Table of contents
Concerning Prescience and Predestination.
We ought to understand that while God knows all things beforehand, yet He does not predetermine all things . For He knows beforehand those things that are in our power, but He does not predetermine them. For it is not His will that there should be wickedness nor does He choose to compel virtue. So that predetermination is the work of the divine command based on fore-knowledge . But on the other hand God predetermines those things which are not within our power in accordance with His prescience. For already God in His prescience has prejudged all things in accordance with His goodness and justice.
Bear in mind, too , that virtue is a gift from God implanted in our nature, and that He Himself is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help we cannot will or do any good thing, But we have it in our power either to abide in virtue and follow God, Who calls us into ways of virtue, or to stray from paths of virtue, which is to dwell in wickedness, and to follow the devil who summons but cannot compel us. For wickedness is nothing else than the withdrawal of goodness, just as darkness is nothing else than the withdrawal of light While then we abide in the natural state we abide in virtue, but when we deviate from the natural state, that isfrom virtue, we come into an unnatural state and dwell in wickedness .
Repentance is the returning from the unnatural into the natural state, from the devil to God, through discipline and effort.
Man then the Creator made male, giving him to share in His own divine grace, and bringing him thus into communion with Himself: and thus it was that he gave in the manner of a prophet the names to living flyings, with authority as though they were given to be his slaves. For having been endowed with reason and mind, and free-will after the image of God, he was filly entrusted with dominion over earthly things by the common Creator and Master of all.
But since God in His prescience knew that man would transgress and become liable to destruction, He made from him a female to be a help to him like himself; a help, indeed, for the conservation of the race after the transgression from age to age by generation. For the earliest formation is called 'making' and not 'generation.' For 'making ' is the original formation at God's hands, while 'generation' is the succession from each Other made necessary by the sentence of death imposed on us 'on account of the transgression.
This man He placed in Paradise, a home that was alike spiritual and sensible. For he lived in the body on the earth in the realm of sense, while he dwelt in the spirit among the angels, cultivating divine thoughts, and being supported by them: living in naked simplicity a life free from artificiality, and being led up through His creations to the one and only Creator, in Whose contemplation he found joy and gladness .
When therefore He had furnished his nature with free-will, He imposed a law on him, not to taste of the tree of knowledge. Concerning this tree, we have said as much as is necessary in the chapter about Paradise, at least as much as it was in our power to say. And with this command He gave the promise that, if he should preserve the dignity of the soul by giving the victory to reason, and acknowledging his Creator and observing His command, he should share eternal blessedness and live to all eternity, proving mightier than death: but if forsooth he should subject the soul to the body, and prefer the delights of the body, comparing himself in ignorance of his true dignity to the senseless beasts , and shaking off Iris Creator's yoke, and neglecting His divine injunction, he will be liable to death and corruption, and will be compelled to labour throughout a miserable life. For it was no profit to man to obtain incorruption while still untried and unproved, lest he should fall into pride and under the judgment of the devil. For through his incorruption the devil, when he had fallen as the result of his own free choice, was firmly established in wickedness, so that there was no room for repentance and no hope of change: just as, moreover, the angels also, when they had made free choice of virtue became through grace immoveably rooted in goodness.
It was necessary, therefore, that man should first be put to the test (for man untried and unproved would be worth nothing ), and being made perfect by the trial through the observance of the command should thus receive incorruption as the prize of his virtue. For being intermediate between God and matter he was destined, if he kept the command, to be delivered from his natural relation to existing things and to be made one with God's estate, and to be immoveably established in goodness, but, if he transgressed and inclined the rather to what was material, and tore his mind from the Author of his being, I mean God, his fate was to be corruption, and he was to become subject to passion instead of passionless, and mortal instead of immortal, and dependent on connection and unsettled generation. And in his desire for life he would cling to pleasures as though they were necessary to maintain it, and would fearlessly abhor those who sought to deprive him of these, and transfer his desire from God to matter, and his anger from the real enemy of his salvation to his own brethren. The envy of the devil then was the reason of man's fall. For that same demon, so full of envy and with such a hatred of good, would not suffer us to enjoy the pleasures of heaven, when he himself was kept below on account of his arrogance, and hence the false one tempts miserable man with the hope of Godhead, and leading him up to as great a height of arrogance as himself, he hurls him down into a pit of destruction just as deep.
From John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. Post Nicene Fathers, Schaff Edition Volume IX, Series II, Translated by The Rev. S. D. F. Salmond, D.D., F.e.I.s., Principal of the Free Church College, Aberdeen., 1898. Text prepared by Wheaton College: Early Church Fathers.
Concerning the reason of our endowment with Free-will.