Sunday, March 28, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
I thought I would make a new thread for this because I don't want to interfere with the conversation between Legion and yourself at the original thread.
Differing interps of traditions ARE THEMSELVES TRADITIONS, if they get passed down from one person to another.
Yes, that was, in part, my point. The other part of my point is that many of the things are part of the "tradition" of the Roman Catholic Church now didn't exist only a couple of hundred years ago (case in point: Infallibility). You won't find that with the Orthodox.
You THINK you're living the experience of God's church. To take your analogy further, you took all the travel guides, the ones that promised a pool and a massage, discarded the other ones, then went to a place with a massage and a pool and declared "Ah, India!"
Wait! They have pools and massages here? And all this time I've been doing crazy things like prostrating, almsgiving, standing in seemingly endless services, and fasting, geez... I need to switch parishes!
Actually, that's exactly what many who are formerly of your church have done.
OOC, Copts, RCC, Arians.
Some people prefer their own understanding of things to the God-revealed Truth. Case in point... ahem... By the way, the Copts are part of the OOC -- stop trying to cook the books.
Clearly not, since you don't embrace everything that every early ch writer ever believed.
You're right in a sense, but not in the way you think you are. Certainly we don't believe everything that every Church Father has ever said; we don't attribute any kind of infallibility to them. But it's not a matter of "picking and choosing" as you accuse. It's a matter of sorting the wheat from the chaff and that is accomplished through drawing things out to their logical conclusions. There is a concensus amongst all of the Fathers on the central points of Faith -- the dogmas; all of the Fathers, for instance, agree upon the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. Once we outline what these things are that all of them without exception agree upon, we can take a look at the points where they disagreed and see who is following the dogmas through to their logical conclusions. For instance, there are Church Fathers who rejected Icons (though none of the ones you've named thus far in your attempts), but it is not very difficult to see that they were, first, departing from the more ancient and the majority opinion, but, more importantly, that they did not realize the full implications of a given individual opinion which they averred. Everything that is part of the Orthodox Faith today is there from the very beginning, alongside things that are not part of the Faith. It's not that we chose this and denied that, it's that this makes more sense in the light of the dogmas of the Faith than that does. It's not a problem for the Orthodox there are other opinions present amongst the Father than those the Church came to "officially" endorse, as all of our Faith is there, but it is a major historical problem for Protestants that none of the doctrines which set them apart from other Christians (such as the solas) are anywhere to be found.
Clearly not, since you can't tell me what the early ch blvd with any degree of certainty; at best you can sort of tell me what certain early WRITERS blvd, but that's potentially a very long way from properly representing the laity.
This is, of course, only if we're willing to throw out everything we think we know about history. I find it rather hard to believe that in a Church which stretched from Ethiopia and the Sudan in the south to Gaul in the north and from Spain in the west to India in the east, which embraced dozens of ethnicities and cultures (Arabs, Greeks, Jews, Ethiopians, Germans, etc.) and which spoke a variety of languages (Latin, Greek, Syriac, Coptic, etc.) the only people that wrote were the handful who had completely fallen away from the Apostolic Faith. Were the heretics the only ones with pens? And, since these heretics are the ones who chose the books of our New Testament and recopied them in manuscripts to preserve them for us today, how do we know they didn't inject their heretical beliefs into the New Testament? Why do I find it so easy to read the New Testament and see Orthodox theology laid out in plain words -- could it be because these Orthodox heretics perverted the Scriptures?
How do you know what God said?
My Bible has two very lovely leather covers on each side. How about you?
And how do you know that your Bible contains everything that God said (which he wanted to preserve for you today) and contains nothing that God didn't say and didn't want you to adhere to today?
I'd be impressed if you could find me an early Church writer who believed in infallibility.
If I get to discard everything that doesn't agree with my position, like you do, the task is beyond easy.
Then do it.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
- Haitian Orthodox Mission (Haiti; Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) [pictures] [information] [more information] [donate] [another place to donate]
- Theotokos Clinic (Medan, Indonesia; Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople - Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia) [information] [more information] [donate]
- St. George's Food Pantry (Pharr, Texas; Orthodox Church in America) [pictures] [information & donations]
- St. Clement of Alexandria Philantrophic Mission (Nairobi, Kenya) [information] [donate]
- St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund (Uganda) [information] [donate]
- St. George Orthodox Military Association (United States) [information] [donate]
- Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (United States; SCOBA) [information] [donate]
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Whenever I raise this point to Calvinists, their only defense seems to be to deny Gnostic terminology. "The elect aren't saved by nature as the Gnostics say; the elect are saved by grace." Terminology aside, Calvinists and Gnostics are saying the exact same thing; the Gnostics are just being more honest about it. The elect are born to be saved and so, for all practical purposes, are born saved irregardless of anything they may or may not do (just as the non-elect are born damned irregardless of anything they may or may not do). You don't have to say it's part of your "nature" to be saved, but if salvation is something that you are born into or born to do -- it's part of your nature, simple as that. The Gnostics said it was because of the "divine spark," and the Calvinists say it's because of "grace." Different terminology, same soteriology.
I want to recommend that everyone take a listen to this excellent audio lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald (an expert in early Christian history and a member of my former parish) in which he discusses St. Augustine's unique theology and the overwhelming influence it has had on the West, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. He also briefly touches on the Gnostic influence that led Augustine to some of his erroneous conclusions. The most interesting aspect, for me, is the look that Dr. Macdonald takes at the reaction amongst other Christian Fathers, such as Ss. John Cassian and Vincent of Lerins, to Augustine's theology.
By the way, his whole series of lectures is great. Apparently, he gave them at the parish he attends (and I used to attend and hope to get back to once the Army days are over), St. John the Forerunner Orthodox Church in Cedar Park, Texas; I wasn't around when he gave any of them, though, so they're all new (and very exciting) to me.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
She originally posted this comment on my video "What are you wearing?":
what I don't understand is, christians where persecuted, so why then did theyI responded:
turn around and start persecuting the pagans? I know this question can't be answered, but it still needs asking.
That's actually a bit of a misnomer; there were no mass persecutions of pagansHer response:
by Christians. Paganism was eventually outlawed, in about 391, largely because
of the resurgence of pagan persecution of Christians by Julian the Apostate
shortly before that. The outlawing of paganism was essentially a measure by the
Christians to ensure that the pagans couldn't get back in charge and start
persecuting them again. Even so, paganism survived for some time after that, and
largely died on its own.
What do you call the Inquisition, the burning times wiped out thousands, maybeMe:
millions of pagans, witches, midwives, and any other "troublemakers" or
"heretics" the church wanted dead, not to mention a huge loss of books. &
btw, paganism never died, it just had to go into hiding, but luckily we are now
seeing a uprising of the old ways. all I was trying to get across is that
people should learn from their own pain, and not inflict the same onto others,
even if they believe they deserve it,
First, I should tell you that Orthodox Christians were never involved in any of
the Inquisitions; in fact, the Orthodox were sometimes the victims of the
Also, your numbers are mistaken. No scholar today believes
that nearly that many people were killed -- certainly not millions, and quite
probably less than 10,000. It's also a mistaken notion that the Inquisitions
targeted pagans and midwives and so on. The primary targets of the Inquisition
were Muslims and Jews who had converted to Christianity. It's worthy of note
that non-Christians were actually never touched by the Inquisitions, as the
Roman Catholic Church (which was in charge of the Inquisition) had jurisdiction
only over Christians, not non-Christians. Also, the inquisition was quite
lenient, and worked with the assumption that the accused were either innocent or
foolish -- as Christians were forbidden from very early on to believe in the
actual existence and efficacy of spells and incantations. Many people who were
accused of heresy actually chose to be tried by the inquisition because the
inquisition was so much more lenient than the secular authorities, who were
generally uneducated and superstitious. As an example, Pope Gregory VII, who was
a Pope of Rome in the late 11th century, actually stepped in an banned the
Danish courts from executing people accused of witchcraft. Ultimately, it was
the Roman Catholic Church which put an end to the witchcraft trials of the
uneducated. The common depictions of the Inquisition as a massive campaign of
torture and slaughter are part of atheist and protestant propaganda of the 17th
and 18th centuries, and have been thrown out by modern historians.
Interestingly, the Inquisitions were actually a revival of old Roman pagan
law, which recognized the existence of "magic." This law had been abandoned by
Christians under the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century because Christians
didn't believe in such things. The Inquisitions' more brutal tactics, such as
torture and burning at the stake, were also revivals of penalties used by the
pagans, which had been banned by the Christian Roman Emperors. If anything, the
Inquisitions indicate a return to pagan law and a departure from Christian
reforms. David Bently Hart's treatment of these topics in his books "Atheist
Delusions" and "The Story of Christianity" are outstanding, if you're interested
in learning more about them. Please note here that I'm saying all of this as a
matter of historical interest. My Church (the Orthodox Church -- the original
Christian Church which was founded by the Apostles), as I said, had no part in
this other than that we were occasionally the victims.
Also, paganism did,
in fact, die off, except for in the cases of Hinduism and some of the aboriginal
religions. Modern neo-paganism actually resembles ancient pagan practice in very
few ways. Modern neo-paganism draws much more heavily on 18th and 19th century
Neo-Platonism, occultism, and syncretism, as well as invoking quite a bit of
Christian influence. Ancient paganism was much more brutal and earthy than
modern neo-paganism allows for, informed as it is by a now-inherent Christian
worldview. Ancient pagan practices like the sacrifice of infant children (or
even animals, for that matter) would be deplorable to most modern "pagans." In
fact, the entire ancient pagan worldivew is anathema to most modern "pagans."
She then sent me a private message entitled "agree to disagree" in which she wrote:
the history you are relying on is largely church history, the term pagan means country dweller, which is largely what they were. just normal ppl who revered nature, yes some festivals called for animal sacrifice, but then the animal was eaten at the feast that followed worship. It was only some fanatical sects of paganism that preformed human sacrifice, But I can tell that we will never agree, so lets just agree to disagree. & leave it at that.And I responded:
may you and your life be blessed!
I'm sorry, but I can't "agree to disagree," as what you're saying contradicts the unchallenged, well-documented historical facts. Saying that we should "agree to disagree" in this situation is as if I were to tell you that the sky is green and the grass is blue; you can't agree to disagree about something that is so plainly false.
I'm not sure what you mean when you say that what I'm saying is "largely church history." Do you mean by this that the history I'm referring to was somehow forged by the Roman Catholic Church? No, I'm afraid that's not the case. There is abundant textual documentation from ancient times as well as the Middle Ages, by pagans, Christians, Muslims, and others, and scholars of history, archeology, and textual studies have reached a rather concensus opinion in regards to the documentation. I myself am a student of history and have studied much of the firsthand documentary (we call them "primary sources" firsthand. There is no church conspiracy, I assure you, and if you think that I'm lying to you, I encourage and exhort you to do the research for yourself, reading both the primary material and the publications of respected, trustworthy scholars (not people with names like "Starhawk").
Paganism is an overarching term referring to all of the polytheistic pre-Christian religions. Its origins derive from the word "paganus" in Latin, which meant "country dweller," as the term was first used to describe those who continued to cling to the old polytheistic religions after Christianity's rise in the Roman Empire, most of whom lived in the rural areas. To say that they were "just normal [people] who revered nature" is, however, quite the misnomer, as their religions were partially, but not entirely, based in nature worship.
Also, it was not "only some fanatical sects of paganism" which performed human sacrifices; human (and, often, specifically infant) sacrifice was quite the mainstream pagan practice. Nearly all of the polytheistic religions of Europe and the Middle East practiced it on a regular basis.
Archaeologists recently discovered a site near Carthage (in modern-day Libya) which included the bones of over 20,000 infants, all of whose bones bore the marks of having been burnt; this discovery substantiated the reports ancient writers such as Plutarch and Diodurus Siculus (both pagans), Tertullian (a Christian), and Philo (a Jew) that the Carthaginians burnt their first-born sons alive in sacrifice to the god Moloch. Here's a line from Diodorus Siculus' "Historical Library" about this (keep in mind, Diodorus was a pagan, not a Christian): "There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire."
As for the Romans, perhaps the most obvious example is the colisseums, in which the gladiatorial games as well as executions for crimes (such as being a Christian) were carrried out in front large, happy crowds of onlookers, who would cheer on the brutality, such as while watching hungry lions be released upon women and children guilty of various "crimes." Many people don't realize that the executions and death-matches at these games were actually human sacrifices, as the various colisseums throughout the ancient Roman world were dedicated to various pagan gods, and the victims within the arena were considered sacrifices to those gods. Ancient writers, both pagan and Christian (and Jewish), also record that the various pagan oracles throughout the Greco-Roman world would often use the intestines of infant children who were cut open while still alive for divination purposes. In addition to these religious practices, it was only common practice in the ancient pagan Greco-Roman world to leave unwanted infants in dumps to die by exposure to the elements and/or being eaten (alive) by animals. Plutarch (a pagan), as well as others, documents this practice in his book "Life of Lycurgus." Infanticide only became illegal in the Roman Empire in 374, when the Christians came to power.
The Celtic Druids are documented by the Romans (their fellow-pagans) as engaging quite extensively in human sacrifice. You may be familiar with the neo-pagan "Burning Man Festival." This modern-day practice derives from an ancient Celtic Druid practice, which was recorded by Julius Caesar (a pagan) in the 1st century BC. The difference, though, between the ancient and modern practice is that in ancient times the giant strawman would be filled with living human beings who had been bound and gagged and would be burnt alive. Archaeologists have found dozens of bodies of men, women, and children who had been bound and gagged and had their skulls crushed or been strangled as human sacrifices all over the British Isles.
Now, I believe fully in the freedom of religion, and that includes yours. You have every right in the world to have whatever religious, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs you choose to hold, and to practice those beliefs. However, I do not accept lies and slander. It is a lie to say that your modern-day neo-pagan resembles the brutal, real paganism of the ancient world in any way but the most surface manner. And it is slander of the vilest kind to attribute to Christians in general or the Roman Catholic Church in particular the massacre of "millions" of pagans or some kind of massive "cover up" and falsification of history. As I said, you have every right in the world to believe and practice your faith, but I ask that you do so with knowledge of the truth of history, and without lying about history and slandering other people's faiths.
I wrote this final message on Sunday; she has not responded since. If she decides to, I will be sure to post it as well as my counter-response here.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
"The holy martyrs [Justin, Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus] having glorified God, and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." - from the Martyrdom account of St. Justin the Philosopher and his students Ss. Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus (ca. AD 165)As I read this today, I couldn't help but smile and be uplifted and awed at how truly wonderful it is to be a member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. At the church in which my wife, my son, my daughter, and I were all baptized and chrismated into Holy Orthodoxy, on the altar, sewn into the antimins, is a relic of St. Justin the Philosopher. This great man, who so eloquently defended the Faith which he even gave his life for, was present in the body, this same body which the Christians over 1800 years ago recovered and hid away to venerate, when I and each of the members of my family was received into the Holy Orthodox Church. It is amazing to read the writings and biographies of the early Fathers and to know that this is not simply dry history -- these are not merely points of idle curiosity, buried deep in the past; I, today, so many hundreds of years later, am a member of the same Holy Church, intimately connected with each of these God-bearing men and women. They are not mere historical figures; they are members of my family. The wonders of the Orthodox Church never fail to amaze me.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor
language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of
their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked
out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been
devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like
some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But,
inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of
them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to
clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their
wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own
countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with
others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to
them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of
strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not
destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They
are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on
earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at
the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are
persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and
restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all
things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very
dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they
are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour;
they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if
quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are
persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any
reason for their hatred.
To sum up all in one word— what the soul is in the body, that are
Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the
body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul
dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world,
yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and
Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains
invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself
suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world
also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure
pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members;
Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the
body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as
in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul
dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible
[bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when
but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the
Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in
number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful
for them to forsake.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Flipsyde is a group that has toured with Fort Minor, The Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg and on the Anger Management Tour. Two of their songs have been the theme songs for the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2008 Summer Olympics. It is good to see young and very talented artists standing up for the unborn.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
- unconditional predestination - God has predestined from eternity each person individually to be either saved or damned; neither has any free choice in the matter, as God has decided the fate of each
- conditional predestination - those who, through the exercise of free choice, become righteous are predestined by God for salvation and glorification
Predestination, by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no one, desirous of the credit of piety, dares absolutely to deny. But it is involved in many cavils, especially by those who make foreknowledge the cause of it. We maintain, that both belong to God; but it is preposterous to represent one as dependent on the other. When we attribute foreknowledge to God, we mean that all things have ever been, and perpetually remain, before His eyes, so that to His knowledge nothing in future or past, but all things are present; and present in such a manner, that He does not merely conceive of them from ideas formed in His mind, as things remembered by us appear present to our minds, but really beholds and sees them as if actually placed before Him. And this foreknowledge extends to the whole world, and to all the creatures. Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself what would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death. This God has not only testified in particular persons, but has given a specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, which should evidently show the future condition of every nation to depend upon His decision. "When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, the Lord's portion was His people; Jacob was the lot of His inheritance."
The separation is before the eyes of all: in the person of Abraham, as in the dry trunk of a tree, one people is peculiarly chosen to the rejection of others: no reason for this appears, except that Moses, to deprive their posterity of all occasion of glorying, teaches them that their exaltation is wholly from God's gratuitous love. He assigns this reason for their deliverance, that "He loved their fathers, and chose their seed after them." More fully in another chapter: "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; but because the Lord loved you." He frequently repeats the same admonition: "Behold, the heaven is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them." In another place, sanctification is enjoined upon them, because they were chosen to be a peculiar people. And again, elsewhere, love is asserted to be the cause of their protection. It is declared by the united voice of the faithful, "He hath chosen our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob, whom He loved." For the gifts conferred on them by God, they all ascribe to gratuitous love, not only from a consciousness that these were not obtained by any merit of theirs, but from a conviction, that the holy patriarch himself was not endued with such excellence as to acquire the privilege of so great an honor for himself and his posterity. And the more effectually to demolish all pride, he reproaches them with having deserved no favor, being "a stiff-necked and rebellious people." The prophets also frequently reproach the Jews with the unwelcome mention of this election, because they had shamefully departed from it. Let them, however, now come forward, who wish to restrict the election of God to the desert of men, or the merit of works. When they see one nation preferred to all others---when they hear that God had no inducement to be more favorable to a few, and ignoble, and even disobedient and obstinate people---will they quarrel with him because he has chosen to give such an example of mercy? But their obstreperous clamors will not impede this work, nor will the reproaches they hurl against Heaven, injure or affect his justice; they will rather recoil upon their own heads. Lo, this principle of the gracious covenant, the Israelites are also recalled whenever thanks are to be rendered to God, or their hopes are to be raised for futurity. "He hath made us, and not we ourselves," says the Psalmist: "we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture." It is not without reason that the negation is added, "not we ourselves," that they may know that of all the benefits they enjoy, God is not only the Author, but derived the cause from Himself, there being nothing in them deserving of such great honor. He also enjoins them to be content with the mere good pleasure of God, in these words: "O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen." And after having recounted the continual benefits bestowed by God as fruits of election, he at length concludes that He had acted with such liberality, "because He remembered His covenant."Consistent with this doctrine is the song of the whole Church: "Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, gave our fathers the land, because Thou hadst a favor unto them." It must be observed that where mention is made of the land, it is a visible symbol of the secret separation, which comprehends adoption. David, in another place, exhorts the people to the same gratitude: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance." Samuel animates to a good hope: "The Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake; because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people." David, when his faith is assailed, thus arms himself for the conflict: "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee; he shall dwell in Thy courts." But since the election hidden in God has been confirmed by the first deliverance, as well as by the second and other intermediate blessings, the word choose is transferred to it in Isaiah: "The Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel;" because, contemplating a future period, He declares that the collection of the residue of the people, whom He had appeared to have forsaken; would be a sign of the stable and sure election, which had likewise seemed to fail. When He says also, in another place, "I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away," He commends the continual course of His signal liberality and paternal benevolence. The angel, in Zachariah, speaks more plainly: "The Lord shall choose Jerusalem again;" as though His severe chastisement had been a rejection, or their exile had been an interruption of election; which, nevertheless, remains inviolable, though the tokens of it are not always visible. We must now proceed to a second degree of election, still more restricted, or that in which the Divine grace was displayed in a more special manner, when of the same race of Abraham God rejected some, and by nourishing others in the Church, proved that He retained them among His children. Israel at first obtained the same station as his brother Isaac, for the spiritual covenant was equally sealed in him by the symbol of circumcision. He is cut off; afterwards Esau; lastly, an innumerable multitude, and almost all Israel. In Isaac the seed was called; the same calling continued in Jacob. God exhibited a similar example in the rejection of Saul, which is magnificently celebrated by the Psalmist: "He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah ;" and this the sacred history frequently repeats, that the wonderful secret of Divine grace may be more manifest in that change. I grant, it was by their own crime and guilt that Ishmael, Esau, and persons of similar characters, fell from the adoption; because the condition annexed was, that they should faithfully keep the covenant of God, which they perfidiously violated. Yet it was a peculiar favor of God, that He deigned to prefer them to other nations; as it is said in the Psalms: "He hath not dealt so with any nation; and so for His judgments, they have not known them." But I have justly said that here are two degrees to be remarked; for in the election of the whole nation, God has already shown that in His mere goodness He is bound by no laws, but is perfectly free, so that none can require of Him an equal distribution of grace, the inequality of which demonstrates it to be truly gratuitous. Therefore Malachi aggravates the ingratitude of Israel, because, though not only elected out of the whole race of mankind, but also separated from a sacred family to be a peculiar people, they perfidiously and impiously despised God their most beneficent Father. "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau." For God takes it for granted, since both were sons of a holy father, successors of the covenant, and branches from a sacred root, that the children of Jacob were already laid under more than common obligations by their admission to that honor; but Esau, the first-born, having been rejected, and their father, though inferior by birth, having been made the heir, He proves them guilty of double ingratitude, and complains of their violating this two-fold claim. Though it is sufficiently clear, that God, in his secret counsel, freely chooses whom He will, and rejects others, His gratuitous election is but half displayed till we come to particular individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but assigns it in such a manner, that the certainty of the effect is liable to no suspense or doubt. These are included in that one seed mentioned by Paul; for though the adoption was deposited in the hand of Abraham, yet many of his posterity being cut off as putrid members, in order to maintain the efficacy and stability of election, it is necessary to ascend to the head, in whom their heavenly Father has bound His elect to each other, and united them to Himself by an indissoluble bond. Thus the adoption of the family of Abraham displayed the favor of God, which He denied to others; but in the members of Christ there is a conspicuous exhibition of the superior efficacy of grace; because, being united to their head, they never fail of salvation. Paul, therefore, justly reasons from the passage of Malachi which I have just quoted, that where God, introducing the covenant of eternal life, invites any people to Himself, there is a peculiar kind of election as to part of them, so that he does not efficaciously choose all with indiscriminate grace. The declaration, "Jacob have I loved," respects the whole posterity of the patriarch, whom the prophet there opposes to the descendants of Esau. Yet this is no objection to our having in the person of one individual a specimen of the election, which can never fail of attaining its full effect. These, who truly belong to Christ, Paul correctly observes, are called "a remnant;" for experience proves, that of a great multitude the most part fall away and disappear, so that often only a small portion remains. That the general election of a people is not always effectual and permanent, a reason readily presents itself, because, when God covenants with them, He does not also give the spirit of regeneration to enable them to preserve in the covenant to the end; but the eternal call, without the internal efficacy of grace. which would be sufficient for their preservation, is a kind of medium between the rejection of all mankind and the election of the small number of believers. The whole nation of Israel was called "God's inheritance," though many of them were strangers; but God, having firmly covenanted to their Father and Redeemer, regards that gratuitous favor rather than the defection of multitudes; by whom His truth was not violated, because His preservation of a certain remnant to Himself, made it evident that His calling was without repentance. For God's collection of a Church for himself, from time to time, from the children of Abraham, rather than from the profane nations, was in consideration of his covenant, which, being violated by the multitude, He restricted to a few, to prevent a total failure. Lastly, the general adoption of the seed of Abraham was a visible representation of a greater blessing, which God conferred on the few out of the multitude. This is the reason that Paul so carefully distinguishes the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, from His spiritual children called after the example of Isaac. Not that the mere descent from Abraham was a vain and unprofitable thing, which could not be asserted without depreciating the covenant; but because to the latter alone the immutable counsel of God, in which He predestinated whom He would, was of itself effectual to salvation. But I advise my readers to adopt no prejudice on either side, till it shall appear from adduced passages of Scripture what sentiments ought to be entertained. In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined, both whom He would admit to salvation, and whom He would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on His gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom He devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment. In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals His elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of His name and the sanctification of His Spirit, He affords an indication of the judgment that awaits them. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 21, 5-7)
Now the followers of Basilides regard faith as natural, as they also refer it to choice, representing it as finding ideas by intellectual comprehension without demonstration; while the followers of Valentinus assign faith to us, the simple, but will have it that knowledge springs up in their own selves (who are saved by nature) through the advantage of a germ of superior excellence, saying that it is as far removed from faith as
the spiritual is from the animal. Further, the followers of Basilides say that faith as well as choice is proper according to every interval; and that in consequence of the supramundane selection mundane faith accompanies all nature, and that the free gift of faith is comformable to the hope of each. Faith, then, is no longer the direct result of free choice, if it is a natural advantage. (St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 2, 3)
Valentinian, in a homily, writes in these words: “Ye are originally immortal, and children of eternal life, and ye would have death distributed to you, that ye may spend and lavish it, and that death may die in you and by you; for when we dissolve the world, and are not yourselves dissolved, ye have dominion over creation and all corruption.” For he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature, and that this different race has come hither to us from above for the abolition of death, and that the origin of death is the work of the Creator of the world. (St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 4, 13)
I will now collect from different sources, by way of conclusion, what they [the Valentinian Gnostics] affirm concerning the dispensation of the whole human race. Having at first stated their views as to man's threefold nature— which was, however, united in one in the case of Adam— they then proceed after him to divide it (into three) with their special characteristics, finding opportunity for such distinction in the posterity of Adam himself, in which occurs a threefold division as to moral differences. Cain and Abel, and Seth, who were in a certain sense the sources of the human race, become the fountain-heads of just as many qualities of nature and essential character. The material nature, which had become reprobate for salvation, they assign to Cain; the animal nature, which was poised between divergent hopes, they find in Abel; the spiritual, preordained for certain salvation, they store up in Seth. In this way also they make a twofold distinction among souls, as to their property of good and evil — according to the material condition derived from Cain, or the animal from Abel. Men's spiritual state they derive over and above the other conditions, from Seth adventitiously, not in the way of nature, but of grace, in such wise that Achamoth infuses it among superior beings like rain into good souls, that is, those who are enrolled in the animal class. Whereas the material class— in other words, those which are bad souls — they say, never receive the blessings of salvation, for that nature they have pronounced to be incapable of any change or reform in its natural condition. This grain, then, of spiritual seed is modest and very small when cast from her hand, but under her instruction increases and advances into full conviction, as we have already said; and the souls, on this very account, so much excelled all others, that the Demiurge, even then in his ignorance, held them in great esteem. For it was from their list that he had been accustomed to select men for kings and for priests; and these even now, if they have once attained to a full and complete knowledge of these foolish conceits of theirs, since they are already naturalized in the fraternal bond of the spiritual state, will obtain a sure salvation, nay, one which is on all accounts their due. For this reason it is that they neither regard works as necessary for themselves, nor do they observe any of the calls of duty, eluding even the necessity of martyrdom on any pretence which may suit their pleasure. (Tertullian, Against the Valentinians, 29-30)
[For the Gnostics] The influence of fatalistic ideas drawn from popular astrology and magic became fused with notions derived from Pauline language about predestination to produce a rigidly deterministic scheme. Redemption was from destiny, not from the consequences of responsible action, and was granted to a pre-determined elect in whom alone was the divine spark. (Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, pg. 38)
Take another look in the mirror, would you please. Today you are healthy and the mirror shows your fine appearance. Tomorrow you may be ill, then it will show your sickly appearance. When you are well again, it will again show the first. Just as your face changes its appearance, so the mirror changes your image. Now then, when you live a God-pleasing life, God foresees you in paradise. Tomorrow if you sin, God will foreordain you for torment. You again repent again you are foreordained for salvation. As you change your life, so God changes His decision. God's judgment conforms to our will and conforms to our disposition.
I will finish with two illustrations from Divine Scripture. The blessed Paul, while bound, sailed to Italy on a certain Alexandrian ship in order to stand before the Emperor. Suddenly in the middle of the deep night, a great storm arises. The wind blows strongly, the sea is turbulent. There is great mortal danger, no hope for salvation. Yet God, desiring to preserve His servant, sends him His angel with the message: Fear not, Paul... God hath given thee all them that sail with thee (Acts 27:24). Hearing this divine promise, the sailors were somewhat heartened that they would be saved and intended to leave the vessel and reach shore by boat. No, says Paul, except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved (Acts 27:3 1). What are you saying Paul? Did not God ordain to save all? Does it not matter, if they stay on the ship or not? No, God determined to save them, but requires that they cooperate in this. If everyone does not stay on board and do their job, they perish. Will those perish whom God has destined to be saved? Does God's destination change? Yes, it can be no other way. Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
Here's another example: The King Hezekiah became ill. God destines him to die and sends the prophet Isaiah to say: Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live (II Kings 20: 1). The unfortunate Hezekiah turns his face to the wall, sighs, cries, pleads. What are you doing, oh hapless king?! Has not God appointed you to death? Is it not in vain that you cry and plead? Can one whom God has ordained to die, live? Does God's decision change? Yes, brothers and sisters, this determination also changed! God had pity on the tears of Hezekiah and determined that he live. He even granted him fifteen years of life. Thus saith the Lord. I will add unto thy days fifteen years (II Kings 20:5,6).
I desire, brothers and sisters, that there be a determination concerning your salvation. But I must add, that if you do not concern yourselves with this, and do not live a God-pleasing life to the very end, firm in the grace and love of God, despite all decisions about salvation, you will die. And even if your demise has been decided, I tell you that if you will turn back and repent you will be saved despite the determination of your torment. Just as your win goes from good to bad and the reverse. Likewise God's decisions go from salvation to retribution and the reverse. The righteous judgment of God takes into consideration our disposition. He grants to us according to our inner condition. Thus God's foreknowledge and His determinations are not an obstacle to God's desire to save you, nor for you in your freedom to be saved.
Yet (as I stated in the very beginning), it is best for you not to understand anything in this elevated question concerning predestination. In order not to be swayed by some sort of misunderstanding, remember well the following points: God always wants your salvation, for He is the Lover of mankind; and you can always be saved, for you are free. God's grace and your will form predestination. God desires (your salvation): desire (salvation) also, and you will be predestined.
In order to emphasize all that I have said thus far, I ask you to listen to what God says to Jeremiah the prophet: Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words (18:2). The prophet went to the house and found the potter making vessels. A certain pot fell from his hands and became deformed. But, he picked it up and returned it to the form which he desired. Then God spoke to Jeremiah: Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand (18:6). Just as the vessel being made fell was ruined, then being ruined, it was again corrected by the skill of the potter, likewise you, oh man, fall into sin; then, having repented, you are corrected by the grace of God. If you are a vessel of honor, nonetheless, you can become a vessel of dishonor. Likewise, from a vessel of dishonor you can turn back into an honorable vessel. But God continues even further and tells you through the prophet: If (a nation) do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them (18:10). If that nation, against whom I have pronounced (to pull down, and to destroy it), turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them (18:8). See how God changes His decision according to how man changes his disposition? God has decided to save the righteous and grant retribution to the sinful. Are you righteous? Watch out that you do not fall, for the determination about your salvation will change into determination about your retribution. If you are sinful, try to repent, and the decision concerning punishment will turn into a decision for your salvation. The righteous judgment of God takes into consideration our disposition. He grants to us according to our inner feelings. Because of this, it does not concern you what God has decided about you, or what God foresees; this is neither helpful nor harmful. You want to know what predestination is? It is the grace of God and the will of man together. God desires, for He is the Lover of mankind: if a man desires also, for he is free, then that man is predestined.
But, oh my soul, what is prepared for me? Are you meant for paradise or hell? Who can tell me this and convince me of it? Brothers and sisters, we are all wanderers in this life of sorrow; therefore none can know what will take place in the future. That will be revealed in the end. According to whether we are found righteous or sinners, we will receive from the Righteous Judge the crown of glory or the sentence of torment: And (all) shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29). However there is something I can tell you in order to finish my sermon with a story which is very appropriate concerning the question at hand.
Once an evil man came to Apollo of Delphi with a sparrow in his hands, covered with a piece of clothing. He requested them to tell him whether the sparrow was living or dead. This man was sly. If the oracle said that it was lifeless, he intended to show the living sparrow. If he was told that it was living, he intended to suffocate it and show that it was dead. Thus, he wanted to trick the oracle. But his trickery was discovered and he received the following answer: It depends on you to decide, to show what you hold as living or dead. You too, oh Christian, ask whether eternal life or eternal death is in store for your soul. It depends on you to decide. Your predestination depends on the will of God and your will. The will of God is always ready. This means that things are determined only by your will. God desires (your salvation); if you desire this also, then you are predestined for eternal life. (Bishop Elias Minatios, On Predestination)
But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us [concerning the fulfillment of prophecy], that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made.
And the holy Spirit of prophecy taught us this, telling us by Moses that God spoke thus to the man first created: “Behold, before thy face are good and evil: choose the good.”
And again, by the other prophet Isaiah, that the following utterance was made as if from God the Father and Lord of all: “Wash you, make you clean; put away evils from your souls; learn to do well; judge the orphan, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord: And if your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool; and if they be red like as crimson, I will make them white as snow. And if ye be willing and obey Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye do not obey Me, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
And that expression, “The sword shall devour you,” does not mean that the disobedient shall be slain by the sword, but the sword of God is fire, of which they who choose to do wickedly become the fuel. Wherefore He says, “The sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And if He had spoken concerning a sword that cuts and at once dispatches, He would not have said, shall devour. And so, too, Plato, when he says, “The blame is his who chooses, and God is blameless,” took this from the prophet Moses and uttered it. For Moses is more ancient than all the Greek writers. And whatever both philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or contemplation of things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and interpret these things. And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men; but they are charged with not accurately understanding the truth when they assert contradictories. So that what we say about future events being foretold, we do not say it as if they came about by a fatal necessity; but God foreknowing all that shall be done by all men, and it being His decree that the future actions of men shall all be recompensed according to their several value, He foretells by the Spirit of prophecy that He will bestow meet rewards according to the merit of the actions done, always urging the human race to effort and recollection, showing that He cares and provides for men. But by the agency of the devils death has been decreed against those who read the books of Hystaspes, or of the Sibyl,
or of the prophets, that through fear they may prevent men who read them from receiving the knowledge of the good, and may retain them in slavery to themselves; which, however, they could not always effect. For not only do we fearlessly read them, but, as you see, bring them for your inspection, knowing that their contents will be pleasing to all. And if we persuade even a few, our gain will be very great; for, as good husbandmen, we shall receive the reward from the Master. (St. Justin the Philosopher, First Apology, 43-44)
This expression of our Lord, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not,”
set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free agent from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will towards us is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, be not found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign punishment: for God did kindly bestow on them what was good; but they themselves did not diligently keep it, nor deem it something precious, but poured contempt upon His super-eminent goodness. Rejecting therefore the good, and as it were spuing it out, they shall all deservedly incur the just judgment of God, which also the Apostle Paul testifies in his Epistle to the Romans, where he says, “But dost thou despise the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, being ignorant that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” “But glory and honour,” he says, “to every one that doeth good.”
God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this Epistle, and they who work it shall receive glory and honour, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do.
But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made originally. But since all men are of the same nature, able both to hold fast and to do what is good; and, on the other hand, having also the power to cast it from them and not to do it,—some do justly receive praise even among men who are under the control of good laws (and much more from God), and obtain deserved testimony of their choice of good in general, and of persevering therein; but the others are blamed, and receive a just condemnation, because of their rejection of what is fair and good. And therefore the prophets used to exhort men to what was good, to act justly and to work righteousness, as I have so largely demonstrated, because it is in our power so to do, and because by excessive negligence we might become forgetful, and thus stand in need of that good counsel which the good God has given us to know by means of the prophets.
For this reason the Lord also said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
And, “Take heed to yourselves, lest perchance your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and worldly cares.” And, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning, and ye like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He returns from the wedding, that when He cometh and knocketh, they may open to Him. Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing.” And again, “The servant who knows his Lord’s will, and does it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.”
And, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
And again, “But if the servant say in his heart, The Lord delayeth, and begin to beat his fellow-servants, and to eat, and drink, and to be drunken, his Lord will come in a day on which he does not expect Him, and shall cut him in sunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites.” All such passages demonstrate the independent will of man, and at the same time the counsel which God conveys to him, by which He exhorts us to submit ourselves to Him, and seeks to turn us away from the sin of unbelief against Him, without, however, in any way coercing us.
No doubt, if any one is unwilling to follow the Gospel itself, it is in his power [to reject it], but it is not expedient. For it is in man’s power to disobey God, and to forfeit what is good; but such conduct brings no small amount of injury and mischief. And on this account Paul says, “All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient;”
referring both to the liberty of man, in which respect “all things are lawful,” God exercising no compulsion in regard to him; and by the expression “not expedient” pointing out that we “should not use our liberty as a cloak of maliciousness,”
for this is not expedient. And again he says, “Speak ye every man truth with his neighbour.”
And, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor scurrility, which are not convenient, but rather giving of thanks.”
And, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk honestly as children of the light, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in anger and jealousy. And such were some of you; but ye have been washed, but ye have been sanctified in the name of our Lord.” If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things, and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will, in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God.
And not merely in works, but also in faith, has God preserved the will of man free and under his own control, saying, “According to thy faith be it unto thee;”
thus showing that there is a faith specially belonging to man, since he has an opinion specially his own. And again, “All things are possible to him that believeth;”
and, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.”
Now all such expressions demonstrate that man is in his own power with respect to faith. And for this reason, “he that believeth in Him has eternal life while he who believeth not the Son hath not eternal life, but the wrath of God shall remain upon him.”
In the same manner therefore the Lord, both showing His own goodness, and indicating that man is in his own free will and his own power, said to Jerusalem, “How often have I wished to gather thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Wherefore your house shall be left unto you desolate.”
Those, again, who maintain the opposite to these conclusions, do themselves present the Lord as destitute of power, as if, forsooth, He were unable to accomplish what He willed; or, on the other hand, as being ignorant that they were by nature “material,” as these men express it, and such as cannot receive His immortality. “But He should not,” say they, “have created angels of such a nature that they were capable of transgression, nor men who immediately proved ungrateful towards Him; for they were made rational beings, endowed with the power of examining and judging, and were not formed as things irrational or of a merely animal nature, which can do nothing of their own will, but are drawn by necessity and compulsion to what is good, in which things there is one mind and one usage, working mechanically in one groove, who are incapable of being anything else except just what they had been created.” But upon this supposition, neither would what is good be grateful to them, nor communion with God be precious, nor would the good be very much to be sought after, which would present itself without their own proper endeavour, care, or study, but would be implanted of its own accord and without their concern. Thus it would come to pass, that their being good would be of no consequence, because they were so by nature rather than by will, and are possessors of good spontaneously, not by choice; and for this reason they would not understand this fact, that good is a comely thing, nor would they take pleasure in it. For how can those who are ignorant of good enjoy it? Or what credit is it to those who have not aimed at it? And what crown is it to those who have not followed in pursuit of it, like those victorious in the contest?On this account, too, did the Lord assert that the kingdom of heaven was the portion of “the violent;” and He says, “The violent take it by force;”
that is, those who by strength and earnest striving are on the watch to snatch it away on the moment. On this account also Paul the Apostle says to the Corinthians, “Know ye not, that they who run in a racecourse, do all indeed run, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. Every one also who engages in the contest is temperate in all things: now these men do it that they may obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. But I so run, not as uncertainty; I fight, not as one beating the air; but I make my body livid, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when preaching to others, I may myself be rendered a castaway.” This able wrestler, therefore, exhorts us to the struggle for immortality, that we may be crowned, and may deem the crown precious, namely, that which is acquired by our struggle, but which does not encircle us of its own accord. And the harder we strive, so much is it the more valuable; while so much the more valuable it is, so much the more should we esteem it. And indeed those things are not esteemed so highly which come spontaneously, as those which are reached by much anxious care. Since, then, this power has been conferred upon us, both the Lord has taught and the apostle has enjoined us the more to love God, that we may reach this prize for ourselves by striving after it. For otherwise, no doubt, this our good would be virtually irrational, because not the result of trial. Moreover, the faculty of seeing would not appear to be so desirable, unless we had known what a loss it were to be devoid of sight; and health, too, is rendered all the more estimable by an acquaintance with disease; light, also, by contrasting it with darkness; and life with death. Just in the same way is the heavenly kingdom honourable to those who have known the earthly one. But in proportion as it is more honourable, so much the more do we prize it; and if we have prized it more, we shall be the more glorious in the presence of God. The Lord has therefore endured all these things on our behalf, in order that we, having been instructed by means of them all, may be in all respects circumspect for the time to come, and that, having been rationally taught to love God, we may continue in His perfect love: for God has displayed long-suffering in the case of man’s apostasy; while man has been instructed by means of it, as also the prophet says, “Thine own apostasy shall heal thee;” God thus determining all things beforehand for the bringing of man to perfection, for his edification, and for the revelation of His dispensations, that goodness may both be made apparent, and righteousness perfected, and that the Church may be fashioned after the image of His Son, and that man may finally be brought to maturity at some future time, becoming ripe through such privileges to see and comprehend God. (St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 4, 37)
[In the writings of the Fathers,] ... the renewal of the soul is made to be the result of two factors, divine grace and the exertion of man's free-will. As a rule, the exertion of free-will, human efforts in a right direction, precede the divine aid, and render men worthy of it. It is a doctrine of synergism. God and man cooperate. ... In harmony with the foregoing views as to human freedom and responsibility, conditional predestination is the doctrine inculcated by the Greek Fathers. (George Park Fisher, History of Christian Doctrine, pg. 165)