Didn`t Blessed Augustine teach that we have lost initial justice and free-will once with the fall?And that we cannot make full conscient choices and that we do not look for God?
On the one hand, there are the Calvinists who so emphasize the divine causality as to diminish free will. Indeed, their doctrine of double-predestination makes man to be nothing more than a donkey, ridden either by Satan into hell or by God into heaven.
On the other hand, the classical Jesuits (like St. Robert Bellarmine and Fr. Francisco Suárez) generally struggle to give sufficient acknowledgment to the role of divine providence. Certainly, the Jesuits are not semi-Pelagian heretics, yet their writings often tend to lean toward an over-emphasis of the human will and a de-emphasizing of God’s causal powers..."
Why the early fathers believed man possessed freedom is explained by Jaroslav Pelikan: "...the very presence of sin and evil and the capacity of a creature to transgress the divine commandment was grim proof for the freedom of the will conferred in creation" (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine
(University of Chicago Press), vol 2, p. 222).
"It is not then His prediction that brings the offenses; far from it; neither because He foretold it, therefore doth it take place; but because it surely was to be, therefore He foretold it; since if those who bring in the offenses had not been minded to do wickedly, neither would the offenses have come; and if they had not been to come, neither would they have been foretold. But because those men did evil, and were incurably diseased, the offenses came, and He foretells that which is to be" (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 59).
If freedom is the ability to save ourselves, we have no freedom. If freedom is an ability to do otherwise with respect to particular choices this, if genuine, does not negate sovereignty because if man does have freedom to make certain choices, he does not possess freedom to determine the consequences.
Freedom which is biblical must not entail either Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism (that man must initiate to receive grace with grace only entering the picture later, as I discussed earler), but it may (as held by a majority of major trajectories even within Protestantism, Calvinism with its doctrine of irresistible grace being the only exception), mean the opportunity to repent can be rejected (cf. Rev 2:21: "I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality").
As St. Athanasius wrote, "If He 'lighteth every man that cometh into the world,' how is it that so many continue unenlightened? For not all have known the majesty of Christ. How then doth He “light every man”? He lighteth all as far as in Him lies. But if some, willfully closing the eyes of their mind, would not receive the rays of that Light, their darkness arises not from the nature of the Light, but from their own wickedness, who willfully deprive themselves of the gift. For the grace is shed forth upon all, turning itself back neither from Jew, nor Greek, nor Barbarian, nor Scythian, nor free, nor bond, nor male, nor female, nor old, nor young, but admitting all alike, and inviting with an equal regard. And those who are not willing to enjoy this gift, ought in justice to impute their blindness to themselves; for if when the gate is opened to all, and there is none to hinder, any being willfully evil remain without, they perish through none other, but only through their own wickedness." (Athanasius, Homily VIII: John i. 9, trans. Philip Schaff, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1886/1994) Vol. 14, p. 29. Cf. John 3:19-21; Romans 1:18ff).
The death of the wicked is not God's good pleasure; rather "As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!" -Ezek 33:11
The second century apologists spent considerable time discussing the topic of whether all things were predestined in the sense of being incapable of being prevented because already set to happen; it was only the Gnostics who championed this point of view before the fifth century, and afterwards it appeared only in later history of Western Christendom (e.g. John Calvin; Pelikan with most would trace this idea the later St. Augustine although some as Mary observed might disagree with this).
The uniform witness of the Eastern fathers, who, we should recall, read scripture in the original Greek as their own mother tongue, was in a different direction than Reformed Calvinists, who though making a point of rejecting the authority of the Latin Bible (the Vulgate) were, as e.g. Pelikan affirmed, influenced by its readings in key instances (cf. Pelikan vol. 1 of the above-mentioned The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine
in the chapter on nature and grace).
Fr. Laurent Cleenwerke observes "The Orthodox Church does not reject "predestination" which is a Biblical concept, found for example in Romans 8:29-30: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." What the Orthodox tradition has historically rejected is the Calvinist view of predestination, which is that in the distant past, God made a decree that would predestine some to be saved and others to be lost, without reference to the person's being or actions but simply by sovereign choice. Calvinists then disagree on the order of the decrees, which shows that this anthropomorphic view is not satisfactory. The Orthodox view would be that there is a foreordained destiny based on one's eternal state of being, and God foreknows everyone completely, according to 1 Co 13:12. In this sense, there is predestination to a glorious destiny for those whom God foreknows." http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/answer/628/
There is with respect to God's unknowable (in the Eastern tradition) essence no "pre-" understood "literally" unless God in His essence is a temporal being (as in Process Theism, Open Theism, etc.); classically understood "pre-"/"fore-"/"before" language actually stands for God's eternity, which likewise should not be reduced as a philosophical datum as in philosophical debates between A and B theories of time and the like, but as what is Uncreated and, from our perspective, beyond understanding). God's knowledge of us, His plans for us, His purpose for us, is both before and after the ages of ages as understood from our vantage point, but neither "before" or "after" as to the essence of God as He is in Himself "before all time [note: an oxymoron if taken literally!] and into all the ages, amen" (Jude 26: πρὸ πάντος τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ νῦν καὶ εἰς πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν). This is the meaning of the pro- prefixed [English "pre-" or "fore-") words in the Greek NT, not that God exists temporally "in a time frame" (to the contrary, as St. Athanasius so brilliantly pointed out contra the Arians, Christ is said to have created all times in the book of Hebrews). Scriptural usages of terminology like "before"/"pre-"/"fore-" when used of God refer to eternity, not time. In the Bible predestination is never to election, but to the circumstances of election. The biblical term "predestined" literally means before-horizon, as in Christ going before to prepare a place (a "horizon") or those who endure.
The NT frequently affirms that Christ brings us true freedom (cf. "Freedom" in Colin Brown, ed., DNTT
, vol 1). *Divinized free will* (2 Pt 1:4) is neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian free will, but Christified free will: the freedom of Christ in us. Free will per se cannot be in contradiction to election or foreordination because Christ, who is called the Elect, laid His life down freely: "...I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (John 10:17-18).
Christ's crucifixion was foreknown, prophecied, foreordained, and freely chosen. One cannot insist these categories are "systematically incompatible" without sacrificing Christ's freedom, or the Father's omniscience or His will for the Son to drink from the bitter cup spoken of in the garden of Gethsemane. The union with Christ spoken of so often in scripture and the fathers is Christ in us and we abiding in Christ apart from whom we can do nothing. As the creeds affirm, Christ is not the dichotomy of God "versus" man (as in Docetism and Gnosticism); he is the unity of God and man. "In Christ" the work of man is united to the work of God. Freedom in Christ (a major biblical theme) is an attribute of the the bondslave of Jesus Christ (doulos Iesou Christou/Rom 1:1 etc); these are not contradictions or "systematic chess pieces to be alternately maximized/minimized/opposed; they are complimentary truths which learn from scripture but which we cannot fully fathom, just as God and man in Christ are not to tested on the bar of human reasoning as the heretics attempted to do, but accepted as what God has revealed, and as experienced by the God-bearing fathers. Freedom in Christ, for example, is realized in "self control" (enkrateia/Gal 5:22), which far from being autonomous control is described by Paul with no sense of contradition as a karpos tou pneumatou -a fruit of God the Holy Spirit; it is not in dialectic or opposition with God's will or act in the sense of producing a false dichotomy between determinism (as the Gnostics held) and indeterminism (as certain pagans and the Pelagians held), but theosis -union with the divine and with deified humanity (2 Pt 1:4), as all the Greek fathers held, that is to say abiding "in Christ."
"...foreknowledge was not in the least a cause of the devil’s becoming evil. For a physician, when he foresees a future illness, does not cause that illness... the physician’s foreknowledge is a sign of his erudition, whereas the cause of the foreknowledge is the fact that things were going to turn out that way. St. John Damascene, Dialogs against Manichees.
Oscar Cullman defined eternity as “time without end” on the basis that NT terminology should be correlated to the Semitic background rather than retroactively related to prior Greek philology, or later developments of it in Scholasticism (Cullman, Oscar, Christ and Time: The Primitive Christian Conception of Time and History
(Philadelphia, 1953). Certainly Greek and Scholastic concepts of eternity should be tested against the biblical data they claim to illumine. "Philosophically" we might, with Cullman, ask questions such as whether non-temporality would present a formal contradiction with eternity as immanent in time. But such questions may be more a function of the methodological and terminological problems which inhere in human cognition itself (as we also find in the paradoxes which arise in our most vigorously defined mathematical systems; cf. Kline, Morris, Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty
(Oxford University Press), e.g. there can be no complete phenomenological account of eternity by a mortal being that can be more than “unending time”; on the other hand, as even Cullman had to admit, the NT “traces back the historical incarnation beyond a preparation proper to the beginnings of time” (Cullman, op cit, p. 92); we should note this problem is no less acute for physics than it is for theology (from the perspective of contemporary physics time is in a matrix/space-time-matter-energy which came into being without cause with any of the characteristics of that matrix; the relation of time to an a-temporal nothing presents problems no less acute and vexing than the relation of time to eternity).
The attempt to try to answer such philosophical problems both theologically and philosophically seems perennial, but we guard against confusing the two lest in rejecting bad philosophy, what is then wrongly supposed to be theology ends in the same ash-heap; e..g. Hans Kung’s answers to Cullman are perfectly legitimate and, I think, "philosophically" valid:
“Let us put it once more sub specie temporis
: On the basis of our temporal images we can speak of a time in which the Son of God had ‘not yet’ become man… And now sub specie aeternitatis
: When we reason from the viewpoint of God’s eternal manner of existence, we must abandon transitory and temporal conceptions. God has time in its fullness without end; His time is not fragmented into a sequence of present, past, and future. Rather it is the unity of the before, the now, and the hereafter –of beginning, middle, and end. It is erroneous to conceive of the divine Logos as if He had ‘already’ become man in some ‘pre-temporal’ eternity, just as it would be wrong to imagine that the divine Logos had ‘not yet’ become man in some ‘pre-temporal’ eternity. From this viewpoint there is no such thing in God Himself as an eternity before the incarnation. This would amount to dissolving eternity into an interior time of unlimited duration… On the basis of our temporal images we can ask: What is the Son of God before the incarnation? From the standpoint of eternity, however, the most we can ask is: What would the Logos be without the incarnation? –a question possibly helpful in formulating the absolutely free graciousness of the incarnation. In the realm of eternity, it is impossible to speak simply in the strict sense of a non-incarnate Logos, of a prehistorical, pre-Christian, or post-Christian epoch. In this connection, all terms expressing a “pre” (like predetermination, prevision, predestination, pre-existent Christ) easily mislead, since they result, often unconsciously, in the application of inferior temporal images to God’s eternity. We must not overlook the primacy in knowing which existent act has over all forms of potency. To think of God’s knowing as first focused on the yet-undefined, on the potential and possible and only thereafter on the actual and the real, on the final existential definiteness of things, is an anthropomorphism. It is deceiving to imagine that for God knowledge of possibilities (possiblilia) could be an anterior prerequisite for knowing existing things or for deciding to create them. Equally deceiving is the notion that God’s knowledge of what is necessary in His person (for instance, His omnipotence or the Trinity of Persons) could be an anterior prerequisite for knowing what is free in Himself (for example the human nature of the Son)."
("Excursus: The Redeemer in God's Eternity" in Kung, Justification, pp. 285ff. Note: a book I would otherwise grade about C- or D, as if Kung would bother to hand it in to me, lol).