3 Second-Century Fathers On Free Will

Three very early Catholics who insisted on free will were St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, and St. Clement of Alexandria.

150 A.D. - St. Justin Martyr - "[It is not] by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but [rather] each man by free choice acts rightly or sins... [For] God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will, [and] 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. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both [virtue and vice]." (Second Apology Chapter 7) See also First Apology Chapter 43 and Dialog with Trypho Chapter 141.

180 A.D. - St. Irenaeus writes a chapter about free will that is titled: "Men are possessed of free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad." (Against Heresies Book IV Chapter 37)

~195 A.D. - St. Clement of Alexandria - "[S]ince some are unbelieving, and some are disputatious, [therefore] all do not attain to the perfection of the good. For neither is it possible to attain it without the exercise of free choice; nor does the whole depend on our own purpose." (Stromata Book 5 Chapter 1)

And: "[If] faith is not the rational assent of the soul exercising free-will, but an undefined beauty, belonging immediately to the creature—[then] the precepts both of the Old and of the New Testament are...superfluous." (ibid.)

And: "Wisdom which is God-given...rouses indeed our free-will, and admits faith, and repays the application of the elect with its crowning fellowship." (Stromata Book 5 Chapter 13)

These men wrote in parts of the Church that were very far away from each other, Irenaeus in France, Justin Martyr in Italy, and Clement of Alexandria in Egypt. From this it appears that free will was a universal doctrine in the early Church.

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