On the Mystery of Lawlessness

1SR14__56007.1429296344.900.900Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina 1934-1982

St. Paul mentions the Apostasy, in 2 Thessalonians, he gives a second name for this movement or process. He calls it the “mystery of iniquity,” the “mystery of lawlessness.” He says the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, preparing for Antichrist, who is the “man of lawlessness.” As we look around in our twentieth century civilization, the word “lawlessness” or “anarchy” is perhaps the chief characteristic which identifies it.

…In the realm of moral teaching, it is quite noticeable, especially in the last twenty years or so, how lawlessness has become the norm. And even people in high positions within the clergy in various denominations of Catholics and Protestants, and so forth, are sometimes quite willing to justify all kinds of things which were previously considered immoral. Now there is considered something of a new morality, “situation ethics,” and so forth.

Solzhenitsyn mentions specifically in his Harvard lecture what happened in New York City three years ago when the electricity was cut off. He said: “The center of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin. Your social system must be quite unstable and unhealthy”. . . . Forty years ago in America, if the lights went out, people would have helped each other out, lit candles, and so forth. Now, instead, they go and break windows, loot, take everything they can get for themselves, kill people and get away with whatever they think they can get away with. Something has changed in a short time.

All this is a sign of what St. Paul calls the “mystery of lawlessness.” It is a mystery because a mystery is something which is not fully revealed in this world; it is something which comes from the other world. And the “mystery of righteousness” is the whole story of how Christ came from heaven and tried to save us. The mystery of lawlessness is the opposite: it is some kind of mystery coming up from hell, which breaks into this world and changes this world. Therefore, this mystery of lawlessness or anarchy is preparing for the coming of the man of lawlessness, who is Antichrist.

Even in politics and government– which make no sense at all unless you have the idea of order-this idea of lawlessness is entering in… (Signs of the End Times)

On the Immaculate Conception and Sinlessness of the Theotokos

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The growing idea of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was intellectually linked with an evolving trend in the interpretation of Original Sin, but, more profoundly, it was rooted in a specific psychology and attitude developing historically within the bosom of the western Baroque. The veneration of Panagia and Theotokos by the Orthodox is by no means the same. It is grounded in a spiritual soil of an altogether different kind. (Ways of Russian Theology: The Kiev Academy)

Mary was chosen and elected to become the Mother of the Incarnate Lord… Can we properly define the nature and character of this preparation? We are facing here the crucial antinomy (to which we have alluded above). The Blessed Virgin was representative of the race, i.e. of the fallen human race, of the “old Adam.” But she was also the second Eve; with her begins the “new generation.” She was set apart by the eternal counsel of God, but this “setting apart” was not to destroy her essential solidarity with the rest of mankind. Can we solve this antinomical mystery in any logical scheme? The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is a noble attempt to suggest such a solution. But this solution is valid only in the context of a particular and highly inadequate doctrine of Original Sin and does not hold outside this particular setting. Strictly speaking, this “dogma” is an unnecessary complication, and an unfortunate terminology only obscures the undisputable truth of the Catholic belief. The “privileges” of the divine Motherhood do not depend upon a “freedom from original sin.” The fullness of grace was truly bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin and her personal purity was preserved by the perpetual assistance of the Spirit. But this was not an abolition of the sin. The sin was destroyed only on the tree of the Cross, and no “exemption” was possible, since it was only the common and general condition of the whole of human existence. It was not destroyed even by the Incarnation itself, although the Incarnation was the true inauguration of the New Creation. The Incarnation was but the basis and starting-point of the redemptive work of Our Lord. And the “Second Man” himself enters into his full glory through the gate of death. Redemption is a complex act, and we have to distinguish most carefully its moments, although they are supremely integrated in the unique and eternal counsel of God. Being integrated in the eternal plan, in the temporal display they are reflected in each other and the final consummation is already prefigured and anticipated in all the earlier stages. There was a real progress in the history of the Redemption. Mary had the grace of the Incarnation, as the Mother of the Incarnate, but this was not yet the complete grace, since the Redemption had not yet been accomplished. Yet her personal purity was possible even in an unredeemed world, or rather in a world that was in process of Redemption. The true theological issue is that of the divine election. The Mother and the Child are inseparably linked in the unique decree of the Incarnation. As an event, the Incarnation is just the turning-point of history, – and the turning-point is inevitably antinomical: it belongs at once to the Old and to the New. The rest is silence. We have to stand in awe and trembling on the threshold of the mystery. (Creation and Redemption, Volume Three in the Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, [Nordland, 1976] 176; 178; 181-183.)

also see: The Mariology of Nicholas Cabasilas by Constantine Tsirpanlis

and: St. Nicholas Cabasilas on the Mother of God by Met. Kallistos Ware

In his paper “The Sinlessness of the Mother of God in St. Nicholas Cabasilas” Orthodox Theologian Christopher Veniamin states, “…[T]hough certainly describable as ‘supranatural’ and even as ‘divine’ (cf. the troparion of the 8th Ode, Second Canon by Basil the Monk, Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple), yet the Holy Virgin’s birth is not described…as ‘virginal’ or ‘maidenly’. And this certainly seems to be in keeping with the earlier Patristic consensus, summed up in the words of St. John Damascene’s rhetorical exclamation: ‘O loins of Joachim most blessed, out of which came blameless seed’ (On the Nativity of the Theotokos PG 96, 664B.), and ‘Thou (sc. the Mother of God) from us (sc. Adam and Eve) hast inherited a corruptible body’ (On the Dormition of the Theotokos, ibid., 733C).”

The author also asserts: “The essential issue in the whole question of the sinlessness of the Mother of God must be the preservation of the uniqueness of Christ’s sinlessness. Christ’s salvific work would be debased or even nullified if we were to accept that someone else also fulfills the conditions of His sinlessness; if we were to accept, that is, that the Ever-Virgin was free born free from original sin… the secondary issue here is the determination of the exact moment at which divine grace began to act upon the Holy Virgin so as to cleanse and strengthen her, and it is largely on this point that Cabasilas presents a somewhat peculiar line of thought. And while some of his phrases and certain shifts of emphasis could be construed as resembling the opinions of the thirteenth century Scholastics, and even, at times, as diverging from Cabasilas’ immediate predecessors, such a view would not take into account sufficiently the fact his theological presuppositions belong to a fundamentally different world. Indeed, the diversity of opinion in the Patristic tradition is not necessarily mutually exclusive on the question of the Holy Virgin’s sinlessness and purity, as the work of Cabasilas’ contemporary, St. Gregory Palamas, clearly shows, with whom Cabasilas has much in common.” And in closing, Veniamin succinctly concludes, “It has been suggested that Cabasilas ‘overemphasizes’ and ‘over-extols’ the Mother of God, so as to result in a general exaltation of her person and the role she played in our salvation. But surely, this is nothing more than the effusion of Cabasilas’ profound veneration of the Most Holy Mother of God. What is certainly beyond dispute, however, is the fact that nowhere in the theology of St. Nicholas Cabasilas is the immaculate conception accepted, mentioned or inferred.” (The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Scripture and Tradition, pp. 52, 58-59). Veniamin’s testimony is particularly weighty since he is the translator and editor of the English translation of the homilies on Mary the Mother of God by St. Gregory Palamas.

also see Panagia by Vladimir Lossky for another Orthodox perspective on the sinlessness of the Theotokos

Fr. Florovsky on Fr. John Romanides and “The Ancestral Sin”

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

At present, there is a dearth of theological resources in the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, I am hopeful about my student, Fr. John Romanides, who made a debut three or four years ago with an excellent doctoral dissertation (in Greek, in
Athens) on Original Sin in the teaching [of the Fathers] of the first two centuries. Now he is studying with me towards a Ph.D. at Harvard. He has a bias towards “isolationism,”drawing away from the West in everything and locking himself in
the Byzantine tradition. Nevertheless, he remains on the level of genuine theological culture and deep ecclesiality (glubokaia tserkovnost’). (Gavrilyuk, Paul L. 2013-12-19. Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance: Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology, p. 248. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition)

On Why Women Were the First to Witness the Resurrection

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

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

On Sin

St. John of Kronstadt 1829-1908

Sin is a perversion of one’s nature, voluntary madness, abominable foolishness, a voluntary turning away from good to evil, from truth to falsehood, from simplicity to malice, from light to darkness, from strength to infirmity, from freedom to captivity, from peace to confusion, from life to death; sin is a disgusting filth, an illusion abominable to God, a poison that corrupts the soul. Sin begot all of the disasters in the world and all diseases, such as the one that afflicted the paralytic mentioned today; it begot all famines, all lethal or epidemic diseases, wars, fires, earthquakes, and all death, both temporary and eternal. Sin turned the highest of the angels into the devil, Lucifer into Satan, as well as all of the spirits who revolted against God, who were once angels of indescribable light and beauty, and became the darkest and most repulsive demons. Sin produced and produces horrible evils, terrible disasters, atrocious upheavals in the world, among mankind; because of sin, all of nature lies in disarray. It is impossible to describe, impossible to mourn enough, all of the tears of mankind are not enough to grieve for the frightful consequences of sin to the world. (Homily 20, On the Second Sunday of Lent)

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 Adam Before the Fall

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

[T]he body of Adam was by nature mortal and passible, but by divine grace was kept immortal and impassible, until his trangression deprived him of that protection. Such is the unanimous opinion of the Holy Fathers. (Myriobiblion, 162)

St. Photios on Ancestral Sin and Death

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-893

[E]ver since men have been created, we share life and death and the penalty is ancestral, as there is no one who will live and who will not face death… But let us take hold of ourselves; let us know our nature; let us know the Shaper; let us comprehend the depth of the Master’s clemency. He gave death as a punishment, but through His own death He transformed it as a gate to immortality. It was a resolution of anger and displeasure, but it announces the consummate goodness of the Judge. The thought surpasses methods of reason. For though He dissolves such nature as was destroyed through original sin, the dissolution becomes a prelude to re-creation. He separates the soul from the body, and the separation is the beginning of a union that is both rather brilliant and holy. “A physical body is sown, but it is raised as a spiritual body; it is sown in dishonor, but raised in glory.” The Creator takes back the work of art of His own hands, and He draws it to Himself; He removes it from human eyes, but He places it under the protection of the flashes and the brilliances of angels… for …the angels are now rejoicing in the reception of this soul that is virginal and superior to sufferings to fill up the number of demons that have fallen away… (Letter 3 To Nun Eusebia, On the Death of Her Sister)

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)

On the Falls of Mankind

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

A righteous person will fall seven times and rise again. (Prov. 24:16)

One must recognize that the righteous person here, the only truly righteous one, is our Lord Jesus Christ. And so, since He is said both to fall and rise in us, by accepting all that belongs to us because of His love for humankind, and our nature fell seven times – first, the transgression of the ancestor; second, the bloodthirsty murder undertaken by Cain (the first one who introduced murder into nature); third, in the generation of Noah, upon which the Spirit of God did not remain “because it was flesh”; fourth, the construction of the tower; fifth, the generation of Abraham, from which only he was truly acceptable to God; sixth, in that [time] of Moses, whose generation had fallen into such a degree of godlessness that he was sent from God as a defender of against such impiety; seventh, the generation [in the time] of the prophets, which surpassed all previous generations in its capacity for evil – and so, since, as I said, our nature fell seven times, the Lord raised it, moved by His ineffable love for humankind, uniting nature to Himself in a hypostatic manner. (Questions and Doubts, 59)

On Flesh and Spirit

Gal. 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

St. Theophylact of Ohrid ca. 1055-1107

Here the Manicheans, and all likeminded heretics, make their attack. They claim that man consists of two opposing essences and that this statement of the Apostle supports their claim. But it is not so; Paul is not speaking of essences. By flesh he does not mean the body, but rather, earthly, negligent, and lax thoughts. And by spirit he does not mean the soul, but a spiritual attitude. The earthly attitude, he explains, is opposed to the spiritual, and the spiritual attitude to the earthly. What he is describing is not a battle between soul and body, but the contest between good and evil thoughts. To will or not to will something is a function of the rational soul. Then he adds, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. For the body is a co-worker with the soul, not an opponent. The soul clings to the body, striving mightily not to abandon it, and suffers when it is sundered from the body. How, then, can these two entities — which have such a close relationship, affinity, sympathy and familiarity — be opposed to one another? (Commentary on Galatians)

On Angelic Authorities

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

The Ruler of All appointed the good angels to be overseers of the earth after our fall and our subsequent loss of rank, even though, due to God’s compassion, the fall was not total. For, as Moses said in his Ode, God established boundaries for the angels when He divided the nations (cf. Deut. 32:8). (Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts, 62)

On Uncreated Sin

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

Sin, being undesirable by nature, is uncreated; as uncreated, it is something non-existent. However, it receives hypostasis when it is created by unnatural human desire. But since the entire creation is full of the Lord’s works, while His Law has been poured upon the entire face of the earth, this unnatural human desire and creation that receives hypostasis also receives some type of place and displaces the good that has been created by God. If then God created everything very well, it follows that this new creation that entered into the world also disturbed and harmed the reigning good and plotted against the law of God. Therefore, sin is a great evil against God because it threatens to destroy the work of God. And since its creator is man, when man sins, he sins against God; this is why he is obligated to satisfy the Divine Righteousness, while destroying the evil he has created and working on behalf of the everlastingness of God’s Law. (Repentance and Confession, pg. 46)

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)


On Sinful Habits

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

Truly, it is frightening, but also just. It is just for him who abandons God to be abandoned by Him. It is just for him who pushes away the inviting grace of God to be pushed away. It is just for God to turn His face away from them who desert Him and who do not approach Him. St. Gregory of Nyssa notes: “In this manner God’s righteous judgment resembles our dispositions; whatever we have within us, such things justice remits to us from our own things.”

Our haste to return and repent quickly is also dictated by the danger of inability to return to God; an evil habit is capable of rendering us incapable of repentance — which should frighten us immensely. The habit resulting from the continual repitition of sin of a sin becomes a natural state within man and renders itself so powerful that man is no longer able to resist it: its power overcomes even the natural law. Consequently, when habit reigns over us, we submit to it and become its slave. Free will has lost its independance permanently. Man expels his free volition, his will power is proven weak and unable to fight against the habit, and every attempt to regain the lost freedom is in vain. The battle makes this weakness more apparent. The person who has been conquered by habit carries out, acys and executes as a servant, as a subordinate. Self-will has ceased; he carries out orders as instructed. The voice of the inner man is drowned within his sternum. The habit becomes very tortuous, because even though the strength of the passions has dissipated, the habit insists on being remedied by them. Such is habit, such is its power, such is its tyranny. When it rules over us once, then it controls our desires, it regulates our actions, and the reins with which it controls our disposition never part from its hands. Then, everything has been lost; every hope of salvation has vanished; not even one ray of light has remained. Has someone lived in sin? He will also die in sin. Therefore, it is necessary for us to hasten to repentance before sin becomes a habit for us; because then, it is impossible to be saved. (Repentance and Confession trans. by the Fathers of the Holy Monastery of St. Nektarios, NY pp. 11-14)

On the Sin of Judas

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

To this forgiveness the traitor Judas could not attain: for he, the son of perdition, at whose right the devil stood, gave himself up to despair before Christ accomplished the mystery of universal redemption. For in that the Lord died for sinners, perchance even he might have found salvation if he had not hastened to hang himself. But that evil heart, which was now given up to thievish frauds, and now busied with treacherous designs, had never entertained anything of the proofs of the Saviour’s mercy. Those wicked ears had heard the Lord’s words, when He said, I came not to call the righteous but sinners Mat. 9:13, and The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost Lk. 19:10, but they conveyed not to his understanding the clemency of Christ, which not only healed bodily infirmities, but also cured the wounds of sick souls, saying to the paralytic man, Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you Mat. 9:3; saying also to the adulteress that was brought to Him, neither will I condemn you; go and sin no more , to show in all His works that He had come as the Saviour, not the Judge of the world. But the wicked traitor refused to understand this, and took measures against himself, not in the self-condemnation of repentance, but in the madness of perdition, and thus he who had sold the Author of life to His murderers, even in dying increased the amount of sin which condemned him. (Sermon 62.4)

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)

Pope St. Leo on Total Depravity

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

[W]hereas the true Faith, which is the Catholic, acknowledges that the substance of all creatures spiritual or corporeal is good, and that evil has no positive existence; because God, who is the Maker of the Universe, made nothing that was not good. Whence the devil also would be good, if he had remained as he was made. But because he made a bad use of his natural excellence, and stood not in the truth Jn. 8:24, he did not pass into the opposite substance, but revolted from the highest good to which he owed adherence: just as they themselves who make such assertions run headlong from truth into falsehood, and accuse nature of their own spontaneous delinquencies, and are condemned for their voluntary perversity: though of course this evil is in them, but is itself not a substance but a penalty inflicted on substance. (Letter 15.7)

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Origin of Evil

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

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

On Why Angels Can’t Repent

Heb 2:16-17 For surely it is not angels that He helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Tertullian of Carthage ca. 160-220

Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. (On the Resurrection of the Flesh 8)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The angel’s nature then is rational, and intelligent, and endowed with free-will, changeable in will, or fickle. For all that is created is changeable, and only that which is un-created is unchangeable. Also all that is rational is endowed with free-will. As it is, then, rational and intelligent, it is endowed with free-will: and as it is created, it is changeable, having power either to abide or progress in goodness, or to turn towards evil.

It is not susceptible of repentance because it is incorporeal. For it is owing to the weakness of his body that man comes to have repentance. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. II.3)

On the Virgin Earth and Virgin Birth

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth. For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth. From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh,and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.

And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation. For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin. (Proof of Apostolic Preaching, 32-33)

St. Diadochos on Baptism


“We share in the image of God by virtue of the intellectual activity of our soul; for the body is, as it were, the soul’s dwelling-place. Now as a result of Adam’s fall, not only were the lineaments of the form imprinted on the soul befouled, but our body also became subject to corruption. It was because of this that the holy Logos of God took flesh and, being God, He bestowed on us through His own baptism the water of salvation, so that we might be reborn. We are reborn through water by the action of the holy and life-creating Spirit, so that if we commit ourselves totally to God, we are immediately purified in soul and body by the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us and drives out sin. Since the form imprinted on the soul is single and simple, it is not possible, as some have thought, for two contrary powers to be present in the soul simultaneously. For when through holy baptism divine grace in its infinite love permeates the lineaments of God’s image – thereby renewing in the soul the capacity for attaining the divine likeness – what place is there for the devil? For light has nothing in common with darkness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14). We who are pursuing the spiritual way believe that the protean serpent is expelled from the shrine of the intellect through the waters of baptism; but we must not be surprised if after baptism we still have wicked as well as good thoughts. For although baptism removes from us the stain resulting from sin, it does not thereby heal the duality of our will immediately, neither does it prevent the demons from attacking us or speaking deceitful words to us. In this way we are led to take up the weapons of righteousness, and to preserve through the power of God what we could not keep safe through the efforts of our soul alone. (AD 451) On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination

On the Body Not Being the Cause of Sin

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

Tell me not that the body is a cause of sin. For if the body is a cause of sin, why does not a dead body sin? Put a sword in the right hand of one just dead, and no murder takes place. Let beauties of every kind pass before a youth just dead, and no impure desire arises. Why? Because the body sins not of itself, but the soul through the body. The body is an instrument, and, as it were, a garment and robe of the soul: and if by this latter it be given over to fornication, it becomes defiled: but if it dwell with a holy soul, it becomes a temple of the Holy Ghost. It is not I that say this, but the Apostle Paul has said, Do you not know, that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you 1 Corinthians 6:19? Be tender, therefore, of your body as being a temple of the Holy Ghost. Pollute not your flesh in fornication: defile not this your fairest robe: and if ever you have defiled it, now cleanse it by repentance: get yourself washed, while time permits. (Catechetical Lecture 4.23)

On Friday and the Fall of Man

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Thus, then, in the day that they ate, in the same did they die, and became death’s debtors, since it was one day of the creation. For it is said, There was made in the evening, and there was made in the morning, one day. Now in this same day that they ate, in that also did they die. But according to the cycle and progress of the days, after which one is termed first, another second, and another third, if anybody seeks diligently to learn upon what day out of the seven it was that Adam died, he will find it by examining the dispensation of the Lord. For by summing up in Himself the whole human race from the beginning to the end, He has also summed up its death. From this it is clear that the Lord suffered death, in obedience to His Father, upon that day on which Adam died while he disobeyed God. Now he died on the same day in which he ate. For God said, In that day on which you shall eat of it, you shall die by death. The Lord, therefore, recapitulating in Himself this day, underwent His sufferings upon the day preceding the Sabbath, that is, the sixth day of the creation, on which day man was created; thus granting him a second creation by means of His passion, which is that [creation] out of death. (Against Heresies Book V. 23.2)

Saint John Climacus On Nature and Sin

One first and basic mistake that one can make when studying theology, or the Bible in general, is to assume that the Fall of man in the Garden has left us without any inclination at all to live for God, and that we are born with a completely depraved heart. There are many problems with this type of language, the first being that it does not give glory to God and His creative order. We know that after the Fall man lost a very special communion with God, but Chapter Four of Genesis shows that after the Fall, Adam’s children, Cain and Abel, gave offerings to the Lord! As we proclaim in the Creeds and Councils,  Christ is begotten and not made. He has been there from the beginning of creation and has not left us because we were somehow unworthy of Him. As the 13th century icon of Christ with Adam and Eve shows, He has always loved us!

We are created in the very image of God and it is important to note that our natural way of living is to live within the oneness of Christ. The Fall does not make our natural state depraved to where we have no desire for God. We are not destined to sin and the sin that we do acquire is literally able to be diminished through Christ.

It is a modern notion to understand that sin is only forgiven in a legal manner (so-called “justification”) and that we must simply prevent it from manifesting outwardly. It is the heart that God changes through our sanctification, which means that our souls actually become freed from these sinful properties. Sin is acquired by our senses, which is why we embrace the ascetic life of fasting, meditation, prayer, and service. Our “passions” are brought on by our own foolishness, so let us plead to God for Wisdom!

“Passion was not planted by God in nature,  for he is not the Creator of passions…God is not the cause of evil. Those who teach that passions are natural to the soul are wrong, not realizing that it is we who have turned natural things into passions. For example, by nature we have within us the seed necessary for child-bearing – but we have perverted this into fornication. Nature gave us the feeling of anger, which we are supposed to use against the Evil One – instead we use it against our neighbor…We have been given a longing for pleasure – but we use it for dissipation.” (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent).

On the Three Barriers Between God and Man

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1320-1393

[M]en were triply seperated from God; by nature, by sin and by death – yet the Saviour made them to attain to Him perfectly and to be immediately united to Him by successively removing all obstacles. The first barrier He removed by partaking of manhood, the second by being put to death on the cross. As for the final barrier, the tyranny of death, He eliminated it completely from our nature by rising again. For this reason Paul says, ‘the last enemy to be destroyed is death’ (1 Cor. 15:26). He would not have called it an enemy unless it were an obstacle to our true happiness. It is necessary that the heirs of the immortal God should be set free from corruption, for Paul says, ‘corruption does not inherit incorruption’ (1 Cor. 15:50). After the common resurrection of mankind of which the Saviour’s resurrection is the cause, the ‘mirror’ and the ‘dimness’ (1 Cor. 13:12) recede and those who have been purified in heart shall see God face to face (Mt. 5:8). (The Life in Christ, Third Book:3)

St. Methodius on the Coats of Skins

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

Now the question has already been raised, and answered, that the coats of skins Genesis 3:21 are not bodies. (Note: Gnostics and Origen taught this doctrine) Nevertheless, let us speak of it again, for it is not enough to have mentioned it once. Before the preparation of these coats of skins, the first man himself acknowledges that he has both bones and flesh; for when he saw the woman brought to him: This is now, he cried, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. And again: She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. For this cause shall unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (Gen. 2:23-24)<!—->

In order, then, that man might not be an undying or ever-living evil, as would have been the case if sin were dominant within him, as it had sprung up in an immortal body, and was provided with immortal sustenance, God for this cause pronounced him mortal, and clothed him with mortality. For this is what was meant by the coats of skins, in order that, by the dissolution of the body, sin might be altogether destroyed from the very roots, that there might not be left even the smallest particle of root from which new shoots of sin might again burst forth.

For as a fig-tree, which has grown in the splendid buildings of a temple, and has reached a great size, and is spread over all the joints of the stones with thickly-branching roots, ceases not to grow, till, by the loosening of the stones from the place in which it sprung up, it is altogether torn away; for it is possible for the stones to be fitted into their own places, when the fig tree is taken away, so that the temple may be preserved, having no longer to support what was the cause of its own destruction; while the fig-tree, torn away by the roots, dies; in the same way also, God, the builder, checked by the seasonable application of death, His own temple, man, when he had fostered sin, like a wild fig-tree, killing, Deuteronomy 32:39 in the words of Scripture, and making alive, in order that the flesh, after sin is withered and dead, may, like a restored temple. be raised up again with the same parts, uninjured and immortal, while sin is utterly and entirely destroyed. For while the body still lives, before it has passed through death, sin must also live with it, as it has its roots concealed within us even though it be externally checked by the wounds inflicted by corrections and warnings; since, otherwise, it would not happen that we do wrong after baptism, as we should be entirely and absolutely free from sin. But now, even after believing, and after the time of being touched by the water of sanctification, we are oftentimes found in sin. For no one can boast of being so free from sin as not even to have an evil thought. So that it has come to pass that sin is now restrained and lulled to sleep by faith, so that it does not produce injurious fruits, but yet is not torn up by the roots. For the present we restrain its sprouts, such as evil imaginations, test any root of bitterness springing up trouble Hebrews 12:15 us, not suffering its leaves to unclose and open into shoots; while the Word, like an axe, cuts at its roots which grow below. But hereafter the very thought of evil will disappear. (From the Discourse on the Resurrection, Part 1)

On God’s Love in Man’s Expulsion from Paradise

Theophilus of Antioch died ca. 183

And God showed great kindness to man in this, that He did not suffer him to remain in sin for ever; but, as it were, by a kind of banishment, cast him out of Paradise, in order that, having by punishment expiated, within an appointed time, the sin, and having been disciplined, he should afterwards be restored. Wherefore also, when man had been formed in this world, it is mystically written in Genesis, as if he had been twice placed in Paradise; so that the one was fulfilled when he was placed there, and the second will be fulfilled after the resurrection and judgment. For just as a vessel, when on being fashioned it has some flaw, is remoulded or remade, that it may become new and entire; so also it happens to man by death. For somehow or other he is broken up, that he may rise in the resurrection whole; I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal. And as to God’s calling, and saying, Where art thou, Adam? God did this, not as if ignorant of this; but, being long-suffering, He gave him an opportunity of repentance and confession. (To Autolycus, Chap 26)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Partaking of the tree, the man and woman became liable to death and subject to the future needs of the body. Adam was no longer permitted to remain in the Garden, and was bidden to leave, a move by which God showed His love for him … he had become mortal, and lest he presume to eat further from the tree which promised an endless life of continuous sinning, he was expelled from the Garden as a mark of divine solicitude, not of necessity.  (Hom. in Gen XVIII, 3 PG 53 151)

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)


St. Vincent on Total Depravity

St. Vincent of Lerins died ca. 445

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?

There are innumerable instances of this kind, which for brevity’s sake, pass over; by all of which, however, it is manifestly and clearly shown, that it is an established law, in the case of almost all heresies, that they evermore delight in profane novelties, scorn the decisions of antiquity, and, through oppositions of science falsely so called, make shipwreck of the faith. On the other hand, it is the sure characteristic of Catholics to keep that which has been committed to their trust by the holy Fathers, to condemn profane novelties, and, in the apostle’s words, once and again repeated, to anathematize every one who preaches any other doctrine than that which has been received. Gal. 2:9 (The Commonitory, Chap. 24)