Church Fathers, Day Seventy: St. Ephrem discusses free will

Church Fathers, Day Seventy: St. Ephrem discusses free will September 29, 2014

st_ephrem_3Denying free will proves that there is free will

We Christians know that we have free will: that we can choose between good and evil. Want proof, asks St. Ephrem the Syrian? The very denial of free will proves it exists.

If anyone asks what this “will” is, we must tell him the real truth about it: that it is the power of free choice. So if anyone asks, “What is this will? For it is only one thing, but part of it is good and part of it is evil”—then we shall say, “That is because it is a will.” And if he asks again, we shall tell him that it is endowed with independence. And if he continues in his folly, we shall tell him that it is free will. And if he still is not convinced, the fact that he cannot be taught shows that there is free will—because he is unwilling to be taught.

But if he is convinced when they say to him that there is no free will, it really is marvelous that by denying free will he proves that there is free will. He proves it by putting himself in that desperate state.

It is as if some eloquent person wanted to rant away and prove that people have no power of speech. What madness! He says there is no power of speech by using his power of speech! His own power of speech refutes him if by means of speech he tries to prove that there is no power of speech.

Likewise, when free will has gone to hide itself in a discussion and show by argument that it does not exist, then it is more certainly caught and proved to exist. For if there were no free will, there would be no argument and no persuasion.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, First Discourse to Hypatius


Am I tempted to blame my own bad decisions on circumstances beyond my control?


Lord, do not let your eyes rest on my sins; but if I have sinned through my own will in word, action, or thought, forgive me, and cleanse me from the stains of my sin.

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