On the Suffering God

IMG_3921St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

As God, He was the motivating principle of His own humanity, and as man He was the revelatory principle of His own divinity. One could say then, that He experienced suffering in a divine way, since it was voluntary (and He was not mere man); and that He worked miracles in a human way, since they were accomplished through the flesh (for He was not naked God). Therefore His sufferings are wondrous, for they have been renewed by the natural divine power of the One Who suffered. So too are His wonders wedded to passibility, for they were completed by the naturally passible power of the flesh of the One Who worked them. (Ambiguum 5, 18)

On Obedience for Our Sakes

BetrayalSt. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For even though He was God, yet He fulfilled obedience in the flesh and according to the flesh and prevailed over the will of the flesh by the will of the Godhead, as He had said beforehand, ‘I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of the Father Who sent Me, calling that of the flesh His own will, since the flesh had become His own.

It was necessary for the will of the flesh to be moved and yet subjected to the divine will, and so human disobedience is forgiven as a result of this extraordinary obedience, that of Christ for our sake. (Sermon on ‘Now My soul is troubled’ preserved in full in the Acts of Constantinople III, ACO II/2, 658-62, p. 660,10-17)

On the Dread in Gethsemane

Garden-of-GethsemaneSt. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

[H]e felt dread as a man and was troubled as a man. It was not the Power that was troubled, it was not the Godhead that was troubled: He was troubled in His own soul, He was troubled in the nature of human weakness; for since He took our soul, therefore, He assumed the emotions of our souls as well. For He was not able to be troubled or distressed as God. But even if He says, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?, He utters this as man, displaying my infirmities. For when we are in danger, we think that we have been abandoned by God. So He is troubled as man, He weeps as man, He is crucified as man. (De Fide II.7, 25-33, CSEL 78, pp. 75-6)

[W]hen He says, ‘Let not My will be done,’ He indicates the human will by this remark; in adding ‘Yours’, He displays His paternal will, since the human will is for a time, while God’s will is by nature eternal. Therefore, the will of the Father and the will of the Son are not different; for where there is one Godhead, the will is certainly one. (Exposition of Luke X. 60, CCSL 14, 363)

St. Cyril on Dyoenergism and Dyotheletism

agonia-ist2010St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

For things that have the same nature as one another will operate in the same way, while with things whose qualities have a different account the account of their operation in all respects would not be the same. (Commentary on the Holy Gospel According to John II.6, ed. Pusey, I, p. 318, 5-8)

Let the inquisitive again reflect that the Savior, in saying that His works bore clear witness that He was God by nature, taught plainly that it would not be among things possible for the operation and power fitting to God to exist in anything indistinguishably unless it too were God by nature. (ibid. III.1, ed. Pusey, I, p. 373, 10-15)

For it is, I think, clear and acknowledged by everyone that the properties of the Godhead are completely inaccessible to the created nature, and its natural attributes could never occur in any other existing thing in an equal and indistinguishable mode. (ibid. III.5, ed. Pusey, I, p. 448, 15-19)

‘If death can die without My dying’ (this clearly refers to the flesh) ‘let the cup depart’ (He says), ‘but’ (since it could not happen otherwise) ‘not as I will but as You will.’ You perceive how powerless again is human nature even in Christ, as it is found in itself; but is raised up to a courage proper to God the Word united to it. (ibid. IV.1, ed. Pusey, I, p. 487, 13-19)

If He perfected us through water and the Spirit, surely the same operated both divinely and humanly at the same time, being, in a single Being, both God and man together. (Commentary on Hebrews, lost fragment)

Things possessing the same operation and exercising the same natural powers must of necessity have wholly the same essence as well, for none of the things that exist will possess indistinguishably the same powers and operations as what is different in nature and different in essence. (Thesaurus, 8. PG 75. 105AB)

Things with the same operation are acknowledged to be of the same essence as well. (Thesaurus 10, PG 105. 137AB)

No sensible person would concede that things different in kind and nature possess the same operation. For fire could not have one and the same operation as water; but just as they possess a distinct definition of essence and qualities, so they will exhibit a different operation as well. (Thesaurus 14, PG 75. 241B)

When the Savior is shown dreading death and saying, ‘If it is possible, let this cup pass from me,’ (Mt. 26:39) reflect again that, when it was in dread of death, the flesh that was borne by God the Word was taught to suffer this no longer. He said to the Father, Not as I will, but as You will.’ (Mt. 26:39) For He did not fear death as Word and God, but was eager to perform the dispensation to the end, for such was the will of the Father. He had as well a volition not to die, because the flesh of its nature deprecated death. Therefore, teaching the manhood to think these thoughts no longer but to seek the will of God, He says as Man, ‘Not as I will but You will’. (Thesaurus 24, PG 75. 397A)

St Cyril

The Savior abolished death by His own death. For just as death would not have been abolished had He not died, so is it with each of the emotions of the flesh. For if He had not felt dread, nature would not be free of dread; if He had not felt distress, there would never have been an end to distress; if He had not been troubled and terrified, it would have never escaped from these things. Applying the same reasoning to each of the human experiences, you will find that the emotions of the flesh were excited in Christ not so that they might prevail as in us, but so that, once excited, they might be abolished by the power of the Word Who dwelt in the flesh, with nature being changed for the better. (Thesaurus 24, PG 75. 397C)

The Word of God became man not in order to perform and utter everything as God before the Incarnation, but so that often through the neediness of the dispensation with the flesh He might say certain things as man. Therefore, since the Mystery had this power, would it not be absurd for the hearers to take offense at His speaking, at times, in a more human way? Foe He speaks as man, and also speaks as God, having power to do both. (Thesaurus 24, PG 75. 400AB)

For how could One Who in works is equal to the Father be inferior as regards His nature? And how could One invested with the same operation and power as He is be different from Him in nature? (Thesaurus 32, PG 75. 453BC)

On Eternal Blindness

maximusconfessor1St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

With God’s cooperation we omit none of the aforementioned steps, lest through even minor negligence we render our faith blind and devoid of eyes, and thus be deprived of the illuminations of the Spirit which are given through actual deeds, and be justly punished for endless ages (κολασθῶμεν δικαίως εἰς ἀπείρους αἰώνας), for to the extent that it depended upon us, we blinded the divine eyes of faith which had opened within us according to the measure of our faith. (Questions to Thalassius, 54)

On How Grace Operates in the Mysteries

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St. Nicholas Cabasilas 1323-1391

The Holy Spirit grants to those who partake of the sacred offerings the remission of sins of their sins. “Let not this grace be removed from these offerings because of my sins.” There are two ways in which grace operates in the precious offerings; first, by grace they are sanctified, and secondly, by grace we are sanctified through them.

The working of grace upon the offerings — the first of which we spoke — cannot be invalidated by any human evil. Since the consecration of the offerings is not the work of human virtue, it cannot be hindered in any way by the wickedness of men.

But the second, the working of grace within us, demands our co-operation, and as a result, our negligence can impede it. In other words, grace will sanctify us through the sacred offerings if it finds us ready and fit for sanctification; if it should, on the other hand, find us unprepared, not only do we reap no benefit, but we suffer grave harm and loss. (A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 34)

On Grace and Choice

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

‘When we were dead through our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:5) Nonetheless, everything is by grace in so far as it comes from grace; for without grace we can do nothing whatsoever. Therefore, on the one hand, it is said that grace comes first because of the weakness inherent in the creature; on the other hand, it is said that our choice is to follow, while grace leads, not in order to force choice, but to help us use our free will just like one who holds a light for those who wish to see it. Hence, he says, also, ‘through faith’ (Eph. 2:8) so that free will is not outraged. (On Baptism, Bk. 2, PG 31.1537)

On Saving Faith

St. Stephen of Perm 1340-1396

Do good on the basis of your faith in God, remember that faith alone without good works will not save you, for it is dead. Do not be like the whited sepulchers which appear beautiful on the outside, but are filled with bones and decay within. Do not call out to God: ‘O Lord! O Lord!’ for He will not save you if through your deeds you do not show your faith in Him and your obedience to His will. Do not quarrel, do not give in to anger, do not fight – be helpers and partners to each other. And the final words I will say unto you: Henceforth, brothers, I commend you to God and to His Word of grace, which has the power to save you, for He is our Savior, glory to him forever, amen! (A Nineteenth-Century Life, N. N. Filippov, Sviatoi Stefan, episkop Permskii. Istoricheskii razskaz. St. Petersburg: Izdanie M. V. Kliukina, 1893)

On the Christology of the Scythian Monks

The Chapters of John Maxentius Compiled Against the Nestorians and the Pelagians for the Satisfaction of the Brothers

1. If anyone does not confess that in our Lord Jesus Christ there are two natures (that is divinity and humanity) united, or if he confesses one incarnate nature of God the Word but does not mean this is in the sense of two united in one subsistence or person (according to what the venerable synod of Chalcedon has handed down to us), let him be anathema.

2. If anyone does not confess that the holy Mary is properly and truly the Bearer of God, but if he instead attributes this title to her only according to a great honor and in name because he believes she bore a man who is said to be God only according to grace, rather than believing that she bore God incarnate and made man, let him be anathema.

3. If anyone does not confess that there has been a union of substances and natures according to which the Word was united to a human nature while remaining God by nature, but if he instead confesses that the union was one of subsistence or person or as a kind of illustration or according to favor or good will, let him be anathema.

4. If anyone does not consent to confess that Christ who suffered for us in the flesh is “one of the Trinity” even with his own flesh (although according to that flesh itself he is not of the substance of the Trinity but is the same as us), let him be anathema.

5. If anyone does not confess that the child whom the holy Virgin Mary bore is by nature God, and that through Him all things were made – visible and invisible things, heavenly and earthly things – and that He is the Maker of all, “Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Father of the coming age,” let him be anathema.

6. If anyone says that Christ has suffered in the flesh but does not consent to say that God has truly suffered in the flesh (which is precisely what it means to say that Christ suffered in the flesh), let him be anathema.

7. If anyone says, “God was not made Christ, but the Christ was made God,” let him be anathema.

8. If anyone does not confess that there have been two births of the one Son of God (since God the Word was indeed born from the Father before the ages, and the same one was born from His mother in the last times), let him be anathema.

9. If anyone does not confess that after the Incarnation Christ is a compound, let him be anathema.

10. If anyone says that sin is natural, and in a mindless way ascribes the source of sin to the Creator of natures, let him be anathema.

11. If anyone does not confess that original sin has entered the world through the transgression of Adam (according to voice of the Apostle when he says: “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so it passed to all men, because in him all have sinned”), let him be anathema.

12. Similarly, we anathematize every opinion of Pelagius and Celestius and of all who think like them. We accept all the actions that have been taken against them by the prelates of the Apostolic See (namely, Innocent, Boniface, Zosimus, Celestine, and Leo), as well as the writings against them by Atticus, bishop of Constantinople, and Augustine (and the) bishops of the African Province.

On the Grace of God and Human Efforts

Go and buy it now!

St. Theophan the Recluse  1815-1894

A God-pleasing life is nurtured by both [grace and zeal] inseparably. Grace will not lend any help without our own efforts, nor can our own efforts do anything lasting without God’s grace. It is the union of of freedom and grace that accomplishes the task. Do not ask which is larger, which smaller; which one begins, which follows because we cannot comprehend this. But simply bear in mind: Both are equally important, for one can do nothing in us without the other.

Hasten to accomplish what is in your power, like the holy Prophet David, who first mentioned zeal, but then called for grace. What is from God is always ready, if only we were ready. For that reason, he does not augment his prayer, but only cries: Oh, that my ways were directed! (Ps. 118 (119):5)

To graft commandments to the heart to such an extent that they will permanently dwell there and direct the heart itself — this is the doing of God’s grace. No matter how hard he may try, man cannot do it on his own. Thus, with all man’s efforts, the transformation of the heart is achieved through grace and through grace alone. Here is the substantial difference between a Christian and a pagan!

Yet without works and spiritual deeds in fulfilling the commandments, grace will not graft anything to the heart, leaving it as it is, with all its passionate tastes and attractions, even though a person may have been baptized and partakes of other sacraments. Here lies the difference between Christians who toil hard spiritually and those who do not find it necessary to constrain themselves, although they conduct themselves honestly. The law do spiritual life dictates that what a person does not struggle for will it be given by God’s grace, although with his own effort alone he will not succeed in anything. (Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, p. 23, 38-39)

On Negligence

St. Faustus of Riez ca. 405-490

A ship, after having braved the billows of the open sea, can be in danger even in the middle of what seems the safest port, and is in peril of sinking there. Likewise, in the refuge of religion to which the Savior has led you, do not be without fear; force yourselves, with the help of Christ, to avoid the least negligence, the slightest faults; they act on the soul like drops of water entering a ship’s keel by imperceptible fissures. (Ad Monachos II)

On Baptism and Prayer

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

“And Jesus, when He was baptized went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him” (Mat. 3:16). Luke, however, says that while Christ was praying, heaven opened. “It came to pass”, he says, “that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened” (Lk. 3:21). He was praying while being baptized, while going down into the water and coming up, teaching through His actions that it is not only necessary for the priest performing the sacrament to pray, but the person being initiated must do the same at every sacred rite. If it happens that the priest is more perfect in virtue and sends up more ardent prayers, grace passes through him to the one receiving the sacrament,  but if the latter is more worthy and prays with greater zeal, God Who wants to have mercy — O how inexpressible is His kindness! — does not refuse to give grace through him to the person performing the rite; which is obviously what happened now in the case of John, as he afterwards testified, saying, “Of His fullness have all we received” (Jn. 1:16). (Homily 60.11, On the Holy Feast of Theophany)

On Deification by Grace

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Whoever asserts that the perfect union with God is accomplished without the deifying grace of the Spirit, but is only a relative thing and accomplished by imitation, in a way similar to people who are fond of each other and grow alike in their ways; and, moreover, who says that the deifying grace of God is a condition inherent in our rational nature which becomes active merely by virtue of this moral imitation, but that it is not a supernatural and inexpressible illumination and divine activity which is seen invisibly by those made worthy of it and comprehended incomprehensibly: this person should know that he has tumbled unaware into the error of the Messalians. For, if deification be a potential inherent in nature and so included within the definition of nature, then he who is deified must necessarily be himself God by nature. Such a person should not attempt to smear those who stand fast with his own rebellion and try to blame the faith of the blameless. Instead, putting aside his own opinion, let him learn from those who are experienced or who have been taught by those with experience that the grace or divinity is not related to anything else whatever, nor does there exist any potential in nature capable of receiving it, since it would otherwise not be grace but merely the manifestation of an activity proper to our being. Deification would not be miraculous if it should occur as the result of some potential for its reception, for in that case it would clearly be a work of our nature instead of God’s gift, and the person deified would then in fact be able to become God by nature and acquire the title of “Lord”! For the natural potential of everything that exists is comprised of nothing other than the unswerving impetus of nature toward its proper activity. How in that case could deification be said to take the one deified outside of himself? If it were still take place within the bounds of nature, then this [traditional] expression would be meaningless. The grace of deification is therefore beyond nature, beyond virtue and knowledge, and, according to Saint Maximus, all these things fall infinitely short of it. While every virtue, including that imitation of God that is within our power, prepares a capacity in the recipient for divine union, it is still grace that accomplishes the unutterable union itself. It is by means of grace that all of God co-indwells with all those who are worthy, and that the whole of the saints co-inheres wholly with the whole of God. Thus they receive into themselves God entire and, as a kind of reward for their struggles in ascending to Him, they possess Him, Himself alone, Who has made them worthy of becoming His members, and He indwells them as a soul is entwined with its own body. (Tomos of Mount Athos in Defense of the Hesychasts)  

Chrysostom on Monergistic Grace

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

[W]hen you hear of grace, think not that the reward of resolve on our part is thereby cast aside; for he speaks of grace, not to disparage the labor of resolve on our part, but to undermine (ὑποτεμνόμενος, as piercing a thing inflated) the haughtiness of an insolent spirit (ἀ πονοίας). Do not thou then, because that Paul has called this a gift of grace, grow supine. For he knows how, in his great candor, to call even well doings, graces; because even in these we need much influence from above. (Homily on Romans, Homily 2, v. 11)

St. Isaac on Free Will

St. Isaac the Syrian died ca. 700

It is not the case of the created beings’ inheriting the glory to come by compulsion or against the person’s will, without any repentance being involved; rather, it so pleased His wisdom that they should choose the good out of the volition of their own free will, and thus have a way of coming to Him. (The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, pg. 277)

St. Photios on Total Depravity

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-891

Read a book whose subscription reads, “Theodore of Antioch, Against Those Who Say That Men sin by Nature and not by Intention.” His polemic against those is developed in five books.  He wrote this work against Westerners touched by this ill…

The principles of their heresy are, in summary, the following:  Men sin, they say, by nature and not by intention; and ‘by nature’ they do not mean that nature which was in Adam when first created (because this, they say, was good because made by a good God), but that nature which was his later after the fall because of his ill conduct and sin.  He received a sinful nature in exchange for the good and a mortal nature in exchange for an immortal; it is in this manner and by nature that men became sinners after having been good by nature.  It is in their nature and not by a voluntary choice that they acquired sin.

The second point is connected to the preceding propositions. They say that infants, even newly born, are not free from sin because, since the disobedience of Adam, nature is fixed into sin and that this sinful nature, as was said, extends to all his descendants.  They quote, he says, the verse, “I was born in sin” and others similar: the holy baptism itself; the communion with the incorruptible body for the remission of sins and the fact that these apply to infants as a confirmation of their own opinion.  They claim also that no man is just, and this is thus obviously a corollary of their initial position, “because nothing of flesh can be justified before you,” he says, and he cites other texts of the same kind.

The fourth point (O blasphemous and impious mouth) is that Christ Himself, our God, because He put on a nature soiled by sin, was not Himself free from sin.  However, in other places in their impious writings, as the author says, it can be seen that they apply the Incarnation to Christ not in truth and in nature, but only in appearance.

The fifth point is that marriage, they say, or the desire of carnal union and the ejection of seed and all that is of that domain and by which our species perpetuates itself and increases itself are works of the evil nature into which Adam fell through sin to receive all the weight of the evils because of his sinful nature.  Such are thus the positions of the heretics. (Myriobiblion 177)

St. Photios on Nestorianism and Pelagianism

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-891

Read a work attacking the heresy of Pelagius and Coelestius, entitled A Copy of the Proceedings taken against the Doctrines of Nestorius by the Bishops of the West. It states that the Nestorian and Coelestian heresies were identical without doubt, quoting as its authority a letter of Cyril of Alexandria to the emperor Theodosius. The Coelestians[Pelagians], speaking of the body or the members of Christ, that is, the Church, audaciously deny that it is God (that is, the Holy Spirit) who distributes to each man severally, as He wills, faith and all that is necessary to life, piety, and salvation; according to them, the nature of man as constituted — which by sin and transgression fell from blessedness and was separated from God and handed over to death — both invites and repels the Holy Spirit in accordance with free will. The Nestorians hold and venture to assert the same opinion concerning the head of the body, Christ. Since Christ shares our nature and God wishes all men alike to be saved, they say that every one of his own free will can amend his error and make himself worthy of God; wherefore He who was born of Mary was not Himself the Word, but, by reason of the nobility of His natural will, He had the Word accompanying, sharing the condition of sonship by nobleness alone and similarity of name. (Myriobiblion, 54)

also see “On Monophysitism and Augustinianism”

On Trinitization and the Divine Commandments

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

For He is present in every commandment through His grace-filled power (“The Lord is hidden in His commandments,” writes St. Mark the Ascetic), and He helps every struggler to keep the commandments. At the same time, the evangelic principle of theanthropic cooperation is kept; the God-man collaborates with man, while man remains an independent person, even though his entire being is in the Lord Christ, even though he dwelleth in Him. In the same way, the Lord Christ dwelleth in man, and does not lose the fullness of His person. …This means the Christian is never alone; he is the dwelling place and workshop of the Thrice-Holy Godhead. Everything leads to this. Keeping the commandments Trinitizes man, because this Christianizes and Spiritualizes him. A Christian’s life is one unceasing podvig of Christianization, Spiritualization, Divinization – i.e. Trinitization. The entire Christian life is one unceasing, and indivisible struggle to become like Christ, to establish the Spirit in man: theosis = establishing the Trinity within oneself. (Commentary on the Epistles of St. John the Theologian)

St. Basil on Eternal Security

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

So truly stands the whole of human life, not contented with what has gone before and fed not so much on the past as on the future. For how is a man the better for having his belly filled yesterday, if his natural hunger fails to find its proper satisfaction in food today? In the same way the soul gains nothing by yesterday’s virtue unless it be followed by the right conduct of today. For it is said I shall judge you as I shall find you.

Vain then is the labor of the righteous man, and free from blame is the way of the sinner, if a change befall, and the former turn from the better to the worse, and the latter from the worse to the better. So we hear from Ezekiel teaching as it were in the name of the Lord, when he says, if the righteous turns away and commits iniquity, I will not remember the righteousness which he committed before; in his sin he shall die, and so too about the sinner; if he turn away from his wickedness, and do that which is right, he shall live. Where were all the labours of God’s servant Moses, when the gainsaying of one moment shut him out from entering into the promised land? What became of the companionship of Gehazi with Elissæus, when he brought leprosy on himself by his covetousness? What availed all Solomon’s vast wisdom, and his previous regard for God, when afterwards from his mad love of women he fell into idolatry? Not even the blessed David was blameless, when his thoughts went astray and he sinned against the wife of Uriah. One example were surely enough for keeping safe one who is living a godly life, the fall from the better to the worse of Judas, who, after being so long Christ’s disciple, for a mean gain sold his Master and got a halter for himself. Learn then, brother, that it is not he who begins well who is perfect. It is he who ends well who is approved in God’s sight. (Letter 42. 1-2)

On the Incarnation and Synergy

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

The Incarnation was not only the work of the Father, of His power and His Spirit…but it was also the work of the will and faith of the Virgin…Just as God became incarnate voluntarily, so He wished that His Mother should bear Him freely and with her full consent. (On the Annunciation 4-5)

St. Isidore on Irresistible Grace

St. Isidore of Pelusium died ca. 449

The salvation of mankind is prepared not through coercion and imposition, but by persuasion and a kind disposition. Since every person is in full control of their salvation, whether they are crowned or punished justly, they receive what they have chosen. (Letter 629, To Paul)

On the Predestined

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Do you not hear the Savior crying out every day: “I live and do not want the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn to me and live”? Do you not hear how He says: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”? Perhaps He said to one: “Do not repent, because I will not accept you,” but to others, to those who are predestined: “Repent, because I knew you before?” No! But in every day in every church He calls out to the whole world: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Come, He says, you who are burdened with sins, to Him Who takes the sins of the world on Himself! (Moral Oration 2.12-15)

On Semi-Pelagianism

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite 1749-1809

Semi-Pelagians, who differed from the Pelagians in this respect, namely, that the former asserted that our whole salvation depends upon our self-mastery, whereas the latter asserted that although the beginning of salvation consists in self-mastery, yet it must be followed by grace, and not preceded by it, except sometimes. This tenet, however, is also overthrown in the present Canon and in the Scriptures. For the Apostle says: “It is God himself who is working in you to make you both will and work according to His good will.” (Phil. 2:13); and again: “Not that we are sufficiently capable of ourselves to consider anything also on our own part; but our sufficient capability comes from God(2 Cor. 3:5). In quoting this latter passage against the Semi-Pelagians, St. Augustine says (in his book concerning the destiny of saints, Chapter 2): “Let persons weigh their words well who think that the beginning of the faith originates with us, while the completion of the faith rests with God; for, who does not know that reasoning comes first and faith afterwards?” So that according to the same saint (Book on John): “The man co-operates with the Christ who is acting within him unto salvation everlasting and unto justice.” But then Solomon too has said: “And a will is being made ready by the Lord.” (The Rudder. Footnote 76 on Council of Carthage ca. 419 ad: Canon 129,  pg. 1354)

On the Human Will

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

[I]f Adam ate willingly, then the will is the first thing in us that became subject to passion. And since the will is the first thing in us that became subject to passion, if, according to them [the Monothelites], the Word did not assume it along with the nature when He became incarnate, I have not become free from sin. And if I have not become free from sin, I was not saved, since whatever is not assumed is not saved. (Disputatio, 325B)

On Human Freedom

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

The goal of human freedom is not freedom itself… but in God… with the intention that man would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most pleasing offering. (St. Theophan’s “Path to Salvation” Topical Compendium, 169)

On Good Works and Right Faith

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Our Lord Jesus Christ somewhere says to God His Father in heaven, “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ.” (Jn. 17:3) Faith that is true and not subject to derision, because it has the brilliance attendant on good works, fills us with every good and reveals those who have found illustrious glory. The splendor of our actions if it appears to have no share in orthodox teachings and blameless faith would not at all benefit the soul of man, in my opinion. Just as “faith without works is dead,” (cf. Jas. 2:20) so also we say that the reverse is true. Therefore let integrity in faith shine forth along with the glories of upright living. Thus we shall be perfect according to the Law of the all-wise Moses, “You shall be perfect,” he says, “before the Lord your God.” (Deut. 18:13) (Letter 55.2)

St. Ambrose on Faith and Works

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397
 
The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter has made two garments for her spouse, as it is written — the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works.
 
Whether, then, you join to faith already present in the soul, bodily acts agreeing thereto; or acts come first, and faith be joined as their companion, presenting them to God— here is the robe of the minister of religion, here the priestly vestment. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. (Jam. 2:14-26) (De Fide 2:11,13-14)

On Sinlessness and Mortality

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

Many for instance have been made holy and clean from all sin; nay, Jeremiah was hallowed even from the womb, and John, while yet in the womb, leapt for joy at the voice of Mary Bearer of God; nevertheless ‘death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression Rom. 5:14;’ and thus man remained mortal and corruptible as before, liable to the affections proper to their nature. (Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 3.33)

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St. John Chrysostom on Irresistable Grace

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

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 18 on Romans 10)

St. John Cassian on Asceticism

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

Bodily fasting alone is not enough to bring about perfect self-restraint and true purity; it must be accompanied by contrition of heart, intense prayer to God, frequent meditation on the Scriptures, toil and manual labor. These are able to check the restless impulses of the soul and to recall it from its shameful fantasies. Humility of soul helps more than everything else, however, and without it no one can overcome unchastity or any other sin. In the first place, then, we must take the utmost care to guard the heart from base thoughts, for, according to the Lord, ‘out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, unchastity’ and so on (Matt.15:19).

We are told to fast not only to mortify our body, but also to keep our intellect watchful, so that it will not be obscured because of the amount of food we have eaten and thus be unable to guard its thoughts. We must not therefore expend all our effort in bodily fasting; we must also give attention to our thoughts and to spiritual meditation, since otherwise we will not be able to advance to the heights of true purity and chastity. As our Lord has said, we should ‘cleanse first the inside of the cup and plate, so that their outside may also be clean’ (Matt. 23:26).

If we are really eager, as the Apostle puts it, to ‘struggle lawfully’ and to ‘be crowned’ (2 Tim. 2:5) for overcoming the impure spirit of unchastity, we should not trust in our own strength arid ascetic practice, but in the help of our Master, God. No one ceases to be attacked by this demon until he truly believes that he will be healed and reach the heights of purity not through his own effort and labor, but through the aid and protection of God. For such a victory is beyond man’s natural powers. Indeed, he who has trampled down the pleasures and provocations of the flesh is in a certain sense outside the body. Thus, no one can soar to this high and heavenly prize of holiness on his own wings and learn to imitate the angels, unless the grace of God leads him upwards from this earthly mire. (On the Eight Vices)

On the Grace of Holy Scripture

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe ca. 465-533

Study your heart in the light of the Holy Scriptures, and you will know therein who you were, who you are, and who you ought to be. If you approach the Scriptures in meekness and humility, you will really discover there both the prevenient grace by which it is possible to be inspired to a beginning, and the concomitant grace, by which it is possible to continue a journey on the right path, as well as the subsequent grace, by which one is enabled to achieve the blessedness of the heavenly kingdom. (Letter to Senator Theodore 6.12)

Pope St. Gregory on Synergy

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 ours, 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 chose to do what is good. (Morals on the Teaching of Job 33.21.40)

 

St. Leo on Synergy

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Without the grace of God there can be no obedience on man’s part; nor is man ever abandoned by that Good, without which no good can be done. And if carrying out God’s commands proves difficult or impossible for a man, he has no other course but to return to Him who commands, and who gives His precept so that He may excite desire and provide help, as the Prophet says: “Turn your thoughts to God and He will nourish you.” Or is anyone so insolently proud, is anyone so unscathed, does anyone presume himself so immaculate, that he has no need of any renewal? Such a conviction were utterly erroneous, and that man has grown old in excessive vanity who believes that amid the temptations of this life he has been free of every wound. (Sermons 43.1)

On God’s Foreknowledge and the Crucifixion of Christ

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Since then all things which Jewish ungodliness committed against the Lord of Majesty were foretold so long before, and the language of the prophets is concerned not so much with things to come as with things past, what else is thereby revealed to us but the unchangeable order of God’s eternal decrees, with Whom the things which are to be decided are already determined, and what will be is already accomplished? For since both the character of our actions and the fulfilment of all our wishes are fore-known to God, how much better known to Him are His own works? And He was rightly pleased that things should be recorded as if done which nothing could hinder from being done. And hence when the Apostles also, being full of the Holy Ghost, suffered the threats and cruelty of Christ’s enemies, they said to God with one consent, For truly in this city against Your holy Servant Jesus, Whom You have anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were gathered together to do what Your hand and Your counsel ordained to come to pass. Did then the wickedness of Christ’s persecutors spring from God’s plan, and was that unsurpassable crime prefaced and set in motion by the hand of God? Clearly we must not think this of the highest Justice: that which was fore-known in respect of the Jews’ malice is far different, indeed quite contrary to what was ordained in respect of Christ’s Passion. Their desire to slay Him did not proceed from the same source as His to die: nor were their atrocious crime and the Redeemer’s endurance the offspring of One Spirit. The Lord did not incite but permit those madmen’s naughty hands: nor in His foreknowledge of what must be accomplished did He compel its accomplishment, even though it was in order to its accomplishment that He had taken flesh.

In fact, the case of the Crucified is so different from that of His crucifiers that what Christ undertook could not be reversed, while what they did could be wiped out. For He Who came to save sinners did not refuse mercy even to His murderers, but changed the evil of the wicked into the goodness of the believing, that God’s grace might be the more wonderful, being mercifully put in force, not according to men’s merits, but according to the multitude of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge, seeing that they also who had shed the Saviour’s blood were received into the baptismal flood. For, as says the Scripture, which contains the Apostlesacts when the preaching of the blessed Apostle Peter pierced the hearts of the Jews, and they acknowledged the iniquity of their crime, saying, what shall we do, brethren? the same Apostle said, Repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For to you is the promise, and to your sons, and to all that are afar off, whomsoever our Lord God has called, and soon after the Scripture goes on to say: they therefore that received his word were baptized, and there were added on that day about 3,000 souls Acts 2:37-41 . And so, in being willing to suffer their furious rage, the Lord Jesus Christ was in no way the Author of their crimes; nor did He force them to desire this, but permitted them to be able, and used the madness of the blinded people just as He did also the treachery of His betrayer, whom by kindly acts and words He vouchsafed to recall from the awful crime he had conceived, by taking him for a disciple, by promoting him to be an apostle, by warning him with signs, by admitting him to the revelation of holy mysteries , that one who had lacked no degree of kindness to correct him, might have no pretext for his crime at all. (Sermon 67.2-3)

St. Simeon Metaphrastes on Synergy

St. Simeon Metaphrastes ca. 10th cent.

We receive salvation by grace and as a divine gift of the Spirit. But to attain the full measure of virtue we need also to possess faith and love, and to struggle to exercise our free will with integrity. In this manner we inherit eternal life as a consequence of both grace and justice. We do not reach the final stage of spiritual maturity through divine power and grace alone, without ourselves making any effort; but neither on the other hand do we attain the final measure of freedom and purity as a result of our own diligence and strength alone, apart from any divine assistance. If the Lord does not build the house, it is said, and protect the city, in vain does the watchman keep awake, and in vain do the laborer and the builder work (cf. Ps. 127:1-4). (Paraphrase of the Homilies St. Makarios of Egypt: Spiritual Perfection 1)

On Baptism and Free-will

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Baptism does not take away our free will or freedom of choice, but gives us the freedom no longer to be tyrannized by the devil unless we choose to be. After baptism it is in our power either to persist willingly in the practice of the commandments of Christ, into whom we were baptized, and to advance in the path of His ordinances, or to deviate from this straight way and to fall again into the hands of our enemy, the devil.

Whoever after baptism deliberately submits to the will of the devil and carries out his wishes, estranges himself – to adapt David’s words – from the holy womb of baptism (cf. Ps. 58:3). None of us can be estranged or alienated from the nature with which we are created. We are created good by God – for God creates nothing evil – and we remain unchanging in our nature and essence as created. But we do what we choose and want, whether good or bad, of our own free will. Just as a knife does not change its nature, but remains iron whether used for good or for evil, so we, as has been said, act and do what we want without departing from our own nature. (One Hundred and Fifty Three Practical and Theological Texts 109-110)

St. Gregory Palamas on Total Depravity

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

Although St Paul called the body ‘death’ when he said, ‘Who will deliver me from the body ‘of this death?’ (Rom. 7 : 24), this is simply because the materialistic, carnal mentality is body-like, and so he rightly called it a body when comparing it to the spiritual and divine mind. Further, he did not say simply ‘body’ but ‘death of the body’. Shortly before this he clarifies his meaning when he says that the flesh is not at fault, but the sinful impulse that infiltrates into the flesh because of the fall. ‘I am sold’, he says, ‘into slavery under sin’ (Rom. 7:14); but he who is sold is not a slave by nature. And again he says, ‘I know that in me – that is, in my flesh – there dwells nothing good’ (Rom. 7:18). Note that he does not say the flesh is evil, but that which dwells therein. Thus it is evil for this ‘law that is in our bodily members, warring against the law of the intellect’ (cf. Rom. 7:23) – to dwell in the body, not for the intellect to dwell there. (In Defense of Those Who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness 1)

On Divinization by Grace and Works

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

If, dearly beloved, we comprehend faithfully and wisely the beginning of our creation, we shall find that man was made in God’s image, to the end that he might imitate his Creator, and that our race attains its highest natural dignity, by the form of the Divine goodness being reflected in us, as in a mirror. And assuredly to this form the Saviour’s grace is daily restoring us, so long as that which, in the first Adam fell, is raised up again in the second. And the cause of our restoration is naught else but the mercy of God, Whom we should not have loved, unless He had first loved us, and dispelled the darkness of our ignorance by the light of His truth. And the Lord foretelling this by the holy Isaiah says, I will bring the blind into a way that they knew not, and will make them walk in paths which they were ignorant of. I will turn darkness into light for them, and the crooked into the straight. These words will I do for them, and not forsake them. And again he says, I was found by them that sought Me not, and openly appeared to them that asked not for Me. And the Apostle John teaches us how this has been fulfilled, when he says, We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and may be in Him that is true, even His Son , and again, let us therefore love God, because He first loved us. Thus it is that God, by loving us, restores us to His image, and, in order that He may find in us the form of His goodness, He gives us that whereby we ourselves too may do the work that He does, kindling that is the lamps of our minds, and inflaming us with the fire of His love, that we may love not only Himself, but also whatever He loves. For if between men that is the lasting friendship which is based upon similarity of character notwithstanding that such identity of wills is often directed to wicked ends, how ought we to yearn and strive to differ in nothing from what is pleasing to God. Of which the prophet speaks, for wrath is in His indignation, and life in His pleasure , because we shall not otherwise attain the dignity of the Divine Majesty, unless we imitate His will. (Sermon 12.1)

On How God Hardens

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

But, say they (the Marcionites), God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants. Ex. 9:35 Those, then, who allege such difficulties, do not read in the Gospel that passage where the Lord replied to the disciples, when they asked Him, Why do You speak unto them in parables?Because it is given unto you to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven; but to them I speak in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not hear, understanding they may not understand; in order that the prophecy of Isaiah regarding them may be fulfilled, saying, Make the heart of this people gross and make their ears dull, and blind their eyes. But blessed are your eyes, which see the things that you see; and your ears, which hear what you hear. Mat. 13:11-16; Isa. 6:10 For one and the same God [that blesses others] inflicts blindness upon those who do not believe, but who set Him at naught; just as the sun, which is a creature of His, [acts with regard] to those who, by reason of any weakness of the eyes cannot behold his light; but to those who believe in Him and follow Him, He grants a fuller and greater illumination of mind. In accordance with this word, therefore, does the apostle say, in the Second [Epistle] to the Corinthians: In whom the this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine [unto them]. 2 Cor.4:4 And again, in that to the Romans: And as they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient. Rom. 1:28 Speaking of antichrist, too, he says clearly in the Second to the Thessalonians: And for this cause God shall send them the working of error, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but consented to iniquity. 2 Thess. 2:11

If, therefore, in the present time also, God, knowing the number of those who will not believe, since He foreknows all things, has given them over to unbelief, and turned away His face from men of this stamp, leaving them in the darkness which they have themselves chosen for themselves, what is there wonderful if He did also at that time give over to their unbelief, Pharaoh, who never would have believed, along with those who were with him? As the Word spoke to Moses from the bush: And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, unless by a mighty hand. Ex. 3:19 And for the reason that the Lord spoke in parables, and brought blindness upon Israel, that seeing they might not see, since He knew the [spirit of] unbelief in them, for the same reason did He harden Pharaoh’s heart; in order that, while seeing that it was the finger of God which led forth the people, he might not believe, but be precipitated into a sea of unbelief, resting in the notion that the exit of these [Israelites] was accomplished by magical power, and that it was not by the operation of God that the Red Sea afforded a passage to the people, but that this occurred by merely natural causes. (Against Heresies Bk. 4.29.1-2)

St. Augustine on Assurance of Salvation

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

Let us not expect security while we are on pilgrimage. When we do find ourselves wanting it, what we are looking for is bodily sluggishness rather than personal security. (Exposition of Psalm 85)

The Gospel warned us, “Be on the watch for the last day, the day when the Son of Man will come,” because it will spell disaster for those it finds secure as they are now – secure for the wrong reasons, I mean, secure in the pleasures of this world, when they ought to be secure only when they have dominated this world’s lusts. The Apostle certainly prepares us for that future life in words of which I also reminded you on that occasion. (Exposition of Psalm 147)

St. Cyril on Free Will and Total Depravity

Isa. 1:19-20 LXX If you are willing and hearken unto Me, you will eat the good things of the earth. But if you are unwilling and will not hearken unto Me, a sword will consume you. The mouth of the Lord it was, after all, spoke these things.

St. Cyril of Alexandriaca. 376-444

Yet we consider how rich the benefits the prophetic word brings both to the souls of the uncontaminated and to those of people genuinely founded in faith. Since the God of all placed in the inclination of those under guidance the choice of good and the avoidance of evil, He confirms that He has given to everyone on earth control of what has to be done and avoided, and that whatever they choose, they can freely pursue. Since this is the case, it would be idle and futile to indulge in fanciful inventions and claim that evil is natural to human beings, or that fate and chance and birth determine human affairs, and by constraining each one’s judgment they make them agents of vice and virtue, not moving in that direction by a willing inclination but, as it were, bound by unnatural urges and experiencing difficulty under pressure from what rules them. After all, if evil is embedded in our nature, as they stupidly claim, how is it strengthened or weakened by each person’s will? If I were to chose to be good, in fact, there is nothing to prevent my seeming to be so, whereas if evil, there is no obstacle to my taking that direction either. Where is the force of chance or fate? Or what kind of birth imposes a yoke of necessity on people if it follows each person’s wishes, and by displaying obedience they eat the fruits of the earth? And they fall to the sword if by infidelity and disobedience they oppose the divine laws? (Commentary on Isaiah Vol. 1: Chapters 1-14 trans. by Robert Charles Hill pg. 47)

Free Will is the Word of Life

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

Not of compulsion is the doctrine; of free-will is the word of life. Whoso is willing to hear the doctrine, let him cleanse the field of his will that the good seed fall not among the thorns of vain enquirings. If you would heed the word of life, cut yourself off from evil things; the hearing of the word profits nothing to the man that is busied with sins. If you will to be good, love not dissolute customs. First of all, trust in God, and then hearken to His law. (Homily on Admonition and Repentance 1)

St. Maximus on Free Will

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Whether the rational and intelligent being has eternal being or nonbeing lies in the will of the One Who created all good things. Whether it be good or bad by choice lies in the will of the creatures. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love: Fourth Century 13)

 

On Being and Doing

St. Isidore of Pelusium died ca. 445

Having learned quite clearly from the ancients, that to be is not to think, what then is to be? Do more, and do not just talk. (To the scholar Neilammon: Concerning an active life of good works)

On How to Gain Eternal Life

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

And many are the proofs concerning the life eternal. And when we desire to gain this eternal life, the sacred Scriptures suggest to us the ways of gaining it; of which, because of the length of our discourse, the texts we now set before you shall be but few, the rest being left to the search of the diligent. They declare at one time that it is by faith; for it is written, He that believes in the Son has eternal life Jn. 3:36, and what follows; and again He says Himself, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears My word, and believes Him that sent Me, has eternal life , and the rest. At another time, it is by the preaching of the Gospel; for He says, that He that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal. At another time, by martyrdom and confession in Christ’s name; for He says, And he that hates his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal. And again, by preferring Christ to riches or kindred; And every one that has forsaken brethren, or sisters Matt. 19:29, and the rest, shall inherit eternal life. Moreover it is by keeping the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, and the rest which follow; as He answered to him that came to Him, and said, Good Master, what shall I do that I may have eternal life Mk. 10:17? But further, it is by departing from evil works, and henceforth serving God; for Paul says, But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life Rom. 6:22 .

St. Barsanuphius on Synergy

St. Barsanuphius the Great ca. 6th cent.

Q: A certain Christ-loving man asked the same Elder: “God has created man free, and He Himself says: Without Me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). I ask you, how can one reconcile freedom with the fact that without God one can do nothing?”

A: God created man free so that he might incline toward the good; but inclining toward it by his free will, he is in no condition to perform the good without the help of God, for it is written: It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God Who showeth mercy (Rom. 9:16) And so, when a man bends his heart towards the good, and calls on the help of God, then God, heeding his good fervor, will grant him strength for doing [good]; and in this fashion there is at the same time both one and the other: both freedom of man, and the help given him from God,; for the good proceeds from God but it is performed through His Saints. And thus God is glorified in all, and glorifies them. (Guidance Toward Spiritual Life: Answers to Questions of Disciples, 770)

Bede the Venerable on Sola Fide

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Excerpted from Bede’s Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles

Jas 2:15-17 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

It is evident that just as words of concern alone do not help a naked or hungry person if food or clothing is not provided, so faith observed in name only does not save, for it is dead in itself if it is not made alive by works of charity, by which it may be made to come to life. Nor is that contrary to this statement which the Lord uttered, He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk. 16:16), for it must be understood there that only he truly beleives who carries out in deed what he believes. And because faith and charity cannot be seperated from one another – as Paul bears witness by saying, and faith which works through love (Gal. 5:6) – appropiately the apostle John brings forward a statement about charity akin to James’ about faith, saying, Anyone who has the world’s substance and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the charity of God remain in him?

Jas. 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well; the demons also believe and they tremble.

You should not think you are doing something great by believing that God is one, for the demons also do this, nor do they believe only in God the Father but also in God the Son. So it is Luke says, The demons also went out from many shouting and saying, “That you are the Son of God;’ and rebuking them, he did not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was Christ. (Lk. 4:41) And they do not only believe, they also tremble. So the legion who were besieging the man; cried out to him in a beseeching voice, “What is there between me and you, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I earnestly entreat you by God, do not torment me.” (Mk. 5:7) Therefore, those who do not believe that there is a God, or believe and do not fear, must be judged slower-witted and more shameless than the demons. But it is no great thing to believe there is a God and tremble if one does not also believe in him, that is, if love for him be not held in the heart. For it one thing to believe him, another to believe that he exists, another to believe in him. (credere illi…credere illum…credere in illum.) To beleive him is to believe that the things he speaks are true; to believe that he exists is to believe that he is God; to believe in him is to love him. Many, even the wicked, are able to believe the things he speaks are true; they believe that they are true and do not wish to make them their own because they are too lazy to do anything about them. Even the demons believe, however, that he is God. But they alone know how to believe in God who love God, who are Christians not only in name but also in action and [way of] life, because without love faith is empty; with love it is the faith of a Christian, without love the faith of a demon. Therefore, anyone who does not wish to believe that Christ is God still does not imitate the demons. He believes that Christ [is] but hates Christ, he makes a confession of faith out of fear of punishment not out of love of a crown. For they too were afraid of being punished. Accordingly, when blessed Peter, confessing the Lord, said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, (Mt. 16:16) he appears to utter by his mouth almost the same words as the demons; but their confession, because it was uttered with hatred for Christ, was rightly condemned, his, becuas it came forth from inward love, was rewarded.

 Jas. 2:20-21 Do you wish, however, O foolish man, to know that faith without works is worthless? Was not our father Abraham made righteous by works? and so on. Since the apostle Paul, preaching that man is made righteous by faith without works, (Rom. 4:1-25) was not well understood by those who took this saying to mean that when they had once believed in Christ, even though they might commit evils and live wickedly and basely, they could be saved by faith, [James] explains how the passage of the apostle Paul ought to be understood to have the same meaning as this letter. And all the moretherefore he uses the example of Abraham about faith being useless if it does not issue in good works, because the apostle Paul also used the example of Abraham to demonstrate that man is made righteous without deeds. For when he recalls Abraham’s good deeds which accompanied his faith, he shows well enough that the apostle Paul does not teach by Abraham that man is made righteous without works to the extent that anyone who believes it has no responsibility to perform good works, but for this reason instead, that no one should think he has come to the gift of righteousness which is in faith by the merits of his formwer good deeds. In this manner the Jews wished to set themselves above the gentiles who believed in Christ, because, they said, they had come to the grace of the Gospel by the merits of the good works which are in the law, and therefore many of those who believed were scandalized that the grace of Christ was being given to uncircumcised gentiles. Hence the apostle Paul says that a man can be made righteous by faith without works, but [he means] previous works. For how is a person made righteous by faith able to act, if not righteously? When, therefore, James says, Was not our father Abraham made righteous from works, offering his son Isaac upon the altar?, he intentionally advised that an example of good work was to be learned from the patriarch himself, challenging those among the Jews who had believed they like good off-spring, were following the actions of their first and foremost outstanding ancestor. And since he was advising them not to fall away in temptations and prove their faith through works, he chose anexample from the patriarch, by which he might be able to instruct them in each virtue. For what greater temptation, except for thosw hich concern injuries to one’s own body, can happen than that someone, an old man, should be compelled to slay his only and most beloved son? Would he delay giving a tunic or his own food to the poor for the sake of divine love when he did not delay giving over to death immediately at the order of the Lord the son whom he had received as his heir when he was an old man? Accordingly, this statement of blessed James agrees with what Paul says, By faith Abrham, when he was tempted, offered Isaac, and he was offering his only-begotten son who had received the promises, to whom it was siad, “That in Isaac will your seed be called,” thinking that God is able to raise even the dead. (Heb. 11:17-19) Indeed, in one and the same action of the blessed Abraham James has praised the outstanding quality of his works, paul the constancy of his faith; and nevertheless Paul has brought forawrd a statement not dissimilar and different than James. For they both knew that Abraham was perfect both in faith and in works, and therefore each of them emphasized in preaching on him the virtue which he perceived his hearers needed more. For becuase James was writing to those who held that faith without works was wasted, fittingly he brought forward that example in which the superior faith of Abraham which was also previously praised by the witness of Scripture showed itself, because it had not become listless and useless in his heart but had flamed up and was now ready to obey the divine commands. But because Paul was instructing those who were boasting of their works without the grace of faith, he showed that without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. 11:6) and in order to refute and correct their rashness, having gathered together the examples of all the patriarchs, he clearly taught that all were approved by the witness of the faith. (Heb. 11:39) So too, he referred especially to the faith with which Abraham offered Isaac, reckoning, he said, that God is able to raise even the dead. (Heb. 11:19) He added, therefore, the work of faith of him who God would immediately raise him up; for he believed that he would be raised up by God after death because he believed what he had heard was true, “That in Isaac will your seed be called.” (Heb. 11:18) Blessed James also afterwards explains this connection between each virtue, saying:

Jas 2:22-23 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God.

Paul treated of this witness most emphatically to the Romans, clearly teaching that so great is the virtue of faith that as soon as its mysteries are perceived it can make a righteous person out of an irreverent one. (Rom. 4:5) For because Abraham believed God with so great and lively a faith that he was ready in his mind to do everything God ordered, deservedly was his faith accounted for righteousness by God, who knew his heart. And that we also might know his faith by which he was made righteous, God tempted him, ordering him to offer his son, and by his works his faith was fulfilled, that is, how perfect it was in his heart was tested by the performance of works. Nowadays, too, if anyone coming recently to the faith receives baptism and then, intending with his whole heart to observe God’s commandments, shortly goes home from this light, then surely he has gone home made righteous by faith without works, because, by the determination of God himself, in whom he believed he did not have time to test his faith, live on for a long time and do not care to follow up with good works, must have it impressed upon them waht blessed James, after bringing forward the example of the faith together with the works of Abraham, at once appended, saying:

 Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

What he says, from works, means from the works of faith, because no one can have perfect works without faith but many faith without works if they lack the time for works. Of them it has been said, He was taken away lest wickedness change his understanding or craftiness deceive his mind. (Wis. 4:11)

1 Pet. 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing to ours

…For it is not legal circumcision but gospel faith alone that joins the peoples of the gentiles to the ancient people of God. Yet, because the same faith without works is not able to save, there is properly appended: In the righteousness of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.

 1 Jn. 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we are lying and not telling the truth.

He is calling sins heresies and hatred darkness. Therefore, the confession of faith alone is not all sufficient for salvation when it lacks the witness of good works. But neither is the uprightness of works of any avail without faith and the simplicity of love.

 

Not by the Orthodox Faith Alone

St. Paisius Velichkovsky 1722-1794

Without the diligent keeping of all Christ’s commandments, solely by Orthodoxy of faith it is not at all possible to be saved. (Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia pg. 29)

The Sixth Ecumenical Council on Free Will

Constantinople III, Sixth Ecumenical Council 680-681

For should we say that the human nature of our Lord is without will and operation, how could we affirm in safety the perfect humanity? For nothing else constitutes the integrity of human nature except the essential will, through which the strength of free-will is marked in us; and this is also the case with the substantial operation. For how shall we call Him perfect in humanity if He in no wise suffered and acted as a man? For like as the union of two natures preserves for us one subsistence without confusion and without division; so this one subsistence, showing itself in two natures, demonstrates as its own what things belong to each. (Prosphneticus to the Emperor)

St. Gregory Palamas on Free Will

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

If, then, the time of this life is time for repentance, the very fact that a sinner still lives is a pledge that God will accept whoever desires to return to Him. Free will is always part and parcel of this present life. And it lies within the power of free will to choose or to reject the road of life or the road of death that we have described above; for it can pursue whichever it wishes. Where, then, are the grounds of despair, since all of us can at all times lay hold of eternal life whenever we want to? (To the Most Reverend Nun Xenia, 17)

St. Justinian on Faith, Works and Unity

St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

The Scriptures tell us that if faith is not made more perfect by being joined to practice, then the work, too, is dead for it is outside of faith; and it says that no one will win a trophy unless one competes according to the rules. (cf. 2 Tim. 2:5) We understand that the source of the infirmity of our common nature is human weakness, and it affects even those who are strong in mind; but to be made sound in the knowledge of the true faith, and to embrace the unity and peace of the Church we attribute to grace. (Letter to the Monks of Alexandria Against the Monophysites)

St. Nicholas on The Mysteries and Works

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

Now that the Sun has risen and diffused His light everywhere by means of the Mysteries there must be no delay of human works and efforts. We must feed on our Bread “in the sweat of our face” (Gen. 3:19) since it is “broken for us” (1 Cor. 11:24), for it is appointed only for those who are endowed with reason. Since it is the Lord who says, “Labor for the food which endures” (Jn. 6:27), He commands us not to be idle and inactive, but to come to His banquet as those who have been working. If, then, Paul’s injunction bans the lazy even from the transitory table of this life, saying, “if anyone is idle, let him not even eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), what works are needed on the part of those who are called to this table! (The Life in Christ, Fourth Book: 11)

Saints Must Perservere

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

But that even the powers above are, as we said, subject to change is shown by those who fell from their ranks through the fault of a corrupt will. Wherefore we ought not to think that the nature of those is unchangeable, who remain in the blessed condition in which they were created, simply because they were not in like manner led astray to choose the worse part. For it is one thing to have a nature incapable of change, and another thing for a man through the efforts of his virtue, and by guarding what is good through the grace of the unchangeable God, to be kept from change. For everything that is secured or preserved by care, can also be lost by carelessness. And so we read: Call no man blessed before his death, Sirach 11:30 because so long as a man is still engaged in the struggle, and if I may use the expression, still wrestling— even though he generally conquers and carries off many prizes of victory—yet he can never be free from fear, and from the suspicion of an uncertain issue. And therefore God alone is called unchangeable and good, as His goodness is not the result of effort, but a natural possession, and so He cannot be anything but good. No virtue then can be acquired by man without the possibility of change, but in order that when it once exists it may be continually preserved, it must be watched over with the same care and diligence with which it was acquired. (Conference 6.16: With Abba Theodore)

St. Euthymius the Great ca. 377-473

Everywhere we need protection by God’s help, wherever we are. For Adam broke the commandment of God in Paradise, while Job kept it by sitting on a dung heap. (Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of St. Euthymius)

St. Alexander on Faith and Works

St. Alexander of Alexandria died ca. 326

Since therefore ye know, brethren beloved, that the malignant and the unbelieving are the enemies of righteousness, beware of these, embrace faith and charity, by which all the holy men who have existed from the beginning of the world to this day have attained unto salvation. And show forth the fruit of charity, not in words only, but also in deeds, that is, in all godly patience for God’s sake. For, see! the Lord Himself hath shown His charity towards us, not only in words but also in deeds, since He hath given Himself up as the price of our salvation. Besides, we were not created, like the rest of the world, by word alone, but also by deed. For God made the world to exist by the power of a single word, but us He produced by the efficacy alike of His word and working. For it was not enough for God to say, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” but deed followed word; for, taking the dust from the ground, He formed man out of it, conformable to His image and similitude, and into him He breathed the breath of life, so that Adam became a living soul. (On the Soul and Body and Passion of our Lord, 2)

The Crown of Choice

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Above all, Christians are not allowed to correct with violence the delinquencies of sins. For it is not those that abstain from wickedness from compulsion, but those that abstain from choice, that God crowns. It is impossible for a man to be steadily good except by his own choice. For he that is made good by compulsion of another is not good; for he is not what he is by his own choice. For it is the freedom of each one that makes true goodness and reveals real wickedness. Whence through these dispositions God contrived to make His own disposition manifest. (Fragments: Maximus, Sermon 55)

On Becoming a Theologian

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Do you want to become a theologian and worthy of the Diety? Keep the commandments, go through life observing God’s ordinances; for action is the foundation for contemplation [of spiritual mysteries]. (Homily 20, 12, PG 35.1080B.)

On Salvation as Process

St. Cyprian of Carthage died ca. 258

Confession is the beginning of glory, not the full desert of the crown; nor does it perfect our praise, but it initiates our dignity; and since it is written, He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved, Mat. 10:22 whatever has been before the end is a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation, not a terminus wherein the full result of the ascent is already gained. (On the Unity of the Church 21)

On the Mind and Body of Christ

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

The mind of Christ which the saints receive according to the saying, “We have the mind of Christ,” comes along not by any loss of our mental power, nor as a supplementary mind to ours, nor as essentially and personally passing over into our mind, but rather as illuminating the power of our mind with its own quality and bringing the same energy to it. For to have the mind of Christ is, in my opinion, to think in His way and of Him in all situations.

We are said to be the body of Christ according to the Scripture, “We are the body of Christ, each one a member of it,” not by losing our own bodies and becoming His, nor because He passes into us in His Person or is divided up in our members. Rather it is because the corruption of sin is shaken off in a likeness to the Lord’s flesh. For as Christ is by nature sinless in both body and soul by which He is known as man, so can we believe in Him and who are clothed with Him in the Spirit be in Him without sin by the use of our free will. (Chapters on Knowledge 83-84)

Two Greats and a Venerable on the Will

St. Athanasius the Great 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. (Letters 19.7)

Abba Poemen the Great ca. 4th cent.

The will of man is a brass wall between him and God, and a stone of stumbling. When a man renounces it, he also says to himself, ‘In my God, I pass over the wall’ (Ps. 18:29). Therefore, if righteousness is united with the will, a man can labor successfully. (Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Rev 22:17 And the spirit and the bride say: Come. And he that heareth, let him say: Come. And he that thirsteth, let him come. And he that will, let him take the water of life, freely.

So far forth is free-will allowed by saying, ‘He who will, let him take’; that grace is set forth immediately in that which follows, ‘The water of life’, with no merits assuredly preceding. For even to will is a gift of God. 

St. John Climacus on Free-will and Perseverance

St. John Climacus ca. 7th cent.

Someone asked this question of a discerning man: “Why is it that God confers gifts and wonder-working powers on some, even though He knows in advance that they will lapse?” His answer was that God does this so that other spiritual men may grow cautious, and to show that the human will is free, and to demonstrate that on the day of judgment there will be no excuse for these who lapsed. (Step 26, On Discernment)

An Eastern Orthodox View of Calvinism

The Orthodox concept of synergism, far from being a departure from Apostolic Faith, is attested to in Scripture and repeated throughout the centuries. “It is for God to grant His grace,” said St. Cyril of Jerusalem; “your task is to accept that grace and to guard it”. St. John Chrysostom exclaims, “All depends indeed on God, but not so that our free-will is hindered. [God] does not anticipate our choice, lest our free-will be outraged. But when we have chosen, then great is the assistance He brings to us.” St. Augustine himself witnesses to a synergism between God and Man, as Thomas Oden explains: “Though not the first, Augustine was the most brilliant exponent of how the action of grace can be both ‘from the will of man and from the mercy of God.’ Thus we accept the dictum, ‘It is not a matter of human willing or running but of God’s showing mercy,’ as if it meant, ‘The will of man is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the mercy of God.’ But by the same token the mercy of God is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the will of man.” Commenting on Romans 9:16, St. Augustine states that “If any man is of the age to use his reason, he cannot believe, hope, love, unless he will to do so, nor obtain the prize of the high calling of God unless he voluntarily run for it.” Finally, Oden notes “That the synergy of grace and freedom became the consensual teaching of the believing church is clear from the Third Ecumenical Council, held in Ephesus in A.D. 431: ‘For He acts in us that we may both will and do what He wishes, nor does He allow those gifts to be idle in us which He has given to be used and not to be neglected, that we also may be cooperators with the grace of God’”.

The Orthodox doctrine of synergy came to its fullest and most refined articulation with the Sixth Œcumenical Synod (680-681). This Synod declared that Christ has both a divine and a human will, and that these two wills co-operated synergistically. This has tremendous ramifications for Christian anthropology. Those who have been organically united to Christ in Holy Baptism (Gal. 3:27) have the Spirit of God living in them; and this Spirit quickens our soul and makes it alive unto God. Our own will then freely co-operates with this newly given Divine Energy which is ever renewed in us through ascetic struggle and participation in the Mystery of His Body and Blood. Thus, the Œcumenical Synods that defined and refined the doctrine of the Person of Christ set forth that, for us who are made in His image, it is not only God’s will that is operative in us (this would be a monoenergistic anthropology – one held by many Reformed Protestants), nor is it our own will working apart from God (this would be Pelagianism), but rather it is the two working together in harmony, neither overwhelming the other (cf. Phil. 2:13-14).” Carmen Fragapane, Salvation by Christ

 

Total Depravity

 

Unconditional Election

 

Limited Atonement

 

Irresistable Grace 

 

Perserverance of the Saints 

 

On Predestination

St. Bede on Proximity to God

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Jas 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Draw near to the Lord by following his footsteps through humility, and he will draw near to you by freeing you from your difficulties through his mercy. For not everyone is far from God by distances, but by dispostions. For though both he who is inclined to virtues and he who falls away in the filth of vices dwell in one place on the earth, the one is far from God, the other has God near. Hence the psalmist also says, The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth, (Ps. 145 [144]:18) and again, Salvation is far from sinners, (Ps. 119 [118]:155) that salvation is certainly of which we sing, The Lord is my light and my salvation. (Ps. 27[26]:1)

 

On Election and Foreknowledge

 Philip Schaff 1819-1893

[We] may say every reflecting Christian must believe in some sort of election by free grace; and, in fact, the Holy Scriptures are full of it. But up to the time of Augustine the doctrine had never been an object of any very profound inquiry, and had therefore never been accurately defined, but only very superficially and casually touched. The Greek fathers, and Tertullian, Ambrose, Jerome, and Pelagius, had only taught a conditional predestination, which they made dependent on the foreknowledge of the free acts of men. In this, as in his views of sin and grace, Augustine went far beyond the earlier divines, taught an unconditional election of grace, and restricted the purpose of redemption to a definite circle of the elect, who constitute the minority of the race. (History of the Christian Church III Chap. IX § 158. The Doctrine of Predestination)

The Greek church ignored Augustin, and still more Gottschalk, and adheres to this day to the anthropology of the Nicene and ante-Nicene fathers, who laid as great stress on the freedom of the will as on divine grace. John of Damascus teaches an absolute foreknowledge, but not an absolute foreordination of God, because God cannot foreordain sin, which He wills not, and which, on the contrary, He condemns and punishes; and He does not force virtue upon the reluctant will. The Latin church retained a traditional reverence for Augustin, as her greatest divine, but never committed herself to his scheme of predestination. (History of the Christian Church IV Chap XI § 119. The Predestinarian Controversy)

H/T to JNorm over at Ancient Christian Defense for his excellent treatment of how the fathers defined foreknowledge.

Barnabas ca. 70-130

Behold, therefore, we have been refashioned, as again He says in another prophet, “Behold, saith the Lord, I will take away from these, that is, from those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw, their stony hearts, and I will put hearts of flesh within them,” because He was to be manifested in flesh, and to sojourn among us. For, my brethren, the habitation of our heart is a holy temple to the Lord. (Epistle of Barnabas, Chap. VI)

Hermas ca. 100-150

“That you may behold,” he added, “the great mercy of the Lord, that it is great and glorious, and that He has given His Spirit to those who are worthy of repentance.” “Why then, sir,” I said, “did not all these repent?” He answered, “To them whose heart He saw would become pure, and obedient to Him, He gave power to repent with the whole heart. But to them whose deceit and wickedness He perceived, and saw that they intended to repent hypocritically, He did not grant repentance, lest they should again profane His name.” (The Shepherd of Hermas, Book Third, Similitude 8 Chap. VI)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

Furthermore, I have proved in what has preceded, that those who were foreknown to be unrighteous, whether men or angels, are not made wicked by God’s fault, but each man by his own fault is what he will appear to be. (Dialogue with Trypho, Chap. CXL)

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

Those persons, therefore, who have apostatized from the light given by the Father, and transgressed the law of liberty, have done so through their own fault, since they have been created free agents, and possessed of power over themselves.

But God, foreknowing all things, prepared fit habitations for both, kindly conferring that light which they desire on those who seek after the light of incorruption, and resort to it; but for the despisers and mockers who avoid and turn themselves away from this light, and who do, as it were, blind themselves, He has prepared darkness suitable to persons who oppose the light, and He has inflicted an appropriate punishment upon those who try to avoid being subject to Him. Submission to God is eternal rest, so that they who shun the light have a place worthy of their flight; and those who fly from eternal rest, have a habitation in accordance with their fleeing. Now, since all good things are with God, they who by their own determination fly from God, do defraud themselves of all good things; and having been [thus] defrauded of all good things with respect to God, they shall consequently fall under the just judgment of God. For those persons who shun rest shall justly incur punishment, and those who avoid the light shall justly dwell in darkness. For as in the case of this temporal light, those who shun it do deliver themselves over to darkness, so that they do themselves become the cause to themselves that they are destitute of light, and do inhabit darkness; and, as I have already observed, the light is not the cause of such an [unhappy] condition of existence to them; so those who fly from the eternal light of God, which contains in itself all good things, are themselves the cause to themselves of their inhabiting eternal darkness, destitute of all good things, having become to themselves the cause of [their consignment to] an abode of that nature. (Against Heresies IV:39:3-4)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

Now, although you will have it that He is inconstant in respect of persons, sometimes disapproving where approbation is deserved; or else wanting in foresight, bestowing approbation on men who ought rather to be reprobated, as if He either censured His own past judgments, or could not forecast His future ones; yet nothing is so consistent for even a good judge as both to reject and to choose on the merits of the present moment. Saul is chosen, but he is not yet the despiser of the prophet Samuel. Solomon is rejected; but he is now become a prey to foreign women, and a slave to the idols of Moab and Sidon. What must the Creator do, in order to escape the censure of the Marcionites? Must He prematurely condemn men, who are thus far correct in their conduct, because of future delinquencies? But it is not the mark of a good God to condemn beforehand persons who have not yet deserved condemnation. Must He then refuse to eject sinners, on account of their previous good deeds? But it is not the characteristic of a just judge to forgive sins in consideration of former virtues which are no longer practised. Now, who is so faultless among men, that God could always have him in His choice, and never be able to reject him? Or who, on the other hand, is so void of any good work, that God could reject him for ever, and never be able to choose him? Show me, then, the man who is always good, and he will not be rejected; show me, too, him who is always evil, and he will never be chosen.  Should, however, the same man, being found on different occasions in the pursuit of both (good and evil) be recompensed in both directions by God, who is both a good and judicial Being, He does not change His judgments through inconstancy or want of foresight, but dispenses reward according to the deserts of each case with a most unwavering and provident decision. (The Five Books Against Marcion, Book II, Chap. XXIII)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

When God undertook in the beginning to create the world; for nothing that comes be is without a cause, each of the things that would ever exist was presented to His mind. He saw what else would result when such a thing were produced; and if such a result were accomplished, what else would accompany; and what else would be the result even of this when it would come about. And so on to the conclusion of the sequence of events, He knew what would be, without being altogether the cause of the coming to be of each of the things which He knew would happen. (Commentaries on Genesis, Book III,6)

Eusebius of Caesarea ca. 263-339

And if it must needs be said that foreknowledge of events is not the cause of the occurence of those events; for a foreknown sinner, when he sins, does not thereby hold God within his power – why, what is even more wonderful, we do in fact say that the event about to take place is the cause of the existence of the foreknowledge concerning it. For not because it is known does it take place; but because it is about to take place, it is known. A distinction must be made. Indeed, we will not concede to the interpretation some make: that something absolutely must come about because what is foreknown must necessarily be about to take place. For we do not say that because it was foreknown that Judas would become a traitor, it was therefore of utter necessity that Judas become a traitor. (Preparation for the Gospel, 6:11)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

“Blessed is he whom you have chosen and have taken up, that he may dwell in your tabernacles.” Indeed, all flesh will come, which is to say, we will be gathered together from every race of men: but whoever will be chosen, he is blessed. For many, according to the Gospel, are called, but few are chosen. The elect are distinguished in their wedding garment, splendid in the pure and perfect body of the new birth. Election, therefore, is not a thing of haphazard judgment. It is a distiction made by selection based on merit. Blessed, then, is he whom God elects: blessed for the reason that he is worthy of election. And it given us to know in what respect the blessed shall be elect, this being clear from what follows: “He shall dwell in your tabernacles.” (Commentaries on the Psalms, 64 [65])

St. Ambrose ca. 337-397

Then, speaking of the Father, He added: For whom it has been prepared, to show that the Father also is not wont to give heed merely to requests, but to merits; for God is not a respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) Wherefore also the Apostle says: Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate. (Rom. 8:29) He did not predestinate them before He knew them, but He did predestinated the reward of those whose merits He foreknew. (De Fide, Book V: 6.82)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

This is what Marcion asks, and the whole pack of heretics who mutilate the Old Testament, and have mostly spun an argument something like this: Either God knew that man, placed in Paradise, would transgress His command, or He did not know. If He knew, man is not to blame, who could not avoid God’s foreknowledge, but He Who created him such that he could not escape the knowledge of God. If He did not know, in stripping Him of foreknowledge you also take away His divinity. Upon the same showing God will be deserving of blame for choosing Saul, who was to prove one of the worst of kings. And the Saviour must be convicted either of ignorance, or of unrighteousness, inasmuch as He said in the Gospel, “Did I not choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil ?” Ask Him why He chose Judas, a traitor? Why He entrusted to him the bag when He knew that he was a thief? Shall I tell you the reason? God judges the present, not the future. He does not make use of His foreknowledge to condemn a man though He knows that he will hereafter displease Him; but such is His goodness and unspeakable mercy that He chooses a man who, He perceives, will meanwhile be good, and who, He knows, will turn out badly, thus giving him the opportunity of being converted and of repenting. This is the Apostle’s meaning when he says, “Dost thou not know that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Who will render to every man according to his works.” For Adam did not sin because God knew that he would do so; but God inasmuch as He is God, foreknew what Adam would do of his own free choice. (Against the Pelagians, Book III, 6)

“Perhaps,” He says, “they may hear and be converted (Jer. 26:3). The uncertainty of the word “perhaps” cannot pertain to the majesty of the Lord, but it is spoken on account of our condition, so that the free will of man may be preserved, lest it be supposed that in view of His foreknowledge there is, as it were, a kind of necessity either of doing something or of not doing it. (Commentaries on Jeremias 5, 35, 5)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

For if it must needs be that offenses come, how is it possible to escape these? Because that the offenses come indeed must needs be, but that men should perish is not altogether of necessity. Like as though a physician should say (for nothing hinders our using the same illustration again), it must needs be that this disease should come on, but it is not a necessary consequence that he who gives heed should be of course destroyed by the disease. And this He said, as I mentioned, to awaken together with the others His disciples. For that they may not slumber, as sent unto peace and unto untroubled life, He shows many wars close upon them, from without, from within. Declaring this, Paul said, Without were fightings, within were fears; 2 Cor. 7:5 and, In perils among false brethren; 2 Cor. 11:26 and in his discourse to the Milesians too He said, Also of you shall some arise speaking perverse things; Acts 20:30 and He Himself too said, The man’s foes shall be they of his own household. Matthew 10:36 But when He said, It must needs be, it is not as taking away the power of choosing for themselves, nor the freedom of the moral principle, nor as placing man’s life under any absolute constraint of circumstances, that He says these things, but He foretells what would surely be; and this Luke has set forth in another form of expression, It is impossible but that offenses should come. Luke 17:1

But what are the offenses? The hindrances on the right way. Thus also do those on the stage call them that are skilled in those matters, them that distort their bodies.

It is not then His prediction that brings the offenses; far from it; neither because He foretold it, therefore does it take place; but because it surely was to be, therefore He foretold it; since if those who bring in the offenses had not been minded to do wickedly, neither would the offenses have come; and if they had not been to come, neither would they have been foretold. But because those men did evil, and were incurably diseased, the offenses came, and He foretells that which is to be. (Homilies on Matthew, Homily 59.1)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

“Those who He predestined, those also did He call; and those whom He called, those also did He justify; and those who He justifed, those also did He glorify.” (Rom. 8:30) Those whose resolve He foreknew, He predestined from the beginning. Predestining them, He did also call them. Calling them, He justified them by Baptism; and justifying them, He glorified them, calling them sons and bestowing on them the grace of the Holy Spirit. But no one would say that His foreknowledge is the cause of this; for His foreknowledge does not accomplish such things as these. Rather, God, since He is God, does see from afar those things that are going to be…The God of the universe, since he is God, sees all things from afar. Assuredly this imposes no necessity on anyone practicing virtue, nor on anyone doing evil. For if a man be compelled to either course, it is not right that he be either praised and crowned, or condemned to punishment. If God is just, as just He be, he encourages to those things that are good, and dissuades from the contrary; and he praises those who do good, and punishes those who voluntarily embrace evil. (Interpretation of Romans, On Rom. 8:30)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Let no one suppose, as do some ignorant persons, that the oracles delivered by the holy prophets are carried onward to final accomplishment simply in order that the Scriptures may be fulfilled. For if this is truly the case, there will be nothing to prevent those who have minutely shaped their conduct according to the letter of Scripture, from finding not invalid excuses for sin, or rather from actually making out that they have never erred at all. “For if it needs must have been,” one will say, “that the Scriptures should be fulfilled by such and such things, surely those who were the instruments of the fulfilment must be free from all censure.” The Divine Scripture therefore in such a case must have appeared especially as a minister of sin, urging men on as it were by force to the deeds spoken of by it, in order that what was uttered in days of old might really come to pass. But, because of this, I think the argument is very full of blasphemy. For who could ever be so utterly void of proper reason as to suppose that the Word of the Holy Ghost should become to any a patron of sin? Therefore we do not believe that the deeds of any were done simply for this reason, namely, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. But the Holy Ghost has spoken in perfect foreknowledge as to what will happen, in order that, when the time comes for the event, we may find in the prediction which describes the event, a pledge to establish our faith, and may thenceforward hold it without hesitation (Commentary of the Gospel of John, Bk. IX)

Put perhaps you will say, “How, then, can Christ be said to have kept His disciples, if merely in pursuance of the inclinations and volitions of their own wills the rest escaped the devil’s net while Judas alone was taken, ill-fated beyond the others? How, then, can the safekeeping here spoken of be said to have been of profit?”

Nay, my good friend, we answer, soberness is indeed a good thing, and the keeping guard over our minds profiteth much, together with an earnest endeavour towards the doing of good works and stablishing ourselves in virtue, for so shall we work out our own salvation; but this alone will not avail to save the soul of man. For it stands in urgent need of assistance and grace from above, to make what is difficult of achievement easy to it, and to render the steep and thorny path of righteousness smooth. And to prove to you that we are not able to do anything at all of ourselves without the aid of Divine grace, hearken to the voice of the Psalmist: If the Lord build not the house, their labour is in vain that build it: and if the Lord keep not the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

I say, then, that it is our bounden duty to foster and practise a home-bred self-denial and a religious frame of mind; but in so doing also to ask help of God, and, receiving the aid that comes from above as a panoply proof against every assault, to acquit ourselves like men. When God has once for all vouchsafed to grant our prayer, and it is therefore in our power to subdue the might of our adversaries, and conquer the power of the devil, if we do not choose to follow him when he allures us to pleasure or any other kind of sin; then, I say, if we let our wills comply with him, and, yielding to our wicked inclinations, are entangled in his noose, how can we any more with justice accuse any one else, or fail to attribute our doom to our own folly? For is not this what Solomon said long ago: The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord? And this is unquestionably the case. If, however, the traitor was unable to enjoy the succour of the Saviour as much as the other disciples, let any man only prove this, and we submit; but if, while he was, in common with the rest, encompassed by the Divine grace, of his own will he relapsed into the abyss of perdition, how can Christ be said not to have kept him, when He vouchsafed him the riches of His mercy, and increased, so far as it was possible in any man’s case, his chance of safety, if he had not chosen his doom of his own will? His grace, moreover, was conspicuous in the rest, continually keeping in safety those who made their own free-will, as it were, co-operate therewith. For this is the manner in which the salvation of each one of us is achieved. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Bk. XI, Chap. 9)

God, who knows the things that belong to the future and not just events when they happen, knew even before the foundation of the world the things that were going to come to pass in the last times. Therefore, effecting such purposes as were befitting Him, not when we were made did He first direct His will to us; but even before He produced the earth and the ages, He had in Himself the knowledge of our affairs. And in His foreknowledge He had already determined in regard to his own Son, that we, being built up by Him, should rise up again in incorruption, who through trangression, had fallen victim to corruption. For He knew that we were going to be corpses on account of sin. (Treasury of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, Thesis 15)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

These, however, of whom it is said: “They have gone forth from us, but they were not uf us. For if they had been of us, they would surely have remained with us,” went forth voluntarily and voluntarily they fell. And because it was foreknown that they would fall, they were not predestined. But they would have been predestined if they were going to return and remain in holiness and truth. And consequenly, God’s predestination is the cause of the standing firm of many, but for no one is it the cause of their falling. (Responses on Behalf of Augustine to the Articles of Objections Raised by the Vincentianists, 12)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

Since then all things which Jewish ungodliness committed against the Lord of Majesty were foretold so long before, and the language of the prophets is concerned not so much with things to come as with things last, what else is thereby revealed to us but the unchangeable order of God’s eternal decrees, with Whom the things which are to be decided are already determined, and what will be is already accomplished? For since both the character of our actions and the fulfilment of all our wishes are fore-known to God,. how much better known to Him are His own works? And He was rightly pleased that things should be recorded as if done which nothing could hinder from being done. And hence when the Apostles also, being full of the Holy Ghost, suffered the threats and cruelty of Christ’s enemies, they said to God with one consent, “For truly in this city against Thy holy Servant Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were gathered together to do what Thy hand and Thy counsel ordained to come to pass.” Did then the wickedness of Christ’s persecutors spring from God’s plan, and was that unsurpassable crime prefaced and set in motion by the hand of God? Clearly we must not think this of the highest Justice: that which was fore-known in respect of the Jews’ malice is far different, indeed quite contrary to what was ordained in respect of Christ’s Passion. Their desire to slay Him did not proceed from the same source as His to die: nor were their atrocious crime and the Redeemer’s endurance the offspring of One Spirit. The Lord did not incite but permit those madmen’s naughty hands: nor in His foreknowledge of what must be accomplished did He compel its accomplishment, even though it was in order to its accomplishment that He had taken flesh. (Sermon LXVII, II)

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe ca. 467-533

He foretold and promised a reward for the enjoyment of the righteous; He did not promise, however, but only foretold a torment for the punishment of the unrighteous. But neither did He predestine the wicked to the loing of righteousness as He predestined the saints to the receiving of that same righteousness, because the merciful and just Lord was able to gratuitously to free whoever He wished from depravity. He was never the perpetrator of depravity, because no one ever was depraved except insofar as he withdrew from God. Nor did God predestine any to withdraw from Him, although the divine knowledge foresaw who would so withdraw. (To Monimus 1, 25, 4)

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)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

1Pe 2:25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.How does He call them sheep and wandering ones, when those who lead their life in error are reckoned goats rather than sheep, except because the Lord knows those who are his. He bears for a long time even with many who lead bad lives whom nonetheless He forsees they are to be saved in the number of His sheep. (Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles)

Cogitosus ca. 650

Holy Brigit, whom God knew beforehand and predestined to be formed into His image, was born in Ireland of noble Christian parents who belonged to the good and wise sept of Echtech. (The Life of St. Brigit the Virgin)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

A judge justly punishes one who is guilt of wrongdoing; and if he does not punish him he is himself a wrongdoer. In punishing him the judge is not the cause either of wrongdoing or of the vengeance taken against the wrongdoer, the cause being the wrongdoer’s freely chosen actions. Thus too God, who saw what was going to happen as if it had already happened, judged it as if it had taken place; and if was evil, that was the cause of its being punished. It was God who created man, so of course He created Him in goodness; but man did evil of his own free choice, and is himself the cause of the vengeance that overtakes him. (Dialogue Against the Manicheans, 37)

God’s foreknowledge, as a power, does not have its cause from us; but His foreknowing of what we are certainly going to do, that does have its cause from us. For if we were to do something, He would not foreknow that we were, and neither would it be done. God’s foreknowledge is true and inviolable, but it is not the cause itself, purely and simply, of what is going to be done. It is because we are going to do this or that, that he foreknows it. (Dialogue Against the Manicheans, 79)

Council of Quiercy ca. 853

Chap. 1. Omnipotent God created man noble without sin with a free will, and he whom He wished to remain in the sanctity of justice, He placed in Paradise. Man using his free will badly sinned and fell, and became the “mass of perdition” of the entire human race. The just and good God, however, chose from this same mass of perdition according to His foreknowledge those whom through grace He predestined to life [ Rom. 8:29 ff.; Eph. 1:11], and He predestined for these eternal life; the others, whom by the judgment of justice he left in the mass of perdition, however, He knew would perish, but He did not predestine that they would perish, because He is just; however, He predestined eternal punishment for them. And on account of this we speak of only one predestination of God, which pertains either to the gift of grace or to the retribution of justice. (note: Local Western council against Gottschalk and the Predestinarians)

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. (Confession of Dositheus, Decree III)

On the Perseverance of the Saints

John Jefferson Davis, professor of Systematic Theology and Christian ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA

The first extensive discussion of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is found in Augustine’s Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance, written in A.D. 428 or 429 in the context of the controversies with Pelagius on the issues of grace, original sin, and predestination. At the very outset Augustine affirms the grace of God as the ultimate basis for the believer’s final perseverance: “I assert….that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God.” From a human perspective it is inscrutable why, given two pious men, one should be given the grace of final perseverance and the other not. From a divine perspective it must be the case that the individual who perseveres is among the predestined while the other is not. The one who fails to persevere has not been called according to God’s plan and chosen in Christ according to God’s purpose.

God’s sovereignty in election and predestination, then, is the basis for Augustine’s understanding of final perseverance. The grace of God

“which both begins a man’s faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end is not given in respect of our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called, with that calling of which it is said, ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ ”

Unlike Calvin and those in the later Reformed tradition, however, Augustine does not believe that the Christian can in this life know with infallible certitude that he is in fact among the elect and that he will finally persevere. According to Augustine “it is uncertain whether anyone has received this gift so long as he is still alive.” The believer’s life in this world is a state of trial, and he who seems to stand must take heed lest he fall. It is possible to experience the renewal of baptismal regeneration, and the justifying grace of God, and yet not persevere to the end. The recognition of this possibility should make the believer’s confession of faith “lowly and submissive” and lead to continued dependence on the grace of God. Augustine’s understanding of perseverance, then, reflects his understanding of the eternal predestination of God, the warning passages addressed to believers in the NT, and his sacramental theology of grace and baptismal regeneration. He held that God’s elect will certainly persevere but that one’s election could not be infallibly known in this life — and that in fact one’s justification and baptismal regeneration could be rejected and lost through sin and unbelief. Augustine’s understanding set the parameters for Aquinas, for the Council of Trent, and for the Roman Catholic tradition generally down to the present day.

…Luther’s understanding of perseverance clearly bears marks of the Roman Catholic tradition and yet differs from it on the key point of the believer’s present certitude of the experience of grace. In the context of a late medieval Church whose theology and practices mitigated against such certitude, Luther is horrified that the pope “should have entirely prohibited the certainty and assurance of divine grace.”  The preacher’s essential task is to make the hearers sure of their salvation. “If you want to preach to a person in a comforting way,” urged Luther in a midweek sermon on Matt 18:21-22, “then do it so that he who hears you is certain that he is in God’s favor, or be silent altogether.” Preachers who make their hearers doubt are “good for nothing.” Assurance that one is presently in a state of grace is foundational to the Christian life. “I must be able to say,” stated the great reformer, “I know that I have a gracious God and that my works, performed in this faith and according to this Word, are good fruits and are pleasing to Him.”

Like Augustine, Luther believed that regeneration occurred through the waters of baptism. “But,” noted the Reformer, “all of us do not remain with our baptism. Many fall away from Christ and become false Christians.” In his commentary on 2 Pet 2:22 he writes as follows on apostates in the Church: “Through baptism these people threw out unbelief, had their unclean way of life washed away, and entered into a pure life of faith and love. Now they fall away into unbelief and their own works, and they soil themselves again in filth.”

One who has experienced the justifying grace of God through faith can lose that justification through unbelief or false confidence in works. “Indeed, even the righteous man,” writes Luther in his comments on Gal 5:4, “if he presumes to be justified by those works, loses the righteousness he has and falls from the grace by which he had been justified, since he has been removed from a good land to one that is barren.”

Martin Luther shared with the Roman Catholic Church of his day the belief that the grace of baptismal regeneration and justification could be lost.

…Like Luther, Calvin believes that the Christian can enjoy moral certitude of his present state of grace. Calvin, however, has greater confidence than Luther and the Catholic tradition before him that the believer can also have great assurance of his election and final perseverance.

Calvin also differs from Luther in his understanding of regeneration. According to Calvin, once the Spirit brings a person to regeneration this reality cannot be lost.

…Calvin, Arminius and Wesley agreed that if election were unconditional, then final perseverance would logically follow as a matter of course. Augustine and Aquinas affirmed unconditional election but taught that believers did not enjoy infallible certitude of their election and hence of their final perseverance. Luther believed that the Christian could have certitude concerning the present state of grace but not concerning final perseverance. Like the Roman Catholic tradition that preceded him and the Wesleyan tradition that succeeded him, Luther did not see regeneration as inextricably linked with final salvation. The Calvinistic tradition has understood election as unconditional, regeneration as permanent, and certitude of final perseverance as a genuine possibility for the believer. (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society [JETS] 34/2 (June 1991) p. 213-228The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine by John Jefferson Davis)

Barnabas ca. 70-130

We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole [past] time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger, as becomes the sons of God. That the Black One may find no means of entrance, let us flee from every vanity, let us utterly hate the works of the way of wickedness. Do not, by retiring apart, live a solitary life, as if you were already [fully] justified; but coming together in one place, make common inquiry concerning what tends to your general welfare. For the Scripture says, Woe to them who are wise to themselves, and prudent in their own sight! (Isa. 5:21) Let us be spiritually-minded: let us be a perfect temple to God. As much as in us lies, let us meditate upon the fear of God, and let us keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. The Lord will judge the world without respect of persons. Each will receive as he has done: if he is righteous, his righteousness will precede him; if he is wicked, the reward of wickedness is before him. Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when you reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, Many are called, but few are chosen. (Epistle of Barnabas, 4)

The Didache ca. 70-120

Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. But you shall assemble together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made complete in the last time. (Chap 16)

 

St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 45-107

Do not err, my brethren. (Comp. Jam 1:16)Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor. 6:9-10) If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him. (Epistle to the Ephesians, 16)

2nd Clement ca. 100-150

Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.” Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but by being continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind. And it is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this reason, if we should do such [wicked] things, the Lord hath said, “Even though ye were gathered together to me in my very bosom, yet if ye were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off, and say unto you, Depart from me; I know you not whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity.” (2 Clement 4)

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

Justin well said: Before the advent of the Lord, Satan never ventured to blaspheme God, inasmuch as he was not yet sure of his own damnation, since that was announced concerning him by the prophets only in parables and allegories. But after the advent of the Lord learning plainly from the discourses of Christ and His apostles that eternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy, then, by means of a man of this sort, he, as if already condemned, blasphemes that God who inflicts judgment upon him, and imputes the sin of his apostasy to his Maker, instead of to his own will and predilection. — Irenaeus: Heresies, v. 26. (Other Fragments from the Lost Writings of Justin)

Shepherd of Hermas ca. 150

For the Lord has sworn by His glory, in regard to His elect, that if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he shall not be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits. Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints; but to the heathen, repentance will be possible even to the last day. You will tell, therefore, those who preside over the Church, to direct their ways in righteousness, that they may receive in full the promises with great glory. Stand stedfast, therefore, ye who work righteousness, and doubt not, that your passage may be with the holy angels. Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on, and happy they who shall not deny their own life. For the Lord hath sworn by His Son, that those who denied their Lord have abandoned their life in despair, for even now these are to deny Him in the days that are coming. (Vision Second, Chap. II)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Some of his disciples, too, addicting themselves to the same practices, have deceived many silly women, and defiled them. They proclaim themselves as being “perfect,” so that no one can be compared to them with respect to the immensity of their knowledge, nor even were you to mention Paul or Peter, or any other of the apostles. They assert that they themselves know more than all others, and that they alone have imbibed the greatness of the knowledge of that power which is unspeakable. They also maintain that they have attained to a height above all power, and that therefore they are free in every respect to act as they please, having no one to fear in anything. For they affirm, that because of the “Redemption” it has come to pass that they can neither be apprehended, nor even seen by the judge. (Against Heresies, Bk. I, 13.6)

And truly the death of the Lord became [the means of] healing and remission of sins to the former, but Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him; but the Son shall come in the glory of the Father, requiring from His stewards and dispensers the money which He had entrusted to them, with usury; and from those to whom He had given most shall He demand most. We ought not, therefore, as that presbyter remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom. And therefore it was that Paul said, For if [God] spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest He also spare not you, who, when you were a wild olive tree, were grafted into the fatness of the olive tree, and were made a partaker of its fatness.

As then the unrighteous, the idolaters, and fornicators perished, so also is it now: for both the Lord declares, that such persons are sent into eternal fire; Mat. 25:41 and the apostle says, Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9-10 And as it was not to those who are without that he said these things, but to us, lest we should be cast forth from the kingdom of God, by doing any such thing, he proceeds to say, And such indeed were you; but you are washed, but you are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. And just as then, those who led vicious lives, and put other people astray, were condemned and cast out, so also even now the offending eye is plucked out, and the foot and the hand, lest the rest of the body perish in like manner. Mat. 18:8-9 (Against Hereises, Bk. IV, 27.2,4)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

Forgiveness of past sins, then, God gives, however, as to future sins, each one procures this for himself. And this is to repent, to condemn the past deeds, and beg oblivion of them from the Father, who only of all is able to undo what is done, by mercy proceeding from Him, and to blot out former sins by the dew of the Spirit. “For by the state in which I find you will I judge” also, is what in each case the end of all cries aloud. So that even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him, since at the catastrophe of the drama he has given up his part; while it is possible for the man who formerly led a bad and dissolute life, on afterwards repenting, to overcome in the time after repentance the evil conduct of a long time. But it needs great carefulness, just as bodies that have suffered by protractred disease need regimen and special attention. Thief, do you wish to get forgiveness? steal no more. Adulterer, burn no more. Fornicator, live for the future chastely. You who has robbed, give back, and give back more than you took. False witness, practice truth. Perjurer, swear no more, and extirpate the rest of the passions, wrath, lust, grief, fear; that you may be found at the end to have previously in this world been reconciled to the adversary. It is then probably impossible all at once to eradicate inbred passions; but by God’s power and human intercession, and the help of the brethren, and sincere repentance, and constant care, they are corrected. (Who is the Rich Man That Shall be Saved? Chap. XL)

 

Tertullian ca. 160-220

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. (Against the Valentinians, Chaps. 29-30)

But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery. But if it is of necessity that God grants us the symbol of death, then He does so unwilling. But who permits a gift to be permanently retained which he has granted unwillingly? For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? is not this gift taken away from many? (On Repentance,6)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

Hoodwinking therefore multitudes, he led on (into enormities) many (dupes) of this description who had become his disciples, by teaching them that they were prone, no doubt, to sin, but beyond the reach of danger, from the fact of their belonging to the perfect power, and of their being participators in the inconceivable potency. And subsequent to the (first) baptism, to these they promise another, which they call Redemption. And by this (other baptism) they wickedly subvert those that remain with them in expectation of redemption, as if persons, after they had once been baptized, could again obtain remission. (The Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. VI Chap. XXXVI)

St. Cyprian of Carthage +258

He says that we are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. We pray that this sanctification may abide in us and because our Lord and Judge warns the man that was healed and quickened by Him, to sin no more lest a worse thing happen unto him, we make this supplication in our constant prayers, we ask this day and night, that the sanctification and quickening which is received from the grace of God may be preserved by His protection.

…[T]here is need of continual prayer and supplication, that we fall not away from the heavenly kingdom, as the Jews, to whom this promise had first been given, fell away; even as the Lord sets forth and proves: Many, says He, shall come from the east and from the west, and shall recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:11 He shows that the Jews were previously children of the kingdom, so long as they continued also to be children of God; but after the name of Father ceased to be recognised among them, the kingdom also ceased; and therefore we Christians, who in our prayer begin to call God our Father, pray also that God’s kingdom may come to us. (Treatise 4: On the Lord’s Prayer, 12-13)

St. Aphrahat the Persian ca. 270-345

Therefore, my beloved, we also have received of the Spirit of Christ, and Christ dwelleth in us, as it is written that the Spirit said this through the month of the Prophet: –I will dwell in them and will walk in them.Therefore let us prepare our temples for the Spirit of Christ, and let us not grieve it that it may not depart from us. Remember the warning that the Apostle gives us:–Grieve not the Holy Spirit whereby ye have been sealed unto the day of redemption. For from baptism do we receive the Spirit of Christ … And whatever man there is that receives the Spirit from the water (of baptism) and grieves it, it departs from him until he dies, and returns according to its nature to Christ, and accuses that man of having grieved it.
(Demonstrations,6:14)

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 293-373

For what the Word has by nature, as I said, in the Father, that He wishes to be given to us through the Spirit irrevocably; which the Apostle knowing, said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ for ‘the gifts of God’ and ‘grace of His calling are without repentance.’ It is the Spirit then which is in God, and not we viewed in our own selves; and as we are sons and gods because of the Word in us, so we shall be in the Son and in the Father, and we shall be accounted to have become one in Son and in Father, because that that Spirit is in us, which is in the Word which is in the Father. When then a man falls from the Spirit for any wickedness, if he repent upon his fall, the grace remains irrevocably to such as are willing; otherwise he who has fallen is no longer in God (because that Holy Spirit and Paraclete which is in God has deserted him), but the sinner shall be in him to whom he has subjected himself, as took place in Saul’s instance; for the Spirit of God departed from him and an evil spirit was afflicting him. (Athanasius,Discourse Against the Arians,3:25)

Now, my beloved, our will ought to keep pace with the grace of God, and not fall short; lest while our will remains idle, the grace given us should begin to depart, and the enemy finding us empty and naked, should enter [into us], as was the case with him spoken of in the Gospel, from whom the devil went out; ‘for having gone through dry places, he took seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and returning and finding the house empty, he dwelt there, and the last state of that man was worse than the first. ‘ For the departure from virtue gives place for the entrance of the unclean spirit. There is, moreover, the apostolic injunction, that the grace given us should not be unprofitable; for those things which he wrote particularly to his disciple, he enforces on us through him , saying, ‘Neglect not the gift that is in you. For he who tills his land shall be satisfied with bread; but the paths of the slothful are strewn with thorns;’ so that the Spirit forewarns a man not to fall into them, saying, ‘Break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns. ‘ For when a man despises the grace given him; and immediately falls into the cares of the world, he delivers himself over to his lusts; and thus in the time of persecution he is offended , and becomes altogether unfruitful.

Therefore the blessed Paul, when desirous that the grace of the Spirit given to us should not grow cold, exhorts, saying, ‘Quench not the Spirit 1 Thessalonians 5:19.’ For so shall we remain partakers of Christ , if we hold fast to the end the Spirit given at the beginning. For he said, ‘Quench not;’ not because the Spirit is placed in the power of men, and is able to suffer anything from them; but because bad and unthankful men are such as manifestly wish to quench it, since they, like the impure, persecute the Spirit with unholy deeds. ‘For the holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, nor dwell in a body that is subject unto sin; but will remove from thoughts that are without understanding Wisdom 1:5.’(Letter 3.3-4)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Terrible in good truth is the judgment, and terrible the things announced. The kingdom of heaven is set before us, and everlasting fire is prepared. How then, some one will say, are we to escape the fire? And how to enter into the kingdom? I was an hungered, He says, and ye gave Me meat. Learn hence the way; there is here no need of allegory, but to fulfil what is said. I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. These things if thou do, thou shall reign together with Him; but if thou do them not, thou shalt be condemned. At once then begin to do these works, and abide in the faith; lest, like the foolish virgins, tarrying to buy oil, thou be shut out. (Catechetical Lectures,15:26)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

Question: Can a man fall who has the gift of grace?

Answer: If he is careless, he certainly falls. For the enemies never take a rest nor do they withdraw from the war. How much more you ought not to cease seeking God! For a very great loss comes to you if you are careless, even though you may seem to be confirmed in the very mystery of grace. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 15.16)

Do you not hear what Paul says? “If I have all gifts, if I hand my body over to be burnt, if I should speak with the tongues of angels and, yet, I have no charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1) These gifts really are to encourage us. And those who settle for these, even though they are in the light, they still are infants. For many of the brothers have reached this degree and enjoyed the gifts of healings and revelation and prophecy. But because they did not reach perfect charity, which is the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:18), war came upon them and, because they were negligent, they fell. (ibid., Homily 26.16)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Let us admonish each other. Let us correct each other, that we may not go to the other world as debtors, and then, needing to borrow of others, suffer the fate of the foolish virgins, and fall from immortal salvation. (Concerning Statues, 21)

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

But if someone already regenerate and justified should, of his own will, relapse into his evil life, certainly that man cannot say: “I have not received’; because he lost the grace he received from God and by his own free choice went to evil. (Admonition and Grace: 6,9)

St. Vincent of Lerins + 445

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 26)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

Just as good works are to be referred to Him that inspires them, God, so too evil works are to be referred to those who are sinning. For sinners have not been abandoned by God so that they may themselves abandon God; rather, they have abandoned and have been abandoned and have been changed from good to evil by their own will; and consequently, although they may have been reborn, although they may have been justified, they are not, however, predestined by Him who foreknew what kind of persons they would be. (Responses on behalf of Augustine to the Articles of Objections Raised by his Calumniators in Gaul, 3)

Since there can be no doubt that perserverance in good even to the end is a gift of God, which, it is clear, some, from the very fact that they have not perservered, never had, it is no way a calumniation of God to say that these were not given what was given to others; rather it is to be confessed both that He gave mercifully what He did give, and He withheld justly what He did not give, so that, although the cause of man’s falling away originates in free choice, the cause of his standing firm does not likewise have its origins in himself. If falling away is done by human effort, standing firm is accomplished by means of a divine gift. (ibid., 7)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Now, we should understand that ababdonment by God of a person’s soul aslo happens frequently if one chooses not to perform what is commanded and produce the fruits of piety toward Him by submitting his neck to the Lord’s pronouncements. Even if styled son or daughter of God, even if becoming Sion, which means lookout, that is, possessing elevated thinking and a pure mind capable of nderstanding mysteries, and then does what is wrong and is guilty of provoking the Holy One of Israel, it will be abandoned by Him and like an unprotected vineyard it will be given over to to Satan and the sufferings of the flesh, shown to be bereft of every virtue, stripped of the priviliges proper to a good lifestyle, and filled with every evil. (Commentary on Isaiah)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

The manifold mercy of God so assists men when they fall, that not only by the grace of baptism but also by the remedy of penitence is the hope of eternal life revived, in order that they who have violated the gifts of the second birth, condemning themselves by their own judgment, may attain to remission of their crimes, the provisions of the Divine Goodness having so ordained that God’s indulgence cannot be obtained without the supplications of priests. For the Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, has transmitted this power to those that are set over the Church that they should both grant a course of penitence to those who confess, and, when they are cleansed by wholesome correction admit them through the door of reconciliation to communion in the sacraments. In which work assuredly the Saviour Himself unceasingly takes part and is never absent from those things, the carrying out of which He has committed to His ministers, saying: Lo, I am with you all the days even to the completion of the age Mat. 28:20: so that whatever is accomplished through our service in due order and with satisfactory results we doubt not to have been vouchsafed through the Holy Spirit. (Letter 108.2)

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. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

We say, then, that the goodness of the divine blessedness, while forever remaining similar to and like itself, nevertheless generously grants the beneficient rays of its own light to whoever views it with the eyes of the intelligence. But it can happen that intelligent beings, because of their free will, can fall away from the light of the mind and can so desire what is evil that they close off that vision, with its natural capacity for illumination. They remove themselves from the light which is ceaselessly proferred to them and which, far from abandoning them, shines on their unseeing eyes. With typical goodness that light hastens to follow them even when they turn away from it. (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, III.3)

St. John Climacus ca. 525-606

Do not be self-confident before judgment has been passed on you. Remember the guest at the marriage feast. He got there, and then, tied hand and foot, he was thrown into the dark outside (Matt.23:13). So do not be stiff-necked, since you are a material being. Many although holy and unencumbered by a body were thrown out even from heaven. (The Divine Ladder: Step 23, On Pride)

Pope St. Gregory the Dialogos ca. 540-604

And they who mourn their transgressions certainly cast forth by confession the wickedness with which they have been evilly satiated, and which oppressed the inmost parts of their soul; and yet, in recurring to it after confession, they take it in again. But the sow, by wallowing in the mire when washed, is made more filthy. I and one who mourns past transgressions, yet forsakes them not, subjects himself to the penalty of more grievous sin, since he both despises the very pardon which he might have won by his weeping, and as it were rolls himself in miry water; because in withholding purity of life from his weeping he makes even his very tears filthy before the eyes of God. (Pastoral Rule, 30)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Do not lend your ear to the slanderer’s tongue nor your tongue to the fault-finder’s ear by readily speaking or listening to anything against yor neighbor. Otherwise you will fall away from divine love and be found excluded from eternal life. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, First Century: 58)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

We are of God by His grace and we are reborn in baptism through faith and kept that we may remain for a long time in faith. But the lovers of the world are subject to the malicious enemy either because they have never been freed from his sovereignty by the waters of rebirth or because sinning again after the grace of rebirth they have been brought again under his sovereignty. (Commentary on 1st John 5:18-19)

For in Egypt He first so saved the humble who cried out to Him from their affliction that He might afterword bring low the proud who murmured against Him in the desert. He stresses this so much that we may remember even now that He so saves believers through the waters of baptism, which the Red Sea foreshadowed, that He demands a humble life of us even after baptism and one seperated from the filth of vices, such as the hidden way of life of the desert quite properly pointed to. If anyone actually profanes this life, either by departing from the faith or by acting evilly, being turned away in heart, as it were to Egypt, he will deserve not to reach the fatherland of the kingdom but to persih among the ungodly. (Commentary on Jude 5-6)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The remission of sins, therefore, is granted alike to all through baptism: but the grace of the Spirit is proportional to the faith and previous purification. Now, indeed, we receive the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit through baptism, and the second birth is for us the beginning and seal and security and illumination of another life. It behoves as, then, with all our strength to steadfastly keep ourselves pure from filthy works, that we may not, like the dog returning to his vomit, make ourselves again the slaves of sin. (On the Orthodox Faith, 4:9)

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 Depraved Nature

J.N.D. Kelly 1909-1997
 
It was in the fourth and fifth centuries that the doctrine of human nature became an issue of prime importance in the Church. For the fathers, with their Biblical presuppositions, the problem was one of history rather than analysis. They sought to explain man’s present situation, and also to throw light on his hope for redemption, by expounding the story (whether taken literally or allegorically) of his creation and fall. During the larger portion of our period, when Greek writers are being passed in review, we shall find that the estimate formed of man’s plight is relatively optimistic. This was partly due to the Hellenic temperament, but partly also to the fact that the rival philosophy was Manichaeism, with its fatalism and its dogma that matter, including the body, was intrisically evil. When we turn to the West and approach the Pelagian controversy, the shadows deepen, and the picture of man passed on to the Middle Ages by Augustine is sombre, even pessimistic.
 
…The image of God has been defaced. In arguing thus these thinkers are trying to refute Manichaeism by removing the blame for evil from God. But do they hold that, along with its tragic after-effects, Adam has transmitted his actual sinfulness, i.e. his guilt, to posterity? The answer usually given is negative, and much of the evidence seems at first sight to support this. The Greek fathers, with their insistence that man’s free will remains intact and is the root of actual sinning, have a much more optimistic outlook than the West.
 
The customary verdict, however, seems unjust to the Greek fathers, perhaps because it depends on the assumption that no theory of original sin holds water except the full-blown Latin one. It is imperative to get rid of this prejudice. Admittedly there is hardly a hint in the Greek fathers that mankind as a whole shares in Adam’s guilt, i.e. his culpability. This partly explains their reluctance to speak of his legacy to us as sin, and of course makes their indulgent attitude to children dying unbaptized understandable. But they have the greatest possible feeling for the mystical unity of mankind with its first ancestor. This is the ancient doctrine of recapitulation, and in virtue of it they assume without question that our fall was involved Adam’s. Again, their tendency is to view original sin as wound inflicted on our nature. (Early Christian Doctrines, pg. 344, 349, 350)
 
Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006
 
It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that the most explicit doctrines of original sin in the second century were taught not by the church fathers, but by the Gnostics; it is also misleading to speak of a “doctrine of original sin” in church fathers such as Irenaeus. Nevertheless, the theories of cosmic redemption in the Gnostic systems were based on an understanding of the human predicament in which man’s incapacity to avoid sin or to evade destiny was fundamental…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… 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 Emergence of Catholic Tradition (100-600): pp. 282-283, The State of Christian Anthropology)
 
Tertullian ca. 160-220

Hence it is that heretics start at once from this point, from which they sketch the first draft of their dogmas, and afterwards add the details, being well aware how easily men’s minds are caught by its influence, (and actuated) by that community of human sentiment which is so favourable to their designs. Is there anything else that you can hear of from the heretic, as also from the heathen, earlier in time or greater in extent? Is not (their burden) from the beginning and everywhere an invective against the flesh—against its origin, against its substance, against the casualties and the invariable end which await it; unclean from its first formation of the dregs of the ground, uncleaner afterwards from the mire of its own seminal transmission; worthless, weak, covered with guilt, laden with misery, full of trouble… (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chap. IV) 

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-236

This Logos, I say, the Father sent forth, in order that the world, on beholding Him, might reverence Him who was delivering precepts not by the person of prophets, nor terrifying the soul by an angel, but who was Himself–He that had spoken–corporally present amongst us. This Logos we know to have received a body from a virgin, and to have remodelled the old man by a new creation. And we believe the Logos to have passed through every period in this life, in order that He Himself might serve as a law for every age, and that, by being present (amongst) us, He might exhibit His own manhood as an aim for all men. And that by Himself in Person He might prove that God made nothing evil, and that man possesses the capacity of self-determination, inasmuch as he is able to will and not to will, and is endued with power to do both. This Man we know to have been made out of the compound of our humanity. For if He were not of the same nature with ourselves, in vain does He ordain that we should imitate the Teacher. For if that Man happened to be of a different substance from us, why does He lay injunctions similar to those He has received on myself, who am born weak; and how is this the act of one that is good and just? In order, however, that He might not be supposed to be different from us, He even underwent toil, and was willing to endure hunger, and did not refuse to feel thirst, and sunk into the quietude of slumber. He did not protest against His Passion, but became obedient unto death, and manifested His resurrection. Now in all these acts He offered up, as the first-fruits, His own manhood, in order that thou, when thou art in tribulation, mayest not be disheartened, but, confessing thyself to be a man (of like nature with the Redeemer), mayest dwell in expectation of also receiving what the Father has granted unto this Son. (The Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. 10, Chap. 29)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

Seeing, then, that these positions are thus established by a sort of natural evidence, is it not superfluous to throw back the causes of our actions on those things which happen to us from without, and thus transfer the blame from ourselves, on whom it wholly lies? For this is to say that we are like pieces of wood, or stones, which have no motion in themselves, but receive the causes of their motion from without. Now such an assertion is neither true nor becoming, and is invented only that the freedom of the will may be denied; unless, indeed, we are to suppose that the freedom of the will consists in this, that nothing which happens to us from without can incite us to good or evil. And if any one were to refer the causes of our faults to the natural disorder of the body, such a theory is proved to be contrary to the reason of all teaching. (De Principiis Book 3.5)

Let us begin, then, with what is said about Pharaoh— that he was hardened by God, that he might not send away the people; along with which will be examined also the statement of the apostle, Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens. And certain of those who hold different opinions misuse these passages, themselves also almost destroying free-will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation, and others saved which it is impossible can be lost; and Pharaoh, they say, as being of a ruined nature, is therefore hardened by God, who has mercy upon the spiritual, but hardens the earthly. Let us see now what they mean. For we shall ask them if Pharaoh was of an earthy nature; and when they answer, we shall say that he who is of an earthy nature is altogether disobedient to God: but if disobedient, what need is there of his heart being hardened, and that not once, but frequently? Unless perhaps, since it was possible for him to obey (in which case he would certainly have obeyed, as not being earthy, when hard pressed by the signs and wonders), God needs him to be disobedient to a greater degree, in order that He may manifest His mighty deeds for the salvation of the multitude, and therefore hardens his heart. This will be our answer to them in the first place, in order to overturn their supposition that Pharaoh was of a ruined nature. And the same reply must be given to them with respect to the statement of the apostle. For whom does God harden? Those who perish, as if they would obey unless they were hardened, or manifestly those who would be saved because they are not of a ruined nature. And on whom has He mercy? Is it on those who are to be saved? And how is there need of a second mercy for those who have been prepared once for salvation, and who will by all means become blessed on account of their nature? Unless perhaps, since they are capable of incurring destruction, if they did not receive mercy, they will obtain mercy, in order that they may not incur that destruction of which they are capable, but may be in the condition of those who are saved. And this is our answer to such persons. (ibid. Book 3.8 Greek Trans.)

But let us take from the Gospels also the similitudes of those things which we have mentioned, in which is described a certain rock, having on it a little superficial earth, on which, when a seed falls, it is said quickly to spring up; but when sprung up, it withers as the sun ascends in the heavens, and dies away, because it did not cast its root deeply into the ground. Now this rock undoubtedly represents the human soul, hardened on account of its own negligence, and converted into stone because of its wickedness. For God gave no one a stony heart by a creative act; but each individual’s heart is said to become stony through his own wickedness and disobedience. (ibid. Book 3.14)

St. Methodius of Olympus + 311

Well, then, the connection of these names with substance is owing to its accidents. For murder is not a substance, nor is any other evil; but the substance receives a cognate name from putting it into practice. For a man is not (spoken of as) murder, but by committing it he receives the derived name of murderer, without being himself murder; and, to speak concisely, no other evil is a substance; but by practising any evil, it can be called evil. Similarly consider, if you imagine anything else to be the cause of evil to men, that it too is evil by reason of its acting by them, and suggesting the committal of evil. For a man is evil in consequence of his actions. For he is said to be evil, because he is the doer of evil. Now what a man does, is not the man himself, but his activity, and it is from his actions that he receives the title of evil. For if we were to say that he is that which he does, and he commits murders, adulteries, and such-like, he will be all these. Now if he is these, then when they are produced he has an existence, but when they are not, he too ceases to be. Now these things are produced by men. Men then will be the authors of them, and the causes of their existing or not existing. But if each man is evil in consequence of what he practises, and what he practises has an origin, he also made a beginning in evil, and evil too had a beginning. Now if this is the case, no one is without a beginning in evil, nor are evil things without an origin…

Because there is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become such. So I say, says he, that man was made with a free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God. For this was the meaning of the gift of Free Will. And man after his creation receives a commandment from God; and from this at once rises evil, for he does not obey the divine command; and this alone is evil, namely, disobedience, which had a beginning.

For man received power, and enslaved himself, not because he was overpowered by the irresistible tendencies of his nature, nor because the capacity with which he was gifted deprived him of what was better for him; for it was for the sake of this that I say he was endowed with it (but he received the power above mentioned), in order that he may obtain an addition to what he already possesses, which accrues to him from the Superior Being in consequence of his obedience, and is demanded as a debt from his Maker. For I say that man was made not for destruction, but for better things. For if he were made as any of the elements, or those things which render a similar service to God, he would cease to receive a reward befitting deliberate choice, and would be like an instrument of the maker; and it would be unreasonable for him to suffer blame for his wrong-doings, for the real author of them is the one by whom he is used. But man did not understand better things, since he did not know the author (of his existence), but only the object for which he was made. (Concerning Free Will)

Archelaus ca. 320

Archelaus said: What say you of the race of men? Is it unbegotten, or is it a production? 

Manes said: It is a production

Archelaus said: If man is a production, who is the parent of adultery and fornication, and such other things? Whose fruit is this? Before man was made, who was there to be a fornicator, or an adulterer, or a murderer?

Manes said: If man is fashioned of the evil nature, it is manifest that he is such a fruit, whether he sins or does not sin. From this, the name and race of men are once and for all and absolutely of this character. (Disputation of Archelaus and Manes)

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 293-373

Now certain of the Greeks, having erred from the right way, and not having known Christ, have ascribed to evil a substantive and independent existence. In this they make a double mistake: either in denying the Creator to be maker of all things, if evil had an independent subsistence and being of its own; or again, if they mean that He is maker of all things, they will of necessity admit Him to be maker of evil also. For evil, according to them, is included among existing things. But this must appear paradoxical and impossible. For evil does not come from good, nor is it in, or the result of, good, since in that case it would not be good, being mixed in its nature or a cause of evil. But the sectaries, who have fallen away from the teaching of the Church, and made shipwreck concerning the Faith 1 Timothy 1:19, they also wrongly think that evil has a substantive existence. (Against the Heathen, Part 1.6)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

For it is not according to your nativity that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication…

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. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

Moreover, in no other way was it possible for the Love of God toward us to be manifested than by making mention of our flesh, and that for our sake He descended even to our lower part. For that flesh is less precious than soul, everyone who has a spark of sense will acknowledge. And so the passage, The Word was made Flesh, seems to me to be equivalent to that in which it is said that He was made sin, (2 Cor. 5:21) or a curse (Gal.3:13) for us; not that the Lord was transformed into either of these, how could He be? (Epistle to Cledonius)

St. Basil the Great ca. 330-379

Is it not from hence that have come forth Marcions and Valentini, and the detestable heresy of the Manicheans, which you may without going far wrong call the putrid humour of the churches…It is equally impious to say that evil has its origin from God; because the contrary cannot proceed from its contrary. Life does not engender death; darkness is not the origin of light; sickness is not the maker of health. In the changes of conditions there are transitions from one condition to the contrary; but in genesis each being proceeds from its like, and not from its contrary. If then evil is neither uncreate nor created by God, from whence comes its nature? Certainly that evil exists, no one living in the world will deny. What shall we say then? Evil is not a living animated essence; it is the condition of the soul opposed to virtue, developed in the careless on account of their falling away from good. Do not then go beyond yourself to seek for evil, and imagine that there is an original nature of wickedness. Each of us, let us acknowledge it, is the first author of his own vice… Do not look for the guiding cause beyond yourself, but recognise that evil, rightly so called, has no other origin than our voluntary falls. If it were involuntary, and did not depend upon ourselves, the laws would not have so much terror for the guilty, and the tribunals would not be so without pity when they condemn (Hexæmeron, Homily 2.4-5)

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 339-397

You perceive that men are not made guilty by the fact of their birth, but by their evil behaviour. (Quaest. vet. et. novi test. 21 f, quoted in Kelly Early Christian Doctrines, pg. 356)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Rom. 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…

As the best physicians always take great pains to discover the source of diseases, and go to the very fountain of the mischief, so does the blessed Paul also. Hence after having said that we were justified, and having shown it from the Patriarch, and from the Spirit, and from the dying of Christ (for He would not have died unless He intended to justify), he next confirms from other sources also what he had at such length demonstrated. And he confirms his proposition from things opposite, that is, from death and sin. How, and in what way? He enquires whence death came in, and how it prevailed. How then did death come in and prevail? Through the sin of one. But what means, for that all have sinned? This; he having once fallen, even they that had not eaten of the tree did from him, all of them, become mortal.

Rom. 8:3 For what the Law could not do, he says, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.

Again, he seems indeed to be disparaging the Law. But if any one attends strictly, he even highly praises it, by showing that it harmonizes with Christ, and gives preference to the same things. For he does not speak of the badness of the Law, but of what it could not do; and so again, in that it was weak, not, in that it was mischievous, or designing. And even weakness he does not ascribe to it, but to the flesh, as he says, in that it was weak through the flesh, using the word flesh here again not for the essence and subsistency itself, but giving its name to the more carnal sort of mind. In which way he acquits both the body and the Law of any accusation…

He confessed that He was the Son of Man, and stood by it (i.e. the flesh), and condemned the sin. However, He did not endure to smite it besides; or rather, He smote it with the blow of His death, but in this very act it was not the smitten flesh which was condemned and perished, but the sin which had been smiting…

For this is what he means by saying, for sin condemned sin in the flesh. As if he had said that he had convicted it of great sin, and then condemned it. So you see it is sin that gets condemned everywhere, and not the flesh, for this is even crowned with honor, and has to give sentence against the other. But if he does say that it was in the likeness of flesh that he sent the Son, do not therefore suppose that His flesh was of a different kind. For as he called it sinful, this was why he put the word likeness. For sinful flesh it was not that Christ had, but like indeed to our sinful flesh, yet sinless, and in nature the same with us. And so even from this it is plain that by nature the flesh was not evil. For it was not by taking a different one instead of the former, nor by changing this same one in substance, that Christ caused it to regain the victory: but He let it abide in its own nature, and yet made it bind on the crown of victory over sin, and then after the victory raised it up, and made it immortal. What then, it may be said, is this to me, whether it was this flesh that these things happened in? Nay, it concerns you very much. (Homily 13 on Romans)

St. Macarius the Great ca. 4th cent.

The soul is neither by nature divine nor by nature part of the darkness of wickedness, but is a creature, intellectual, beautiful, unique, and admmirable. It is a beautiful likeness and image of God. Into that likeness the wickedness of passions of the dark world entered through the fall. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 1.7)

If you say that the enemy has too great a power and that evil completely dominates man, you make God unjust, who would condemn human nature for surrendering to Satan since Satan is really stronger and forces man into submission by his power. “You make him greater and more powerful than the soul. But will you ever listen to my plea?” It is like a young man wrestling with a child. if the child loses, he is condemned for having been weaker. This is a great injustice. But again we insist that the mind is a good match and is equipped with equal powers of combat. A soul like this, if it seriously seeks aid and strength, will obtain it and will be considered worthy of redemption. (ibid, Homily 3.6)

Those who affirm that evil exists in itself are really most ignorant. For in God no evil can exist by itself since he himself is not subject to passions and he possesses divinity. In us, however, it works with full power, especially in our senses, suggesting all sorts of obscene desires. In us it is not like, say, wine mixed with water. It is more like wheat in the same field by itself and the tares by themselves. It is like a robber in one part of the house and the owner in another. (ibid., Homily 16)

Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

What does sinful flesh have? Death and sin. What does the likeness of sinful flesh have? Death without sin. (Sermons for Easter Season, Homily 233.3)

But the consideration we wish most to urge is the truth of the Catholic doctrine, if they can understand it, that God is the author of all natures. I urged this before when I said, I join with you in your condemnation of destructiveness, of blindness, of dense muddiness, of terrific violence, of perishableness, of the ferocity of the princes, and so on; join with me in commending form, classification, arrangement, harmony, unity of structure, symmetry and correspondence of members, provision for vital breath and nourishment, wholesome adaptation, regulation and control by the mind, and the subjection of the bodies, and the assimilation and agreement of parts in the natures, both those inhabiting and those inhabited, and all the other things of the same kind. From this, if they would only think honestly, they would understand that it implies a mixture of good and evil, even in the region where they suppose evil to be alone and in perfection: so that if the evils mentioned were taken away, the good things will remain, without anything to detract from the commendation given to them; whereas, if the good things are taken away, no nature is left. From this every one sees, who can see, that every nature, as far as it is nature, is good; since in one and the same thing in which I found something to praise, and he found something to blame, if the good things are taken away, no nature will remain; but if the disagreeable things are taken away, the nature will remain unimpaired. (Against the Epistle of Manicheus Called Fundamental, Chap. 33)

But perhaps you will say that these evils cannot be removed from the natures, and must therefore be considered natural. The question at present is not what can be taken away, and what cannot; but it certainly helps to a clear perception that these natures, as far as they are natures, are good, when we see that the good things can be thought of without these evil things, while without these good things no nature can be conceived of.

My only remark on this is one closely connected with our subject: that any nature may be in some case disagreeable, so as to excite hatred towards the whole nature; though it is clear that the form of a real living beast, even when it excites terror in the woods, is far better than that of the artificial imitation which is commended in a painting on the wall. We must not then be misled into this error by Manichæus, or be hindered from observing the forms of the natures, by his finding fault with some things in them in such a way as to make us disapprove of them entirely, when it is impossible to show that they deserve entire disapproval. And when our minds are thus composed and prepared to form a just judgment, we may ask whence come those evils which I have said that I condemn. It will be easier to see this if we class them all under one name. (ibid., Chap. 34)

But for the sake of those who, not being able to understand that all nature, that is, every spirit and every body, is naturally good, are moved by the iniquity of spirit and the mortality of body, and on this account endeavor to bring in another nature of wicked spirit and mortal body, which God did not make, we determine thus to bring to their understanding what we say can be brought. For they acknowledge that no good thing can exist save from the highest and true God, which also is true and suffices for correcting them, if they are willing to give heed. (On the Nature of Good, 2)

But if corruption take away all measure, all form, all order from corruptible things, no nature will remain. And consequently every nature which cannot be corrupted is the highest good, as is God. But every nature that can be corrupted is also itself some good; for corruption cannot injure it, except by taking away from or diminishing that which is good. (ibid., 6)

No nature, therefore, as far as it is nature, is evil; but to each nature there is no evil except to be diminished in respect of good. But if by being diminished it should be consumed so that there is no good, no nature would be left… (ibid., 17)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435

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. (Conferences, XII)

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

We became sinners through the disobedience of Adam in this way: he was created in immortality and in life; and in the paradise of pleasure his manner was always and entirely absorbed in the vision of God, his body in tranquility and quiet, without any shameful pleasure; for there was in him no uproar of untoward movements. But when he fell into sin and became subject to corruption, then impure pleasures crept in upon the nature of the flesh, and the law of the violent was brought forth in our members. Our nature, therefore, contracted the illness of sin “through the disobedience of the one,” that is, of Adam; and thus “the many were made sinners,” not as if they had sinned along with Adam, for they did not yet exist, but having his nature, which fell under the law of sin. (Commentary on Romans, 5:18. Pusey, p. 186)

…[H]e refers to them as evil offspring (cf. Isa. 1:4), not that by nature they are or have been turned into such people, but because they are wicked children of wicked forbears, in accord with John’s statement; he said to the scribes and Pharisees themselves who came for the baptism of repentance, “Brood of vipers” —  that is, though their forbears admittedly were initially holy in the beginning, after them they were quite profane. (Commentary on Isaiah)

St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455

For in that ruin of the universal fall neither the substance nor the will of human nature has been snatched away; but it has been deprived of the light and glory of its virtues by the deceit of the Envious One. But when it had lost that by which it would have been able to achieve eternity and in incorruption of body and soul that could not be lost, what did it have left except that which pertain to temporal life, the whole of which belongs to damnation and punishment? That is why those born in Adam need to be reborn in Christ, lest they be found in that generation which perishes. (The Grace of God and Free Choice: A Book Against the Conference Master, 9.3)

St. Vincent of Lerins + 445

 Shun profane novelties of words, which to receive and follow was never the part of Catholics; of heretics always was. In truth, what heresy ever burst forth save under a definite name, at a definite place, at a definite time? Who ever originated a heresy that did not first dissever himself from the consentient agreement of the universality and antiquity of the Catholic Church? That this is so is demonstrated in the clearest way by examples. For who ever before that profane Pelagius attributed so much antecedent strength to Free-will, as to deny the necessity of God’s grace to aid it towards good in every single act? Who ever before his monstrous disciple Cœlestius denied that the whole human race is involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin? Who ever before sacrilegious Arius dared to rend asunder the unity of the Trinity? Who before impious Sabellius was so audacious as to confound the Trinity of the Unity? Who before cruellest Novatian represented God as cruel in that He had rather the wicked should die than that he should be converted and live? Who before Simon Magus, who was smitten by the apostle’s rebuke, and from whom that ancient sink of every thing vile has flowed by a secret continuous succession even to Priscillian of our own time,— who, I say, before this Simon Magus, dared to say that God, the Creator, is the author of evil, that is, of our wickednesses, impieties, flagitiousnesses, inasmuch as he asserts that He created with His own hands a human nature of such a description, that of its own motion, and by the impulse of its necessity-constrained will, it can do nothing else, can will nothing else, but sin, seeing that tossed to and fro, and set on fire by the furies of all sorts of vices, it is hurried away by unquenchable lust into the utmost extremes of baseness? (The Commonitory, Chap. 24)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

Nor is the common saying true that deprivation fights by its natural power against the Good. Total deprivation is utterly impotent; and that which is partial has its power, not in so far as it is a deprivation, but in so far as it is not a total deprivation. For when the lack of the Good is not total, evil is not as yet; and when it becomes perfect, evil itself utterly vanishes. (On the Divine Names 4, 29 729c1-6)

St. Mark the Ascetic ca. 5th cent.

When evil thoughts become active within us, we should blame ourselves and not ancestral sin. (On Those who Think They are Made Righteous by Works, 120)

St Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

The vices, whether of the concupiscible, the irascible, or the rational element, come upon us with the misuse of the faculties of the soul. Misuse of the rational faculty is ignorance and folly, of the irascible and concupiscible faculty, hate and intemperance. Their right use is knowledge and prudence. If this is so, nothing created and given existence by God is evil.

It is not food which is evil but gluttony, not the begetting of children but fornication, not possessions but greed, not reputation but vainglory. And if this is so, there is nothing evil in creatures except misuse, which stems from the mind’s negligence in its natural cultivation.

The blessed Dionysius says that among the demons this is what evil is: irrational anger, senseless lust, reckless imagination. But among rational beings unreasonableness, recklessness, and rashness are privations of reason, sense, and circumspection. Now privations follow upon habits; so then the demons once had reason, sense, and religious circumspection. If this is correct, then neither are the demons evil by nature; rather they have become evil through the misuse of the natural faculties. (The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, Third Century: 3-5)

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Our struggles against the vices has not been naturally implanted in us by God our Father and creator, but is proved to have befallen us from our love of this world, which we preferred to our creator. For God made human beings upright, and they have involved themselves in endless questions, as Solomon bears witness. (Commentary on 1 John 2:16)

St. Isaac the Syrian + 700

Sin, Gehenna, and death do not exist at all with God, for they are effects, not substances. Sin is the fruit of free will. There was a time when sin did not exist, and there will be a time when it will not exist. Gehenna is the fruit of sin. At some point in time it had a beginning, but its end is not known. Death, however, is a dispensation of the wisdom of the Creator. It will rule only a short time over nature; then it will be totally abolished. Satan’s name derives from voluntary turning aside from the truth; it is not an indication that he exists as such naturally. (The Ascetical Homilies, 27)

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

Why did Saul seek to apprehend and kill David whom he had formerly honored as himself and greatly loved as a benefactor? Was it by nature or out of a 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. (The Discourses Chap. 4.2, On Tears of Penitence)

As for those who make excuses for themselves, let them not say that we are totally under the influence of Adam’s trangression and so dragged down into sin. Those who think and speak to this effect claim that the coming of our Master and our God was to no purpose and vain. These are words fit for heretics, not believers! (ibid. Chap. 5.10, On Penitence)

St. Gregory Palamas 1296-1359

It should be remembered that no evil thing is evil insofar as it exists, but insofar as it is turned aside from the activity appropriate of it, and thus from the end assigned to this activity. (The Triads, A. 19, pg. 28)

How can it be that God at the beginning caused the mind to inhabit the body? Did he even do ill? Rather, brother, such views befit the heretics, who claim that the body is an evil thing, a fabrication of the Wicked One.

As for us, we think the mind becomes evil through dwelling on flehly thoughts, but that there is nothing bad in the body, since the body is not evil in itself…If the Apostle calls the body “death” (saying, “Who will deliver me from the body of death?”), this is because the material and corporeal thought does really have the form of the body. Then, comparing it to spiritual and divine ideas, he justly calls it “body” – yet not simply “body” but “body of death”. Further on, he makes it even clearer that what he is attacking is not the body, but the sinful desire that entered in because of the Fall: “I am sold to sin,” he says. But he who is sold is not a slave by nature. And again: “I well know that what is good does not dwell in me, that is, in the flesh.” You note that he does not say the flesh is evil, but what inhabits it. Likewise, there is nothing evil in the fact that the mind indwells the body; what is evil is “the law which is our members, which fight against the law of the mind.” (ibid., C. I, pp. 41-42)

Synod of Jerusalem 1672 a.d.

 We believe the tri-personal God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to be the maker of all things visible and invisible; and the invisible are the angelic Powers, rational souls, and demons, — though God made not the demons what they afterwards became by their own choice, — but the visible are heaven and what is under heaven. And because the Maker is good by nature, He made all things very good {cf. Genesis 1:31} whatsoever He hath made, nor can He ever be the maker of evil. But if there be aught evil, that is to say, sin, come about contrarily to the Divine Will, in man or in demon, — for that evil is simply in nature, we do not acknowledge, — it is either of man, or of the devil. For it is a true and infallible rule, that God is in no wise the author of evil, nor can it at all by just reasoning be attributed to God. (Confession of Dositheus, Decree IV)

We believe the first man created by God to have fallen in Paradise, when, disregarding the Divine commandment, he yielded to the deceitful counsel of the serpent. And hence hereditary sin flowed to his posterity; so that none is born after the flesh who beareth not this burden, and experienceth not the fruits thereof in this present world. But by these fruits and this burden we do not understand [actual] sin, such as impiety, blasphemy, murder, sodomy, adultery, fornication, enmity, and whatsoever else is by our depraved choice committed contrarily to the Divine Will, not from nature; for many both of the Forefathers and of the Prophets, and vast numbers of others, as well of those under the shadow [of the Law], as under the truth [of the Gospel], such as the divine Precursor, {St. John the Baptist} and especially the Mother of God the Word, the ever-virgin Mary, experienced not these, or such like faults; but only what the Divine Justice inflicted upon man as a punishment for the [original] transgression, such as sweats in labour, afflictions, bodily sicknesses, pains in child-bearing, and, in fine {in summation ELC}, while on our pilgrimage, to live a laborious life, and lastly, bodily death. (ibid. Decree VI)

  We believe man in falling by the [original] transgression to have become comparable and like unto the beasts, that is, to have been utterly undone, and to have fallen from his perfection and impassibility, yet not to have lost the nature and power which he had received from the supremely good God. For otherwise he would not be rational, and consequently not man; but to have the same nature, in which he was created, and the same power of his nature, that is free-will, living and operating. So as to be by nature able to choose and do what is good, and to avoid and hate what is evil. For it is absurd to say that the nature which was created good by Him who is supremely good lacketh the power of doing good. For this would be to make that nature evil — than which what could be more impious? For the power of working dependeth upon nature, and nature upon its author, although in a different manner. And that a man is able by nature to do what is good, even our Lord Himself intimateth, saying, even the Gentiles love those that love them. {Matthew 5:46; Luke 6:32} But this is taught most plainly by Paul also, in Romans chap. i. [ver.] 19, {Rather chap. ii., ver. 14. JNWBR} and elsewhere expressly, saying in so many words, “The Gentiles which have no law do by nature the things of the law.” From which it is also manifest that the good which a man may do cannot forsooth be sin. For it is impossible that what is good can be evil. Albeit, being done by nature only, and tending to form the natural character of the doer, but not the spiritual, it contributeth not unto salvation thus alone without faith, nor yet indeed unto condemnation, for it is not possible that good, as such, can be the cause of evil. But in the regenerated, what is wrought by grace, and with grace, maketh the doer perfect, and rendereth him worthy of salvation.

A man, therefore, before he is regenerated, is able by nature to incline to what is good, and to choose and work moral good. But for the regenerated to do spiritual good — for the works of the believer being contributory to salvation and wrought by supernatural grace are properly called spiritual — it is necessary that he be guided and prevented by grace, as hath been said in treating of predestination; so that he is not able of himself to do any work worthy of a Christian life, although he hath it in his own power to will, or not to will, to co-operate with grace. (ibid. Decree XIV)

 

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.)