Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Early Christian Quotes on Free Will

Early Christian Quotes on Free Will

The Epistle of the Apostles 

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 39:


Jesus said, “Adam was given the power to choose one of the two: he chose the light and laid hold of it, but the darkness he left behind and cast away from him. In the same way, all men have power to believe in the light, which is life, and which is the Father who sent Me.


“And everyone who believes and does the works of the light will live in them; but if anyone who confesses that he belongs to the light but does the works of darkness, he will have no defense to utter, nor can he lift up his face to look upon the Son of God. I am that Son. For I will say to him, ‘As you sought, so have you found, and what you asked for, you received. Do you judge Me as being unfair, O man? Why have you departed from Me and denied Me? Why have you confessed Me and yet denied Me?’


“Does not every man have the power to live or to die? So whoever keeps My commandments will be a son of the light, that is, of the Father who is in Me.”



Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 88:


Jesus submitted to be born and to be crucified, not because He needed to but because of the human race, which had fallen under the power of death and the guile of the serpent from the time of Adam, and each person had committed personal transgression.


For God endowed both angels and men with free will and wanted them to do whatever He had strengthened each to do. If they chose the things acceptable to Him, He would keep them free from death and from punishment; but if they did evil, He would punish each as He sees fit.



Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 151:


God wanted men and angels to follow His will. He created them free to do righteousness and possessing reason so that they would know who created them. He gave them a law He would judge them by. We, both men and angels, will be convicted of acting sinfully unless we repent beforehand.


But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men will certainly be punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably wicked but not because God had created them so.


So, if they repent, all who want mercy can obtain it from God.



Justin Martyr’s First Apology

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 28:


We call the prince of the wicked spirits the serpent, and Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. And there, you’ll see Christ foretold that Satan will be sent into the fire with his host and the men who follow him, and he will be punished for an endless duration.


The reason God has delayed to do this is His regard for the human race, for He foreknows that some are to be saved by repentance, maybe even including some who aren’t born yet. In the beginning, He made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God, for they have been born with the ability to think and choose.



Justin Martyr’s Second Apology

(Mid-2nd Century)

Chapter 6:


But since God made the race of angels and men with free will in the beginning, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. And this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue, for no one would be worthy of praise unless they had the power to turn to both virtue and vice.



Tatian’s Address to the Greeks

(Mid-Late 2nd Century)

Chapter 7:


Before the creation of men, The Logos was the Framer of angels. And each of these two orders of creatures was made free to act as each one pleased.


They did not have the nature of good, which belongs to God alone, but this nature is brought to perfection in men through their freedom of choice so that the bad man may be justly punished, having become depraved through his own fault, but the just man may be deservedly praised for his virtuous deeds since, in the exercise of his free choice, he refrained from transgressing the will of God.


Such is the constitution of things in reference to angels and men. And the Logos, having in Himself the power to foresee future events, not as fated but as taking place by the choice of free agents, foretold from time to time what was to come.



Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 4

(Late 2nd Century)

Chapter 37, Paragraph 1:


This saying of our Lord, "How often would I have gathered your children together, and you were not willing," shows the ancient principle of human liberty because God made man a free agent from the beginning, possessing his own power, just as he does his own soul, to obey the commands of God voluntarily and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but He always has a good will toward us. So, He gives good counsel to all, and He has given the power of choice to men as well as to angels, for angels are also rational beings.



Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies Book 10

(Early 3rd Century)

Chapter 29:


Since man has free will, the Deity has given him a law to guide him, and for good reason. For if man did not possess the power to will and not to will, why should a law be established? For a law will not be laid down for an animal devoid of reason but a bridle and a whip, whereas God has given man a law and consequences.



Clement of Alexandria’s Miscellanies Book 7

(Early 3rd Century)

Chapter 2, Paragraph 6:


He is the Savior. He is not the Savior of some but not of others. But in proportion to the condition of each tribe, He has dispensed His kindness both to Greeks and Barbarians and also to those who were predestined and, in due time called the faithful and elect.


He who called all equally and assigned special honors to those who have believed in an especially excellent way can never envy anyone. Nor can He who is the Lord of all and serves the will of the good and almighty Father above all ever be hindered by another.



Origen’s De Principiis

(Early to Mid-3rd Century)

Preface, Paragraph 5:


It is clearly defined in the teaching of the Church that every rational soul has free-will.



Origen’s De Principiis

(Early to Mid-3rd Century)

Book 3, Chapter 1, Paragraph 11:


Concerning the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, you could say the sun both hardens and liquefies, although liquefying and hardening are opposites. But the sun, by one and the same power of its heat, melts wax but dries up and hardens mud: not that its power operates one way on mud and in another way on wax but that the qualities of mud and wax are different although they both come from the earth.


In the same way, God was working through the signs and wonders He performed through Moses. Pharaoh was hardened through the intensity of his wickedness, but other Egyptians obeyed God and joined the Israelites when they left Egypt.



Origen’s On Prayer

(Early to Mid-3rd Century)

Chapter 4, Paragraph 6:


God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of all future events. Some are caused by our free will acting in response to our impulses.



Novatian’s On the Trinity

(Mid-3rd Century)

Chapter 1:


God placed man at the head of the world. He made man in the image of God and imparted to him a mind and reason and foresight so that he could imitate God. And although the first elements of his body were earthly, his substance was inspired by a heavenly and divine breath.


And when He had given man all things for his service, He willed that he alone should be free. And to make sure unbounded freedom wouldn’t cause the man danger, He laid down a command. God taught the man that there was no evil in the fruit of the tree but warned him that evil would arise if he exercised his free will in contempt of the law that was given.


For, on the one hand, it was good for the man to be free so that the image of God wouldn’t be limited in him; and on the other, the law was added so that unbridled liberty wouldn’t break forth in contempt of the Giver.


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Find more of what the early Christians thought on my Christian History page!

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