Church Fathers on Free Will

This post is supposed to compile early examples of support for the Catholic doctrine of free will. I made this thread because some Protestants deny the reality of free will, and I think the Church Fathers can help show that it is real. BTW I’d love to add to this. Do any of you know of any other examples of support for free will in the early Church?

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.

170 A.D. - Tatian - “[E]ach of these two orders of creatures [men and angels] was made free to act as it pleased, not having the nature of good, which again is with God alone, but is brought to perfection in men through their freedom of choice... [T]he bad man [is] justly punished, having become depraved through his own fault, but the just man [is] deservedly praised...since [by] his free choice he refrained from transgressing the will of God.” (Address to the Greeks Chapter 7)

And: “[T]he power of the Logos...foresee[s] future events, not as fated, but as taking place by the choice of free agents.” (ibid.)

177 A.D. - Athenagoras - “[M]en...have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice...for you would not either honour the good or punish the bad, unless vice and virtue were in their own power... [S]o is it among the angels [also].” (Plea for the Christians Chapter 24)

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 - "[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." (Stromata Book 5 Chapter 1)

And: "[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." (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)

197 A.D. - Tertullian - “[You use] swords, and flames, and crosses, and wild beasts [against us]... [but] all you can do to us [depends] upon our pleasure. It is assuredly a matter of my own inclination, being a Christian. ... [We] would far rather be condemned than apostatize from God…[therefore] our haters should be sorry rather than rejoice, [for] we have obtained [martyrdom] of our own choice.” (Apology Chapter 49)

216 A.D. - Tertullian - “[T]he vicious action [comes from] each individual free-will. ‘Behold,’ says [God], ‘I have set before you good and evil.’ Choose that which is good: if you cannot, [it is] because you will not—for that you can if you will He has shown, because He has proposed each to your free-will.” (On Monogamy Chapter 14)

226 A.D. - Minucius Felix - “Neither let any one either take comfort from, or apologize for what happens from fate. Let what happens be of the disposition of fortune, yet the mind is free; and therefore man's doing, not his dignity, is judged.” (Octavius Chapter 36)

228 A.D. - St. Hippolytus - “Since man has free will, a law has been defined for his guidance by the Deity, not without answering a good purpose. For if man did not possess the power to will and not to will, why should a law be established?” (Refutation of All Heresies Book 10 Chapter 29)

248 A.D. - St. Cyprian - “That the liberty of believing or of not believing is placed in free choice [you may read in]...Deuteronomy: ‘Lo, I have set before your face life and death, good and evil. Choose for yourself life, that you may live.’ Also in Isaiah: ‘And if you be willing, and hear me, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you be unwilling, and will not hear me, the sword shall consume you. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things.’ Also in the Gospel according to Luke: ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ ” (Testimonies Book 3 Chapter 52)

248 A.D. - Origen - “God, who preserves the free-will of each individual, may make use of the evil of the wicked for the administration of the world, so disposing them as to conduce to the benefit of the whole.” (Contra Celsus Book 4 Chapter 70)

251 A.D. - St. Cyprian - “But the Lord permits and suffers [heresies] to be, while the choice of one's own liberty remains.” (On the Unity of the Catholic Church 10)

~299 A.D. - Methodius - “[M]an was made with a free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God.” (Concerning Free Will)

350 A.D. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem - “[Sin is] of a man's own choosing, an offspring of the will. For that we sin of our own free will the Prophet says plainly in a certain place: ‘Yet I planted you a fruitful vine, wholly true: how are you turned to bitterness, [and become] the strange vine?’ (Jeremiah 2:21)” (Catechetical Lecture 2 Paragraph 1)

~ 402 A.D. - St. John Chrysostom - “[St. Paul] has guarded against that error of the unbelievers which takes away free will, by adding, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Thus much only, he says, did we contribute. We have believed that He is able to save us.” (Homily 3 on First Timothy 1:14)

~381 A.D. - St. Gregory Nazianzen - “[God] placed [Adam] in Paradise, whatever the Paradise may have been, having honoured him with the gift of Free order that God might belong to him as the result of his choice, no less than to Him who had implanted the seeds of it... Also He gave him a Law, as a material for his Free Will to act upon.” (Oration 38 Paragraph 12)

And: 381 A.D. - “Why wait for a fever to bring you this blessing [of getting baptized], and refuse it from God? Why will you have it through lapse of time, and not through reason? Why will you owe it to a plotting friend, and not to a saving desire? Why will you receive it of force and not of free will; of necessity rather than of liberty?” (Oration 40 Paragraph 12)

Before 378 A.D. - St. Ephraim the Syrian - “Not of compulsion is the doctrine; of free-will is the word of life. Whoso is willing to hear the doctrine, let him cleanse the field of his will that the good seed fall not among the thorns of vain enquirings.” (Homily on Admonition and Repentance Paragraph 1)

418 A.D. - St. Augustine - “[God] has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards.” (On Grace and Free Will Chapter 2)

Before 461 A.D. - Pope St. Leo the Great - “[S]ecure a peace with God that nothing can destroy, by accepting His gracious service, in order that we may not only surrender ourselves in obedience to our King but also be united to Him by our free-will.” (Sermon 26 Paragraph 4)

400 A.D. - Apostolic Constitutions - “For they that give gifts do not of their own head give them to the widows, but barely bring them in, calling them free-will offerings, that so you who know those that are in affliction may as a good steward give them their portion of the gift.” (Section 1)

221 A.D. - Clementine Homilies - “But, you say, God ought to have made us at first so that we should not have thought at all of [sin]. You who say this do not know what is free-will, and how it is possible to be really good; that he who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice. Since therefore every one's freedom constitutes the true good, and shows the true evil, God has contrived that friendship or hostility should be in each man by occasions.” (Homily 11 Chapter 8)

Before 395 A.D. - Gregory of Nyssa - “Thus, then, man was created in the image of God. He could not therefore be without the gifts of freedom, independence, self-determination; and his participation in the Divine gifts was consequently made dependent on his virtue. Owing to this freedom he could decide in favour of evil, which cannot have its origin in the Divine will, but only in our inner selves, where it arises in the form of a deviation from good, and so a privation of it.” (The Great Catechism Chapters 5-6)

419 A.D. - African Code - “[N]or shall any Christian be compelled to witness [theatrical] spectacles, especially because in the performance of things contrary to the precepts of God there should be no persecution made by anyone, but (as is right) a man should exercise the free will given him by God.” (Canon 61)

~429 A.D. - John Cassian - “[In Scripture] there is a declaration of the grace of God and the freedom of our will, because even of his own motion a man can be led to the quest of virtue, but always stands in need of the help of the Lord.” (Conference 13 Chapter 9)

415 A.D. - St. Jerome - “It is in vain that you misrepresent me and try to convince the ignorant that I condemn free will. Let him who condemns it be himself condemned. We have been created endowed with free will; still it is not this which distinguishes us from the brutes. For human free will, as I have said before, depends upon the help of God and needs His aid moment by moment, a thing which you and yours do not choose to admit.” (Letter 133 Paragraph 10)

712 A.D. - St. John Damascene - “[The fact] that volition is implanted in man by nature is manifest from [the following.] Excluding the divine life, there are three forms of life: the vegetative, the sentient, and the intellectual. The properties of the vegetative life are the functions of nourishment, and growth, and production: that of the sentient life is impulse: and that of the rational and intellectual life is freedom of will. If, then, nourishment belongs by nature to the vegetative life and impulse to the sentient, freedom of will by nature belongs to the rational and intellectual life. But freedom of will is nothing else than volition.” (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Book 3 Chapter 14)

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