In the spring 2011 edition of the Journal of Early Christian Studies Dr. Matyáš Havrda gives a very critical overview of grace and free will.  Dr. Havrda is not critical in a negative sense, but uses the view of a great Church Father to describe the role of grace and free will.  This is very important some in the evangelical world who take extreme positions on the view.  Either the grace, or sovereignty of God, is the cause of all events, or it is what has been caused by the free will of man.  Dr. Havrda looks at the writings and life of one of the most well-known early church fathers to make the case that both work to make the will of God happen.

The willingness of man to participate in the divine plan of God is a choice man must make.  Dr. Havdra writes, “According to Clement, God does not deprive humanity of anything they possess for the sake of this goal, and those ‘who have chosen to lead a good life’ he even strengthens by inspiration[1].”  From this sentence we may derive that one must first make the choice to follow the Lord then the Lord gives the strength needed to persevere and do his will.  To illustrate this Dr. Havdra quotes Clement from his work known as the Stromata.  Clement of Alexandria states, “For it is obvious that their good nature and holy choice is honored by him, as is clear from the fact that people who have chosen to lead a good life are strengthened by his inspiration for the ensuing salvation[2].”

Clement of Alexandria lived from 150 AD to 215 AD, and free will of the believer appears to be something that was established Christian doctrine.   Dr. Havdra further explains, “The distinction between the ‘exhortatory’ and ‘helping’ modes of divine pedagogy opens the space of human freedom and responsibility for salvation[3].”  Free will is further described as being what distinguishes a child from a slave.  So what about the sovereignty of God and predestination?  Dr. Havdra writes, “Clement’s remark according to which God ‘sees in advance even the end of things’ indicates the possibility that God in Clement’s view knows the outcome of our choice even ‘before the foundation of the world,’ and those who make the right choice and reach the goal of perfection are ‘predestined’ only in consequence of this previously known outcome[4].”

In conclusion the article does a great job in reconciling the free choice we all have to follow God along with the sovereignty of God.    It does so using the work of a much respected early church father which adds credence to the thought that the two ideas need not be enemies.    God desires salvation for everyone, but it is our choice whether we accept that gift.  If we do he is faithful and will empower us to do his will.

 

Bibliography

Matyáš Havrda. “Grace and Free Will According to Clement of Alexandria.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011): 21-48. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed June 14, 2015).

[1] Matyas Havdra, “Grace and Free Will According To Clement Of Alexandria,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011, spring): 22-48.

[2] Matyas Havdra, “Grace and Free Will According To Clement Of Alexandria,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19, no. 1 (2011, spring): 22-48.

[3] Ibid, 28.

[4] Ibid, 46.

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