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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : What the Early Christians Believed About the FREE WILL & PREDESTINATION

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hmmhmm
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 What the Early Christians Believed About the FREE WILL & PREDESTINATION



The early Christians were strong believers in free will. For example, Justin Martyr made this argument to the Romans: “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 is 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.”

Clement echoed the same belief: “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.”

Archelaus, writing a few decades later, repeated the same understanding: “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.”

Methodius, a Christian martyr who lived near the end of the third century, wrote similarly, “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.”

The early Christians weren't simply speculating about this matter, but rather they based their beliefs on the following Scriptures, among others:

• “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

• “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

• “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!' And let him who hears say, ‘Come!' And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

• “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19).

So originally, it was the pagan world, not the Christians, who believed in predestination.

From Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up

by David Bercot


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 2008/11/13 23:24Profile
tjservant
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 Re: What the Early Christians Believed About the FREE WILL & PREDESTINATION

Many people have been over the writings of the early church fathers and do not side with David Bercot. This is just one article of many. I am only posting this to show that there is another side to the story and that the book Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up by David Bercot is not the "be all, end all" some folks believe it to be.

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Did Irenaeus Believe in Predestination and Election? by Jim Bublitz

This is a response to those who would appeal to the early church father Irenaeus to somehow prove that these biblical doctrines were not believed prior to Augustine. Unfortunately, many in the Emerging Church Movement today are adverse to the doctrinal precision of the last several centuries. In seeking like-mindedness, these folks often try to take shelter in what they think is the bunker of the first couple of centuries of Christianity. The believers back in those days didn't seem all of that concerned about these issues, or at least, that's how the thinking goes.

Well it is true that those first centuries were focused on fighting other errors in areas that were being attacked in those times, including the Trinity and the person of Christ. But that does not mean that these Christians were not believers in the biblical doctrines of election and predestination. Responding to a Dr. Daniel Whitby during the early 18th century, John Gill wrote his work entitled The Cause of God and Truth in 1734. In it he went through the documentation related to many of the most well known early church fathers, examining their beliefs on these doctrine. What follows is just one of several sections in that book dealing with Irenaeus. But before we hear from Gill, the reader should be reminded that John Calvin interacted a great deal with the early church fathers as well, and certainly - their writings did not convince him that these doctrines were somehow not biblical.

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IRENAEUS. A.D. 180. IRENAEUS was a disciple of Polycarp, and an auditor of Papais, who were both disciples of the apostle John; he was first a presbyter under Pothinus, bishop of Lyons, in France, and when he died, who suffered martyrdom f864 about A.D. 178, he succeeded him as bishop of that place, and became a martyr about f865 A.D. 198. He wrote five books against the heresies of the Valentinians and Gnostics, which remain to this day; from whence may be gathered his sense concerning the decrees of God. And,

1. It is evident, that he believed that all things are predetermined by God, and are overruled by him for the good of his church and people; yea, that even the fall of man is used to their advantage; for he says, f866 that "God has shown the greatness of his mind in the apostasy of man, for man is taught by it;" as the prophet says "Thy backslidings shall reform thee." Prefiniente Deo omnia ad hominis perfectionem. "God predetermining all things for the perfection of man, and for the bringing about and manifestation of his dispositions, that goodness may be shown, and righteousness perfected, and the church be conformed to the image of his Son, and at length become a perfect man, and by such things be made ripe to see God, and enjoy him."

2. He asserts a preparation of happiness for some, and of punishment for others, upon the prescience or foreknowledge of God; his words are these: f867 Deus autem omnia praesciens utrisque aptas praeparavit habitationes, etc. "God foreknowing all things, has prepared for both suitable habitations;" for them who seek after the light of incorruptibility, and run unto it, he bountifully gives that light which they desire; but for others that despise it, and turn themselves from it, and avoid it, and as it were blinding their own selves, he hath prepared darkness fitting for such who are against the light, and for those who shun being subject to it, he has "provided proper punishment." It is true, he puts this upon the prescience of God, foreknowing the different characters and actions of men; and therefore Vossius, f868 and Dr. Whitby, f869 from him, have produced this passage, with others, to prove, that the fathers before Austin held, that God predestinated men to live from a prescience that they would live piously; but I think it may very well be understood, in a sense entirely consistent with the doctrine of predestination, as maintained by us; for we readily own, that God foreknew who would live piously, and seek after the light of life, because he determined to give them that grace which should enable them so to do, and therefore prepared mansions of light and glory for them; and, to use Irenaeus's own phrase, benigne donans, of his own grace and goodness liberally and bountifully gives that light unto them which they desire, and he has prepared for them. On the other hand, he foreknew who would despise, and shun the light, and blind themselves yet more and more; because he determined to leave them to themselves, to their native blindness, darkness, and ignorance, which they love; and accordingly prepared regions of darkness, as a proper punishment for them. For,

3. He speaks of a certain number of persons chosen to eternal life, and of God's giving up others to, and leaving them in their unbelief, in much such language as we usually do. Treating of the doctrine of the resurrection, he has these words, f870 "God is not so poor and indigent as not to give to every body its own soul as its proper form. Hence plerothentos ton arithmou ou autos par auto proorise, pantes oi engrapheetes eis zoen anastesontai, having completed the number which he before determined with himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto life, shall rise again, having their own bodies, souls, and spirits, in which they pleased God; but those who are deserving of punishment shall go into it, having also their own souls and bodies in which they departed from the grace of God." And in another place, f871 having cited several passages of Scripture which respect the blinding and hardening of the heart of Pharaoh, and others, such as Isaiah 6:9, 10, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 1:28, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12, which are commonly made use of in handling the doctrine of reprobation, he thus descants upon them, "If therefore now, as many as God knows, will not believe, since he foreknows all things, tradidit eos infidelitati eorum, he hath given them up to their infidelity, "and turns his face from them," relinquens eos in tenebris, "leaving them in the darkness which they have chosen for themselves;" is it to be wondered at, that he then "gave up Pharaoh, who would never believe, with them that were with him, to their own infidelity?" And elsewhere, f872 having mentioned the words in Romans 9:10-12, so frequently urged in this controversy, he has this observation upon them, "from hence it is manifest, that not only the prophecies of the patriarchs, but the birth of Rebecca, was a prophecy of two people, one greater, the other less; one in bondage, the other free; of one and the same father; one and the same God is ours and theirs, who understands things hidden; qui scit omnia antequam fiant, 'who knows all things before they come to pass,' and therefore hath said, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated."

4. Eternal predestination, or predestination before time, before men have a being, was not unknown to this ancient writer; for in one place he says, f873 "being predestinated indeed according to the knowledge of the Father; ut essemus qui nondum eramus, that we might be, who as yet were not, made, or were the beginning of his creation." And not to take any further notice than barely to mention his reading the text in Romans 1:1, Predestinated to the Gospel of God; and which after him is so rendered by Origen, Chrysostom, and Theophylact, who understand it not of the vocation of Paul to the apostleship, but of his eternal election, and the preordination of him of old, before he was born.

5. He plainly hints at the stability and immovableness of the decree of election, when he calls it, turris electionis, "the tower of election;" for why should he call it a tower, but because it is impregnable and immoveable, because "the purpose of God, according to election, is that foundation which stands sure, not of works, but of him that calleth?" For having taken notice of some passages of the prophets, he thus says, f875 "These things the prophets declaring required the fruit of righteousness, but the people not believing, at last he sent his own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: whom, when the wicked husbandmen had killed, they cast out of the vineyard; wherefore the Lord God hath delivered it to other husbandmen, who render him the fruits in their seasons; not now walled about, but spread throughout the whole world; turre electionis exaltata ubique et speciosa, "the tower of election being every where exalted and glorious." That is, if I understand him right, the election obtained every where, or electing grace took place, not in Judea only, as heretofore, but in all the nations of the world; for it follows, "every where the church is famous, every where a winepress is dug, and every where there are some that receive the Spirit." There are two passages cited from Irenaeus by Dr. Whitby, f876 as militating against the doctrines of absolute election and reprobation, but both of them respect the doctrine of free will; and it must be owned, that there are some things dropped by this writer, which, upon first reading them, seem to favor that doctrine, and will be considered in their proper place.

________________________________________________

Tom Nettles gives more background on Gill's: The Cause of God and Truth:

Gill undertook the project to refute the arguments of Daniel Whitby's Discourse on the Five Points. This grand defense of Arminianism might just as well have been a defense of popery [Catholicism] as far as Gill was concerned, for Arminianism and Pelagianism were "the very life and soul of Popery". Beyond popery, however, the man-centered teaching of Arminianism seemed to be irresistibly drawn historically to even more sinister theological connections. In his earlier writing ministry, Whitby had refuted the Arian and Socinian errors, but, by the end of his life, according to the posthumously published Last Thoughts, he was a convinced Unitarian. Gill identified Arminianism with "other supposed rational schemes men run into, contrary to divine revelation".

The best way that I know of to get your hands on the book is to purchase it on the Ages Software CD called The Collected Writings of John Gill.

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Footnotes:

f866 -- Irenaeus adv. Haeres. 50:4, c. 72, p. 419.
f867 -- Irenaeus adv. Haeres. 50:4, c. 76, p. 423.
f868 -- Hist. Pelag. 50:6; Thess. 8, p. 542.
f869 -- Discourse on the Five Points, p. 101; ed. 2. 100.
f870 -- L. 2, c. 62, inter Fragment. Graec. ad. calcem.
f871 -- L. 4, c. 48, p. 389.
f872 -- L. 4, c. 38, p. 376.
f873 -- L. 5, c. 1, p. 432.
f874 -- L. 3, c. 18, p. 276.
f875 -- L. 4, c. 70, p. 412.
f876 -- Discourse on the Five Points, p. 96; ed. 2. 95.

Jim Bublitz


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TJ

 2008/11/14 3:50Profile
whyme
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 Re:


I wonder if Mr. Bercot would be as likely to accept all the teachings of the early church fathers. While I have not studied the writings of those fathers much, I am familiar enough that if the early church fathers are our definitive guide for theology then we should all be at the Catholic Church this Sunday. There are many things they held which we in protestantism obeject to. By this, I don't intend to concede that free will was held by the early church but I can say that the book of Sirrac (sp?) does support a free will position, a book we Protestants don't support as scriptural.

 2008/11/14 8:25Profile
TaylorOtwell
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Joined: 2006/6/19
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 Re:

Friend,

I'll give you the short answer: any early church father who denied the sovereign grace of God was mistaken, because the Scripture teaches that God must draw men before they can even believe.

Secondly, those aren't early Christians. Paul was an early Christian. John was an early Christian.

Thirdly, they believed all sorts of other strange teachings, which, not surprisingly, aren't mentioned.

Fourthly, quoting verses such as John 3:16, etc. do not prove the Arminian position. Why? Because those who believe in the sovereign grace of God fully agree with them. We simply believe that nobody can believe unless it is given to Him from above.

Notice this verse from James:
[i]Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. [/i]

It is often quoted alone, however, notice the next verse: [i]"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." [/i]

These two verses are connected.

Grace to you,
Taylor


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Taylor Otwell

 2008/11/14 9:16Profile
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 Re:

Quote:

tjservant wrote:
Many people have been over the writings of the early church fathers and do not side with David Bercot. This is just one article of many. I am only posting this to show that there is another side to the story and that the book Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up by David Bercot is not the "be all, end all" some folks believe it to be.

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well there is always two sides of the story, the same with all people, take calvin, some put him and his teaching on a pedistal and say his writings is the best that ever was written outside scripture, others say he was a heretic and a murderer.

We chose what we belive.

same with the rest, some like Augustine and his teachings, i think he created more heresies then any otherand wrought the greatest damage to christianity ever, but thats just my opinion. And i read both sides.

Also with the early church fathers so called, i read both sides. For my self the more i readthe more i am convinced we have much error in our theology comming from Augustine and the reformation.

Taylor says they have a faulty theology unless it lines up with his understanding of grace.

It is funny that the early church, some of them, taught free will to such a degree we would label them heretics in a second, yet some of them was taught by the apostle Paul for many years.

Yet some claim they understand Paul better, and rather take a augustinian munks doctrines over people who sat directly under Paul and John.

These people not only knew greek they thought it, they spoke it and they lived in the bible age, not only read history about it.

Not saying all the wrote is accurate or i am nottrying to canonise their writing.

But i take their writing any day over some of the reformation "heroes"

Their life if anything is a testimony, today most people have a doctrine but no life.

As for David Bercots understanding of the early church fathers, i think he understands them rightly. Its just we like this german childbaptising munk so much we have a hard time look a way from his teachings. With the other predetination teachers. The ones who teach the kind of predestination that takes away mans ability to chose. Wich is contary to the word in my understanding. And it has been refreshing to see people who was taught by the apostle paul had the same understanding.

I have recently read through much of church history, listend the calvinistic historians and the otherside. And what a difference! one could thing it is two tottally different periods but they speak of the same event same time and yet so different. History is fragile.

One thing Bercot points out in his book, it was not Calvin who invented this doctrine of predestination. It was the gnostics, or a segment of them, since there was all knid of different gnostics, but they held this doctrine, that is very similar to what we call calvinism.

And John writes about them in 1 Joh and calls them antichrists.

Even if they had the right doctrine, their life was worthy of such statements.

And anyone who says "they err in their doctrine" or calls someone else heretic, better be sure their life surpasses the ones they call heretic.

shame on us if it dont.


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 2008/11/14 12:30Profile
TaylorOtwell
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 Re:

Quote:
It is funny that the early church, some of them, taught free will to such a degree we would label them heretics in a second, yet some of them was taught by the apostle Paul for many years.



Friend, from what I know of the church fathers, that quote is untrue. Which church father that was taught by the apostle Paul for many years denied the sovereignty of God in election?

Actually, we have no extant writings of any church father that was taught by the Apostle Paul personally, much less many years of teaching.

Finally, the word "predestination" is a Bible word. It is actually in the text; we have to reckon with it.


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Taylor Otwell

 2008/11/14 12:41Profile
hmmhmm
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 Re:

Quote:



Friend, from what I know of the church fathers, that quote is untrue. Which church father that was taught by the apostle Paul for many years denied the sovereignty of God in election?

Actually, we have no extant writings of any church father that was taught by the Apostle Paul personally, much less many years of teaching.

Finally, the word "predestination" is a Bible word. It is actually in the text; we have to reckon with it.




Yes brother i do recon on it, just not as calvin and luther recon on it and in doing so cancelling out mans free will.

that kind is not in the bible.

I do recon on God is the savior and giver of salvation.

But as in any gift... you can chose to accept or deny it.

We can not do anything to deserve or earn the gift, that train has left long time ago.

But God send another one, anyone who will may jump on. Some dont, a few do.

I do not see a contradiction between Gods election and mans free will to chose Him.

I am a strong beliver in predestination. Not the kind that came out of Augustine and Calvin thou.

But as for people under Paul, according tradition and widely accepted throughout history Clement sat under Paul. Paul writes and says even Clement has his name in the book of life.

Now Clements letters are not in the bible, so we should notreadthem as such, and he speaks much on "predestination" in this letteralso, but justas scripture you find much that can be related to mans free will also.

Ill give you a link here.

[url=http://www.carm.org/lost/1clement.htm]the firs tepistle of Clement[/url]


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 2008/11/14 13:04Profile









 Re:

One thing I know for sure... this issue will [b]never[/b] be settled in this life by any of us.

It has no bearing on whether or not one is saved. God does not require of any of us to be a Calvinist or an Arminian. You can be a Calvinist and be saved. You can be a Arminian and be saved. You can be a Calvinistic-Arminian and be saved. You can be an Arminianistic-Calvinist and be saved.

Who cares??

The only time I have an issue, at this point in time, is when I meet a hyper-Calvinist who doesn't believe in evangelism... and sits back and lets people go to hell without telling them of Jesus because, after all, it was God's will that they go to hell.

But other than that extreme case... who cares?

I'm not saying it isnt important to fully understand the scriptures, and want to have the Holy Spirit reveal the truth to us on all matters of doctrine and theology. Y'all know me, and you know I'm all about sound doctrine.

But in the end... we spend way too much time on this forum trying to proove to each other one side or the other. Nothing ever gets settled. Never will.

Krispy

 2008/11/14 13:09
TaylorOtwell
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 Re:

Thank you for your response.

Friend, like you said, there is really no authoritative weight to Clement's writings. However, I have read the entirety of Clements epistle recently, and it doesn't ever deny election.

I saw the quote you produced where he stated that evil is voluntary. To this, all Reformed/Calvinist agree. All Reformed Confessions that I know of state that man voluntarily chooses sin; however, they state that man cannot voluntarily choose good, because his heart is so evilly twisted and sinful.

God simply chooses, as Ephesians says, out of the good pleasure of His will. Men can call it arbitrary if they want, I call it unmerited grace.


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Taylor Otwell

 2008/11/14 13:14Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
Who cares??



I would submit that the vast majority of problems in the professing church lamented on SermonIndex spring from Arminian theology.

If man's salvation is not a free, sovereign work of God, why not play emotional music to convince people? Why not twist arms? If the Spirit freely working through the preached Word is not sufficient, there will never be an end to the human innovations in the professing church.

Grace to you,
Taylor


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Taylor Otwell

 2008/11/14 13:17Profile





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