The subject matter concerning the doctrine of free will and predestination is of distinguishable controversy in the church and has long been debated. There are various schools of thought and misconceptions concerning the origins of this doctrine. Its validity, at best, is questionable. By examining the history of Christianity, one would find that the teachings of free will and predestination, as taught today among protestants (especially Calvinist) believers, were not held by the earliest Christians, whom were taught by the apostles. The doctrine of free will and predestination is rooted in Gnostic and heathen dogmas and does not line up with the Word of God.
All doctrine must be weighed by the authority of the scriptures and the traditions (interpretations) that the Messiah imparted to the apostles. The apostle Peter specified that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,” (2 Peter 1:20) and concerning the apostle Paul’s writings, he affirmed that “our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the spiritual insight given him, Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15-16). The church was given the apostolic traditions to protect itself from those who would establish their own interpretations, contrary to what was taught by the apostles. The legitimacy of these traditions was later denied and no longer followed by so called “theologians”, as a result of personal opinions taking precedence over the truth of the scriptures. John Calvin and Augustine departed from and denied the apostolic traditions, and are leading examples of the type of men the apostle Paul spoke of when he commanded “on the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) that you withdraw and keep away from every brother (fellow believer) who is slack in the performance of duty and is disorderly, living as a shirker and not walking in accord with the traditions and instructions that you have received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6 AMP).
John Calvin is viewed as the champion of the modern-day teachings of grace, free will, and predestination. However, Augustine is the father of the doctrine that John Calvin, as well as Martin Luther, advocated. Calvin and Luther, supposed “reformers”, reverted to Augustine’s teachings, who had defected from the Apostolic Traditions and teachings. Augustine attempted to reinvent the wheel by introducing doctrine from the heretical Gnostic sects, that the Earliest Christians had refuted.
The Calvinist’s, trying to establish their point of view, first attempted to determine God’s sovereignty (supreme power over a body). So, let us explore this; do we have a choice, or are we so completely depraved that we are incapable of making any good choices? Firstly, we will summon the authority of the divine scriptures to determine if we do indeed have a free will. It is written “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life,” (Deuteronomy 30:19). If man is totally depraved, why would the Almighty give a choice of life and death knowing we have no ability to choose between the two? This eradicates God’s benevolence (inclination to do good for the benefit of others), in turn implying He is malevolent (evil). Suggesting that God is hanging life and death before us, asking us to choose between the two, knowing we are unable to do so, is an insult to His Divinity.
Total depravity teaches that we don’t have a free will and are “compelled” to do good, having no choice in the matter. However, the prophet David stated, “Your people will offer themselves willingly” (Psalm 110:3). The word “willingly” in Hebrew is nedâbâh and means an “offering with a willing heart as a sign of honor.” We are giving ourselves as a willing offering to the LORD, thus we have a choice. Proverbs 31:13 states “She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands.” This word “willingly” is different from the aforementioned. In Hebrew it is the word chêphets, meaning “desire, delight, and favor”. As we see this is a desire that God’s people have, it is not by a compulsion, and neither do the scriptures articulate God giving this desire. Furthermore, Proverbs 31, a passage often misinterpreted to describe the characteristics of a “good wife”, pertains to the church, the lamb’s wife, who made herself ready, not God (Revelations 19:7).
In the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) Jesus likened a marriage to the son (Jesus) and sent servants to invite (call) people to the wedding, however “they were not willing to come.” The word “willing” in Greek is ethelo and means “to desire, to love, determined, to take delight.” At the end of this parable Jesus makes the renowned proclamation “many are called but few are chosen.” Why would the Lord invite us to a wedding we were not capable of attending, because we are so depraved to make that choice, and thus judge us for it? This would make God unjust. In the parable of the Wedding Banquet (Luke 14:12-24) the servants are sent out to bring people to the wedding, however those invited made excuses to not come and asked to be excused from attending. These parables do not say that God chose who comes and who doesn’t, but rather the people were invited, and chose not to come on their own accord. This undoubtedly proves that Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin are in absolute error in teaching total depravity.
In an attempt to prove their point that we don’t have a free will, and that it is only God who chooses us, Calvinists often refer to John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.“ How does God draw men to Christ? We must continue “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT BY GOD.’ Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Fathercomes to Me.” (John 6:45). God draws us to Christ Jesus by teaching us. In what manner does He do so? The Prophet Jeremiah states, “says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33). So, what is the connection between the law and drawing towards Jesus? Jesus reveals “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47). Thus, God draws us to Jesus Christ, His son, through the teachings of Moses. Jesus articulated in John 6 that He was the manna that came from heaven, that the Israelites ate in the wilderness, yet they did not believe. He is hidden in the books of Moses however not everyone has the eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to perceive Christ the Word (Matthew 13:15). Furthermore, to verify that God drew men to Christ through the teachings of Moses, we read in the Gospels “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45). The word “found” in the Greek is heuriskō and implies “to see, to learn, to get knowledge of, come to know, God.” We see the same with Philip in the book of Acts, when the Ethiopian eunuch was drawn by God to learn of and accept Christ, through the writings of the prophet Isaiah (Acts 8:26-40).
Now that we have established, through the Word, that man does have a free will, and is not compelled to come to God by some irresistible grace, let us investigate the writings of those who preserved the Apostolic Traditions for hundreds of years – the Ante Nicene Fathers.
Ignatius (30-107 AD), the disciple of the apostle John said,
Seeing, then, all things have an end, and there is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death asthe result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life. (1)
Ignatius is one of the purist sources who can be utilized to understand what the apostles had instructed the church. As he attests, the choice for life or for death is unmistakably within our hands. This contradicts the doctrines of predestination, and total depravity. How can Augustine and John Calvin be right regarding the matter, and a disciple of the apostle John be wrong? Let us continue, to show the uniformity of the interpretations in the earliest church.
Second century Bishop of Sardis, Melito said,
God who suffers no decay – and thy freedom will be at once apparent; and be thou careful of it, and give thanks to God who made thee, and gave thee the mind of the free, that thou mightest shape thy conduct even as thou wilt. He hath set before thee all these things, and showeth thee that, if thou follow after evil, thou shall be condemned for thy evil deeds; but that, if after goodness, thou shall receive from Him abundant good, together with immortal life forever.
“There is, therefore, nothing to hinder thee from changing thy evil manner of life, because thou art a free man; or from seeking and finding out who is the Lord of all; or from serving Him with all thy heart: because with Him there is no reluctance to give the knowledge of Himself to those that seek it, according to the measure of their capacity to know Him. (2)
We are accountable and held responsible for our own choices. This is very reminiscent of Deuteronomy 30:19 mentioned above. We shape our lives based on the decisions we make, either good or bad. There is no outside source preventing us from changing. It is we who thwart our ability to attain salvation by our decisions. Our obedience is not based on compulsion or impulse to do good, but rather the freedom to choose to do so.
God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (command, precepts) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion (compulsion) with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. (3)
Irenaeus (130-202 AD) affirms that obeying the commandments of God are within our power to fulfill, and we don’t require leading from an outside power to do so. If we are coerced to do good and obey then what reward would there be for us? The fulfilment of the commandments is not based on the Father coercing us, but rather our love for God. The Apostle John wrote “This is love that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” (2 John 1:6) Notice John’s choice words, “you should” is indicative of a choice, otherwise if we were compelled, John would have said “you are required to walk in it.”
In scripture, there are two types of women who abide with the king; brides and concubines. The bride loves her king and is intimate with him, whereas the concubine has no choice, and is intimate with the king out of obligation. The Bible says that the church is the bride of Christ. The Augustinian and Calvinist school of thought is that of a concubine, not a bride. Tertullian certainly hits the mark by unmasking the mentality behind the theology of Calvin and Augustine and how it truly portrays God’s divinity.
But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery. But if it is of necessity that God grants us the symbol of death, then He does so unwilling. But who permits a gift to be permanently retained which he has granted unwillingly? For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? is not this gift taken away from many? These, no doubt, are they who do steal a march upon (the treasure), who, after approaching to the faith of repentance, set up on the sands a house doomed to ruin. Let no one, then, flatter himself on the ground of being assigned to the “recruit-classes” of learners, as if on that account he have a license even now to sin. As soon as you “know the Lord, (Jer_31:34, Jeremiah 38:34, LXX, Heb_8:11) you should fear Him; as soon as you have gazed on Him, you should reverence Him. (4)
By asserting that out of necessity God must choose our fate, then God does so unwillingly, thus His kindness turns into slavery. Our fallen nature makes Him a slave to force Him to decide, defaming His divinity and sovereignty. Tertullian exhibits that there are many who fall away from grace, losing the gift of salvation, thus discrediting the teaching of “once saved always saved.”
Let’s examine the word “necessity” to understand the reasoning of the vocabulary used in the context.
Necessity: Irresistible power; compulsive force, physical or moral. If man’s actions are determined by causes beyond his control, he acts from necessity, and is not a free agent. Necessity compelled the general to act on the defensive (Webster’s Dictionary).
Thus, due to man’s fallen nature from Adam, mankind is depraved and can only be saved due to being predestined by fate, in which God had already decided who would go to heaven and who would go to hell. This is an alternative way of saying predestination is fate. There were various heretical Gnostics who taught fate (predestination) and those ideologies made their way into Augustinianism and Calvinism. As the apostle Peter said, “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,” (2 Peter 2:1). Concerning how the heretics explain fate, and how defective this ideology is, Methodius said,
If destiny leads one on to kill a man, and to stain his hands with murder, and the law forbids this, punishing criminals, and by threats restrains the decrees of destiny, such as committing injustice, adultery, theft, poisoning, then the law is in opposition to destiny; for those things which destiny appointed the law prohibits, and those things which the law prohibits destiny compels men to do. Hence law is hostile to destiny. But if it be hostile, then lawgivers do not act in accordance with destiny; for by passing decrees in opposition to destiny they destroy destiny.
If destiny makes men to injure one another, and to be injured by one another, what need is there of laws? But if laws are made that they may check the sinful, God having a care for those who are injured, it were better that the evil should not act in accordance with Fate, than that they should be set right, after having acted. But God is good and wise and does what is best. Therefore, there is no fixed destiny. Either education and habit are the cause of sins, or the passions of the soul, and those desires which arise through the body. But whichever of these be the cause, God is not the cause. If it is better to be righteous than to be unrighteous, why is not man made so at once from his birth? But if afterwards he is tempered by instruction and laws, that he may become better, he is so tempered as possessing free-will, and not by nature evil. If the evil are evil in accordance with destiny, by the decrees of Providence, they are not blameworthy and deserving of the punishment which is inflicted by the laws, since they live according to their own nature, and are not capable of being changed. (5)
Predestination, also referred to as fate or destiny, has a clear contradiction to the law of God. What need is there for a law or commandments if all is predetermined by a fate already decided? It would be superfluous to create commandments to govern us, to reap blessings or curses for obeying or disobeying said commandments, if our fate is already determined. The apostle Paul stated, “He predestined, these He also called;” (Romans 8:30). However, Jesus also declared that “many are called, few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14). What is the difference between the called, who are predestined, and the chosen? According to the Gospel, our salvation is based on our obedience to God’s commandments, not on fate (predestination). Jesus states “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. “(John 14:21, 23). The word ‘if’ is conditional, which is hinging on love. Love comes from our will, a choice we make.
Believing in predestination necessitates the conclusion that those behind the corruptions of women being sold into sex trafficking, children being molested, the murder of innocent lives and so on, is not truly the fault of the people who acted out these monstrous crimes, but because they were predestined to commit such atrocities. These people are not “called”, so therefore, it is not their fault they chose to commit such an act, it was fate, and therefore it is God’s fault because He chose for them to be that way. This certainly cannot be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is not the reason why men are compelled to do good or evil.
God doesn’t force or compel us to love Him. He is the Almighty, creator of all things, needing nothing. Jesus said it is by our obedience to the commandments that causes God to love us and in turn choosing to live and dwell within us. He also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The Apostle John said, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3). Salvation is clearly not based on a predetermined choice but on our willingness to walk in God’s commandments, and as we have read above from Methodius, this contradicts the teaching of modern predestination.
It has been established that the Ante Nicene Fathers are in one accord with the divine scriptures regarding free will and predestination. Let us now observe the teachings of Augustine and John Calvin to see whose doctrine their teachings align with. Concerning Augustine, an Orthodox church wrote,
“The works of Augustine, who wrote only in Latin, were originally disseminated only throughout the West. His beliefs regarding original sin, grace, predestination, and free will, were not part of the Apostolic Tradition, yet he claimed scriptural authority for his doctrines. He ravaged the Scriptures with his misleading interpretations and diverged from the tradition of the Fathers. He acknowledged that there were differences between him and Christian writers of his time, but he dismissed it as the result of circumstance. He appointed himself to use the tools of his Graeco-Roman culture to bring out all the rational associations of the Faith.
Almost as quickly as his ideas were made known, both he and his views were denounced by holy Fathers dwelling in those regions at that time.” (6)
Augustine was not a true reformer, but a defector of the church, falling away from the primary beliefs of the original church. Many have asked, “where did it all go wrong with the church?” As history has proven, it started here with the most influential figure of the Western Church. The Russian Orthodox Church holds the same position.
“We can only thank God that the doctrine of the Eastern Church was formulated outside the sphere of Augustinianism, which we must consider as alien to us.”
The Christian Church was initially Eastern, however became westernized over time. Nevertheless, those in the West, did not share the same sentiments as others in the East. Charles Finney, the famous revivalist of the Second Great Awakening in America shared concerning the doctrine of Augustine and the sinful nature:
“This doctrine is a stumbling-block both to the church and the world, infinitely dishonorable to God, and an abomination alike to God and the human intellect, and should be banished from every pulpit, and from every formula of doctrine, and from the world. It is a relic of heathen philosophy, and was foisted in among the doctrines of Christianity by Augustine, as everyone may know who will take the trouble to examine for himself.” (7)
Charles Finney (1792-1875), himself a protestant reformer, called Augustinian doctrine an abomination. So far, we have two different denominations, from East to West, sharing the same ideology.
Let’s read the beliefs of Augustine himself, to identify the source of his doctrinal ideologies and whom they closely reflect.
“It is not therefore a matter of man’s willing, of his running, but of God’s mercy” [cf. Rom. 9:16], saying “not of ‘man’s willing’ or ‘running,’ but ‘God’s mercy’ means precisely that the entire process is credited to God, Who prepares the will and helps the will thus prepared.”(8)
“God foreknew believers; but He chose them that they might be so, not because they were already soHe did not foresee that we ourselves would be holy and blameless, but He chose and predestined us that we might be so.”(9)
“It is God, therefore, who makes a man persevere in the good, who makes him good; but they who fall and perish have never been in the number of the predestined.” (10)
“If you wish to be a catholic, do not venture to believe, to say, or to teach that ‘they whom the Lord has predestinated for baptism can be snatched away from his predestination, or die before that has been accomplished in them which the Almighty has predestined.’”(11)
“…brought aid to the infirmity of the human will, so that it might be unchangeably and invincibly motivated by divine graceEven though the will of the elect may be weak and incapable of good, God prevents their defection.”(12)
“These are they who are predestinated and called according to the purpose, of whom not one perishes. And therefore none of them ends this life when he has changed from good to evil, because he is so ordained, and for that purpose given to Christ, that he may not perish, but may have eternal life.” (13)
“I think, too, that I have so discussed the subject that it is not so much myself as the inspired Scriptures which have spoken to you in the most vivid testimonies of truth; and if this divine record be looked into carefully, it reveals that God Himself converts the will of man from evil to good and that once it is converted, He directs him to good actions and eternal life; but also, that those who follow after the world are so at the disposal of God that He turns them wherever and whenever He wills to bestow kindness on some and heap punishment on others, as He Himself judges rightly by a counsel most secret to Himself.”(14)
“…those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment,” and “those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace.” (15)
“…are rather to understand the Scripture [1 Tim 2:4] as meaning that no man is saved unless God wills his salvation: not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will, but that no man is saved apart from His will…it was of prayer to God that the apostle was speaking when he used this expression.” “We may understand by ‘all men,’ every sort of men. And we may interpret it in any other way we please, so long as we are not compelled to believe that the omnipotent God has willed anything to be done which was not done.”(16)
These are the dogmas of Augustine, that were not taught by any other Christian or Early Church Father before him. If what Augustine taught was established by the apostles, then the following generation would have been faithfully teaching the same, however this was not the case. Unfortunately, there are some who believe the disciples of the apostles immediately fell away from the truth they were taught, yet somehow Augustine received the “true doctrine.” John Calvin believed this impious idea:
“As to the Fathers, (if their authority weights with us,) they have the term [free will] constantly in their mouths…” (17)
“It may, perhaps, seem that I have greatly prejudiced my own view by confessing that all of the ecclesiastical writers, with the exception of Augustine, have spoken too ambiguously or inconsistently on this subject, that no certainty is attainable from their writings.” (18)
Indeed out of John Calvin’s own mouth, attesting to his prejudice against the Fathers, choosing rather as the apostle Paul forewarned “they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;” (2 Timothy 4:3).
Augustine was the first to introduce this heresy as dogma (principle authority) in the church and was sharply opposed. St. John Cassian, St. Hilary of Arles, St. Gennadius of Marseilles, St. Vincent of Lerins, St. Honoratus, St. Faustus of Reiz, and Arnobius to name a few, contested Augustine. Saint Vincent of Lerins was an advocate for the Apostolic Traditions, which Augustine did not adhere to. This saying of St. Vincent demonstrates the importance faithfully observing the traditions:
“The Church of Christ, zealous and cautious guardian of the dogmas deposited with it, never changes any phase of them. It does not diminish them or add to them; it neither trims what seems necessary now grafts things superfluous . . . but it devotes all its diligence to one aim: To treat tradition faithfully and wisely; to consolidate and to strengthen what already was clear; and to guard what already was confirmed and defined.” (19)
It is unfortunate that Augustine did not hold the same sentiments as the other saints did. To understand how Augustine detracted we must recognize that he had certain influences. He was part of the Manichaeism (20) heretical sect for nine years before he converted to Christianity (under Ambrose), and had composed works rebutting Manichaeism following his conversion. He was later convicted of still retaining those beliefs towards the latter end of his ministry.
“[Julian] sensed a carryover of Manichaean thought from Augustine into the Christian Church…” (21)
“[Augustine] was in the early parts of his life a Manichaean” but “some remains of it seem to have been still left upon his mind…” (22)
Augustine was also greatly influenced by philosophy. So much so, that his last words were a reading of Plotinus, a pagan philosopher. He was well known for his affinity for philosophy even before he was converted. We will now display gnostic heretics and philosophers that held the same ideology as Augustine. Commencing with the Stoic Philosophy, founded by Zeno (335-263 BC).
“The Stoics themselves also imparted growth to philosophy… they likewise supposed God to be the one originating principle of all things, being a body of the utmost refinement, and that His providential care pervaded everything; and these speculators were positive about the existence of fate everywhere, employing some such example as the following: that just as a dog, supposing him attached to a car, if indeed he is disposed to follow, both is drawn, or follows voluntarily, making an exercise also of free power, in combination with necessity, that is, fate; but if he may not be disposed (willing) to follow, he will altogether be coerced to do so. And the same, of course, holds good in the case of men. For though not willing to follow, they will altogether be compelled to enter upon what has been decreed for them.” (23)
The beliefs of fatalism from Stoicism, reek of irresistible grace and predestination. Now let us compare with an excerpt from Augustine, as displayed previously.
“I think, too, that I have so discussed the subject that it is not so much myself as the inspired Scriptures which have spoken to you in the most vivid testimonies of truth; and if this divine record be looked into carefully, it reveals that God Himself converts the will of man from evil to good and that once it is converted, He directs him to good actions and eternal life; but also, that those who follow after the world are so at the disposal of God that He turns them wherever and whenever He wills to bestow kindness on some and heap punishment on others, as He Himself judges rightly by a counsel most secret to Himself.”(24)
As we have shown with Augustine, this is the same belief system of being coerced by God. Essentially, Augustine is saying it is not by our will that brings us to do good, it is God alone who does so. There is no freewill, there is only the predestined fate of someone’s destiny. Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) makes a clear distinction between the teachings of the Early Church and the heresy of Stoicism:
“But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or sins; and that it is by the influence of the wicked demons that earnest men, such as Socrates and the like, suffer persecution and are in bonds, while Sardanapalus, Epicurus, and the like, seem to be blessed in abundance and glory. The Stoics, not observing this, maintained that all things take place according to the necessity of fate (predestination). But since God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. And this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue.” (25)
Augustine completely contradicts the ability for us to choose vice or virtue and asserts that, because of the fall of Adam, we are incapable of making a choice between good and evil. There was significant reason why there were many saints in his time who disagreed with Augustine, such as St Vincent, faithful to the original traditions that were already established. Here is another illustration of Augustine’s ideology, that is more associated with pagan philosophy than Christianity:
“Owing to one man all passed into condemnation who are born to Adam, unless they are reborn in Christ, even as God has appointed to regenerate them before they die in the body. For He has predestinated some to everlasting life as the most merciful Bestower of grace; while to those whom He predestinated to eternal death, He is the most righteous Awarder of punishment. They are punished not only on account of the sins which they add by the indulgence of their own will, but on account of the original sin, even if, as in the case of infants, they had added nothing to that original sin. Now this is my definite view on the question, so that the hidden things of God may keep their secret, without impairing my own faith.” (26)
The Stoics are in complete agreement with Augustine, that our fate is already determined by God and it is He that decides to regenerate us. Ironically, this is considered merciful. The case Justin Martyr articulates, is that our choices are not reliant on God; it is solely dependent on us to make the choice of virtue and thus life, or the path of vice that leads to death. Origen (185-250 AD) testifies in agreement with other Early Church Fathers, concerning free will and predestination:
“For our opponents assert, that if it does not depend upon him that willeth, nor on him that runneth, but on God that showeth mercy, that a man be saved, our salvation is not in our own power. For our nature is such as to admit of our either being saved or not, or else our salvation rests solely on the will of Him who, if He wills it, shows mercy, and confers salvation. Now let us inquire, in the first place, of such persons, whether to desire blessings be a good or evil act; and whether to hasten after good as a final aim be worthy of praise. If they were to answer that such a procedure was deserving of censure, they would evidently be mad; for all holy men both desire blessings and run after them, and certainly are not blameworthy. How, then, is it that he who is not saved, if he be of an evil nature, desires blessing, and runs after them, but does not find them?” (27)
An excellent point is observed by Origen; if a person who is living in sin desires to be set free from the bondage of sin, it is of no avail because he was not predestined or chosen to be freed. This does not portray a just God, who grants mercy to those who seek it, but only to those he had already chosen.
The Stoics were not the only ones to believe in fate; the Chaldeans too believed in this ideology.
“There are others who say that men are governed by the decree of Fate, so as to act at one time wickedly, and at another time well.” (28)
The Valentinians were a heretical gnostic sect who also believed in total depravity, as Irenaeus exhibits below. They believe they are the elect, because they are born of a “spiritual nature.” The other class are the material men who are incapable of receiving salvation because of their depravity and corruption.
“But as to themselves, they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, but because they are spiritual by nature. For, just as it is impossible that material substance should partake of salvation (since, indeed, they maintain that it is incapable of receiving it), so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged.” (29)
The Valentinians believed that because they are an “elect” people, they cannot lose their salvation, nor was their salvation attained by any works or conduct. These heretics believed in the doctrine “once saved always saved.” This belief system was not instructed in the Christian church and was rather being refuted by the church. Clement of Alexandria (150-211/220 AD) exposes the lies that the Valentinians believed.
“For he also (Valentinus), 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,” (30)
As has been exhibited, the beliefs of free will, predestination, and irresistible grace that were taught by Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin are a carbon copy of the teachings of pagan philosophy and heretical Gnosticism. These teachings are hazardous to the fabric of Christianity and breeds immorality. An Anabaptist priest who commented on the results of the teachings of the reformer Martin Luther said,
“Let everyone take heed how Martin Luther teaches. For with this same doctrine they have led the reckless and ignorant people, great and small, city dweller and cottage alike into such a fruitless, unregenerate life, and have given them such a free rein, that one would scarcely find such an ungodly and abominable life among Turks and Tartars as among these people. Their open deeds bear testimony, for the abundant eating and drinking; the excessive pomp and splendor; the fornicating, lying, cheating, cursing, the swearing by the wounds of the Lord, by the sacraments and the sufferings of the Lord; the shedding of blood; and the fighting’s.” (31)
Every seed produces unto its kind, and no good tree can bear bad fruit (Genesis 1:11). It is evident that these heretical teachings have come and defiled the church. This was foretold by Jude “For certain men have crept in stealthily gaining entrance secretly by a side door]. Their doom was predicted long ago, ungodly (impious, profane) persons who pervert the grace (the spiritual blessing and favor) of our God into lawlessness and wantonness and immorality,” (Jude 1:4). It is unmistakable that this has happened through the teachings of Augustine, John Calvin, and Martin Luther. Astonishingly, there are those who accept these errors and think nothing of them, because these heresies do not blatantly deny Christ. Those, relishing in their own ignorance, may even make the argument that “at least Jesus Christ is being preached”, however the apostle Paul clearly forewarned us to refrain from those who preach a different Jesus, and different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4), therefore, ignorance is not bliss.
Heresies are extremely deceptive and almost always very subtle. There won’t be flashing bright lights and an alarming sound to warn us of their presence. As the Apostle Paul said, “A little leaven (a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers) leavens the whole lump [it perverts the whole conception of faith or misleads the whole church].” (Galatians 5:9 AMP). All it takes is a subtle lie, a little deception here or there, that will derail the church from the path of truth. Jesus said, “many are called few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14). All the Father is looking for, is a people who have a sincere love for the truth, the ‘few’. I pray we abide in that truth, the same truth the Early Church protected and died for. Amen.
1. Ignatius (Disciple of the Apostle John)-Epistle to the Magnesians Ch. V, Vol. 1
2. Melito-Ch. I, Vol. 8
3. Iranaeus-Against Heresies Bk. 4 Ch. XXXVII, Vol. 1
4. Tertullian-On Repentance Ch. VI, Vol. 3
5. Methodius-Ten Virgins Pt. 3 Ch. XVI, Vol. 6
6. Convent, D. (2020). True Orthodox Polemics – Bishop Augustine of Hippo – His Life and His Heresies. [online] Trueorthodoxy.org. Available at: https://www.trueorthodoxy.org/heretics_roman_catholics_augustine.shtml#T01 [Accessed 8 Feb. 2020].
7. Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, Published by BRCCD, p. 340)
8. Augustine-Ench., 32 248.
9. Augustine-On the Predestination of the Saints, XVII, 34 PL 44:985.
10. Augustine- On Rebuke and Grace, XII, 36 938.]
11. Augustine-Book 3, Addressed to Vincentius Victor, Nicene, 1st Ser., Vol. V, Chapter 13[X]-“His Seventh Error. In the Shape of a Letter Addressed to Presbyter Peter,”
12. Augustine-Book 3, Addressed to Vincentius Victor, Nicene, 1st Ser., Vol. V, Chapter 13[X]-“His Seventh Error. In the Shape of a Letter Addressed to Presbyter Peter,
13. Augustine-Treatise on Rebuke and Grace, Ch. 21.
14. Augustine-On Grace and Free Will, 41.
15. Augustine, Enchiridion c, p. 269
16. Augustine, Enchiridion, pg. 103
17. Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol one. Published by Calvin Translation Society. 1845 edition, p. 308
18. Institutes of the Christian religion, volume one, published by Calvin translation society, 1845 Edition, p. 310
19. St. Vincent de Lerins: Commonitoria (5th Century)
20. Oxford Dictionary: Manichaeism “a dualistic religious system with Christian, Gnostic, and pagan elements, founded in Persia in the 3rd century by Manes ( c. 216– c. 276). The system was based on a supposed primeval conflict between light and darkness. It spread widely in the Roman Empire and in Asia and survived in eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) until the 13th century.”
21. Julian of Eclanum. Letter to Rome, edited by Rev. R. Jennings, p.1
22. A refutation of Calvinism, published by T. Cadell, 1823 edition. P. 574
23. Hippolytus-Refutation Against All Heresies Bk. I Ch. XVIII, Vol. 5
24. Augustine-On Grace and Free Will, 41.
25. Justin Martyr- Second Apology Ch. VII, Vol. 1
26. Augustine, On the Soul and Its Origin, Bk. IV, Ch. 16.
27. Origen-First Principles Bk. 3 Ch. I, Vol. 4
28. Bardesanes- The Book of the Laws of Divers Countries Vol. 8
29. Iranaeus-Against Heresies Bk. I Ch. VI, Vol. 1
30. Clement-Stromata Bk. 4 Ch. XIII, Vol. 2
31. Menno Simmons-The Complete Writings of Menno Simons. Trans. J.C. Wenger: True Christian Faith (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1956)
Ante-Nicene Fathers; Predestination; Free Will; Heresy; Deception; Early Church Fathers