Thursday, July 30, 2009

Predestination and Free Will: The Church Fathers, Quote #2

I’m back to provide another quote regarding the issue of predestination and free will. This quote will come from Tatian:

“We were not created to die. Rather, we die by our own fault. Our free will has destroyed us. We who were free have become slaves. We have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God. We ourselves have manifested wickedness. But we, who have manifested it, are able again to reject it” (Tatian, c.160, 2.69,70; from “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs,” page 286).

First, Tatian tells us that death was not an original part of the equation for mankind. However, by man’s choice, sin and death entered the world. We read of God’s words in Genesis:

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, (P) 17 but you must not eat [l] from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die." (Genesis 2:16-17, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Death would come as a consequence of eating the forbidden fruit; and in order for God to speak of death here shows us that death was not a necessary part of life for mankind, nor was death a given factor from the moment of man’s creation. Although death was not a given, death entered when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. We read God’s punishment to Adam:

17 And He said to Adam, "Because you listened to your wife's voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'Do not eat from it':
The ground is cursed because of you. (L)
You will eat from it by means of painful labor [e]
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field. (M)
19 You will eat bread [f] by the sweat of your brow
until you return to the ground, (N)
since you were taken from it.
For you are dust,
and you will return to dust." (Genesis 3:17-19, HCSB)

Because Adam ate from the ground, he would return to the dust.

Tatian writes these words (from above):

“Our free will has destroyed us. We who were free HAVE BECOME SLAVES. We have been sold through sin.”

Here, Tatian states that we were created free, but we enslaved ourselves. Mankind did what Paul warned the Galatians not to do in Galatians 5:1—“Christ has liberated us into freedom. Therefore STAND FIRM and DON’T SUBMIT AGAIN TO A YOKE OF SLAVERY.”
How did man do this? Paul gives us greater detail into our enslavement in Romans 6:

For just as you offered the parts [n] of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. (AG) [o] 21 And what fruit was produced [p] then from the things you are now ashamed of? (AH) For the end of those things is death. (AI) 22 But now, since you have been liberated from sin and become enslaved to God, (AJ) you have your fruit, which results in sanctification (AK) [q] —and the end is eternal life! (AL) 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6: 19-22, HCSB)

A few verses earlier, Paul revealed the significance of the actions of the believer in righteousness:

16 Do you not know that if you offer yourselves to someone [k] as obedient slaves, (Z) you are slaves of that one you obey (AA) —either of sin leading to death (AB) or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)

Let’s examine Paul’s rhetoric here. He mentions that the Romans “offer yourselves” to whoever they obeyed. Normally, when we think of slaves, we think of someone who has been made a slave, or “forced” into slavery by a slavemaster; we never think of slaves as having placed THEMSELVES into slavery—for who would do such a ludicrous thing? Nonetheless, Paul makes it clear that mankind PLACED HIMSELF into enslavement to sin; sin did not enslave mankind against his will.

And then, Tatian says something that is profound when discussing the choice of man: Man is responsible for evil—

“NOTHING EVIL has been created by God. WE OURSELVES have manifested wickedness.”

Tatian’s words echo the words of James regarding temptation in James 1:

13 No one undergoing a trial should say, "I am being tempted by God." For God is not tempted by evil, [c] and He Himself doesn't tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15, HCSB)

Remember these words: GOD IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR EVIL! It was all man’s doing, from the very beginning. Read Genesis 1 where God creates the world, and you won’t find God ever creating anything bad (or evil), nor will you find God creating darkness. In actuality, the Genesis account tells us that God created LIGHT, and separated the light from the DARKNESS—but NEVER do we read of God creating darkness!!

Last but not least, Tatian gives these words:

“But we, who have manifested it, are able again to reject it.”

Although we are responsible for wickedness, we can still reject it, we can still resist it. According to the Calvinist, God is the One who chooses FOR US; but this is not the response of the Bible. Instead, the Bible tells us that we have the power (from God) to resist sin and evil:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful (Y) and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, (Z) so that you are able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, HCSB)

The Lord gives “provides a way of escape” whenever we face temptation. Notice Paul says this AFTER he writes, “God is faithful…” What we find here is that, even though God is not responsible for evil and temptation, nor does He create temptation, or cause us to be tempted, He is there, giving us His power and strength so that we can resist sin and do that which is right. Even in temptation, God doesn’t leave us alone!

Regarding 1 Corinthians 10:13, the church father Origen wrote the following:

“…We are not therefore to suppose that he who is tempted will by all means prove victorious in the struggle. It is similar to a man who contends in the arena. Although he is paired with his adversary on a just principle of arrangement, he does not NECESSARILY prove to be the winner. Yet, unless the powers of the combatants are equal, the prize of the victor will not be justly won. Nor will blame justly attach to the loser…it is not written that, in temptation, He will make a way of escape so that we WILL bear it. Rather, He makes a way of escape so that we can be ABLE to bear it. However, IT DEPENDS UPON OURSELVES TO USE THIS POWER THAT HE HAS GIVEN US with energy or with feebleness. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT UNDER EVERY TEMPTATION WE HAVE A POWER OF ENDURANCE—IF WE PROPERLY USE THE STRENGTH THAT IS GRANTED US…” (Origen, from “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs,” pages 295-96).

God gives the power of endurance to ALL who believe on His name; however, we are responsible for utilizing the power that we have. If we fail to use this power properly, we can’t blame God—we can only blame ourselves.

I will continue with another quote in my next post.

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