Symeon the New Theologian on Foreknowledge and Repentance

I have heard many people people say: ‘Because the Apostle says; “Those whom God foreknew, the same He also predestined; and those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, the same also glorified” [Rom 8:29-30] what good is it to me if I throw myself into many labors, if I give proof of repentance and conversion, when I am neither foreknown nor predestined by God to be saved and conformed to the glory of God His Son?’ We are naturally obliged to state our opinion clearly to such people, and to reply: O, you! Why do you reason to your own perdition rather than your salvation? And why do you pick out for yourselves the obscure passages of inspired Scripture and then tear them out of context and twist them in order to accomplish your own destruction? Do you not hear the Savior crying out every day: ‘As I live . . . I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’ [Ezek 33:11]? Do you not hear Him Who says: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ [Mt 3:2]; and again: ‘Just so, I tell you, there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents’ [Lk 15:7, adapted]? Did He ever say to some: ‘Do not repent for I will not accept you,’ while to others who were predestined: ‘But you, repent! because I knew you beforehand’? Of course not! Instead, throughout the world and in every church He shouts: ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ [Mt 11:28]. Come, He says, all you who are burdened with many sins, to the One Who takes away the sin of the world; come, all who thirst, to the fountain which flows forever and never dies.

. . .

For God knows all things beforehand, both past and present at once, and everything which is going to happen in the future up to the end of the world. He sees them as already present, because in and through Him all things hold together. . . . When He endowed us with free will, giving commandments to teach us instead how we must oppose our adversaries, He left it to the free choice of each either to oppose and vanquish the enemy, or to relax and be miserably defeated by Him. Nor does He leave us entirely to ourselves—for He knows the weakness of human nature—but rather is present Himself with us and, indeed, allies Himself with those who choose to struggle, and mysteriously imbues us with strength, and Himself, not we accomplishes the victory over the adversary. . . .

God, . . . Who is mighty and invincible, becomes, as we just said, an ally of those who willingly choose to do battle with the enemy, and He establishes them as victors over the cunning of the devil. He does not, however, compel any who do not so choose to this war, in order that He not destroy the power of choice which is proper to our reasoning nature, made according to His own image, and bring us down to the level of unreasoning brutes. . . . [He] knows from before the ages exactly who the victors and vanquished are going to be. . . .

This is therefore what Paul himself also knew [in Rom 8:29-30] . . . . It is not God’s foreknowledge of those who, by their free choice and zeal, will prevail which is the cause of their victory, just as, again, it is not His knowing beforehand who will fall and be vanquished which is responsible for their defeat. Instead, it is the zeal, deliberate choice, and courage of each of us which effects the victory. Our faithlessness and sloth, our irresolution and indolence, on the other hand, comprise our defeat and perdition. So, while reclining on our bed of worldly affection and love of pleasure, let us not say: ‘Those whom God fore-knew, them also He predestined’, without perceiving just what it is we are saying. Yes, indeed, He truly knew you beforehand as inattentive and disobedient and lazy, but this is certainly not because He ordered or foreordained it that you should have no power to repent yourself nor, if you will it, to get up and obey. [24]

HT: Logismoi


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