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1. “The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church.". Drawn up by Mogilas, (ob. 1647,) in 1640 it was sanctioned by a synod of the Greek and Russian clergy in 1643. It was then signed by the four Eastern Patriarchs. It is the fundamental creed of the whole Greek and Russian Church. On the subject of depravity and regeneration this confession teaches thus, (Schaff, Creeds, ii, 304–8 :) God co-operates with our good acts, yet in such a manner as not to force our free-will. Though all are born with a depraved nature, yet each one can, by his will and choice, (céanoiv kal Tipoalpeolv,) through the use of grace, become a holy seed, or the contrary. Whether we are actually the children of God or of the devil depends upon ourselves; yet in this sense, that in our spiritual life divine grace co-operates with us, (Oeia xapis ovußonoël,) though without forcing our wills.
2. The so-called “Confession of Dositheus" was sanctioned in 1672 by the most important Eastern synod of modern times. It was signed by the Patriarch Dositheus and sixty-eight Oriental Bishops and ecclesiastics. We cite from it the following affirmations : “God has predestinated to glory those who he foresaw would make good use of their free-will in accepting salvation, and has condemned those who would reject it, (Kaλώς [or κακώς] το αυτεξουσίω χρησομένους.) [See Schaff, ii, 403.] But our free-will needs always the assistance of grace, which is amply given to all men. Those who oppose this view, and teach an unconditional predestination, are impious and blasphemous heretics. They insult God, and make him the author of monstrous cruelty. We lay upon them an eternal anathema, and declare them worse than infidels. God foresees and permits (but does not foreordain) evil, and he overrules it for good. The fall did not destroy man's free-will, (rò dutefoúolov.) Good works done without faith cannot contribute to our salvation; only the works of the regenerate, done under grace and with grace, are perfect.”
3. The “ Larger Catechism of the Orthodox Catholic Eastern Church." This is the most authoritative standard of the Russian Church. It was adopted in 1839, and is very comprehensive. We cite as follows: “God has predestined to give to all men, and has actually given to them, preparatory grace and means sufficient for the attainment of happiness." "As
God foresaw that some would use well their free-will, but others ill, he accordingly predestined the former to glory, while the latter he condemned.” “ Was it for us all, strictly speaking, that Jesus Christ suffered ? For his part he offered himself as a sacrifice strictly for all, and obtained for all grace and salvation; but this benefits only those of us who, for their parts, of their own free-will, have fellowship in his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."
This brings us to the close of the stream of Greek orthodoxy.. As to the question before us, the result is unmistakably clear: The great Oriental Church has taught from the beginning that in the process of regeneration, it is necessary that the human spirit and divine grace shall co-operate; and it has understood this co-operation, this synergism, substantially in the sense in which Arminius and John Wesley afterward taught it. Arminius and Wesley's view of the role of human freedom is no theological novelty, but is a correct reflection of the orthodox catholic consciousness as represented by the entire stream of Greek dogmatic thought. The Orthodox Oriental Church (embracing at least eight millions of the Christian population of the world) is synergistic.
How will it result with our examination of the other, the Western, stream of theological development? Is the Latin Church (with its modern offshoot, Protestantism) synergistic or monergistic? Is its general theological drift better reflected by John Calvin or by James Arminius ? "
Let us examine the records. We have already seen that the earliest Christian writers of the one common Church are very distinct in their recognition of the moral autonomy of man, and that this recognition was equally positive throughout the history of Greek Christian orthodoxy. Turning now to the beginnings of a distinctive Latin Christianity, we meet, first, with Irenæus, ob. 202. “Irenæus,” says Dr. Schaff, “cannot conceive of man without the two separate predicates of intelligence and freedom.” He insists that souls cannot be good or bad by mere nature, (φύσει αγαθαι και πονηραι ψυχαί.) Man is free, and is himself the cause of the good or the ill outcome of his life: “Liber in arbitrio factus et suae potestatis ipse sibi causa est, ut aliquando quidem frumentum, aliquando autem
At the same time he insists that in fallen man
grace must co-operate with man's freedom. See Luthardt, 16: Hagenbach, i, 157.
Next we come to Tertullian, ob. cir. 220. His conception of regeneration is strictly ethical : "Fiant, non nascuntur Christiani.” The image of God is not destroyed by the fall. Christianity meets a response from man's innate God-consciousness, (“anima naturaliter Christiana.”) Even fallen man retains his moral freedom, (Tờ đUtečoúolov.) Moral freedom is not so much extinguished as hampered : “Quod a Deo est, non tam extinguitur quam obumbratur.”—De Anima, 41. Grace transforms man only in co-operation with his freedom. Moral freedom, rightly used, constitutes a receptivity for grace; a possibility of faith.
Cyprian (ob. 258) was no less a synergist than Tertullian. The reception of grace presupposes faith : “Quantum fidei capacis afferimus, tantum gratiae inundantis haurimus. And faith is not God's act, but man's : “ Credendi vel non credendi libertas in arbitrio forita.”—Testim., iii, 54.
So taught also Hilary, ob. 268. The incipiency of the new life lies in ourselves : “Incipiendi a nobis origo est.” It is of the essence of freedom that it acts of itself: “Voluntas nostra hoc proprium ex se habere debet, ut velit.” God cooperates with our efforts : “Incipienti incrementum dabit.” This moral significance or value of regeneration lies in the fact that it is not simply a thing done to us, like our creation, but one in which we have a part from the very start : “Meritum adipiscendæ consummationis est ex initio voluntatis." God helps us 'on condition of our being willing : “ Volentes adjuvet, incipiendes confirmet, adeuntes recipiat ; ex nobis autem initium est." See Luthardt, 24.
Ambrose (ob. 398) laid greater stress than Hilary on prevenient grace, but was very positively synergistic. “We begin," says he, “our return to God, but we do not begin without God. The Sun of Righteousness wills that we turn toward it; and it is ready upon our turning.' “Both Ambrose and Hilary teach the synergistic theory.” Shedd, ii, 49.
Jerome (ob. 419) was synergistic. Man has the ability of good or of evil; which he actually does depends on his free choice. He stands between the two: “Inter hoc jurgium media anima constitit, habens in sua potestate bonum et malum
velle et nolle."-Ad Gal., iii. Original sin is not guilt, but inherited disorder. From this disorder springs the necessity of prevenient grace. In order to salvation grace and freedom .must co-operate : “Quamvis enim propria voluntate ad Deum revertamus, tamen nisi ille nos traxerit et cupiditatem nostram suo roboraverit praesidio, salvi esse non poterimus."-In Jerem, i, 3. Predestination is conditioned on foreknowledge of man's free conduct.
We now come to the first noteworthy dissent from the catholic orthodox view of the relations of grace and freedom. Augustinianism is an innovation of the fifth century. But' for more than half of his lifetime Augustine himself (ob. 430) held the orthodox catholic synergistic view. In 387 (at the age of 33) he held that it is by our free act of faith that we are cleansed from sin : “Peccatores credere jubentur, ut a peccatis credendo purgentur.” A moral act of the will constitutes the reason why God justifies the one and not the other : “Praecedit aliquid in peccatoribus, quo, quamais nondum sint justificati, digni efficiantur justificatione.” A divine call (vocatio) turns man's attention to his need of salvation; but this vocatio becomes effectual only through the mediation of the will.
In his work on the will (A. D. 390) Augustine teaches thus: Despite all the weakness of the sinner, he has got the ability to pray, to ask, to strive. God opens to those who knock. Man is honored with the ability to seek rightly after salvation : “Tantum illi praestitit dignitatis, ut in ejus etiam potestate poneret, si vellet ad beatitudinem tendere.” In commenting on Romans he says: “It is nowhere said that God believes all things
Our faith, therefore, is our own.” “God gives his Spirit to one who he foreknows will believe.”
About the time of his episcopal consecration (396) Augustine (at the age of 42) is thrown out of accord with catholic doctrine by the reaction of his opposition to Pelagianism. In combating undue freedomism he is led to extinguish moral freedom altogether. Two other factors helped to drive him to this extreme; namely, the remnants of his previous Manicheism and a physical conception of the action of grace. These influences were seen in his tractate, Ad Simplicianum. He here abandons the ethical character of the vocatio which God sends to sinners. The vocatio is now not the occasion of our
faith, but the efficient cause of it, (* vocatio est effectrix bonae voluntatis.") This physical conception of grace landed Augustine necessarily in the non-catholic, unorthodox view of a particularistic predestination. If the vocatio is per se effective of faith, and if the mass of men do not have faith, then, of course, the vocatio is given only to particular individuals—the elect.
Pelagius, ignoring the deep significance of the fall, had taught not only that our freedom enables us to initiate a holy life, (“possibilitas bonae actionis a Deo creatore insita,") but also that all the grace we need consists in simple instruction. Augustine .did not correct this by holding that the downward force of universal depravity needs to be counteracted—and is counteracted -by an equally universal prevenient grace, (a grace which is only by accommodation termed grace at all, inasmuch as it is called for by the mere justice of God,) so that by this prevenient owed grace all men are now in fact able to co-work with the calling Spirit, and thus inaugurate holy lives; but he went to the opposite error, denied that the counteraction of depravity is a debt of divine justice, and held that this counteraction, wherever wrought, gives to us not only the ability to initiate a holy life, but also actually produces that life. Thus Augustinianism and Pelagianism are simply two equal heresies, each equally distant from the catholic doctrine, and each containing that half of the whole truth which the other suppressed. The true half of Pelagianism is its defense of the moral autonomy of man; its false half is its suppression of grace. It is a monergism of man. The true half of Augustinianism is its emphasizing the necessity of grace; its false half is its suppressing the moral autonomy of man. It is a monergism of God. The catholic view rejects the two errors and embraces the two truths. The catholic doctrine is not monergism but synergism. Neither God nor man, grace nor freedom, is to be suppressed ; but grace and freedom co-operate.
The error of Pelagius tends to an insipid deism, that of Augustine to pantheism.
Another error which Augustine introduced into theology was that of a double, namely, a secret and revealed, will in God, the one not always harmonizing with the other. It came about thus : The Gospel is full of invitations to all men to come to God. But the grace of coming to God is not given to all.