Wednesday, June 3, 2015


“The will of God together with the will of man are the two most important preconditions for salvation. Salvation requires the human will to be in tune with the will of God. In the patristic tradition this concordance of wills is often called synergy, i.e. co-operation between man and God. Already Origen affirmed this synergy of God and our own effort as a prerequisite for progress in bodily and spiritual virtues in his commentaries on the Psalms. This idea is picked up by many Fathers, including St Basil (as in his Letter 227 and in the Dialogues on the Psalms) and by St John Damascene (as in The Life of Valaam and Joasaph).

However, the patristic tradition talks of the synergy of man, not only with God, but also with the forces of evil. Whenever a man does evil, he is not acting in isolation, but the devil is acting with him. That is, an evil act is always committed in synergy, as is a good one, but this time the synergy is not with God, but with his opponent. This idea we find enounced, in particular, in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata.
In this way the human will finds itself between two wills – the divine and diabolic. The task of man is to bring our will into harmony with the will of God, and in any event not allow it to align with the will of evil forces. The direction of a person’s will depends on that person himself. Man’s ability to direct his will towards good or evil is referred to in contemporary language as freedom. In patristic theology, this ability is referred to with Greek terms such as proairesis (disposition) and autexousion (self-determination)…(Salvation) requires as much human will and desire as it does the co-operation (synergeia) of God – if one is absent, the other will also be slow in coming…”[1]

[1] Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, Freedom and Responsibility, p. 42-43

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