February 2012 - Vol. 57

Adam and Eve driven from the Garden of Paradise

Freedom or Responsibility? 

by Niceta Stethatus (1005-1090 AD)

I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live - Deuteronomy 30:19.
God created human beings to have free will. He honored them with reasoning and wisdom and placed before their eyes the choice between life and death. If by their free choice they walk the way of life, they can live for ever. But if by choosing evil they tread the road to death, they will be punished in eternity.

The features of our human nature that we cannot alter deserve neither praise nor blame. No one was ever accused in court of being white or black skinned, or tall rather than short, because we have no choice in these matters. It is to what we can freely choose that punishment and praise belong.

In either case there is need, on the one hand, of our choice and our will, and on the other hand, of God's liberty. Our free will is never over-ridden or crushed. Furthermore, we have received from God commandments which can make us to be like him, by helping us to lead sinless lives and become like angels among our fellow human beings [See Deuteronomy 30:19]. 

[excerpt from The Spiritual Paradise, 2, translated by Paul Drake]

Niceta Stethatus (1005-1090) was a Byzantine monk and writer. As a young man he entered the monastary of Studios in Constantinople. He was devoted to the teaching of St. Simeon the New Theologian, a monk who died in 1022. Niceta collected Simeon's works and wrote a biography entitled Life of Simeon as well. Niceta earned the name "Stethatus" which in Greek means courageous
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