The Fathers on free will

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chap. vi.—free-will​

“Whether any one, truly hearing the word of of the true Prophet, is willing or unwilling to receive it, and to embrace His burden, that is, the precepts of life, he has either in his power, for we are free in will. For if it were so, that those who hear had it not in their power to do otherwise than they had heard, there were some power of nature in virtue of which it were not free to him to pass over to another opinion. Or if, again, no one of the hearers could at all receive it, this also were a power of nature which should compel the doing of some one thing, and should leave no place for the other course. But now, since it is free for the mind to turn its judgment to which side it pleases, and to choose the way which it approves, it is clearly manifest that there is in men a liberty of choice[1]

The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 5, 6

The learned among the Egyptians, moreover, hold similar views, and yet they are treated with respect, and do not incur the ridicule of Celsus and such as he; while we, who maintain that all things are administered by God in proportion to the relation of the free-will of each individual, and are ever being brought into a better condition, so far as they admit of being so, and who know that the nature of our free-will admits of the occurrence of contingent events (for it is incapable of receiving the wholly unchangeable character of God), yet do not appear to say anything worthy of a testing examination.[2] Origen, Against Celsus 5.21



Our free-will has destroyed us; we who were free have become slaves; we have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God; we Ourselves have manifested wickedness; but we, who have manifested it, are able again to reject it.[3] Tatian, Oration to the Greeks 11



another fragment from the same

Translated in the same Epistle to Avitus​

“At the end and consummation of the world, when souls and rational creatures shall have been sent forth as from bolts and barriers, some of them walk slowly on account of their slothful habits, others fly with rapid flight on account of their diligence. And since all are possessed of free-will, and may of their own accord admit either of good or evil, the former will be in a worse condition than they are at present, while the latter will advance to a better state of things; because different conduct and varying wills will admit of a different condition in either direction, i.e., angels may become men or demons, and again from the latter they may rise to be men or angels.[4]
 
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pt2

Origen, First Principles 1.8.4

is nothing comparable, which men can offer to God, is the life of virginity. For although many accomplished many admirable things, according to their vows, in the law, they alone were said to fulfil a great vow who were willing to offer themselves of their free-will. For the passage runs thus: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, when either man or woman shall separate themselves … unto the Lord

[5]Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins 5.1

It is therefore in the power of every one, since man has been made possessed of free-will, whether he shall hear us to life, or the demons to destruction.[6] The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 4, 19

chap. vi.—we should acknowledge one only god.​

Here, then, is a proof of virtue, and of a mind loving prudence, to recur to the communion of the unity, and to attach one’s self to prudence for salvation, and make choice of the better things according to the free-will placed in man[7]

Justin on the sole government of God

(Willing Souls, cap. xxi. p. 597.)​

On the subject of free-will, so profusely illustrated by Clement, I have foreborne to add any comments. But Segaar’s Excursus (iv. p. 410) is worthy of being consulted. On Clement’s ideas of Hades and the intermediate state, I have made no comment; but Segaar’s endeavour to state judicially the view of our author (Excursus, x. p. 421), though in some particulars it seems to me unsatisfactory, is also worthy of examination.[8]

Clement of Alexandria

chap. vi.—we should acknowledge one only god.​

Here, then, is a proof of virtue, and of a mind loving prudence, to recur to the communion of the unity, and to attach one’s self to prudence for salvation, and make choice of the better things according to the free-will placed in man; and not to think that those who are possessed of human passions are lords of all, when they shall not appear to have even equal power with Justin on the sole government of God

Nor will “harshness” be on this account imputed to Christ, on the ground of the vicious action of each individual free-will. “Behold,” saith He, “I have set before thee good and evil.” Choose that which is good: if you cannot, because you will not—for that you can if you will He has shown, because He has proposed each to your free-will—you ought to depart from Him whose will you do not.[9] Tertullian, On Monogamy 14

chap. i. ARGUMENT.—novatian, with the view of treating of the trinity, sets forth from the rule of faith that we should first of all believe in god the father and lord omnipotent, the absolute founder of all things. the works of creation are beautifully described. man’s free-will is asserted; god’s mercy in inflicting penalty on man is shown; the condition after death of the souls of the righteous and unrighteous is determined[10]Novatian, The Trinity 1

chap. xxxvii.—men are possessed of free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. it is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad.[11] Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.37



Everything, then, which falls under a name, is originated, whether they will or not. Whether, then, the Father Himself draws to Himself every one who has led a pure life, and has reached the conception of the blessed and incorruptible nature; or whether the free-will which is in us, by reaching the knowledge of the good, leaps and bounds over the barriers[12]

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5.13









[1] Pseudo-Clement of Rome, “Recognitions of Clement,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. M. B. Riddle, vol. 8, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 144.
[2] Origen, “Origen against Celsus,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Frederick Crombie, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 552.
[3] Tatian, “Address of Tatian to the Greeks,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. J. E. Ryland, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 70.
[4] Origen, “De Principiis,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Frederick Crombie, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 267.
[5] Methodius of Olympus, “The Banquet of the Ten Virgins,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius the Great, Julius Africanus, Anatolius and Minor Writers, Methodius, Arnobius, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. William R. Clark, vol. 6, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 325.
[6] Pseudo-Clement of Rome, “Recognitions of Clement,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. M. B. Riddle, vol. 8, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 139.
[7] Justin Martyr, “Justin on the Sole Government of God,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. G. Reith, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 293.
[8] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 605.
[9] Tertullian, “On Monogamy,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. Thelwall, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 71.
[10] Novatian, “A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 611.
[11] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 518.
[12] Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 464.
 
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