Quotes About Predestination

Quotes about predestination from throughout Christian History.

pond in Selmer, TN
pond in Selmer, TN

Clement of Rome, AD 95-96

Blessed are we, beloved, if we keep the commandments of God in the harmony of love, so that through love our sins may be forgiven us. For it is written, "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute to him, and in whose mouth there is no guile" [Ps. 32:1-2]. This blessedness comes upon those who have been chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory for ever and ever. (1 Clement 50.)

Ignatius of Antioch, A.D. 107 - 113

Pray without ceasing on behalf of everyone. For in them there is hope of repentance so that they may attain to God. Permit them, then, to be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting; to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error be steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty display your gentleness. (Letter to the Ephesians 10)
As persons who are perfect, you should also aim at those things which are perfect. For when you are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you. (Letter to the Smyrneans 11)

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150

We have been taught that in the beginning [God]—of his goodness, for man's sake—created all things out of unformed matter, and if men by their works show themselves worthy of this his design, they are deemed worthy—and so we have received—of reigning in company with him, being delivered from corruption and suffering. For as in the beginning he created us when we did not exist, so we think that, in the same way, those who choose what is pleasing to him are, because of their choice, deemed worthy of incorruption and of fellowship with him. For it was not in our own power that we came into being at first, and so that we might follow the things which please him, choosing them by the rational faculties he himself endowed us with, he both persuades us and leads us to faith. (First Apology 10)
We hold this view, that it is equally impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and for the virtuous to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions. If all men knew this, no one would choose wickedness even for a little while, knowing that he goes to the everlasting punishment of fire. Instead, he would restrain himself by any means and adorn himself with virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments. (First Apology 12)
Among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. That he would be sent into the fire with his army and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold. The reason God has delayed doing this is his regard for the human race. For he foreknows that some are to be saved by repentance, some even that are perhaps not yet born.
   In the beginning he made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right. As a result, all men are without excuse before God, for they have been born rational and contemplative. (First Apology 28)
But lest some suppose, from what we have said, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity—because it is foretold as known beforehand—this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions.
   If this is not true, but all things happen by fate, then nothing at all is in our own power. If it is fated, for example, that one man be good and another evil, then the former is not meritorious, nor is the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, no matter what those actions are.
   But we will show that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble in this way: We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. Nor would some be good and others bad. Since we are making fate the cause of evil, we would be making her act in opposition to herself. …
   But we assert this as inevitable fate: they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For God did not make man like other things, such as trees and four-legged creatures, which cannot act by choice. Man would be worthy of neither reward or praise if he did not choose good himself but was instead created for that purpose. Nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than that for which he was made. (First Apology 43)
But if the Word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, he did so because he foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked], not because God created them so. (Dialogue with Trypho 141)

Hermas, c. A.D. 160

To those whose heart he saw would become pure and obedient to him, he gave power to repent with the whole heart. But to those whose deceit and wickedness he perceived, and saw that they intended to repent hypocritically, he did not grant repentance, lest they should again profane His name. (Shepherd of Hermas III:8:6)

Theophilus of Antioch, A.D. 168

Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? We do not affirm this, either. … Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did he make him, but … capable of both. …
   If he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as the reward from him immortality, and should become divine [The early Christians regularly equated immortality with divinity; only gods are immortal, and they regularly quoted John 10:34-35 to establish that God offers to make us gods.]. If, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself.
   That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through his own philanthropy and pity when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments, and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption. (To Autolycus II:27)

Melito of Sardis, c. A.D. 170

There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil way of life, because you are a free man; nor from seeking and finding out who is the Lord of all; nor from serving him with all your heart. For with him there is no reluctance to give the knowledge of himself to those that seek it, according to the measure of their capacity to know him. (Discourse in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar, from Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. VIII)

Irenaeus of Lyons, c. A.D. 183 - 186

They [The Marcionite heretics], "God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants." Those … who allege such difficulties do not read in the Gospel that passage where the Lord replied to the disciples, when they asked Him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"—"Because it is given to you to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them I speak in parables so that seeing they may not see, hearing they may not hear, and understanding they may not understand. … " For one and the same God inflicts blindness upon those who do not believe, but who set him at naught in the same way that the sun, which is his creation, to those who, because of some weakness of the eyes, cannot behold his light. But to those who believe in him and follow him, he grants a fuller and greater illumination of mind.
   In accordance with this word, therefore, the apostle says, in the Second to the Corinthians, "In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine [on them]." And again, in that to the Romans, "And as they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient." Speaking of antichrist, too, he says clearly in the Second to the Thessalonians: "And for this cause God shall send them the working of error, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who did not believe the truth, but consented to iniquity."
   If, therefore, in the present time also, God, knowing the number of those who will not believe—since he foreknows everything—has given them over to unbelief and turned his face away from men of this kind, leaving them in the darkness which they have themselves chosen for themselves, then why would it be amazing if he also, in that time, gave Pharaoh—who would never have believed—along with those who were with him, over to their unbelief? As the Word said to Moses from the bush, "I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go except by a mighty hand."
   For the reason that the Lord spoke in parables and brought blindness upon Israel, that seeing they might not see, which is that he knew the unbelief in them—for the same reason he hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This was so that, while seeing that it was the finger of God which led forth the people, he might not believe, but be precipitated into a sea of unbelief, resting in the notion that the exit of the [Israelites] was accomplished by magical power and that it was not by the operation of God that the Red Sea afforded a passage to the people, but that this occurred by merely natural causes. (Against Heresies IV:29:1-2)

Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190

Hear, then, you who are far off; hear, you who are near. The message has not been hidden from any. Light is common; it shines on all men. No one is a Cimmerian in regard to the message. Let us haste to salvation, to regeneration. (Exhortation to the Heathen 9)
Not only then the believer, but even the heathen, is judged most righteously. For since God knew in virtue of his prescience [foreknowledge] that he would not believe, [God] nevertheless, in order that he might receive his own perfection, gave him philosophy [a reference to whatever was beneficial among Greek philosophers], but gave it him previous to faith.

This next part of this quote is going to sound pretty strange to our modern ears. Clement speculated on all sorts of things. I include this quote because it's one more person who shows the early Christian understanding of free will, not because I necessarily agree with—or even understand—everything in it.

   And he gave the sun, the moon, and the stars to be worshipped "which God," the Law says, "made for the nations" [Deut. 4:19; what an interesting interpretation of this verse he's about to give!] that they might not become altogether atheistic and so utterly perish. But they, also in the instance of this commandment, having become devoid of sense, and addicting themselves to graven images, are judged unless they repent. Some of them [are judged] because, though able, they would not believe God; and others because, though willing, they did not take the necessary pains to become believers.
   There were also, however, those who, from the worship of the heavenly bodies, did not return to the Maker of them. For this was the influence given to the nations to rise up to God, by means of the worship of the heavenly bodies. But those who would not abide by those heavenly bodies assigned to them, but fell away from them to stocks and stones, "were counted," it is said, "as chaff-dust and as a drop from a jar" [Is. 40:15], beyond salvation, cast away from the body.
   As, then, to be simply saved is the result of medium actions, but to be saved rightly and becomingly is right action, so also all action of the Gnostic [Clement has stolen this term from the gnostics and applied it to the wise Christian] may be called right action; that of the simple believer, intermediate action, not yet perfected according to reason, not yet made right according to knowledge; but that of every heathen again is sinful. For it is not simply doing well, but doing actions with a certain aim, and acting according to reason, that the Scriptures exhibit as requisite. (Miscellanies, VI:14)
It was therefore a fit subject for all fear on the disciples’ part, if both he that possesses wealth and he that is teeming with passions were the rich, and these alike shall be expelled from the heavens. For salvation is the privilege of pure and passionless souls.
   But the Lord replies, "Because what is impossible with men is possible with God." This again is full of great wisdom. For a man by himself working and toiling at freedom from passion achieves nothing. But if he plainly shows himself very desirous and earnest about this, he attains it by the addition of the power of God. For God conspires with willing souls.
   But if they abandon their eagerness, the spirit which is bestowed by God is also restrained. For to save the unwilling is the part of one exercising compulsion; but to save the willing, that of one showing grace. Nor does the kingdom of heaven belong to sleepers and sluggards, "but the violent take it by force." For this alone is commendable violence, to force God and take life from God by force. (Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 20-21)

Tertullian, c. A.D. 210

I find, then, that man was by God constituted free, master of his own will and power; indicating the presence of God’s image and likeness in him by nothing so well as by this constitution of his nature.
   This his state was confirmed even by the very law which God then imposed upon him. For a law would not be imposed upon one who did not have it in his power to render that obedience which is due to law; nor again would the penalty of death be threatened against sin if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will. So in the Creator’s subsequent laws also you will find, when he sets before man good and evil, life and death, that the entire course of discipline is arranged in precepts by God’s calling men from sin, and threatening and exhorting them; and this on no other ground than that man is free, with a will either for obedience or resistance. (Against Marcion II:5)
It was proper that the image and likeness of God should be formed with a free will and a mastery of himself, so that this very thing—namely, freedom of will and self-command—might be reckoned as the image and likeness of God in him. For this purpose such an essence was adapted to man as suited this character, even the divine impulse of the Deity, himself free and uncontrolled. But if you will take some other view of the case, how came it to pass that man, when in possession of the whole world, did not above all things reign with possession of self? Was he a slave to himself? (Against Marcion II:6)
The Divine Goodness ... is now dispensed according to the deserts of every man; it is offered to the worthy, denied to the unworthy, taken away from the unthankful, and also avenged on all its enemies. Thus the entire office of justice in this respect becomes an agency for goodness: whatever it condemns by its judgment, whatever it chastises by its condemnation, whatever ... it ruthlessly pursues, it, in fact, benefits with good instead of injuring. Indeed, the fear of judgment contributes to good, not to evil. (Against Marcion II:13)
When Christ had given to him [probably a slip of the pen, as the context indicates this should be "God had given to Christ") "the Gentiles for his heritage, and the ends of the earth for his possession," ... from then on Christ extended to all men the law of his Father's compassion. He excluded no one from his mercy, just as he omitted no one in his invitation. (Against Marcion IV:16)

Origen, A.D. 225 - 250

For a soul is always in possession of free-will, as well when it is in the body as when it is without it; and freedom of will is always directed either to good or evil. (De Principiis III:3)
It is not consistent with apostolic gravity ... as if it were in no one's power to do any good or evil, to say that it was the Creator's doing that everyone should act virtuously or wickedly because he makes one vessel to honor and another to dishonor. How can he add the statement, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one of us may receive in his body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad"? For what reward of good will be conferred on him who could not commit evil, being formed by the Creator for that very purpose? Or what punishment will be deservedly inflicted on him who was unable to do good as a consequence of the creative act of his Maker? Then again, how is this not opposed to that other declaration elsewhere, that "in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth, some to honor and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purges himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honor, set aside and fit for the Master's use, prepared for every good task. He, accordingly, who purges himself is made a vessel of honor, while he who has disdained to cleanse himself from his impurity is a vessel of dishonor. From such declarations, in my opinion, the cause of our actions can in no degree be referred to the Creator. ... Therefore every individual vessel has has furnished to its Creator out of itself the causes and occasions of its being formed by him to be either a vessel of honor or one of dishonor. ("On the Freedom of the Will"; De Principiis III:1:20)

Cyprian, A.D. 249-258

Concerning the other brethren ... we labor to help them avoid the mischievous fellowship of the crafty impostor. We want them to escape the deadly nets of his solicitations, so that they may once more seek the Church from which he deserved by divine authority to be expelled.
   Such indeed, with the LordÕs help, we trust may return by his mercy, for one cannot perish unless it is plain that he must perish, since the Lord in his Gospel says, "Every planting which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up" [Matt. 15:13]. He alone who has not been planted in the precepts and warnings of God the Father, can depart from the Church; he alone can forsake the bishops and abide in his madness with schismatics and heretics. But the mercy of God the Father, the indulgence of Christ our Lord, and our own patience will unite the rest with us. (Letters of Cyprian 48:4)

Augustine of Hippo, A.D. 395-433

Augustine is considered by many to be the first Christian to teach double predestination, where some are predestined to be saved and others predestined to be condemned. Since I am only so familiar with late 4th century Christianity, I can't tell you I know whether that is true, though I am inclined to believe it is.

Having read all the writings of the 2nd century church, I can tell you that no Christian of the 2nd century believed that God chooses some people not to be saved. You should be able to see that in the quotes above.

By the standards of orthodox Christianity, as testified to by the historic Christian faith

Augustine's position was probably developed in response to Pelagianism. Pelagius taught that man could obey God in his own strength, something that even those who reject double predestination do not believe.

Since there are some persons who so defend God's grace as to deny man's free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended, I have determined to write somewhat on this point … Now [God] has revealed to us, through his Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. How He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine:
   There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will … [Those precepts] are given that no one might be able to plead the excuse of ignorance. As the Lord says concerning the Jews in the Gospel, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin." (A Treatise on Grace and Free Will 1-2)
   [Important Note: Lest Augustine's quote seem to be taken out of context, the editor's preface to A Treatise on Grace and Free Will, as found in NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS, SERIES 1: The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series I, volume V, says the following:
   "In this treatise Augustin teaches us to beware of maintaining grace by denying free will, or free will by denying grace; for that it is evident from the testimony of Scripture that there is in man a free choice of will; and there are also in the same Scriptures inspired proofs given of that very grace of God without which we can do nothing good."]

Martin Luther, d. 1546

See Predestination Quotes by Martin Luther.

John Calvin, d. 1564

Moreover although the Greek Fathers, above others, and especially Chrysostom, have exceeded due bounds in extolling the powers of the human will, yet all ancient theologians, with the exception of Augustine, are so confused, vacillating, and contradictory on this subject, that no certainty can be obtained from their writings. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, II:2:4)

Ian/John Fletcher, d. 1785

This is the plan of this work, in which I equally fight pro aris et focis, for faith and works, for gratuitous mercy and impartial justice; reconcilingb all along Christ our Saviour with Christ our Judge, heated Augustine with Pelagius, free grace with free will; Divine goodness with human obedience, the faithfulness of God's promises with the veracity of his threatening, FIRST and SECOND causes, the original merits of Christ with the derived worthiness of his members, and God's foreknowledge with our free agency. (Antidote to Antinomianism as contained in The Works of Reverend John Fletcher - Volume 2, loc. 170 of 16211)
The Works of Reverend John Fletcher vol. 2; Kindle ed.

John Wesley, d. 1791

I appeal to every impartial mind … whether the mercy of God would not be far less gloriously displayed, in saving a few by his irresistible power, and leaving all the rest without help, without hope, to perish everlastingly, than in offering salvation to every creature, actually saving all that consent thereto, and doing for the rest all that infinite wisdom, almighty power, and boundless love can do, without forcing them to be saved, which would be to destroy the very nature that he had given them. I appeal, I say, to every impartial mind, and to your own, if not quite blinded with prejudice, which of these accounts places the mercy of God in the most advantageous light. (Predestination Calmly Considered 53)

Oswald Chambers, d. 1917

God gets me into a relationship with Himself whereby I understand His call, then I do things out of sheer love for Him on my own account. To serve God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. (unknown)

Roger Olson, 2011

[Calvinists] talk endlessly about God's glory and about God-centeredness while sucking the goodness out of God and thus divesting him of real glory. Their theology may be God-centered but the God at its center is unworthy of being at the center. Better a man-centered theology than one that revolves around a being hardly distinguishable from the devil...this would make Him unworthy of worship. (unknown)

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