Vol.XIV No.III Pg.6
May 1977

Free Will" Quotes

Robert F. Turner

"God's Strategy in Human History," by R.T. Forster and V.P. Marston, is a book of word studies, arguments, and quotations from "church Fathers" on free will. The writers present solution's to what most of our readers would not know as problems — for we have long accepted the "free will" of man. However, in recent digressions toward semi-Calvinistic principles, some brethren are nibbling at the idea of "no human implementation" and "imputed righteousness" — apparently unaware of the relation of these concepts to a denial of man's free will. We quote from pp. 244-f.


The doctrine of "free will" seems to have been universally accepted in the early church. Not a single church figure in the first 300 years rejected it and most of them stated it clearly in works still extant.... The only ones to reject it were heretics like the Gnostics, Marcion, Valentinus, Manes (and the Manichees), etc. In fact, the early Fathers often state their beliefs on "free will" in works attacking heretics. Three recurrent ideas seem to be in their teaching: 1. The rejection of free will is the view of heretics; 2. Free will is a gift given to man by God- — for nothing can ultimately be independent of God; 3. Man possesses free will because he is made in God's image, and God has free will.

JUSTIN MARTYR (c. 100-165 A.D.) Dialogue CXLi: God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness. But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men shall certainly be punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably (wicked), but not because God created them so. So if they repent all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God.

IRENAEUS (c. 130-200 A.D.)

Against Heresies XXXVII: This expression, "Now often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not," set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will (toward us) is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves

4) If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God."


The book quotes 17 "Fathers" up to Augustine, and his "new theology" of depravity and no free will.