This was a Paper written by Keith Thompson. I retrieved it from the Wayback machine and have reproduced it here.
By Keith Thompson
– Morrell Plagiarized Most of his Film Content from Jay EuDaly
– Pre-Augustine Church Writers Denying Natural Ability
– Pre-Augustine Church Writers Affirming Predestination
– Pelagius’s Wickedness and Deceptive Character
– Does ‘Free Will’ = ‘Natural Ability’ for Fathers who Taught it?
– Calvin’s View of the Fathers’ Theology
In the first part of our rebuttal to Jesse Morrell’s (an admitted open theist and Pelagian) documentary “Beyond Augustine” we demonstrated that he was incorrect for asserting that “the early church believed that man had free will by nature and could choose between good and evil. The Gnostics on the other hand believed man was created with such a ruined constitution that he was forced to sin by necessity of his nature” (1:54-2:08). He also argued Augustine brought in the doctrine of original sin from Gnostic Manichaeism. We countered that by demonstrating that orthodox church fathers before Augustine affirmed that man inherited sin from, and sinned because of, Adam. We proved the doctrine of original sin prior to Augustine and also that they affirmed grace was absolutely necessary to obey God. We showed that although certain fathers held to a view of free will or freedom, they nevertheless affirmed hereditary sin and guilt from Adam.
This established two things: (1) For some fathers having a sense of free will did not negate belief in original sin. (2) Gnosticism should not be credited with the belief in hereditary sin and guilt from Adam, contra Morrell. We also countered Morrell’s assertion that Gnostics believed and, through Augustine, infected the church with the teaching that man had a ruined constitution by showing the Gnostic Manicheans believed man’s nature was good (and had a good soul as well as bad), and that man did not require grace to obey or choose and will right. Thus we argued Morrell was incorrect for crediting Augustine’s historical and biblical teachings to the Gnostics.
We refuted Morrell’s claim that the orthodox teaching on original sin and predestination are akin to, and should be credited to, Gnosticism. We showed how Morrell quoted forgeries attributed to church fathers to try to prove they affirmed natural ability thereby denying man’s fallenness. We demonstrated that certain early fathers who did hold to man’s absolute natural ability or free will retained those beliefs from their former pagan philosophy they held to prior to their conversion to Christianity (Justin Martyr et al). Finally we showed biblical errors in Morrell’s film.
In this presentation we will prove Morrell plagiarized most of his film from a shoddy internet article by a man who is not well acquainted with church history. We will solidify our case further by refuting the following statement from Morrell from a different angle. In his film he stated: “in the days of the early church it was orthodox to believe in free will. And it was considered heretical to deny it” (1:41 – 1:48). In this paper we will thus show that pre-Augustine fathers denied man’s absolute natural ability or freedom to choose and will right apart from God’s enablement.
Moreover, we will refute Morrell’s claim that Augustinian and Calvinistic models of predestination are ahistorical and based on Gnosticism by quoting pre-Augustine orthodox church fathers who affirmed predestination, (note we already proved the Gnostics didn’t affirm our view of predestination in Part 1). Also, we will disprove, contra Morrell’s argument, that his teacher Pelagius should be trusted and followed since he was allegedly rightfully acquitted of error by a Christian Palestinian synod at Diapolis in A.D. 415. We will explain the truth of that situation and prove Pelagius lied in his answers at that council denying his own theology – and that’s why they acquitted him.
We will also answer the question: did the early church writers mean by “free will” the absolute natural ability of man like Morrell does? And finally we will examine Morrell’s quotations of John Calvin in his film where Calvin comments on the position of the early church fathers and free will.
Morrell Plagiarized Most of His Film Content from Jay EuDaly
Morrell got his “research” and quotes of church fathers from Jay EuDaly’s shoddy article titled “The Ante Nicene Fathers on the Freedom of the Will.” It contains the exact same forgeries and other church father quotes Morrell used and was published years before Morrell made his documentary (as the archive.org way-back machine proves). It also contains quotes of John Calvin and Greg Boyd Morrell used etc., so there is no question.
Morrell did not cite or give credit to this article despite using the “research.” Instead he deceptively used the material in the film as if it was his own research. Yet, Morrell claims to have taken “the time to study the writings of the early church” (17:22). Morrell and his group claim to be sinless and that one merits final salvation by perfection. However, Scripture condemns this type of misleading, deception and dishonesty as grave sins:
“while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, misleading and being misled” (2 Timothy 3:13).
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (Psalms 34:13).
“and said, ‘You are full of every form of deception and trickery, you son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right! You will never stop perverting the straight ways of the Lord, will you?” (Acts 13:10).
Pre-Augustine Church Writers Denying Natural Ability
Morrell’s view of free will means natural ability: i.e., men are not affected in their nature morally as a result of Adam’s sin. Thus man is naturally able to obey God and choose righteousness since his nature is not infected with sin. In his film he argues this was the early church’s teaching prior to Augustine and that, again, the doctrine of the inability of man due to sin nature came into the church through Augustine who allegedly got it from Gnosticism. At 17:21 to 17:33 he claims: “Anyone who actually takes the time to study the writings of the early church, and is willing to look beyond Augustine, will see that free will was the universal and orthodox position of all of the early Christians.”
However, once one does what Morrell claims to have done and examines the early church writings, one see’s Morrell’s claim is problematic and erroneous. There are many explicit statements which demonstrate the early church did not hold to the natural ability of man. Indeed, a very large amount of the patristic material is supportive of the depravity of man apart from grace due to his sinful nature or constitution. Many statements show man is not free but in bondage to sin apart from what God might do.
Augustine was born A. D. 354 and died in A. D. 430. He started defending original sin and refuting man’s natural ability around A. D. 411-412
Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35 or 50 – 98 or 117) a student of the apostles noted that carnal unsaved people do not have the ability to do that which is spiritual: they can’t do works of faith. He wrote: “They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians, ch. 8). Not only does this affirm the inability of the unsaved person, but it also affirms the perseverance of the saved saint since the regenerate spiritual person can not persevere in doing that which is carnal.
Polycarp of Smyrna (A.D. 69 – 155) exalts the God-granted faith of the Philippians mentioning “the strong root of your faith” (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, ch. 1). He speaks about “that faith which has been given” to the Philippians Christians (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, ch. 3) demonstrating that the ability to trust or have faith in God is a gift, not something we stir up in ourselves. This is why he says, “by grace you are saved, not of works, but by the will of God” (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, ch. 1). Polycarp clearly exalts the sovereignty of God in salvation, not the free ability or power of man.
Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. ? – 258) explains that Christians owe thanks to the power of God for their ability to avoid sin and should not give credit to their own natural virtue or ability: “Boasting to one’s own praise is odious, although that cannot be a matter of boasting but an expression of gratitude, which is not ascribed to the virtue of man but is proclaimed as of God’s munificence, so that now not to sin begins to be of faith, and what was done in sin before to be of human error. Our power is of God, I say, all of it is of God (Cyprian, To Donatus, ch. 4).
Lactantius (A.D. 240 – 320) refutes the natural ability of man declaring: “Therefore it is not the part of a wise and good man to wish to contend, and to commit himself to danger, since to conquer is not in our power” (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book 6, ch. 18). He also states that men can not naturally fight sin or vice victoriously since God’s power of regeneration is required first: “Therefore their [pagan philosophers] wisdom, doing its utmost, does not eradicate, but hide vices. But a few precepts of God so entirely change the whole man, and having put off the old man, render him new, that you would not recognise him as the same” (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book III, ch. 26).
Arnobius (A.D. ? – 330) mentions the natural condition of man explaining that Christians should pray for others so they can have the ability to overcome our innate weakness and fight error, lust and sin: “Before Him we all prostrate ourselves, according to our custom; Him we adore in joint prayers; from Him we beg things just and honourable… This is our benefit, and has a regard to our advantage. For since we are prone to err and to yield to various lusts and appetites through the fault of our innate weakness” (Arnobius, Against the Heathen, Book 1, 27). He also noted, “natural infirmity and not the choice of his desire, or of his sober judgment, makes a sinner” (Arnobius, Against the Heathen, Book I, 49) directly refuting Morrell’s opinion that choice and not natural infirmity makes a sinner. He also condemns those like Morrell who would say man has the natural strength or ability to come to and obey God:
“You rest the salvation of your souls on yourselves, and are assured that by your own exertions alone you become gods; but we, on the contrary hold out no hope to ourselves from our own weakness, for we see that our nature has no strength, and is overcome by its own passions in every strife for anything. You think that, as soon as you pass away, freed from the bonds of your fleshly members, you will find wings with which you may rise to heaven and soar to the stars. We shun such presumption and do not think that it is in our power to reach the abodes above” (Arnobius, Against the Heathen, Book II, 33).
He also stated “the Supreme God…knew that men are naturally blind, and cannot grasp the truth at all” (Arnobius, Against the Heathen, Book II, 60).
Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 313 – 386) affirmed that when man is in an unsaved state, Jesus grants the desire or will to be saved which we don’t naturally posses, Jesus accepts the gift of faith that grace produces in us, and this grace or favour is given freely, not on the basis of human exertion. This refutes the idea that no one before Augustine denied man has a natural ability to come to faith or choose right on his own: “For doctors who treat earthly diseases cannot say ‘Do you want to be healed?’ to all their patients; but Jesus gives even the desire; he accepts the faith and grants the favour without a fee” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Homily on the Paralytic by the Pool, 4, translated by Edward Yarnold, Cyril of Jerusalem, [Routledge, 2000], p. 71).
Optatus Milevitanus (4th cent.) notes the natural barriers which must be overcome by God before a person’s salvation: “For none are unaware, that everyone who is born (even though he may be born of Christian parents) cannot be without the unclean spirit, who must of necessity be driven out and separated from a man before the saving layer” (Optatus Milevitanus, Against the Donatists, Book 4). He also notes that it does not belong to unsaved man to will that which is good, and that men are not free to be perfect contra Morrell:
“For it belongs to a Christian man to will what is good, and to run the course which he has rightly willed. But it is not given to man to bring to perfection; so that after the stages, which a man can go, there remains something for God with which He may meet man’s deficiency. For He alone is perfection; and perfect alone is Christ, the Son of God. We, the others, are all half-perfect; for it is ours to will, it is ours to run, but it is God’s to make perfect” (Optatus Milevitanus, Against the Donatists, Book 2).
Ambrose (A.D. 330 – 397) rejects the free will or natural ability of man due to his fallen condition: “…no one is a free man; we have all been procreated in servitude. Why do you assume the arrogance of liberty for a servile condition? Why do you, the heir of slaves, usurp titles of nobility? Do you not know that the blame of Adam and Eve bound you to slavery?” (Ambrose, Jacob and the Happy Life, 3. 13). He also argues man does not have the natural ability or power to flee from worldliness completely:
“We have often preached on flight from this world—and would the preaching were so easy as disposition to flee is wary and cautious! But, what is worse, often the enticements of earthly desires steal in and blinding vanities take possession of the mind. Thus, you think upon that which you desire to avoid, and you ponder it in spirit. It is hard for a man to guard against this and impossible to rid himself of it. Indeed, the psalmist bears witness that the matter is more one of wish than of actualization when he says, ‘cline my heart to your testimonies and not to covetousness.’ For our heart and our thoughts are not in our power” (Ambrose, From the Flight of the World, 1. 1 trans. Michael P. McHugh, Seven Exegetical Works [The Fathers of the Church, Volume 65], [CUA Press, 1972], p. 281).
Lastly he explicitly states: “Because human effort without divine help is powerless to heal, it requires God as its helper” (Ambrose, Commentary on Isaiah, cited in Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians II, Part 1, Volume 24, ed. trans. John E. Rotelle, [New City Press, 1999], p. 211). This utterly refutes the idea that the church before Augustine affirmed man’s natural ability.
Ambrosiaster is the name given to the anonymous author of commentaries on Paul’s letters. They were written in the late 4th century (late 300’s A. D.). Ambrosiaster makes explicit statements on natural inability which one shouldn’t even have to comment on since they’re so plain:
“Adam sold himself first, and because of this all his decedents are subjected to sin. Thus people are weak and unable to keep the precepts of the law unless they are strengthened by God’s help. This is why Paul says: The Law is spiritual but I am carnal, sold under sin. This means that the law is firm and just and without fault, but man is weak and bound either by his own or by his inherited fault, so that he cannot obey it in his own strength” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Romans, quoted in Gerald L. Bray, Commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians: Ambrosiaster, [InterVarsity Press, 2009], p. 57).
Marcus Eremita (early fifth cent.) rejects the natural ability of man noting that every human is born a sinner:
“Let us suppose that some are found free from these things, and as soon as born are strangers to all vice, which indeed cannot be, since Paul says, we have all sinned, etc. Yet though they were such, nevertheless they have their original from Adam and have been all guilty of the sin of transgression, and so condemned by a sentence of death” (Mark the Eremite De Poenitentia quoted in John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, [The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 1999], p. 757).
He also stated:
“Wherefore we must not think that the sin of Adam can be removed by our strivings; nor even our own sins, which befall us after baptism, unless by Christ; for how could we, who were dead in sins do any good thing of ourselves, unless the Lord had quickened us by the laver of regeneration, and had bestowed upon us the grace of the Holy Spirit?”(Mark the Eremite Ibid. de Baptismo, p. 87; vide etiam p. 88 quoted in John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, [The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 1999], p. 757)
Lastly he explicitly denies man’s natural ability to do good by their own power: “Let none of those who study virtue, think that they have, by their own power alone, done any good thing” (Mark the Eremite De Baptismo, p. 86. quoted in John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, [The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 1999], p. 757).
Therefore, when Morrell tells his audience that prior to Augustine everyone affirmed man’s natural ability or “free will,” he is exhibiting profound ignorance and entangling himself in no small sin by deceiving the simple minded and untaught folk who buy into his lies without doing their own research.
Pre-Augustine Church Writers on Predestination
To further refute Morrell’s attempt at showing Gnosticism is responsible for the Reformed doctrine of predestination, though we already showed they didn’t even believe that in Part 1 of our rebuttal, we will quote pre-Augustine early orthodox church writers on the issue. This will prove the doctrine should not be credited to Gnosticism, but to early biblical Christians. This will also help to further expel the lie that Augustine got this doctrine from Gnostics.
The Essenes. Before addressing the early church it must be noted that the pre-Christian Jews (also contemporary with Jesus) known as the Essenes (2nd cent. B. C. – 1st cent. A. D.) believed God was in control over everything. They also affirmed the Calvinist view of double predestination as well as denied free will in the way Calvinists do: that man is not free from God’s predeterminations and the non-elect can not freely come to God. Therefore, the Reformed doctrine of predestination existed in Judaism before the Gnostic pseudo-Christian cults emerged and before Augustine was born. The early Jewish historian Josephus (A. D. 37 – 100) noted “the sect of the Essenes affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13, S. 172, quoted in William Whiston, Jewish Antiquities, [Wordsworth Editions, 2006], p. 549).
Their writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls bear out this belief in predestination and the inability of the non-elect. For example in the Essene work known as The Treatise of the Two Spirits we read:
From the God of Knowledge comes all that is occurring and shall occur. Before they came into being he established all their design; and when they come into existence in their fixed times they carry through their task according to his glorious design. Nothing can be changed” (The Treatise of the Two Spirits, 1QS 3.15-16; trans. Charelsworth and Qimron 1994: 15; quoted in Magen Broshi, Bread, Wine, Walls and Scrolls, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002], p. 240).
In the Thanksgiving Scroll we also read that “In the wisdom of thy knowledge Thou didst establish their destiny before ever they were All things [exist] according to [Thy will] And without Thee nothing is done” (Thanksgiving Scroll, IQH 1.20-21 quoted in Magen Broshi, Bread, Wine, Walls and Scrolls, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002], p. 240). World-renowned archaeologist and historian Magen Broshi notes that the Essenes affirmed the “doctrine of predestination, or to be precise, double predestination (praedestinatio duplex). It is expressed in several of the sectarian writings…” He also notes:
“the Essene doctrine holds that the Lord has pre-ordained everything and nothing can be changed. Humanity is made up of the Children of the Light and the Children of the Darkness, the Blessed and the Damned One is born into either camp and there is no crossing of borders. In such a world, where no repentance is possible and the wicked are to stay forever in their despicable status, it is only natural that those whom God has despised and cursed should be hated, despised and cursed by the Elect as well” (Magen Broshi, Bread, Wine, Walls and Scrolls, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002], p. 276).
Contra Morrell’s claim that Gnostics introduced predestination to Christianity through Augustine in the early 5th century, Broshi actually argues that “It is well nigh certain that they [Essenes] introduced predestination to Christianity” (Magen Broshi, Bread, Wine, Walls and Scrolls, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002], p. 275 parenthetical remark mine) in the 1st century long before Augustine and Gnosticism. Thus predestination would be the original 1st century Christian teaching and Morrell’s rejection of Christian truth would be the corruption introduced at a later time. Though I hold Reformed predestination can be found as far back as the Torah and all over the Old Testament as well.
It’s important to also emphasize again that as a matter of fact Augustine did not personally get his teaching on predestination from Gnosticism as we proved in Part 1. He affirmed what many orthodox writers affirmed before him after studying their writings as well as Scripture.
We will now move on to the topic of the early church writers before Augustine to show that the doctrine of predestination is not only seen in pre-Christian Judaism, but also in pre-Augustinian mainline Christianity as well. John Gill’s tome The Cause of God and Truth as well as my own readings of the fathers are, for the most part, behind this section.
Clement of Rome (A.D. ? – 99 or 101) was a student of the apostles. He notes that Christians are those called inwardly by the will of God and that this calling precedes sanctification (i.e., being made holy). He writes to “them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Clement, Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 1). He then speaks of God saving these elect who are called: “Day and night you were anxious for the whole brotherhood, that the number of God’s elect might be saved” (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 2). This is right after saying Christians come to faith/salvation not through exertion, but only by God’s will: “All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will” (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 32).
Thus since God saves only the elect and salvation is based on God’s will and not anything wrought in man, then that means Clement affirms the unconditional election of the saints i.e., their predestination to salvation. This is further supported in his writings since, as John Gill notes, in ch. 38 of this letter Clement alludes to Ephesians 1:3-4 in his comments concerning God preparing blessings for Christians before they’re born, demonstrating he, like Paul, affirmed their predestination. The following is Ephesians 1:3-4 and Clements words back to back for comparison:
“3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4).
“Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made—who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born” (Clement, Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 38)
Ignatius of Antioch (A. D. 35 or 50 – 98 or 117) the student of the apostles wrote:
“Seeing, then, all things have an end, these two things are simultaneously set before us— death and life; and every one shall go unto his own place. For as there are two kinds of coins, the one of God, the other of the world, and each of these has its special character stamped upon it, [so is it also here.] The unbelieving are of this world; but the believing have, in love, the character of God the Father by Jesus Christ” (Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians, ch. 5).
That here Ignatius is teaching that the saved are predestined is evidenced by the fact that he says that everyone shall go unto “his own ‘place’” (Gk. topos). This is very probably an allusion to Acts 1:25 (F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, The New International Commentary On The New Testament, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988], p. 47). In Acts 1:25 we read: “…this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place [Gk. ton topon idion]” (Acts 1:25). That Acts 1:25, and by implication Ignatius, here has it so that Judas goes to his own place i.e., hell due to predestination, is evident upon a few considerations.
To establish Acts 1:25 teaches predestination it must be noted that to say Judas went to “his own place” is to say he went to the ultimate destination of his (I. Howard Marshall, Acts, ed. F. F. Bruce, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1980], p. 66). When Acts uses this euphemism it is natural, based on the context of Acts, to understand it as meaning “the destination reserved for him” or “the destination belonging to him” and where he also ends up. Luke and Acts (written by the same author) have clear testimony to Judas’ predestination to hell from before of old thereby bearing this understanding out (see Acts 1:16 & Luke 22:21-22 where it is said Judas “had to” have Jesus arrested because “the Scripture had to be fulfilled” and that Judas’ betrayal of Christ was “determined” in a prior sense). Hell belonged to Judas as the place he was predestined to. That’s why it’s his own place. Thus we have evidence Ignatius picked up on this thought and taught all people go to their own place reserved for them from before of old, either heaven or hell.
Cyprian (A. D. ? – 258) in stating that “We must boast in nothing since nothing is our own” (Cyprian, Testimonia, 3. 4) affirms predestination. As Augustine noted,
“And this, Cyprian most faithfully saw and most fearlessly explained, and thus he pronounced predestination to be most assured. For if we must boast in nothing, seeing that nothing is our own, certainly we must not boast of the most persevering obedience. Nor is it so to be called our own, as if it were not given to us from above. And, therefore, it is God’s gift, which, by the confession of all Christians, God foreknew that He would give to His people, who were called by that calling whereof it was said, ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ This, then, is the predestination which we faithfully and humbly preach.” (Augustine, On the Perseverance of the Saints, Book II “On the Gift of Perseverance,” ch. 36).
To put it another way, if we can’t boast about anything but instead everything comes from God, then we can’t say our salvation and perseverance comes from us. However, if God grants salvation and perseverance and not everyone is saved thereby persevering, that means God chooses some to save and persevere and others not to. He chooses who to grant salvation and perseverance to (i.e., predestination).
Novatian (A.D. 200 – 258) affirmed predestination of saints to glory from before the foundation of the world. In refuting heretics who claimed Christ was only God according to predestination and not pre-existence, he states,
“In such determination to glory, Christ will be considered less than other men, because He is ranked after them in time. In fact, if this glory was in predestination, then Christ was the last to receive this predestination; for we see that Adam was predestined before Him, as were also Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and the rest” (Novatian, On the Trinity, ch. 16).
In the work Of the Discipline and Advantage of Chastity he also stated that “knowing that you are the temple of the Lord, the members of Christ, the habitation of the Holy Spirit, elected to hope, consecrated to faith, destined to salvation, sons of God” (Novatian, Of the Discipline and Advantage of Chastity, 2). Clearly Novatian held to predestination of the saints from before the world began refuting Morrell’s claim that this teaching entered the church through Manichean Gnosticism.
Basil of Caesarea (A.D. 329 – 379) the Greek bishop affirmed the predestination of all things including salvation. In his work Homily 15 which is a homily on Psalm 32 subtitled A Psalm in Praise of the Power and Providence of God he states:
“Do not say: ‘This happened by chance’ and ‘that occurred accidentally’ Nothing is casual, nothing indeterminate, nothing happens at random, nothing among things that exist is caused by chance” (Basil of Caesarea, Homily 15, Homily on Psalm 32, 3, quoted in The Fathers of the Church A New Translation: Saint Basil Exegetical Homilies, [The Catholic University of America, Press, 1963], p. 232).
Basil goes on to say that many are called but few are chosen and only the chosen are blessed due to the “election of grace” i.e., predestination:
“And, since ‘Many are called, but few are chosen,’ he does not pronounce him blessed who is called, but him who is chosen. Blessed is he whom He chose. What is the cause of the pronouncement of blessedness? The expected inheritance of everlasting blessings. Or, does he, perhaps, according to the Apostle, since, when the full number of nations will have entered, then all Israel will be saved, first proclaim blessed, the full number of nations, then later, Israel, which is saved? Certainly, not just anyone will be saved, but only the remnant which is according to the election of grace. Therefore, he says: ‘The people whom he hath chosen for his inheritance” (Basil of Caesarea, Homily 15, Homily on Psalm 32, 7 quoted in The Fathers of the Church A New Translation: Saint Basil Exegetical Homilies, [The Catholic University of America, Press, 1963], p. 241).
In Homily 13 which is a homily on Psalm 28 subtitled A Psalm of David at the Finishing of the Tabernacle Basil states: “For this reason also the Lord said: ‘And other sheep I have that are not of this fold.’ In saying that some from among the Gentiles were predestined for salvation, He shows His own court in addition to that of the Jews” (Basil of Caesarea, Homily 13, Homily on Psalm 28, 3 quoted in The Fathers of the Church A New Translation: Saint Basil Exegetical Homilies, [The Catholic University of America, Press, 1963], p. 198).
Earlier in the same homily Basil again notes God’s absolute control over everything when he says “His [God’s] providence penetrates even to the smallest things” (Basil of Caesarea, Homily 13, Homily on Psalm 28, 2 quoted in The Fathers of the Church A New Translation: Saint Basil Exegetical Homilies, [The Catholic University of America, Press, 1963], p. 196). Very clearly Basil is a lot closer to Reformation thought with his view of God’s sovereignty and predestination than he is to Morrell’s view which not only says God doesn’t control and predestine all things including salvation, but that God doesn’t even know all future events. That’s Morrell’s other heresy known as Open Theism – a direct assault on God’s knowledge of the future.
Ambrose of Milan (A. D. 330 – 397) taught predestination very clearly according to serious scholars. Church historian J. N. D. Kelly explains that according to Ambrose: “A man’s decision to become a Christian…has really been prepared in advance by God; and indeed every holy thought we have is God’s gift to us” (J. N . D Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, [HarperOne, 1978], p. 356 see Ambrose, Exposition of Luke, 48).
Pelagius’s Wickedness and Deceptive Character
In a post-refutation exchange I had with Morrell in the comment section of the video version of my Part 1 reply to his film, he tried to argue that his teacher Pelagius (A. D. 354 – 420) should be thought of as a teacher of truth since a Christian council at Diospolis Palestine in A. D. 415 acquitted him of heresy and declared him orthodox after asking him a series of questions. The council consisted of fourteen bishops.
However, what Morrell doesn’t tell people is that the only reason Pelagius was acquitted and found innocent of heresy was because he lied his way out of that council. Indeed, he denied his own theology when questioned about it and the Greek-speaking bishops present could not check Pelagius’s Latin works to verify if his answers corresponded with his past writings. That’s why he was acquitted. He was not acquitted because the council agreed with his concealed Pelagian views as Morrell would try to lead people to believe.
Morrell falsely claimed that “When Pelagius could clarify his views against the false accusations of Augustine, he was acquitted. As Wiggers said, ‘Thus was Pelagius formally acquitted and pronounced orthodox by fourteen oriental bishops.’” However, the council of Diospolis was not summoned because Augustine brought charges against Pelagius. So Morrell is completely wrong when claiming it was summoned due to alleged false accusations of Augustine which needed to be cleared up. The indictment against Pelagius was actually brought up by two other Christians: Heros and Lazarus, two Galilean bishops (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2011], p. 796; Allan Fitzgerald, Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999], p. 382; F. H. Woods, J. O. Johnston, Three Anti-Pelagian Treatises of S Augustine, [David Nutt, 1887], Introduction xxiii).
Now, it must first be noted that these two Galilean accusers were unable to attend the council due to one of them contracting an illness so they couldn’t even inform the fourteen bishops of when Pelagius would deny his own theology after each question (F. H. Woods, J. O. Johnston, Three Anti-Pelagian Treatises of S Augustine, [David Nutt, 1887], Introduction xxiii). That he denied his own theology is both evidenced by the records of the council as well as affirmed by serious historians, including ones my opponent is fond of citing, namely G. F. Wiggers.
First we will look at the evidence that at this council Pelagius denied his own theology in order to be found not guilty of heresy. The council’s seventh accusation of heresy or charge against Pelagius was that he taught:
“Adam was created mortal, and would have died whether he had sinned or not sinned; that Adam’s sin injured only himself and not the human race; that the law no less than the gospel leads us to the kingdom; that there were sinless men previous to the coming of Christ; that new-born infants are in the same condition as Adam was before the fall; that the whole human race does not, on the one hand, die through Adam’s death or transgression, nor, on the other hand, does the whole human race rise again through the resurrection of Christ.” (On the Proceedings of Pelagius, ch. 24, quoted in Philip Schaff, St. Augustine Anti-Pelagian Writings: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, [Kessinger Publishing, 2004], p. 193).
After clarifying his views on sinless saints of the past and people being able to live without sin, he answered, “The rest were not said by me, as even their testimony goes to show, and for them, I do not feel that I am responsible. But for the satisfaction of the holy synod, I anathematize those who either now hold, or have ever held, these opinions” (On the Proceedings of Pelagius, ch. 24, quoted in Philip Schaff, St. Augustine Anti-Pelagian Writings: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, [Kessinger Publishing, 2004], pp. 193-194). The synod then likewise condemned, among other things “that his [Adam’s] Sin injured only himself and not the human race” and “that new born infants are in the same condition that Adam was before the fall” (On the Proceedings of Pelagius, ch. 24, quoted in Philip Schaff, St. Augustine Anti-Pelagian Writings: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, [Kessinger Publishing, 2004], p. 194).
Pelagius, along with the council, therefore condemned the following teachings Pelagius did hold – teachings which Morrell and all modern Pelagians hold to as well, namely: (1) Adam’s sin only injured himself and not humankind; and (2) infants are in the same condition as Adam was initially i.e., without a sin. So it’s clear, contra Morrell’s picture, that what we don’t have is a Christian council agreeing with Pelagianism. They condemned the very teachings Morrell holds to today and yet acquitted Pelagius because he denied his own theology. So there is no point to cite this council as though it validated Pelagian theology or Pelagius. It didn’t.
That Pelagius did teach Adam’s sin only injured him and not humanity, and that infants are not born with sin, contra his denial that he taught such things at that council, I bring into evidence Pelagius’s work titled On Nature where he stated:
“He is not condemned; because the statement that all sinned in Adam, was not made because of the sin which is derived from one’s birth, but because of imitation of him”….
“this sickness [of sin] ought not to have been contracted by [our forefather Adam committing] sins, lest the punishment of sin should amount to this, that more sins should be committed.”
“Why seek Him [for infants?]? They are whole (i.e. not affected with an inescapable controlling sinful nature to which they are powerless because of Adam’s sin) for whom you seek the Physician. Not even was the first man condemned to die for any such reason [as having an uncontrollable nature], for he did not sin afterwards.”
“As to his (Adam’s) posterity also not only are they not more infirm than he, but they actually fulfilled more commandments than he ever did, since he neglected to fulfill one” (Pelagius, On Nature, 5, 18, 19, 20, reconstructed by Rev. Daniel R. Jennings).
Hence, Pelagius clearly lied to the council condemning his own unbiblical teachings Morrell holds to. He was not acquitted because the council agreed with his errors despite Kerrigan Skelly’s and Morrell’s common deceptive presentation of that council. Again, he was acquitted because he denied his own theology so as to get through that council – i.e., he lied and used deception since he was an unregenerate false teacher.
With regard to ancient authors who also recognized Pelagius lied his way out of that council it should be noted that the respected church father Jerome called that council a “miserable synod” (Jerome, letter to Augustine, A. D. 419, quoted in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2011], p. 796) showing his disdain for the tragedy and deception involved. Augustine stated the following in response to the council:
“Let no one tell you that this one [Pelagius] was acquitted by the bishops: there was no acquittal, but it was his confession, so to speak, his amendment, that was acquitted. For what he said before the bishops seemed catholic; but what he wrote in his books, the bishops who pronounced the acquittal were ignorant of…. It was not heresy, that was there acquitted, but the man who denied the heresy” (Augustine, quoted in B. B. Warfield, Introductory Essay on Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy, Philip Schaff, St. Augustin Anti-Pelagian Writings: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, [Kessinger Publishing, 2004], xxxvi).
Thus appealing to that council as if it ratified Pelagian beliefs is dishonest and snake-like. Morrell should not stoop so low as long as he claims to be a Christian. Moreover, shortly after that inadequate council the church would condemn Pelagianism anyway.
Now, with regard to more modern scholars G F. Wiggers, who Morrell cited above in favour of his position on this council, actually agreed with our position. He noted: “It must be admitted that Pelagius was not always sufficiently straightforward; that he did not always express his views without ambiguity; that, in fact, he sometimes in synods condemned opinions which were manifestly his own” (G. F. Wiggers, An Historical Presentation of Augustinism and Pelagianism from the Original Sources, i, p. 40 quoted in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2011], p. 790 n. 2).
Likewise the great historian Philip Schaff also stated concerning this council: “Pelagius was able to avail himself of equivocation, and to condemn as folly, though not as heresy, the teachings of Coelestius, which were also his own” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2011], p. 796)
Does ‘Free Will’ = ‘Natural Ability’ for Fathers who Taught it?
I do not have time to offer an exhaustive treatment in regards to what the various early church fathers meant by “free will”. However, in this section I do wish to briefly challenge one of Morrell’s erroneous assumptions. In his film and materials he assumes that when certain early fathers whom he quotes mention free will, free choice, or human freedom etc., that they are talking about the same thing as him: namely that man is born with absolute natural ability to choose and will good.
So it must therefore be noted that in the early church period there were diverse views of free will, many of which were contrary to Morrell’s. View (1) is that certain fathers taught we do not have free will by birth but receive it by grace or at salvation whereby man is granted a new ability to freely choose and will right when before he could not do so. View (2) was they taught the free will which men are born with is not absolute natural ability since man is still inclined to sin due to Adam. And there were other views we will discuss as well. Establishing this diversity will help to even things out since Morrell would have his audience believe that the early church was unanimous in affirming his version of unhindered free will or absolute natural ability from birth (“free will was the universal and orthodox position of all of the early Christians” says Morrell at 17:29 of his film). This type of comment is careless and irresponsible.
Regarding view (1) Schaff notes that the early Latin Church’s system “makes freedom a result of grace” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2011], p. 786) thereby refuting the idea that they, like Morrell, taught men possess the ability to choose and will right naturally. Regarding view (2) J. N. D. Kelly explains that Methodius (A.D. ? – 311), who Morrell quotes in his film, “combines a strong emphasis on man’s free will apparently unimpeded by the affects of the fall, with the affirmation that human nature inherits a bias towards sensuality from Adam” (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, [HarperOne 1978], p. 183).
What is more, in his work The Stromata Clement of Alexandria notes the limitation of man despite having free will supporting view (2): “Nor can we obtain the perfection of good without our free choice, nor yet does that wholly lie in our will “(Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata 1. 5). In fact concerning Clement of Alexandria John Gill notes that he
“only speaks of the natural liberty of the will against the Basilidians, and of the power of man to perform the natural and civil actions of life; however, certain it is, that Clement did not hold free will in such a sense, as to set aside the grace of God, and render that useless and unnecessary” (John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, [The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 1999], p. 722).
- N. D. Kelly notes that Victorinus’s theology taught that “most plainly the very will to do good is the work of God and owes its existence to the operation of his grace” (J. N . D. Kelly,Early Christian Doctrines, [HarperOne, 1978], p. 357, see In Phil. 2, 12) which is in line with view (1). So although one may assume Victorinus’s mentions of free will would support Morrell’s Pelagian position, they would not. In fact Ted Peters rightly notes that “Augustine does indeed affirm human freedom – but as a gift of God’s grace!” (Ted Peters, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994], p. 150) so does that make Augustine a supporter of Morrell’s position just because he affirmed human freedom or free will? Of course it does not. This is why one has to be more careful in their research. Seeing a father mention free will or human freedom does not automatically mean they support Morrell’s Pelagian position.
Ted Peters also notes the error (he says its “simplistic”) of creating these two categories in the early church (i.e., Augustine’s bondage of the will and alleged pre-Augustinian natural ability or free will) since that categorization
“fails to take account…of the suprahuman factor in evil – namely, the Evil One. Of course the early Church Fathers affirmed human free will, but they did so against a backdrop of suprahuman demonic powers. The Devil and his angels seek to enter the human mind and persuade us to participate in apostasy. What this reflects – and sexual temptation may be a prime example – is our experience of powerful external forces seeking to influence us to do their bidding. It is within the whelming flow of such forces that we assert the freedom to choose between what is better and what is worse” (Ted Peters, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994], p. 150)
Hence, much of the time when fathers speak of free will they’re not bolstering or even talking about self-determination or self authority (in the sense of no restriction on the will or no original sin). They are rather concerned with denying that demons have power over their wills to make them apostatize etc., which is a totally different issue.
Concerning Cyprian John Gill notes:
“Cyprian does indeed in one place say, ‘that the liberty of believing, or not believing, is placed in man’s free will.’ Which is very true of the natural liberty of the will, which always continues, whether a man believes or does not believe, since no man believes against his will, or disbelieves contrary to it; but is not true of the moral liberty and power of the will, for no man by the strength of nature, without the grace of God, has a power to believe to the saving of the soul. Nor could this be Cyprian’s meaning, who in the very same tract says, that ‘nothing is ours’” (John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, [The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. 1999], p. 731).
Now yes, a few early fathers do seem to teach Morrell’s view of free will which is an absolute natural ability (some retained it from their former paganism like Justin Martyr did as we argued in Part 1, others erroneously adopted this pagan view for various reasons despite Scripture’s clear teaching). However, what we have shown is that for Morrell to argue his Pelagian position was the pre-Augustinian Church’s unanimous teaching is utterly false.
Below is a chart further establishing our thesis we argued for in Part 1, namely that free will theists and the early fathers who held to Morrell’s view of free will (absolute natural ability) are doing nothing more than adhering to Greek Paganism:
(Thaddeus J. Williams, Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will?, [Rodopi, 2011], p. 13).
“Indeed, there is a deep resemblance between the notion of free will espoused by ancient Greek philosophers and the libertarian free will forwarded in today’s theological circles” (Thaddeus J. Williams, Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will?, [Rodopi, 2011], p. 12
Calvin’s View of the Fathers’ Theology
Now, very briefly I will cover John Calvin’s view of the fathers’ theology since Morrell provided four quotes by him on the church fathers saying that they affirmed free will. Morrell does this to try to show Calvin believed the fathers universally affirmed his view of man’s natural ability. He provided the following citations of Calvin, the last three of which are from secondary sources:
- “As to the fathers, (if their authority weighs with us,) they have the term [free will] constantly in their mouths…” (John Calvin,Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 1, [Calvin Translation Society, 1885], p. 308).
2. “‘The Greek fathers above others’ have taught ‘the power of the human will” (John Fletcher,An Equal Check to Pharisaism and Antinomianism, Vol. 2, [Carlton & Porter], p. 202).
3. “They have not been ashamed to make use of a much more arrogant expression calling man ‘free agent or self manager,’ just as if man had a power to govern himself” (Walter Arthur Copinger, A Treatise on Predestination, Election, and Grace, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical, [James Nisbet, 1889], p. 320).
4. “The Latin fathers have always retained the word ‘free will’ as if man stood yet upright” (Asa Maham, Doctrine of the Will, [Truth in Heart], p. 60).
First, all these quotes all come from the same chapter of Calvin’s work the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2 so Morrell should have just read the primary work himself and quoted from it. That would have been much easier for him.
Second, regarding quote number one you will notice the ellipses cutting off half of the sentence at the end. This is because the rest of the quote, namely the context, does not help to further Morrell’s agenda which is: present Calvin as though he agrees the fathers taught our view. Thus Morrell didn’t include the end of the sentence. The full sentence reads: “As to the Fathers (if their authority weighs with us), they have the term constantly in their mouths; but they, at the same time, declare what extent of meaning they attach to it” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, ch. 2, [Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002], p. 165).
Thus Calvin does not stop after mentioning the fathers taught a sense of free will. He indicates they defined it differently than people should assume. He then stated the following which utterly refutes Morrell’s painting of Calvin which has him conceding the fathers taught his (i.e., Morrell’s) view of free will. He stated: “the ecclesiastical writers, with the exception of Augustine, have spoken so ambiguously or inconsistently on this subject, that no certainty is attainable from their writings” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, ch. 2, [Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002], p. 166). Calvin did not affirm all the fathers taught Morrell’s view of free will. He taught we can’t know what they believed due to contradictory statements on their part. So to present Calvin as if he granted that their free will language objectively proved they held to absolute Pelagian natural ability is disingenuous. His view was this: although the fathers use phrases like “free will” or sometimes present man as upright by freedom, they contradict themselves by also teaching man is fallen and in need of grace.
Third, many of the fathers’ writings we have were not accessible to Calvin and so he couldn’t do the kind of studies more modern scholars have done – studies like mine and those I cite which help us understand exactly what the fathers believed on these issues. Moreover, Calvin didn’t have keyword search software to use when searching through the fathers’ writings. Neither did he have other volumes which present all the relevant passages of a father on a certain doctrine etc. So appealing to Calvin’s view of the fathers as if his opinion of them is enough to settle the issue is a false method. Again, he was limited in resources.
Church historian Irena Backus mentions the “extremely limited corpus of Greek Fathers that was known to him [Calvin]” (Irena Backus, Calvin and the Greek Fathers, ed. Robert Jame Bast, Andrew Colin Gow, Heiko Augustinus Oberman, Continuity and Change: The Harvest of Late Medieval and Reformation History : Essays Presented to Heiko A. Oberman on His 70th Birthday, [BRILL, 2000], p. 253). And Anthony N. S. Lane remarks:
“Given the limited availability of texts, given Calvin’s chronic shortage of time, given the fact that on occasion he is demonstrably citing works without turning to them, Calvin’s use of the fathers must be approached with a hermeneutic of suspicion. That is, one should not assume from the mere citation of an author or a work that Calvin has first-hand acquaintance of it or that he has consulted the author or work on this particular occasion” (Anthony N. S. Lane, John Calvin Student of Church Fathers, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 1991], p. 6).
Therefore, not only is Morrell incorrect for misrepresenting Calvin since he wasn’t even saying all the fathers held to his [Morrell’s] view (Calvin said we can’t know what they believed), but Morrell is also engaging in error when he assumes quoting Calvin, who was extremely limited in his resources, is enough to settle the issue of what the fathers taught. It is thus falsehood for Morrell to claim “free will was universally the orthodox Christian doctrine. For example John Calvin who didn’t hold to the doctrine of free will admitted this fact” (17:41 – 17:50)
As we have seen Morrell is fond of using deception. Either he can’t help it or it’s on purpose. Either way he is accountable to God. His errors are overwhelming. I pray he will see this rebuke and refutation as a wake up call to abandon his false heretical positions and deceptions. I pray he will seek the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. It is my prayer that the elect among Morrell’s followers will abandon his heresy and cult as well as trust completely in the perfect person and works of Christ for salvation viewing our human good works as evidence of salvation, and not what gets you into heaven, since, Jesus and what He did during His life and on the cross deserve all glory and credit for man’s salvation.