Eastern Orthodox View of Predestination

Are there any clear articles about what the Orthodox teach on predestination?

Found this online.



I looked on oca.org for you, and this is the closest thing I could get to an article on it, although there isn’t much to be taken from that other than the way it is spoken of negatively in the opening question, and the final paragraph.

I tried to search goarch.org, but the website was being impossibly slow for me, although they are as likely as anyone to have anything.

So while I can’t give any clear articles it is noteworthy that the Synod of Jerusalem (1672) condemned Calvinism for its stance on predestination, and this condemnation is accepted by the Church at large.

Well, Calvin and his double predestination was condemned, Augustine’s and the proposed misconception of guilt will no-doubt be around to the kingdom come, and Origen for sure was excommunicated. Nevertheless predestination has indeed been taught from antiquity in Alexandria and Antioch in the East. I think they been toning things down a little. :slight_smile:

“When God undertook in the beginning to create the world, for nothing comes to mind without cause, each that would ever exist was presented to His mind. He saw what else would result when such a thing were produced; and if such a result were accomplished, what else would accompany: and what else would be the result even of this when it would come about. And so on to the conclusion of the sequence of events…He knew what would be, without being altogether of the cause of the coming to be of each of the things which He knew would happen.” Origen on Genesis

Orthodoxy certainly accepts the foreknowledge of God.

The reason I am asking is because I often see St. Augustine maligned as a heretic by EO on the internet for his teachings on predestination. I have been reading through his writings a little bit and it seems to me, more often than not, what is criticized is a caricature what Augustine actually taught.

That is not itself a bad article but I would bear in mind that this site is comparable to a sedevacantist website on the Catholic side in terms of its tenor. It is very anti-Catholic to the point where it would not likely be helpful for comparisons. For example, their article on St. Francis asserts that "he bore many characteristics which are prototypical of Antichrist.

Thanks. The article is not clear about its intentions. It seems to support the sainthood of Augustine, which would be hard to imagine if his most famous teachings (due to the conflict with the Pelagians and Semipelagians) were heretical. At the same time, it quotes a book, which IMO caricatures Augustine and seems to conflate the teachings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Luther and Calvin as if there were no distinction. Very confusing.

The Confession of Dositheus is a good, but its main concern is denying Calvinism so it doesn’t really address the objections that are lobbed by some against Augustine.

Why do you believe that the guilt of original sin is a misconception? It was never taught that Adam’s act was literally imputed as a sin to each individual, but humanity nevertheless all suffers the penalty of Adam’s sin.

Not sure what your saying, I said; “Well, Calvin and his double predestination was condemned, Augustine and the proposed misconception of guilt will no-doubt be around to the kingdom come, and Origen for sure was excommunicated. Nevertheless predestination has indeed been taught from antiquity in Alexandria and Antioch in the East.”

Predestination from a Eastern understanding of negative reprobation I’m attempting to understand. I assumed there was more consistency east and west here. Thus my comment on Augustine which I gather your referring to.

St. Augustine is without a doubt an Orthodox saint and the article does support this.

However even saints can err, and we do believe he was overreaching in regards to his reaction to the Pelagian heresy, and he erred in that way.

I don’t think it is conflating the teachings of Aquinas, St. Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, only saying that they all follow a same thread. It is true that it doesn’t bother to distinguish them, but that seems to have more to do with the fact that it wasn’t the topic of the answer, rather than an actual belief that they are the same.

Becomes a rhetorical situation, if we allow ourselves to become limited and restricted by specific teachings. Not hard to see how it occurs, its difficult to avoid.

The Orthodox basically follow St. John of Damascus in distinguishing between foreknowledge and predestination. God’s prescience of something, according to St. John, does not as a consequence mean that such a thing is predestined. But rather, God predetermines things which are “not within our power” and leaves those things which are within our power undetermined. Otherwise it would follow that God has predetermined evil and wickedness.

See Chapter 30 of Book II of St. John’s Exposition on the Orthodox Faith


Well, the questioner asked for comment on a quotation which mentioned Augustine’s supposed "errors in his teaching on predestination. After seemingly vindicating his sainthood, the author throws out a quotation from a book which caricatures Augustine and conflates him with Calvin, and he provides no further comment.

Thanks. That is a good summary. Augustine to my knowledge never taught that God is the author of sin (not that you were necessarily implying that). In fact, the problem of evil is a big issue for him in his Confessions, which he always attributes to the will of man. St. John Damascene also says, “Bear in mind, too , that virtue is a gift from God implanted in our nature, and that He Himself is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help we cannot will or do any good thing,” which is really all Augustine intended to teach. Again, I’m not saying that you were maligning Augustine’s teachings, but I think those who do are probably rash.

The verse God wills all men to be saved? That verse Augustine denied. Thus the affirmative teaching east and west with negative reprobate. He didn’t believe it. He was working it out still in his mind. He goes back and forth, and is correct when he see’s Gods grace in terms of love.

Augustine struggled with this in his mind and he had a few theories on it. He thinks and elaborates on final cause, which he indeed has correct so in conclusion he was correct.

As to the Pelagians who denied the need of grace for salvation. Augustine showed very well our total dependence on God. I don’t see much there.

What we both believe in East and West is negative reprobation, its an apostolic teaching. Which is basically hinted at with St. John of Damascus above and Origen. Its an old teaching which we just have always had people going off the rails with.

The simple fact is that we are not created in love and redeemed in salvation in Gods love, only to then be deserted by God, which follows we then desert God, what occurs is we desert God, and then we are deserted. “God wills all to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4) Apostolic teaching east and west is called to defend.

Anyway my point in the last post is not to be confined by this rhetorical situation. In other words the reality on this teaching isn’t confined to Augustine and this particular situation. Unless its the intention to discuss Augustine. Either or I have no problem with. Just saying.

Is there any Church teaching (Orthodox or Catholic) about why God gives initial grace to one but not another?

Suppose there are two people from the isolated-from-civilization hypothetical island of Hypolandia, and a missionary preaches the Gospel to them. One believes and repents. The other does not.

Is grace bestowed upon how one lives according to moral laws that are in everyone’s hearts?

Can the prayers of saintly souls (on earth and heaven) “move” God to grant grace to the unbeliever?

I hope I didn’t offend God with this query…


Sanctifying grace and actual grace come into play.


The last is intercession in your questions. Without a doubt, the prayers are contingent on being aligned with Gods will. Not that the saints wouldn’t be, but often in the world this is not the case.

In other words its as St Paul states, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow”.

I haven’t read the book in question, so I can’t answer that. Unless you’re talking about the quotes provided, in which case I answered that concern above. The quotes certainly don’t caricature Augustine or conflate him with Calvin.

Likely so. The anti-Augustine sentiment is found largely among some circles of Greek theologians (Romanides, Metropolitan Hierotheos, etc.) They have good ideas themselves, but their ideas concerning St. Augustine are not always so great, because I think they (perhaps out of ignorance) are equating St. Augustine’s teachings with later teachings which they reject (in other words, they reject Calvinistic determinism and total depravity, and also the filioque as formulated by the schoolmen and the Council of Florence, and because it is claimed that these things are firmly rooted in Augustinianism, they therefore come to reject Augustine’s teachings in toto). The problem (and many Orthodox theologians seem to be cognizant of this) is one of hermeneutics. Why after all, should we accept as legitimate the claims made by the schoolmen or the reformers that St. Augustine should be interpreted as a proponent of determinism and total depravity (as the reformers alleged) or of the filioque (as the schoolmen taught it)? To me at least, that seems to be a major point of oversight in the thinking of certain theologians like Fr. Romanides.

I might add that the large volume of St. Augustine’s surviving works certainly complicates the issue (of hermeneutics), because one has to filter out ideas which he later retracted, and be aware that he will sometimes contradict himself based on what he is trying to argue (because he was not a systematic theologian in the modern sense).

I did not have the intention to limit this thread to a comparison of Eastern Orthodox doctrine on predestination with Augustine’s writings. That was the primary motivation for me creating the thread, but I am looking for any information about EO teaching.

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