Divine Providence

When we speak of divine providence it can be hard to understand how free will, efficacious grace, and perseverative grace can exist can fully exist within its context. If God knows how everything will turn out, then how can we truly exercise free will? These topics can be confusing to those who are just beginning their journey in faith, but they do have an explanation.

We must remember that God is not limited to time. In fact, he is outside time. Imagine that you had the ability to travel back in time to your childhood. You have the strange opportunity of observing how you interact with others. Though you know the outcome as an adult, you are observing your childhood self-using the gift of free will to make decisions. You know how those decisions will turn out, but you as a child still used your gift of reason to decide. This analogy is, of course, a hypothetical one.   Within the context of divine providence, we use our free will to cooperate with efficacious grace. Efficacious grace is grace given when we consent to it and always leads to good actions (Journet 2.10).

So, what of perseverative grace? Does God not grant us the power to persevere in grace? Regarding perseverance St. Thomas Aquinas writes that man “needs the Divine assistance guiding and guarding him against the attacks of the passions” (ST II, Q 109, A 10). This relates to free will and efficacious grace because, though it is freely given, it is still something that must be asked for. God will not deny this special help or deny his grace because of his divine providence (Hardon Ch. 3). Free will, efficacious grace, and perseverative grace can exist really and truly within the mystery of Divine Providence because they require an accent of the will and must be asked for.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

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Reason and the Development of the Will

In the very beginnings of sacred scripture we read of the Lord creating.  Each step of creation ended a similar way with the words by describing their goodness.  In Genesis 1:31 God had just finished creating man and commanded them to procreate and exercise dominion over the Earth.  Genesis 1:31 states, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (NRSV).

Humanity was created uniquely different than the rest of creation.  God created humans with the ability to reason, with five senses to help us learn, and free will.  The combination of these work together to help us live in harmony with each other, in harmony with our creator, and assist us finding true happiness.  The intellect we were blessed with helps us rationalize.  Our intellectual knowledge originates in the five senses and internal sensory powers of common sense, estimation, memory, and imagination.

This intellectual knowledge that develops helps us form our will.  The purpose of the will is to direct action and direct the concupiscible and irascible appetites.  The concupiscible appetites are things like love, joy, desire, and sadness.  They work together to help us seek what is good and reject evil.  The irascible are attributes such as hope, courage, despair, and fear.  These attributes assist us in avoiding evils in which we may find compelling.  Together the concupiscible and irascible appetites are known as the sense appetites, and work to help us understand what is good and what is evil.  They help us establish the parameters in which we exercise the freedom which God has given us.  Regarding this freedom Servais Pinckaers writes, “It is the power to engage in excellent actions, actions that are true and good, even though the agent may in fact fail and do evil” (Pinckaers 68).

Looking back on my life I can see how these senses led me in the right direction.  How they allowed me to see what was right, what was the right path, and how I ignored it.  I think of an incident from my childhood in which I wanted a piece of candy at a store and was told no.  I wanted the candy and ate it in the middle of the store without paying.  I knew it was wrong and the senses mentioned above were telling me it was wrong.  However, I ignored them and partook in larceny to have that which I longed for.

This ignoring of what was supposed to be done made matters worse.  This is the effect of sin on the individual.  Every sin wounds the communion that we have with our creator.  Mortal sin goes a step further in that it ruptures the relationship completely.  For something to be a mortal sin it must meet the following three criteria:  It must involve grave matter, the individual must have full knowledge that it is sin, and there must be a deliberate consent to the act.  This is obviously not God’s will, and it is by doing God’s will that we find the happiness that we long for.  This is what James Keenan means when he writes, “Not only does love look for union, it also moves us toward freedom and truth.  Love then makes possible our search for a freedom for greater love and a truth to love rightly” (Ostrowski 27).

 

Works Cited

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed.  Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Saint Mary’s Press.  Winona, MN:  2008.  Print

Pinckaers, Servais.  Morality:  The Catholic View.  St. Augustine’s Press.  South Bend, IN:  201.  Print.

Understanding of Actual Graces

To understand actual grace, it is important to differentiate it from sanctifying grace.  Sanctifying grace is that grace that grace that we receive at Baptism.  Actual grace is that grace that assists us in our daily lives.  It inspires us and guides our minds to focus on the things of God and assists us on our journey to the beatific vision (Hardon Ch.6).

The concept of actual grace has strong roots within the pages of sacred scripture.  In the Psalms the Psalmist is asking God to enlighten and guide him.  St. John write in John chapter six that no one can come to Jesus unless the father calls him (Jn 6:44-46).  The concept continues in Acts 16:14 where the Lord touched the heart of Lydia to follow the instruction of St. Paul. It continues into the book of Revelation where “divine grace operates on the will” (Hardon Ch.6).  Grace is a gift and the gift needs a giver (Gleason 125).  Without the giver our efforts are in vain.

The concept of actual grace in scripture went unchallenged until the Pelagian controversy arose.   This is when St Augustine first gives a detailed explanation in his anti-pelagian writings.  He explains that is God who works within us, and any good that we do is because God operated because our wills require a mover (Hardon Ch. 6).  This sentiment was echoed, though a little differently at the councils of Carthage and Orange.  Carthage noted that the knowledge of what to do and the love for dong it come from God, while Orange added that it is the inspiration and illumination of the Spirit that allows us to do such things.

The theological analysis of actual graces can get quite complex, but it need not be so.  John Hardon defines actual graces as “internal and immediate illuminations of the intellect and inspirations of the human will” (Hardon Ch.6).  They are internal because they allow a person to perform actions that can lead to heaven.  If we are moved to live a life of charity, then this is a work of actual grace.  Actual grace can further be broken down into prevenient grace and cooperating grace.  Prevenient grace precedes our free will to exercise it.  It is the grace that calls us to a particular action.  Cooperating grace is when the graces coincide with our will and assists us in doing what we should do.  In addition to two types of actual grace, there are two theories that seek to describe actual grace.  One is the Molinist notion is based on the simultaneous of God and man’s faculties working together (Hardon Ch. 6).  The other is the Thomist which states that God acts on the mind first to enable the action.

 

Works Cited

Gleason, R.W. Grace.  New York:  Shead & Ward, 1962.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Grace and the Faculty of Mind

At the beginning of sacred scripture, we read how God created man.  Man was created in a state of grace, and through sin this grace was lost.  This led to mankind having the stain of original sin, and a desire to sin called concupiscence.  This nature requires grace to assist us in our post-lapsarian nature.  This is done because grace effects the faculty of our mind and the capacity of our will.

A result of sin is that we focus on carnal things.  No matter how hard we try to avoid sin we will fall back into it without the help of grace.  Our minds can be restored through grace, and through this grace we have a greater propensity to avoid mortal sin (ST II, Q 109, A 8).  According to Aquinas, grace transforms the mind and makes one alert to situations that will make us fall from grace.  It helps us know what is good, and what we should and should not do.  We know what we should do, are in a state of grace, and can ask God to assist us in doing the right thing.  Grace can effect the faculty of the mind by helping us avoid mortal sin, though we may still commit venial sin (ST II, Q 109, A 8).

Grace also has a strong effect on the capacity of our will.  Regarding the will in post-lapsarian man Fr. John Hardon writes, “because of the fall the moral will is a passive faculty which always leans on the side where the weight of attraction is stronger” (Hardon Ch. 3).  Our wills strive to make contact with things, and our sinful nature will always go toward the greatest attraction.  Grace comes in and alters what attracts us.  Through grace our will strives to love God and others.  The light of grace turns a selfish will towards hope and charity, and through hope and charity we can see the love of God (Journet 1.6).  We can love God and in turn reflect that love toward others.

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Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed August 10, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Grace, Free Will, and the Beatific Vision

Grace is a free gift that is given by God.  What does one do with the grace received?  When a gift is given to someone it requires upkeep or it will deteriorate and decay.  In the gift of grace, we must cooperate through our own free will, or we can destroy this divine gift (Journet 2.1).  Grace cleanses us from original sin, we cooperate with this grace through free will, and as a result we get oriented toward our divine destiny in the beatific vision (Hardon).  The three work together in such a way that their relationship is integral to each other.

The Catholic tradition is not a type of semi-pelagian motif, but views grace as of first importance.  One cannot earn their way into Heaven because without grace there is no salvation (Hardon).  One cannot get to Heaven, no matter how many good works, without grace.  If one is estranged from God, then grace is needed to be disposed to justification (Hardon).  Once received there is the possibly, through free will, to reject this grace.

St. Augustine observed this struggle with free will and grace quite brilliantly.  Regarding this Dr. Ireland writes, “When he places side by side the consequences of his sin and the effects of God’s grace in his life, he detects two wills in conflict with each other:  the corrupt will turn away from God, the pristine will turn toward God” (Ireland 24).  In one scenario the grace of God is rejected, and we go our own way.  In another we embrace this gift, it is free, but some action was taken on our part (i.e. accepting).  Charles Journet uses an analogy of two men stuck in a well.  God reaches out his hand to save and one takes his hand while the other does not (Journet 2.3).  In this scenario each used their free will to accept the gift or deny it.  By accepting the gift of grace through free will daily we reach a higher stage in sanctifying grace.  God calls us to be like him and we must be willing to take that extra step, take his hand, and be obedient to his call.  Through his mercy we can accept this grace and embrace the beatific vision.

Image result for beatific vision

Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Ireland, Patricia.  Guardian of a Pure Heart: St. Augustine on the Path to Heaven.  Staten Island:  St. Pauls/Alba House, 2009.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

God and Free Will

There are groups within Christianity (Mainly reformed and Arminian) who have been engaged in intense debate over the topic.  Each have said the other is wrong, and there have been attempts to discredit positions based on falsehoods.  This intensified at the Synod of Dort in the 1600’s and has been raging ever since.  A clear understanding of the Sovereignty of God, and a clear understanding of what free will has the potential of bridging some gaps.  A better understanding can bring about unity in the body of Christ and we can better focus on the Great Commission.

Every Christian can agree that the Sovereignty of God is important.  The Sovereignty of God is defined as “God’s all-encompassing rule over the entire universe[1].”  The debate arises when that rule is discussed.  Is everything already set in motion, and we have nothing to do with the process?  Does man have a role to play in regards to his free will and reason?  In regards to free will we “have freedom to disobey our master and responsibility to direct our actions to fulfil the purposes of Christ[2].”

Thus is the nature of the controversy that have been ongoing for over four hundred years.  There are those who believe in the sovereignty of God to such a degree that they believe that God has preordained everyone’s lives.  Then there are those who believe that we somehow effect the will of God by the choices we make.  The purpose of this paper is to show that both sides are right to a degree, but both aspects are crucial to understanding sovereignty and free will.

GOD IS INFINITE

God is not a finite being, and is infinite in nature.  Understanding this is the basis of God’s sovereignty.  Our finite minds are unable to grasp the immensity of who and what He is.  Because of the limitations we have, theologian Louis Berkhof describes the attributes of God as perfections[3].  There are many ways these “perfections” can be described, and there are many theologians who use different terms.  In regards to these infinite attributes some uses terms such as infinite, eternity, or eternal because God surpasses all understanding of time and space[4].  As Augustine once wrote, “If we understand Him then He is not God[5].”

The argument against free will lies in these natures of God.  If God is infinite and eternal can he really be moved by our wills?  Theologian Wayne Gruden puts it another way, “He is not subject to any limitations of humanity or creation in general, but does interact with creation in a personal way[6].” In regards to the salvific process, A.W. Pink describes the sovereignty of God as God compelling his elect to come to Christ[7].  It is in the context of salvation that the study will be focused, as it is the major cause of disagreement.

 

HISTORY OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

To better understand the Sovereignty of God and free will we must understand the nature of the dispute.  There is no better way to do this than to look at the very real animosity between those in the reformed tradition and arminianism.  The reformed tradition teaches an acrostic known as TULIP to further describe the sovereignty of God.  This acrostic stands for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, and perseverance of the saints[8].  The ariminians, as we will see, believe in some of the basic aspects as their brethren in the reformed tradition, but with one major difference.  Those Christians in the Arminian camp, which include most Baptists, hold that man must make a choice to follow God.  Through the beliefs of both a better understanding is developed, and is further illustrated by what took place at the Synod of Dort in the 1600’s[9].

Both sides quote scripture extensively to support their beliefs.  They even bring the great fathers of the early church into the discussion.  According to Clement of Alexandria, “one must first make the choice to follow the Lord then the Lord gives the strength needed to persevere and do his will[10].”

This of course causes a problem for those that hold to the idea that God has set everything in motion and not much else can be done.  It may sound simple, but it is quite a complex discussion.  To understand the Sovereignty of God and Free Will the acrostic TULIP needs to be looked at in more detail.

The “T” in TULIP stands for Total Depravity.  The idea is that at the fall of man we were inhabited by a sinful nature.  This idea starts in Genesis 3:6 which states, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate[11].”  As previously stated, at the fall of Adam we inherited a nature that was corrupted.  This does not mean that man is unable to do good of any kind, but that man is unable to do good in the sight of God[12].”  To do good of any kind we must rely on the grace that comes from Christ.  This is not unlike the beliefs of many Christians, but John Calvin took it further.  John Calvin looked upon on Job 14:4 and Psalm 51:5 as scriptural support what he said was the “root of sin and the impure seed man is born from[13].”

This concept was disputed by the Arminians because they held that man had free will.  In 1610 there was a document put together by those sympathetic to Total Depravity who claimed that Arminians “were unwilling to say that man was unable to save himself[14].”  This, of course, is not what was believed or taught by the Arminians, and some call it farcical.  To combat these accusations there was document known as the Five Articles of the Remonstrants that clearly shows what was believed and taught.  Article three of this document states, “In his state of Apostasy and sin he can by himself and for himself think that nothing is good –nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is above all else[15].”  Further debate ensued which was further complicated by John Calvin who wrote, “For our nature is not merely bereft of good, but is so productive of every kind of evil that it cannot be inactive[16].”  Arminians believe that it is only by the grace of God that man may choose to do good.  Those that hold to Total Depravity are of the opinion that man in not capable of free will, and that good is a result of God working through a person.

Another aspect of the sovereignty of God that that must be looked at is that of predestination.  Virtually all Christian denominations believe in some aspect of this, but there are many understandings about it.  Predestination is also known as Unconditional Election and is the “U” in the acrostic TULIP.

A passage of scripture commonly used to justify this is Romans 8:30 which states, “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified[17].”  Unconditional election, or predestination, is further explained as “The divine determination of human beings to eternal salvation or eternal damnation. The doctrine of predestination is a branch, so to speak, of the doctrine of election; God’s predestinating activity is a function of his existence as the electing God[18].”  A quote by Augustine of Hippo is often used justify unconditional election.  There was a letter he wrote called De Anima which he wrote to the Pelagians to defend his opinion of predestination.  In this letter Augustine wrote, “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[19].”

As previously stated Arminians believe that free will is a requirement for saving faith, and many denominations agree on this.  On the surface this seems like a case of Semi-Pelagianism, which is one of the heresies that Augustine condemned in the above mentioned document[20].  This is a common misunderstanding, and must be put to rest.

When free will is mentioned there are two main ways to understand it.  It can be taken as man making a decision to do good on his own without any grace or faith in God, or man can choose to follow God and do good because of God’s grace[21].  The latter is what arminians hold to.

In Unconditional election God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned for all eternity[22].  Arminians believe that grace and salvation of God are available to all, and that God wants everyone to be saved.  There are many scripture passages supporting the arminian view, but two will be illustrated.  The first is 1 Timothy 2:3-4 which states, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth[23].”  The second is 2 Peter 3:9 which states, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance[24].”

Though much can be said about the debate between the differences between the sovereignty of God and free will, much of it will revolve around these two passages.  Those that hold that free will is an error will level the charge of universalism against someone who says free will is a requirement.  According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church universalism is “that hell is in essence purgative and therefore temporary and that all intelligent beings will therefore in the end be saved[25].”

This is a serious charge as universalism is a heresy that has been condemned several time by many church councils.  There is a major difference when free will is introduced into these two verses.  In the case of 2 Peter 3:9 God wishes that all may come to repentance.  The only way they can come to repent is if they realized that they needed to repent.  By their own will, with influence by the Holy Spirit, they accept Christ and come to the knowledge of the truth.

A supporter of Calvinism may say that God wants all of the elect to come to the knowledge of the truth[26].  To their credit there is a fair amount of scripture that can be used to prove this point.  A popular passage used to illustrate this is Romans 9:13 which states, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated[27].”  Jacob was clearly the favored one in the eyes of God.  In fact God would latter change his name to Israel, and the twelve tribes sprang from him.  Great theologians from years past seem to advocate for this theory.  One such theologian is Thomas Aquinas.  In his immense work the Summa Theologica Aquinas states, “But Christ’s passion could not touch all mankind.  Therefore it could not sufficiently bring about the salvation of all men[28].”

CONCLUSION

Much was spoken of about Total Depravity and Unlimited Atonement.  This was intentionally done because a majority of Christians relate these items, or something similar, to the sovereignty of God.  As we have seen there is also much misinformation about the topic of free will.  How does one sum everything up?

To do this the words of a great church father may be best.  Clement of Alexandria states, “God does not deprive humanity of anything they possess for the sake of this goal, and those ‘who have chosen to lead a good life’ he even strengthens by inspiration[29].”

It is clear that we must willingly follow God, and make the choice to serve him.  On the other hand, God is sovereign and he is in control.  Free will never takes away the sovereignty of God.  It works hand in hand with it to fulfill the divine plan.

There are many misunderstanding about the sovereignty of God and free will, but I conclude that the two work are mutually beneficial.  God is fully in charge, and he created us with minds and the ability to reason.  We are able to decide to follow and love him because he did not create robots.  In regards to this mutuality Dr. Matyas Havdra states, “Clement’s remark according to which God ‘sees in advance even the end of things’ indicates the possibility that God in Clement’s view knows the outcome of our choice even ‘before the foundation of the world,’ and those who make the right choice and reach the goal of perfection are ‘predestined’ only in consequence of this previously known outcome[30].”

 

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

“Question 48:  The Efficiancy of Christ’s Passion,” http://www.newadvent.org, accessed May 2, 2015, newadvent.org/​summatheogica/​question48.

“St. Augustine, Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope, And Love,” Tertullian.org, accessed June 30, 2015, http:/​/​www.tertullian.org/​fathers/​augustine_enchiridion_02_trans.htm.

Akin, Jimmy. The Fathers Know Best:  Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press, 2010.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.

Berkouwer, G. C. Studies in Dogmatics:  Sin. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1971.

Bettenson, Henry, and Chris Maunder, eds. Documents of the Christian Church. 4th ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion [Henry Beveridge]. Cambridge, MA: Hendrickson Books, 1999.

Cross, F.l. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., s.v. “Synod of Dort.”

Fahlbusch, Erwin, Jan Milic Lochman, John Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan, and Lukas Vischer, eds. The Encyclopedia of Christianity. 4th ed. Vol. 4, P-Sh. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Havdra, Matyas. “Grace and Free Will According To Clement Of Alexandria.” Journal of Early Christian Studies. 19, no. 1 (2011, Spring): 24.

Hippo, Augustine Of. A Treatise on the Soul and Its Origin. Edited by P. Schaff. Translated by P. Holmes. New York: NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887.

Holman Concise Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. “Incest.”

Hurst, Rebekah, Rachel Klippenstein, Derek R. Brown, and Douglas Mangum. The Lexham Theological Workbook. Bellevue, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Karleen, P.s. The Handbook to Bible Study:  with guide to the Scofield Study System. New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Myers, A.c. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids:  MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Pink, Arthur W. Answering Objections to the Sovereignty of God. Bellevue, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005.

Stewart, Ken. “The Points of Calvinism:  Retrospect and Prospect.” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology. 26, no. 2 (2008, Summer): 187-203.

W.h.mare. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

[1] Rebekah Hurst et al, The Lexham Theological Workbook (Bellevue, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 58.

[2] Holman Concise Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. “Freedom.”

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 52.

[4] W.h.mare, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 494.

[5] “St. Augustine, Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope, And Love,” Tertullian.org, accessed June 30, 2015, http:/​/​www.tertullian.org/​fathers/​augustine_enchiridion_02_trans.htm.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 167.

[7] Arthur W. Pink, Answering Objections to the Sovereignty of God (Bellvue, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), 21.

[8] Ken Stewart, “The Points of Calvinism:  Retrospect and Prospect,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 26, no. 2 (2008, Summer): 191.

[9] F.l. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., s.v. “Synod of Dort.”

[10] Matyas Havdra, “Grace and Free Will According To Clement Of Alexandria,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011, Spring): 22-48.

[11] Genesis 3:6 (Revised Standard Version).

[12] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 497.

[13] G. C. Berkouwer, Studies in Dogmatics:  Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1971), 479.

[14] W.h.mare, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 354.

[15] Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder, eds., Documents of the Christian Church, 4th ed (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 272.

[16] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion [Henry Beveridge] (Cambridge, MA: Hendrickson Books, 1999), 512.

[17] Romans 8:30 (New International Version).

[18] A.c. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids:  MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 847.

[19] Augustine Of Hippo, A Treatise on the Soul and Its Origin, ed. P. Schaff, trans. P. Holmes (New York: NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 348.

[20] Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best:  Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press, 2010), 195.

[21] Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best:  Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press, 2010), 195.

[22] Erwin Fahlbusch et al, ed., The Encyclopedia of Christianity, 4th ed, vol. 4, P-Sh, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 341.

[23] 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (English Standard Version).

[24] 2 Peter 3:9 (English Standard Version).

[25] F.l. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., s.v. “Universalism.”

[26] P.s. Karleen, The Handbook to Bible Study:  with guide to the Scofield Study System (New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 342.

[27] Romans 9:13 (English Standard Version).

[28] “Question 48:  The Efficiancy of Christ’s Passion,” http://www.newadvent.org, accessed June 28, 2015, newadvent.org/​summatheogica/​question48.

[29] Matyas Havdra, “Grace and Free Will According To Clement Of Alexandria,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011, Spring): 22-48.

[30] Ibid (n.d).

Article Critique: Grace and Free Will According to Clement of Alexandria

In the spring 2011 edition of the Journal of Early Christian Studies Dr. Matyáš Havrda gives a very critical overview of grace and free will.  Dr. Havrda is not critical in a negative sense, but uses the view of a great Church Father to describe the role of grace and free will.  This is very important some in the evangelical world who take extreme positions on the view.  Either the grace, or sovereignty of God, is the cause of all events, or it is what has been caused by the free will of man.  Dr. Havrda looks at the writings and life of one of the most well-known early church fathers to make the case that both work to make the will of God happen.

The willingness of man to participate in the divine plan of God is a choice man must make.  Dr. Havdra writes, “According to Clement, God does not deprive humanity of anything they possess for the sake of this goal, and those ‘who have chosen to lead a good life’ he even strengthens by inspiration[1].”  From this sentence we may derive that one must first make the choice to follow the Lord then the Lord gives the strength needed to persevere and do his will.  To illustrate this Dr. Havdra quotes Clement from his work known as the Stromata.  Clement of Alexandria states, “For it is obvious that their good nature and holy choice is honored by him, as is clear from the fact that people who have chosen to lead a good life are strengthened by his inspiration for the ensuing salvation[2].”

Clement of Alexandria lived from 150 AD to 215 AD, and free will of the believer appears to be something that was established Christian doctrine.   Dr. Havdra further explains, “The distinction between the ‘exhortatory’ and ‘helping’ modes of divine pedagogy opens the space of human freedom and responsibility for salvation[3].”  Free will is further described as being what distinguishes a child from a slave.  So what about the sovereignty of God and predestination?  Dr. Havdra writes, “Clement’s remark according to which God ‘sees in advance even the end of things’ indicates the possibility that God in Clement’s view knows the outcome of our choice even ‘before the foundation of the world,’ and those who make the right choice and reach the goal of perfection are ‘predestined’ only in consequence of this previously known outcome[4].”

In conclusion the article does a great job in reconciling the free choice we all have to follow God along with the sovereignty of God.    It does so using the work of a much respected early church father which adds credence to the thought that the two ideas need not be enemies.    God desires salvation for everyone, but it is our choice whether we accept that gift.  If we do he is faithful and will empower us to do his will.

 

Bibliography

Matyáš Havrda. “Grace and Free Will According to Clement of Alexandria.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011): 21-48. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed June 14, 2015).

[1] Matyas Havdra, “Grace and Free Will According To Clement Of Alexandria,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011, spring): 22-48.

[2] Matyas Havdra, “Grace and Free Will According To Clement Of Alexandria,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011, spring): 22-48.

[3] Ibid, 28.

[4] Ibid, 46.

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