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Early church vs Gnostics on mans nature. Jesse Morrell

THE EARLY CHURCH vs. THE GNOSTICS ON MAN’S NATURE

Jesse Morrell

(Excerpt from “Free Will & Conscience”)

The Early Church taught that free will was an essential element of our God given

nature [constitution], and that we abuse that free will when we choose to sin. Irenaeus

said, “Forasmuch as all men are of the same nature, having power to hold and to do that

which is good, and having power again to lose it, and not to do what is right; before men

of sense, (and how much more before God!) some… are justly accused, and receive

condign punishment, because they refuse what is just and right.” Again Irenaeus said,

“Those who do not do it [good] will receive the just judgment of God, because they had

not work good when they had it in their power to do so. But if some had been made by

nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good,

for they were created that way. Nor would the former be reprehensible, for that is how

they were made. However, all men are of the same nature. They are all able to hold fast

and to go what is good. On the other hand, they have the power to cast good from them

and not to do it.” Origen said, “The Scriptures…emphasize the freedom of the will. They

condemn those who sin, and approve those who do right… We are responsible for being

bad and worthy of being cast outside. For it is not the nature in us that is the cause of the

evil; rather, it is the voluntary choice that works evil.” Origen said that “the heretics [the

Gnostics] introduce the doctrine of different natures.”

The sin of Lucifer, Adam, Eve, and the rest of the world could not have occurred

without free will. Sin implies free will. Sin does not imply a “sinful nature” (sin is a

criminal choice, not a crippled nature). Lucifer, Adam, and Eve, were all created perfect

by God, and sinned without a sinful nature because they had a free will. And the entire

world has followed their example, using their free will in the same way. The universality

of sin proves the universality of free will and the universality of temptation. The

universality of sin does not prove the universality of a sinful nature or that sin is

unavoidable. Where causation or necessity exists, neither sin nor temptation can exist.

For the first three hundred years of the Church the Christian’s preached that free

will was a part of our nature [constitution] and that sin was an abuse of that free will.

These Christian leaders earnestly contended against the Gnostics and Manicheans who

preached that we sin necessarily out of defect of our inherited nature. The Gnostics and

Manicheans taught that our nature did not have any free will and we necessarily sin as a

result. For that reason Jerome said, “Free will…. Let the man who condemns it, be

condemned.”

The orthodox doctrine of the Early Church was that all men inherit original

ability at birth. John Calvin admitted that “The Greek fathers above others” have taught

“the power of the human will.” And Calvin also said, “The Latin fathers have always

retained the word free will…” Episcopius said, “What is plainer than that the ancient

divines, for three hundred years after Christ, those at least who flourished before St.

Augustine, maintained the liberty of our will, or an indifference to two contrary things,

free from all internal and external necessity!” Asa Mahan said that free will “was the

doctrine of the primitive church for the first four or five centuries after the Bible was

written, the church which received the ‘lively oracles’ directly from the hands of some of

those by whom they were written, to wit: the writers of the New Testament. It should be

borne in mind here, that at the time the sacred canon was completed, the doctrine of

Necessity was held by the leading sects in the Jewish Church. It was also the fundamental

article of the creed of all the sects in philosophy throughout the world, as well as of all

the forms of heathenism then extant. If the doctrine of Necessity, as its advocates

maintain, is the doctrine taught the church by inspired apostles and the writers of the New

Testament, we should not fail to find, under such circumstances, the churches planted by

them, rooted and grounded in this doctrine.” Rather, we find that the Early Church

affirmed free will while the Gnostic heretics denied it and affirmed a slaved will through

a totally corrupted nature. David Bercot, a modern expert on early Christian beliefs and

doctrines said, “The Early Christians didn’t believe that man is totally depraved [totally

unable] and incapable of doing any good. They taught that humans are capable of

obeying and loving God.” He went on to say, “There was a religious group, labeled as

heretics by the early Christians… they taught that man is totally depraved [totally

unable]… the group I’m referring to are the Gnostics.”

Around the time of 370-430A.D. Gnostic and Manichean influence started to

actually infiltrate the Christian Church, polluting it with their heretical doctrines. Some of

the Church began to embrace and teach the doctrines of necessity and inability. Pelagius

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was a monk who earnestly yet meekly defended the doctrines of the Early Church,

particularly the doctrine of free will. Dr Wiggers said, “All the fathers…agreed with the

Pelagians, in attributing freedom of will to man in his present state.” Pelagius heroically

refuted the Semi-Gnosticism or Semi-Manichaeism which was corrupting Christian

theology. And he severely suffered persecution for his stand against the rising heresy.

Pelagius said, “Those who are unwilling to correct their own way of life appear to

want to correct nature itself instead.” He goes on to say, “And lest, on the other hand, it

should be thought to be nature's fault that some have been unrighteous, I shall use the

evidence of the scripture, which everywhere lay upon sinners the heavy weight of the

charge of having used their own will and do not excuse them for having acted only under

constraint of nature.” And also, “Obedience [and disobedience] results from a decision of

the mind, not the substance of the body.” And as has been shown throughout this treatise,

the Early Church Fathers prior to Pelagius taught explicitly the same things regarding sin

and free will. Free will was a Christian doctrine while a crippled nature was a Gnostic

heresy.

"Certain ones of those [Gnostic's] who hold different opinions misuse these

passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of

salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be

lost." Origen

 
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