There are here two different but related questions. First is that of how our efforts to please God can be consistent with the fact that we are totally dependent upon His aid. Second is that of how salvation can be both determined by God’s choice and dependent on our free response. As regards the second question, Scripture adds the further complication that God’s election has in some sense been fixed from all eternity. St. Paul writes in his epistle to the Ephesians that God “hath chosen us in him [that is, Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (1:4-6). This doctrine makes the second question harder, for it rules out the possibility that God might perform His election in response to unfolding events. Yet even without it, there would remain the basic question of how human free will can have any efficacy, given that divine choice seems to determine all.
My purpose in this paper is to see what light can be shed on these questions by the writings of St. John Chrysostom. Before beginning, it may be well to say a word about what I see as the proper spirit in which to approach this sort of inquiry. One way to think about St. Chrysostom is that he is one voice among many offering guidance in the interpretation of Scripture. On this view he has no more intrinsic authority than any other commentator; our job is to weigh his arguments and decide for urselves whether they provide an adequate interpretation of the text. Such an approach would be foreign to Orthodoxy, for it gives no weight to the place of St. Chrysostom within Holy Tradition. For us as Orthodox, Chrysostom is not merely one commentator among others; he is the commentator, the one whose exegeses have, more than any others, been taken up and absorbed into the very fabric of Orthodoxy. This does not mean that he is infallible. No doubt he had his blind spots, as we all do. But it does mean that for us he is not simply an isolated voice stating his own private opinions. He is one who spoke on behalf of the Tradition, and who has been accepted by the Church as having spoken well. If we find his statements incomplete or obscure, we are free—indeed, obligated—to supplement them as necessary from elsewhere in the Tradition in order to determine their fuller meaning. This is, I believe, the way in which Chrysostom himself would have us read him.
So much for preliminaries. Now for the first question: how can our own efforts can be efficacious given our complete dependence on grace? Here I think it is helpful to distinguish three levels at which divine grace operates. The first is that of external circumstances, including the actions taken by others with whom we are engaged. This level may be illustrated through Chrysostom’s exegesis of the episode in which Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, so as to receive the blessing intended for Esau. As Chrysostom sees it, there are two points in this story where divine aid is apparent: in the ease with which Isaac was deceived (failing to recognize his own son!), and in the fact that Esau conveniently did not return until it was too late. By arranging matters in this way, God “cooperated” (συνήργησε) with Jacob.2 Yet He did not do so without regard to Jacob’s own effort. Not only had Jacob and his mother, Rebecca, “done what was expected of them, the one heeding his mother’s advice, the other playing her part completely”; various details of the story also indicate that “Jacob was still in a state of anxiety and his apprehension increased, all this happening for us to learn from it that the loving Lord does not idly give evidence of His characteristic providence unless He sees on our part as well fervor in action.”3 So God gave heed not only to Jacob’s obedience but also to the ardor of his desire. All of this illustrates, according to Chrysostom, that “it is neither the case that everything is due to help from on high (rather, we too must contribute something), nor on the other hand does He require everything of us, knowing as He does the extraordinary degree of our limitations; on the contrary, out of fidelity to His characteristic love and wishing to find some occasion for demonstrating His own generosity, He awaits the contribution of what we have to offer.”4
There is an interesting detail in this statement—namely, that it is a sign of God’s generosity that He allows things to depend partly on us. Already we see here one of Chrysostom’s most characteristic themes. That God allows us an independent role is not a kind of weakness or negligence on His part, but a sign of His goodness. An analogy would be that of a parent who is capable of doing everything for his child, but instead waits for the child to act, gauging his own action in response to the child’s commitment and zeal. Does not ordinary human experience suggest that this is often how love works? Only by being allowed to make his own contribution can the child grow into a mature adult, one capable of freely returning his parent’s love.
At this first level, then, the cooperation of God with man can be understood as that of one agent acting in concert with another. Things get a little trickier when we move to the second level, that of God’s action within the human heart. Here the point at which the human contribution ends and God’s begins is much harder to pick out. Nonetheless Chrysostom insists that there must be a boundary of some kind, lest human free will be annulled. Here is a fairly typical statement:
“All indeed depends on God, but not in such a way that our free will (τὸ αὐτεξούσιον) be hindered…. It is both up to us (ἐφ᾽ ἠμῖν) and up to Him (ἐφ᾽ αὐτῶ). For we must first choose the things that are good, and when we have chosen, then He brings in His own part. He does not anticipate our acts of will, lest our free will should suffer indignity; but when we have chosen, then He brings great assistance.”5
Chrysostom then raises as a possible objection the famous statement of St. Paul in Romans, “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (9:16). His reply is that St. Paul here uses the common idiomatic device in which one who is the author of the greater part of a work is said to be its sole cause, as when a house is said to be an architect’s doing even though in fact he only designed it. Paul’s purpose, he says, is “that we should not be lifted up …Even though you run (he would say), even though you excel, do not consider the well-doing your own; for if you do not obtain the impulse from above, all is to no purpose.”6
What is it like to receive this inner divine help? One of the most revealing passages on this subject is Chrysostom’s exegesis of Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good to them that love God.” He cites as an example St. Paul’s statement, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake” (II Cor 12:10). He explains:
“Even if tribulation, or poverty, or imprisonment, or famines, or deaths come upon us, God is able to change all these things into the opposite. For this is an instance of His unspeakable power, His making things seemingly painful to be lightsome to us, and turning them into that which is helpful to us. And so he does not say that nothing dreadful approaches “them that love God,” but that all things “work together for good”; that is, that He uses the dreadful things themselves to make the persons so plotted against approved. This is indeed a much greater thing than hindering the approach of such dangers, or stopping them when they have come.7
How ought we to understand this change? One might be tempted to regard it as no more than a shift in values, one in which the person persecuted comes to appreciate things he earlier had dreaded. But this would make it merely a change of opinion, whereas Chrysostom has in mind something far more significant. It is instead a process of coming to see things as they truly are, and—partly as a result—being empowered to respond to them appropriately. Persecutions and sufferings endured for Christ’s sake truly are a blessing from God, and actually can (and should) be faced with joy rather than dread. Yet to do so is very difficult. The transformation described here is thus not merely a shift in values, but one in which the person who experiences it approaches more closely to God’s own awareness of reality, along with the power to act on that awareness. In a word, he is, to that extent, deified.
To focus only on tribulations such as those endured by St. Paul, however, might leave the impression that divine grace is operative within us only in extraordinary circumstances. That is not Chrysostom’s view. Commenting on the verse, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:26), he explains that it is written, in part, “that you might know that it is not in your labors only and in dangers that this grace stands beside you, but that it cooperates (συμπράττει) even in things that seem to be easiest, and on all occasions bears its part in the alliance.”8 The statement that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought” underscores the point. It shows, says Chrysostom, that we ought not to trust human reasonings (λογισμοῖς) regarding what is beneficial. Yet even for this small act of redirecting our trust toward God, “we need the help of God, so feeble is man, and such a nothing by himself.”9
Even so, some will think that Chrysostom still gives too great a role to human effort, and not enough to divine grace. The reason is that he insists that divine grace is given after we have made a choice, and that along with grace our own contribution, however small, is necessary in any good deed. The objection could be made that he thereby leaves the ultimate initiative in the hands of man rather than God. In particular, if Chrysostom applies this view to the act of coming to faith in Christ—as he does—then it would seem that what in western theology is called the initium fidei
, the beginning of faith, lies with man rather than God. That is a view which in the West is regarded as the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism
In order to assess Chrysostom’s stance on this question, we must move to the third level at which divine grace operates, that of human choice itself. Here it is crucially important to recognize how complex the act of choice truly is. There are at least two ways in which this is true. First, whether one wants something depends on the way it is described, or, more precisely, the way one describes it to oneself. I want to eat the piece of pie before me; I do not want to eat the several hundred calories before me. I want to do whatever it takes to become a fine scholar; I do not want to spend the evening studying Greek. And so on. We are all familiar with how the multitude of ways in which the same action can be described introduces complexity into our decisions. Sometimes the choice of how to act has to be preceded by a deliberate decision to think of the action in one way rather than another; thus I focus on the calories the pie contains, and not its other features, as I choose to forego. At other times we are unable to choose between the different ways of regarding the action, and we drift in indecision, or allow our very lack of decision to make the choice by default. I cannot decide whether my desire to learn Greek outweighs my disinclination to work this evening, and so I let my attention wander, and soon events intervene to remove the decision from me. However, the ways we describe an action are not indefinitely variable, for our thinking is responsive, at least to some extent, to the world around us. The pie really is a certain number of calories, Greek really is of a certain value; I may choose to disregard these facts, but I cannot change them.
The dependence of choice upon description is one source of complexity. Another is that our willing is reflexive, indeed multiply so. I can want to want something (or not to want it), or even want to want to want it, and so on. Philosophers who have discussed this phenomenon speak of first- and second-, or even higher, order desires.11 Thus I may not want to pray at the moment, but I want to want to pray; I realize that the desire is a good one, and that my lack of it is a fault. Interestingly, how these second-order desires translate to the first order varies from case to case. Sometimes one can want to want something without thereby actually wanting it; for example, I might want to want to eat only healthy foods, in the sense that I recognize that this would be an excellent desire to have, and sincerely wish that I did have it, without in any sense actually possessing it. On the other hand, there are cases where to want to want something is tantamount to wanting the thing itself. To return to the example of prayer, if I want to want to pray, do not I thereby, in a sense, want to pray? The problem is not sheer lack of desire; it is that the desire is present but undeveloped, and needs to be actively expressed. Often in such a case one can cultivate the desire by acting as if one already had it. A character in Tristram Shandy remarks, “I kiss my father not because I love him, but in order that I may love him.” That captures nicely the complexity of human desire: there is what we want and what we want to want, and we continually act with an eye toward both sets of desires.
I hope it will now be apparent that the question of whether the act of faith originates with us or with God may not have a simple answer. What, after all, is the act of faith? Is it believing, or wanting to believe—or perhaps even wanting to want to believe? And believing in what, or whom? What, for example, of one who comes to believe in Christ as he was preached by the Arians? Suppose such a person slowly and imperceptibly comes to see that Arianism is inadequate, and that Christ must be acknowledged as truly God; is there some definite point on this continuum which was the initium fidei? And what about motive? Suppose someone comes to believe because he thinks that doing so will get him to heaven, but has no conception of its larger meaning? It might be answered that believing is not primarily a matter of intellectual assent, but of living in faith. Then yet more questions arise. How much faith, and how consistently expressed? If it is fundamentally a way of life that matters, and not an act of assent, then why must belief in God be involved at all? Could not the desire to live a moral life, which often exists long before any act of assent, itself be the initium fidei
My purpose here is not to answer these questions. It is to suggest that, until they and others like them are answered, the question of whether the beginning of faith lies with us or with God has no definite meaning. It is like asking at what point the stubble on a man’s chin becomes a beard, or how many grains of sand are necessary to comprise a heap. In its place I would propose a somewhat different question: in the process which culminates in faith, how do the human and divine contributions interact? We have already seen part of Chrysostom’s answer to this question, for plainly the first two levels we have discussed can be part of this process. However, it remains to be seen how the human and divine interact in the very act of choice.
The most illuminating passage for this purpose is Chrysostom’s discussion of Philippians 2:12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Chrysostom imagines a dialogue about these verses between the Philippians and St. Paul. The Philippians object that if it is God who energizes or makes effective (ἐνεργεῖ) their will, then to say that they have obeyed is meaningless, for “the whole is of God.”12 St. Paul then replies:
“If you will (θελήσεις), then He will make your will effective (ἐνεργήσει τὸ θελεῖν). Do not fear or be distressed; He gives us both the hearty desire (προθυμίαν) and the accomplishment. For when we will, thenceforward He makes the will to grow. For instance, I determine to do something good; He made the good itself actual (ἐνέργησεν αὐτὸ τὸ ἀγαθό), and through it He rendered my will effective (ἐνέργησε τὸ θελεῖν).”13
The key point here is that it is God who makes the good that I seek real and present to me, and through it makes my will effective. Yet for this to be possible, I must already be seeking the good; that is, there must already be in me a will which is receptive to being energized by God. This does not mean that at any point I do the good without God’s help. The will which must be present is not an act, but merely an inclination or desire, and cannot become effective without divine grace.
I believe this explains why one can find seemingly contradictory statements in Chrysostom regarding whether the first movement toward faith comes from God or from us. Most frequently His emphasis is on the necessity of our own contribution; for example, he remarks of Abraham that “had he not first given evidence of his own part, he would not have received the Lord’s help.”14 On the other hand, in commenting on the verse, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7), he says that among the things we receive is faith, for it “came of God’s calling.”15 Likewise, commenting on the verse, “ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you” (Romans 6:17), he observes that it shows both that the Romans came to God of their own accord, and that “the whole was of God’s grace”—for what they came to was, of course, something delivered to them by God.16 There is here no contradiction. Our will does not exist in a vacuum. It is oriented toward the good as that good is real and present to us, and its being thus real and present is the work of God.
I would therefore suggest that the question of whether Chrysostom was a Semi-Pelagian is a pseudo-problem. The question presupposes that we can meaningfully speak of what the power of human choice is like apart from divine grace. A Semi-Pelagian is one who thinks that the will in such a state can choose faith, whereas the opposite view (that of Augustine) holds that it cannot. Chrysostom, however, rejects the presupposition of the question. For him there is no such thing as a totally graceless state of the will, for all choosing is directed toward the good in some form, and that the good is real and present to us is the work of God. The question is always whether we will respond to the good which God has made present in a way that leads to Him. There is no beginning to this process, and no end other than death, for it is the very condition of our existence. Admittedly, in making these sweeping statements I go beyond anything that is explicit in Chrysostom. However, such a view of the will can also be found in other patristic authors of the time, such as St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Cyril of Alexandria, so it was very probably also that of St. Chrysostom.
Let us turn now to the second of our two questions, that of the role of divine election and predestination. In light of the foregoing, much of Chrysostom’s view can already be anticipated. On his account, God calls us by presenting the good to us in a form which, if we respond to it properly, can lead us to Him. Yet our will must be receptive, and so the call is, as Chrysostom puts it, “persuasive” (προτρεπτική) rather than “compulsory” (βιαστική).17 Thus in reading Romans 8, Chrysostom takes the phrase “called according to purpose” (κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς, v. 28), which western commentators ever since Augustine have assumed must refer to God’s purpose, to refer instead to our purpose.18 The call is universal, but only some respond, and they are the ones “called according to purpose.”
In what sense, then, does God elect some and not others? To answer this question Chrysostom uses the analogy of a horse breeder.19 The horse breeder alone is able to recognize the truly fine and noble horses, and chooses them on that basis. In the case of God’s election, what corresponds to preeminence among the horses is faith, virtue, and “nobility of free will” (προαιρέσεως)—in other words, the quality of responding, rightly and with perseverance, to the divine call.20 What corresponds to the horse breeder’s special expertise is divine foreknowledge, which enables God to know, even as He calls us, how we will ultimately respond. Thus, although the call is universal, in another sense God may be said to have “called”— that is, effectively called—only those who ultimately will respond properly. Since God already knows who these people are, Scripture refers to them as the “elect” (ἐκλεκτοί).
In this way Chrysostom defuses much of the anxiety, or even resentment against God, which has often been prompted by the doctrine of predestination. It is interesting that he does not bother to mention perhaps the strongest evidence in favor of this interpretation, I Peter 1:2, where St. Peter addresses those to whom he writes as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” The fact that he does not merely indicates that he did not feel himself to be teaching anything new or controversial. That divine election is determined by God’s foreknowledge of our free response was virtually the unanimous teaching of the entire Church, East and West, prior to Augustine.21
Nonetheless, this approach alone is not fully adequate. By totally subordinating divine election to divine foreknowledge, it seems to render the very concept of election unnecessary. If in referring to election the Scriptural authors really intend to refer to God’s foreknowledge of our future response, why do they not say so? Why introduce the potentially misleading concept of election, which at least seems to suggest a preference for some over others? And why does St. Paul in Romans 9 base his argument on examples where God seems actively to reject certain persons, as in hardening Pharaoh’s heart and choosing Jacob over Esau? Surely these examples are meant to emphasize the initiative and selectivity of the divine will. It does not seem adequate to think of the divine initiative purely in terms of a call given to all, to which only some respond.
At this point we can usefully draw on an idea which is implicit, but not always emphasized, in Chrysostom’s text. It would be a mistake to think that all references in Scripture to election or predestination have to do with the election of individuals to salvation. That is an assumption which Augustine, among others, generally made, and the main tradition of western theology has followed him. However, if that were St. Paul’s subject in Romans, then it would hardly be appropriate that he chose as his examples God’s rejection of Esau and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. After all, we have no definite knowledge regarding whether either Esau or Pharaoh ultimately was saved. What we know instead is how God chose to use them within salvation history—by continuing the line of Israel through Jacob rather than Esau, and by “getting glory” upon Pharaoh. In fact, when one steps back and looks at the larger context of Romans 9-11, it is plain that the subject of chapter 9 is not which individuals will be saved, but the fate of Israel as the chosen people. St. Paul wishes to explain how it is possible, given the promises God made to Abraham and his offspring, that Israel has now seemingly been rejected in favor of the Gentiles. His answer is that the corporate election of Israel has not been revoked, but that there is now added to it a corporate election of the Gentiles, or rather, of those who believe from among the Gentiles. The effect of this is not to replace Israel, but to “graft” the believing Gentiles onto the tree of Israel in place of its broken branches (11:19). What has been foreknown and predetermined from all the ages is simply this—that God would, at the proper time and in the proper way, graft the believing Gentiles onto the tree. It is important to notice that nothing follows from this about the salvation of any individual. Whether an individual belongs to the branch which is grafted onto the tree remains a matter of his free response.
The same reasoning also applies to the other most important Pauline passage pertaining to election, Ephesians 1. To repeat the text I quoted earlier, God “hath chosen us in him [that is, Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (1:4-6). The important question here is, who is “us”? Surely it would be odd for St. Paul to assume that every individual in the church of Ephesus had been chosen by God in a way that would guarantee his salvation. A far more plausible reading is that he has in mind the corporate identity of the Church, which—as he explains in chapter 5—has been chosen from all eternity to be the bride of Christ, “holy and without blemish” (5:27). Nothing follows from this about the fate of any particular individual. As in Romans, the fate of an individual depends upon whether, of his own free accord, he enters and remains within the mystical communion of the Church.
To recognize that St. Paul’s subject is God’s act of corporate election seems to me the essential complement to recognizing that election is dependent upon foreknowledge. Only by combining both points can one recognize the element of divine initiative in the act of election, without thereby rendering election something arbitrary and inscrutable.22 Chrysostom’s exegesis of Romans, although it is not fully explicit on this subject, is certainly compatible with such a view. He recognizes that God’s rejection of Esau was not tantamount to eternal condemnation, but had to do rather with which of the two brothers would serve the other.23 Likewise he recognizes that Pharaoh was chosen by God, not for damnation, but for a particular role in history—namely, that God “used him for the correction of others, through the punishment inflicted upon him making them better, and in this way setting forth His power.”24 He also emphasizes that the passage on the potter and the clay (Rom. 9:20-23) is not to be taken as indicating a difference in creation, as if God had created some for damnation. Instead it indicates God’s “sovereignty over the dispensations (οἰκονομιῶν)”—that is, that “God, out of the same race of men, punishes some and honors others.”25 Finally, as regards Ephesians 1, he takes it that the passage pertains to “the things concerning us,” where “us” refers to the Church as a collective body. He explains, “This is a point which he [Paul] is anxious to prove in almost all his epistles, that the things concerning us (τὰ καθ᾽ ἠμᾶς) are not novel, but have been prefigured from the very first, and are not the result of any change of purpose, but have been foreordained and are the result of a divine dispensation.”26
At the same time, nothing in this reading requires that all Scriptural references to election are about corporate election. The Gospels present a different context from that of the Pauline letters, for in the Gospels the discussion generally takes place among Jews who have from a young age been taught the Law of Moses. The inclusion of gentiles within the chosen people is not at issue. It makes perfect sense in this context to think of all as having been called, but only some as having been effectively called, that is, as having freely responded with obedience and faith to the Law. That is how Chrysostom takes the verses about being drawn by the Father in John chapter 6, as well as the statement of our Lord that to the disciples it has been “given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11), but to others it has not been given.27
In conclusion, if there is a thread which unites Chrysostom’s thought on the several topics we have examined, it is God’s goodness. It is because God is good that He respects our freedom while cooperating with our good intent, working in every way possible to bring us to salvation. Likewise, because God is good He has foreordained from the beginning of time to extend salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. The pervasiveness of this conviction throughout Chrysostom’s work shows, I think, that it was for him not an abstract proposition, but a matter of lived experience. Let us pray that we too, by listening to his words and walking in his footsteps, may attain like him to the experience of the living God.
All quotations from the Bible are from the King James Version.
Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 53.2 (PG 54 466); tr. Robert C. Hill, Saint John
Chrysostom: Homilies on Genesis, 3 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America
Press, 1985-1992), vol. 3, 83. I use the section numbers in PG, which often differ from those of
the English translation.
Ibid., 53.2-3 (PG 54 466-67; tr. Hill, vol. 3, 83-84).
Ibid., 53.2 (PG 54 466; tr. Hill, vol. 3, 82-83).
Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews 12.3 (PG 63 99); tr. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First
Series (= NPNF) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983 [reprint]), vol. 14, 425. I have modified
translations from NPNF for the sake of style and to bring out important features of the Greek.
Ibid., 12.3 (PG 63 100; NPNF vol. 14, 425). Chrysostom also provides an alternative
explanation of Rom. 9:16, namely that it is not Paul’s own teaching but merely his statement of
what seems to follow from the verse (Ex. 33:19) he has just quoted.
Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 15.1 (PG 60 540; NPNF vol. 11, 452).
Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 14.7 (PG 60 532; NPNF vol. 11, 446).
Ibid. (PG 60 533; NPNF vol. 11, 446-47).
For discussion of whether Chrysostom was a Semi-Pelagian see Ernest Jauncey, The Doctrine
of Grace up to the End of the Pelagian Controversy (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), 166-72; E.
Boularand, “La nécessité de la grace pour arriver à la foi d’après Saint Jean Chrysostome,”
Gregorianum 19 (1938), 515-42; Anthony Kenny, “Was Saint John Chrysostom a Semi-
Pelagian?”, Irish Theological Quarterly 37 (1960), 16-29; cf. Maurice Wiles, The Divine
Apostle: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles in the Early Church (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1967), 106-108.
See Harry Frankfurt, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of the Person” in his The
Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Chrysostom, Homilies on Philippians 8.1 (PG 62 240; NPNF vol. 13, 220). For the
justification for taking energei here as to energize or make effective see my “The Divine
Energies in the New Testament,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 50 (2006), 189-223,
especially 214-20. Note that the translation used by NPNF, “to work the will,” is not meaningful
Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 42.1 (PG 54 385; tr. Hill, vol. 2, 419, modified).
Chrysostom, Homilies on I Corinthians 12.2 (PG 61 98; NPNF vol. 12, 65). See also
Chrysostom’s comment on Ephesians 2:8, “for by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not
of yourselves; it is the gift of God”: “Neither is faith, he means, ‘of ourselves.’ Because had He
not come, had He not called us, how had we been able to believe? For ‘how,’ he says, ‘shall they
believe, unless they hear?’ (Rom. 10:14). So the work of faith itself is not our own.” Homilies
on Ephesians 4.2 (PG 62 33; NPNF vol. 13, 67).
Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 11.4 (PG 60 489; NPNF vol. 11, 412).
See Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 80.3 (PG 58 728; NPNF vol. 10, 483); Homilies on
John 47.4 (PG 59 268; NPNF vol. 14, 172). Both passages cite the example of Judas.
Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 15.1 (PG 60 541; NPNF vol. 11, 453).
Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 15.3 (PG 60 543; NPNF vol. 11, 454).
Ibid., 16.6-7 (PG 60 556-57; NPNF vol. 11, 465-66).
See Dom M. John Farrelly, Predestination, Grace, and Free Will (Westminster, Md.:
Newman Press, 1964), 73-79; James Jorgenson, “Predestination according to Foreknowledge in
Patristic Tradition,” Salvation in Christ: A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, ed. John Meyendorff
and Robert Tobias (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1992), 159-69. For an excellent discussion of the
broader background see also Robert L. Wilken, “Free Choice and the Divine Will in Greek
Christian Commentaries on Paul,” Paul and the Legacies of Paul, ed. William S. Babcock
(Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990), 123-40.
For further discussion of corporate election see John Breck, “The New Testament Concept of
Election,” Salvation in Christ: A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, 151-58; Jerry L. Walls and
Joseph R. Dongell, Why I Am Not a Calvinist (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press,
Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 16.5 (PG 60 555; NPNF vol. 11, 464).
Ibid., 16.8 (PG 60 560; NPNF vol. 11, 468). Note also that “if Pharaoh was not saved, it was
entirely owing to his own will, since, as for what concerns God, he had no less than those who
were saved,” 16.9, italics added (PG 60 561; NPNF vol. 11, 469).
Ibid., 16.8 (PG 60 559; NPNF vol. 11, 468). According to Wilken, this was also the general
view among the Greek Christian commentators. “The theological issue in Romans 9, according
to Greek Christian commentators, is whether God’s purpose follows nature—that is, blood,
kinship, race—or whether it follows God’s will or intention . . . . Gennadius of Constantinople
argues that Paul is responding to Jewish objections that God’s promise is tied to race, that is, to
nature . . . . ‘God does not serve the necessity of nature.’ Rather, God acts according to ‘his own
purpose, not dependent on [human] deeds or natural kinship’” (“Free Choice and the Divine
Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesians 1.2 (PG 62 12; NPNF vol. 13, 51).
See Chrysostom, Homilies on John 47.2-3 (PG 59 265-66; NPNF vol. 14, 170); Homilies on
Matthew 45.1 (PG 58 471-72; NPNF vol. 10, 285).