just, decreed condemnation, we do confess. But of eternal punishment, of cruelty, of pitilessness, and of inhumanity, we never, never say God is the author, who telleth us that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. {Luke 15:7} Far be it from us, while we have our senses, thus to believe, or to think; and we do subject to an eternal anathema those who say and think such things, and esteem them to be worse than any infidels. (Confession of Dositheus, Decree III)

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815–1894

“What is the relationship between the Divine provision and our free will?”

Answer: The fact that the Kingdom of God is “taken by force” presupposes personal effort. When the Apostle Paul says, “it is not of him that willeth,” this means that one’s efforts do not produce what is sought. It is necessary to combine them: to strive and to expect all things from grace. It is not one’s own efforts that will lead to the goal, because without grace, efforts produce little; nor does grace without effort bring what is sought, because grace acts in us and for us through our efforts. Both combine in a person to bring progress and carry him to the goal. (God’s) foreknowledge is unfathomable. It is enough for us with our whole heart to believe that it never opposes God’s grace and truth, and that it does not infringe man’s freedom. Usually this resolves as follows: God foresees how a man will freely act and makes dispositions accordingly. Divine determination depends on the life of a man, and not his life upon the determination. (An Explanation of Certain Texts of Holy Scripture, as quoted in Johanna Manley’s The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox: Daily Scripture Readings and Commentary for Orthodox Christians, pg. 609.)