Predestination Long Before John Calvin (Part III)

This is part three on St Symeon the New Theologian who wrote on the Biblical topics of predestination and fore-ordination. St Symeon reflects the consensus of teaching of the Orthodox Church, long before John Calvin made it the cornerstone of his own unbiblical system  – RAS


Repentance and predestination to salvation – St Symeon the New Theologian

While he was still in paradise, Adam was called to repentance. For God said to him: “Adam, where are you?;” and : “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I told you not to eat?” [Gen 3:9 and 11]. Yet, when he heard this, he did not want to repent, or to weep, or beseech forgiveness. But why? He makes the woman responsible for his foolishness and his sin. Therefore he is indeed rightly thrown out of Paradise. Because Adam did not want at that time to repent, and because this was at the counsel of the evil demon, for the same reason God, when he comes on the earth, calls everyone to Himself through repentance, saying: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” [Mat 4:17]. He is at hand. He stands at the gates of your hearts and minds. Open your hearts through faith and He will enter immediately, and, at the same moment, your mouths will be opened up, and you will cry: “We have the treasure of the Spirit within us”. We have it! We possess in our hearts life everlasting! Consider this: God calls the Jews first of all, and they were not persuaded to depart from their ways. Lastly, He calls all the nations through His son and, persuaded, they run and flee to Him. Therefore, He also says to His Apostles: “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame” [Luke 14:21]. By “city” He means all this world. “Streets and alleys” means the tribes of the nations, and the countries which are hidden and far away. “Poor and maimed, both blind and lame” means those who are tormented by their many sins and different faults and lawlessness, and by their ignorance of God.

DoublePredestinationHe invites everyone from East to West, I mean both Hebrews and Greeks. As we have often said, He, as God, knew beforehand the disobedience of the Hebrews by reason of their faithlessness, and the conversion of the Gentiles out of faith. And, before the ages, He predestined that as many as should believe in Him and be baptized in His name, that is, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and eat the pure body of His son and drink His precious blood, would be justified from sin, which is to say, would be freed and glorified, and become partakers of life everlasting — just as He Himself, the Master of all, has said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood has everlasting life” [John 6:54], and “He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” So then, my brother, see how you were foreknown by God, and predestined, and glorified, and justified, and called up into everlasting life through faith in Christ and holy Baptism. And you were not, as Adam before, introduced to a physical paradise, but to Heaven and the good things which are in Heaven, which “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived” [1 Cor 2:9]. Therefore, work at the virtues and keep God’s commandments. Rather, by means of the Commandments keep yourself from transgressing anything which has been ordered of you, lest indeed, you yield to Adam’s example — or even to worse — and be deprived of the greater and heavenly good things. Do not prefer anything terrestrial, nor let any lust overpower you, so that you not be stripped of the glory with which you have been glorified by Christ and, as not robed in a wedding garment, be bound hand and foot, and be cast into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth [Mat 22:11-13].

Faith in Christ is the new Paradise. Thus God knew before the foundation of the world all who believed and will believe in Him, whom He called and will not cease calling until the end, whom He glorified and will glorified, justified and will justify; those, clearly, whom He reveals as conformed to the image of His Son through holy Baptism and the grace of the Holy Spirit. He makes them mystically all His sons, and establishes them as new out of old, immortals out of mortals, and gives them Commandments as once He gave to Adam. As many, then, as shall keep His commandments until death, the same show forth their love for God and ascend progressively toward yet greater glory. As many, however, as are contemptuous and inattentive and ungrateful regarding their Benefactor, and will not keep the Commandments which were given by Him, will fall from these good things like Adam fell from paradise — not because they were not foreknown by God, but as suffering from their own foolishness and evil. On this account therefore, God also placed within this Paradise the saving medicine of repentance, such that those who fall from everlasting life out of sloth and inattention may have sent to it again with a brighter and more resplendent glory. For, unless the God who loves mankind had arranged for this, no flash would be saved. [Mat 24:22]

So, putting aside every other concern, let us attend so far as we are able to repentance, so that we may attain to the present and future good things, by the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and majesty unto ages of ages. Amen.

From St Symeon “On the Mystical Life : The Ethical Discourses – Vol 1 The Church and the Last Things” (Pgs 113-115)

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