I just happened to be looking at this, St. John of Damascus, Font of Knowledge:
BOOK II CHAPTER XXIV ->
Concerning what is Voluntary anal what is Involuntary.
The voluntary(3) implies a certain definite action, and so-called involuntariness also implies a certain definite action. Further, many attribute true involuntariness not only to suffering, but even to action. We must then understand action to be rational energy. Actions are followed by praise or blame, and some of them are accompanied with pleasure and others with pain; some are to be desired by the actor, others are to be shunned: further, of those that are desirable, some are always so, others only at some particular time. And so it is also with those that are to be shunned. Again, some actions enlist pity and are pardonable, others are hateful and deserve punishment. Voluntariness, then, is assuredly followed by praise or blame, and renders the action pleasurable and desirable to the actor, either for all time or for the moment of its performance. Involuntariness, on the other hand, brings merited pity or pardon in its train, and renders the act painful and undesirable to the doer, and makes him leave it in a state of incompleteness even though force is brought to bear upon him.
Further, what is involuntary, depends in part on force and in part on ignorance. It depends on force when the creative beginning in cause is from without, that is to say, when one is forced by another without being at all persuaded, or when one does not contribute to the act on one's own impulse, or does not co-operate at all, or do on one's own account that which is exacted by force(4). Thus we may give this definition: "An involuntary act is one in which the beginning is from without, and where one does not contribute at all on one's own impulse to that which one is force" And by beginning we mean the creative cause. All involuntary act depends, on the other hand, on ignorance, when one is not the cause of the ignorance one's self, but events just so happen. For, if one commits murder while drunk, it is an act of ignorance, but yet not involuntary(5): for one was one's self responsible for the cause of the ignorance, that is to say, the drunkenness. But if while shooting at the customary range one slew one's father who happened to be passing by, this would be termed an ignorant and involuntary act.
As, then, that which is involuntary is in two parts, one depending on force, the other on ignorance, that which is voluntary is the opposite of both. For that which is voluntary is the result neither of force nor of ignorance(6). A voluntary act, then, is one of which the beginning or cause originates in an actor, who knows each individual circumstance through which and in which the action takes place. By "individual" is meant what the rhetoricians call circumstantial elements: for instance, the actor, the sufferer, the action (perchance a murder), the instrument, the place, the time, the manner, the reason of the action.
Notice that there are certain things that occupy a place intermediate between what is voluntary and what is involuntary. Although they are unpleasant and painful we welcome them as the escape from a still greater trouble; for instance, to escape shipwreck we cast the cargo overboard(7).
Notice also that children and irrational creatures perform voluntary actions, but these do not involve the exercise of choice: further, all our actions that are done in anger and without previous deliberation are voluntary actions, but do not in the least involve free choice(
. Also, if a friend suddenly appears on the scene, or if one unexpectedly lights on a treasure, so far as we are concerned it is quite voluntary, but there is no question of choice in the matter. For all these things are voluntary, because we desire pleasure from them, but they do not by any means imply choice, because they are not the result of deliberation. And deliberation must assuredly precede choice, as we have said above.
BOOK IV CHAPTER XIX ->
That God(7) is not the cause of evils.
It is to be observed(
that it is the custom in the Holy Scripture to speak of God's permission as His energy, as when the apostle says in the Epistle to the Romans, Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour(9)? And for this reason, that He Himself makes this or that. For He is Himself alone the Maker of all things; yet it is not He Himself that fashions noble or ignoble things, but the personal choice of each one(1). And this is manifest from what the same Apostle says in the Second Epistle to Timothy, In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth: and some to honour and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work(2). And it is evident that the purification must be voluntary: for if a man, he saith, purge himself. And the consequent antistrophe responds, "If a man purge not himself he will be a vessel to dishonour, unmeet for the master's use and fit only to be broken in pieces." Wherefore this passage that we have quoted and this, God hath concluded them all in unbelief(3), and this, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear(4), all these must be understood not as though God Himself were energising, but as though God were permitting, both because of free-will and because goodness knows no compulsion.
His permission, therefore, is usually spoken of in the Holy Scripture as His energy and work. Nay, even when He says that God creates evil things, and that there is no evil in a city that the Lord hath not done, he does not mean by these words(5) that the Lord is the cause of evil, but the word 'evil(6)' is used in two ways, with two meanings. For sometimes it means what is evil by nature, and this is the opposite of virtue and the will of God: and sometimes it means that which is evil and oppressive to our sensation, that is to say, afflictions and calamities. Now these are seemingly evil because they are painful, but in reality are good. For to those who understand they became ambassadors of conversion and salvation. The Scripture says that of these God is the Author.
It is, moreover, to be observed that of these, too, we are the cause: for involuntary evils are the offspring of voluntary ones(7).
This also should be recognised, that it is usual in the Scriptures for some things that ought to be considered as effects to be stated in a causal sense(
, as, Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, that Than mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and prevail when Thou judgest(9). For the sinner did not sin in order that God might prevail, nor again did God require our sin in order that He might by it be revealed as victor(1). For above comparison He wins the victor's prize against all, even against those who are sinless, being Maker, incomprehensible, uncreated, and possessing natural and not adventitious glory. But it is because when we sin God is not unjust in His anger against us; and when He pardons the penitent He is shewn victor over our wickedness. But it is not for this that we sin, but because the thing so turns out. It is just as if one were sitting at work and a friend stood near by, and one said, My friend came in order that I might do no work that day. The friend, however, was not present in order that the man should do no work, but such was the result. For being occupied with receiving his friend he did not work. These things, too, are spoken of as effects because affairs so turned out. Moreover, God does not wish that He alone should be just, but that all should, so far as possible, be made like unto Him.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2010, 06:53:02 PM by ialmisry »
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
and both come out of your mouth