Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

free_will

24 Entries

...God in His wisdom, power and compassion knows how to change for the better the lapses we suffer as a result of our freely-willed perversion. St. Gregory Palamas (Topics of Natural and Theological Science no. 54, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 372)



...in spite of the fact that you are weak and faulty, you are accounted guilty for all the wrong things you do. For since you possess a will, all that comes forth from you is subject to it, and so everything good is counted in your favor and everything bad - to your detriment. Therefore, conscious of your general wickedness, admit yourself guilty also in the particular wickedness into which you have fallen at the present moment. Judge and condemn yourself, and only yourself; do not look around, seeking on whom you could put the blame. Neither the people around you nor the circumstances are guilty of your sin. Your bad will alone is to blame. So blame yourself. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare:Chapter 28)

...unless questioned by the brethren we should not say anything by way of giving help, so that any benefit is a consequence of their own free choice." St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1:A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 186)

A man by himself working and toiling at freedom from sinful desires achieves nothing. But if he plainly shows himself to be very eager and earnest about this, he attains it by the addition of the power of God. God works together with willing souls. But if the person abandons his eagerness, the spirit from God is also restrained. To save the unwilling is the act of one using compulsion; but to save the willing, that of one showing grace. 190 AD St. Clement of Alexandria Salvation of the Rich Man chap. 21)

All the creatures that God made, He made very good. And He gave to every individual the sense of free will, by which standard He also instituted the law of judgment.... And certainly whoever will, may keep the commandments. Whoever despises them and turns aside to what is contrary to them, shall yet without doubt have to face this law of judgment.... There can be no doubt that every individual, in using his own proper power of will, may shape his course in whatever direction he pleases." 250-300 AD Archelaus Disputation With Manes sees. 32, 33)

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

For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force ... It is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice. St. John Chrysostom

Good and evil deeds are the offspring of freedom. Where freedom is lacking, the doing of [good and evil] deeds is superfluous with respect to receiving a recompense. There is no recompense for what is natural. A reward is bestowed for a conflict, and one does not speak of a victory where there is no struggle. When opposition is taken away, freedom also vanishes with it. Henceforth nature has no more struggle. The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian

Grace has been given mystically to those who have been baptized into Christ; and it becomes active within them to the extent that they actively observe the commandments. Grace never ceases to help us secretly; but to do good - as far as lies in our power - depends on us. St. Mark the Ascetic, Philokalia, Vol. 1

He makes Himself known to those who, after doing all that their powers will allow, confess that they need help from Him." 185-255 AD Origen Against Celsus bk. 7, chap. 42)

In making us in His image, after His likeness, God placed us before Him, not as an action of His, entirely subject to Him, but as fact even for Him - as free beings. And by virtue of this, relations between man and God are based on the principle of freedom. When we take advantage of this freedom and commit sin, we thrust God aside. This liberty to turn away from God is the negative, tragic aspect of free will, but it is a sine qua non if we are to take hold of the life which is truly divine, life which is not predetermined." Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 8; SVS Press pgs. 66-67)

It depends on us whether we wish to be saved. St. Nicon "Repent Ye

It is not God's foreknowledge of those who, by their free choice and zeal, will prevail which is the cause of their victory, just as, again, it is not His knowing beforehand who will fall and be vanquished which is responsible for their defeat. Instead, it is the zeal, deliberate choice, and courage of each of us which effects the victory. Our faithlessness and sloth, our irresolution and indolence, on the other hand, comprise our defeat and perdition. So, while reclining on our bed of worldly affection He predestined,' without perceiving just what it is we are saying. Yes, indeed, He truly knew you beforehand as inattentive and disobedient and lazy, but this is certainly not because He ordered or foreordained it that you should have no power to repent yourself nor, if you will it, to get up and obey. St. Symeon the New Theologian, On The Mystical Life

Man is made in the image of God, Who is humble but at the same time free. Therefore it is normal and natural that he should be after the likeness of his Creator - that he should recoil from exercising control over others while himself being free and independent by virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit within him. Those who are possessed by the lust for power cloud the image of God in themselves. Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 9; SVS Press pg.73)

Neither praise nor condemnation, neither rewards nor punishments, are right if the soul does not have the power of choice and avoidance, if evil is involuntary." 190 AD St. Clement of Alexandria Miscellanies bk. 1, chap. 17)

Therefore, since the time of this life is a time for repentance, the mere fact that a sinner who desires to return to God can still live, proves that one is accepted by Him. For here in this life is always present freedom of choice. Free will, then, is founded upon the possibility of the acceptance or repudiance of the above mentioned way of life and death. A person possesses the ability to chose whenever one wishes. St. Gregory Palamas, Treatise on the Spiritual Life

Those [pagans] who decide that man does not have free will, but say that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate, are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. " 260-315 AD St. Methodius The Banquet of the Ten Virgins discourse 8, chap. 16)

To him who has been baptized into Christ grace has been mysteriously given already. But it acts in proportion to his fulfillment of commandments. Although this grace never ceases to help us in secret, it lies in our power to do or not to do good according to our own will.

In the first place, it fittingly arouses conscience, through which even evil-doers have been accepted by God when they repented.

Again, it may be concealed in the advice of a brother. Sometimes it follows thought during reading and teaches its truth to the mind by means of a natural deduction (from that thought). Thus, if we do not bury this talent bestowed upon us on these and similar occasions, we shall in truth enter into the joy of the Lord. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90



We are each born into a world in which it is easy for us to do evil and hard for us to do good. Bishop Kallistos Ware (How are We Saved? pg. 18)

We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and rewards are rendered according to the merit of each man's actions. Otherwise, if all things happen by fate, then nothing is in our own power. For if it be predestined that one man be good and another man evil, then the first is not deserving of praise or the other to be blamed. Unless humans have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions-whatever they may be.... For neither would a man be worthy of reward or praise if he did not of himself choose the good, but was merely created for that end. Likewise, if a man were evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for. 110-165AD St. Justin Martyr First Apology chap. 43)

When we lay bare the hidden meaning of the history, scripture is seen to teach that the birth which distresses the tyrant is the beginning of the virtuous life. I am speaking of the kind of birth in which free will serves as the midwife, delivering the child amid great pain. For no one causes grief to his antagonist unless he exhibits in himself those marks which give proof of his victory over the other. St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses

...if anyone has drawn close to God, he has evidently approached Him by means of His energy. In what way? By natural participation in that energy? But this is common to all created things. It is not, therefore, by virtue of natural qualities, but by virtue of what one achieves through free choice that one is close to or distant from God.

But free choice pertains only to beings endowed with intelligence. So among all creatures only those endowed with intelligence can be far from or close to God, drawing close to Him through virtue or becoming distant through vice. Thus such beings alone are capable of wretchedness or blessedness. Let us strive to lay hold of blessedness. St. Gregory Palamas (Topics of Natural and Theological Science no. 78, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 382)



...we experience temptations even against our will; and we grieve over passions (when they arise), yet we love to prolong their impulses and their sweetness. Sins we do not desire; yet we accept with enjoyment the impulses which lead us to them. So in practice the latter become for us the cause of the former. He who enjoys the sweetmeats of passions becomes involuntarily subjected to them and is a slave to his passions against his will. Monks Callistus and Ignatius (Directions to Hesychasts no. 28, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 199)

(Then we say): "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In this statement, brothers, our free will is expressed, and whatever harm the persuasion of the ancient serpent has done us is removed, if we so will, for the will of the Lord heals us.

As the apostle says: "You do not always carry out your good intentions." The spirit chooses to have the will of the Lord done in us, so that the soul no longer does what it had been persuaded to do by the concupiscence of corrupt flesh. We therefore pray that the will of the Lord will be done in us

If this His will is always done in us, on the day of judgment there will be no self-will to be condemned after being examined for faults. For the will of the Lord is holy. It knows how to remove fear of judgment. This His will promises that those in whom it is accomplished will judge even angels. REF:St Benedict of Nursia, from "The Rule of the Master" - (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1977), pp. 95 - 101







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