Thursday, October 24, 2013

Origen's response to those who use Rom 9:16 to argue that man does not have free will

"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." - Rom 9:16

"Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain." - Psalm 127:1

In this [Psalm 127:1] he is not dissuading us from building or teaching us not to keep awake in order to guard the city in our soul [allegorical interpretation of verse 1], but he is showing us that what is built without God and what does not receive its guard from him is built in vain and protected to no purpose, since God may reasonably be regarded as the lord of the building and the Master of the universe as the ruler of the guard for the city.

So then, if we were to say, "This building is not the work of the builder but of God, or, it is owing to the efforts not of the guard but of God the Ruler of all that this city has suffered no harm from its enemies; it being understood that some part of the work had been done by man but that the happy result was to be gratefully attributed to God who brought it to pass.

In the same way, since human will is not sufficient to enable us to attain the end, nor is the running of those who are, as it were, athletes sufficient to enable them to gain 'the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus' - for these things are accomplished by God's assistance - it is well said that 'it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who has mercy.' Just as if one were to say about farming, as indeed is is actually written, 'I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase; so that neither is he that planteth anything, not he that watereth, but God giveth the increase,' and we could not piously say that the production of full crops was the work of the farmer or the work of the waterer, but the work of God.

So, too, our perfection does not come to pass without our doing anything, and yet it is not completed as a result of our efforts, but God performs the greater part of it....

So indeed with our salvation the effects of God's work are very much in excess of the effects of what we can do. This, I believe, is the reason why it was said, 'It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.' For if we are to take this passage in the sense that our opponents suggest, the commandments are superfulous, and it is in vain when Paul himself clames some for having fallen away and approves others for remaining steadfast and gives directions to the churches; it is useless, too, for us to for us to yield ourselves up to willing what is better, useless also for us to try to run.

But it is notin vain when Paul gives all his advice, and when he blames some and approves others, nor is it in vain when we yield ourselves up to willing what is better and to desiring eagerly the things that are excellent. Our opponents, therefore have not rightly explained the meaning of the passage.

- On First Principles 3.1.19 200's

Thoughts? Does Origen's explanation make sense? I hadn't heard this argument so well articulated before.

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