Question No 3.
Which is correct according to Orthodoxy – Predestination of a man or free will (to live) for a man? Augustine had advocated the former one while Pelagius supported the latter. Which is right and who among these fathers are accepted by Oriental Orthodoxy? How much regard is given to St.Augustine in Orthodox Church?
The Orthodox Church recognizes predestination, but does not consider it unconditional, that is, independent of man’s free will. The Orthodox Church does not believe that the divine will ever make a groundless decision. Saint Augustine teaches predestination in order to emphasize the supreme will of God, but does not rule out the role of human free will. My latest study of Augustine does not show that he is totally out of the range of orthodoxy. However during the time of western reformation Calvin stretched Augustine’s position to mean that Augustine was totally for predestination. This writer believes that Augustine still stayed within Orthodoxy when it comes to human free will and the will of God. But it is possible that one can accuse him as an ectreme defender of “sola voluntas divina” (only the Divine Will) due to his defense of the Supremacy of the Divine Will.
According to the teachings of the Orthodox Church, God, as omniscient (all-knowing), knows and foresees the moral state of man and preordains and predetermines for men certain fate. This does not mean that God overlooks the human volition to be the master of his own destiny. Every Orthodox Christian has to pray that God’s will take precedence. By our prayer we seek the harmony between our free will and God’s will.
The position of Pelagius was that he totally denied God’s role in our redemption. He taught that man can achieve it by himself without Christ’s suffering on the Cross or His merits. Strictly speaking, one cannot assume that Pelagius was defending the true nature of human will.
Ultimately, human free will does not have any relevance without reference to the will of God. Strictly speaking, the human will and divine will should stay intertwined. Human will is a created faculty, and its ultimate source is the divine will. However, the human will is granted autonomy so that it can function as a spiritual faculty of the human person which is itself ultimately the image or similitude of God. Our will should become identified with God’s will; this is intended in the Lord’s Prayer.
God does not inflict punishment on anyone without his own deliberate responsibility in committing a punishable offense. Responsibility or accountability can never be explained without a free will, without which reward and punishment are not defined.
Augustine still remains a father of the undivided Church, although not a great inspiration in the eastern Church because of his many slippery positions on grace, sin, redemption, human sexuality, etc. As a result, he is not mentioned in the hagiology of the Orthodox Church, particularly the Oriental section of it. Having said this, one should understand that he is regarded as a towering mind among the brilliant scholars of Christendom.
Pelagius is not considered a father of the Church.
The basic principles to be remembered:
- We are free as God is free.
- God has a purpose for each of us, which is never the perdition of human soul, but regeneration and redemption. God is never for degeneration.
- We are never lost by God's decision, but by our own choice.
- No innocent human being is punished to eternal hell.