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Is living in itself the greatest service to God?


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#41 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 03:58 PM

I would only add that I would most vehemently disagree with any definition of "free will" that is less than absolute. A "limited" free will is an oxymoron. I do not think I am in conflict with the teachings of Orthodoxy by saying so, but am open to correction if I am misunderstanding.

#42 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 09:03 PM

I would only add that I would most vehemently disagree with any definition of "free will" that is less than absolute. A "limited" free will is an oxymoron. I do not think I am in conflict with the teachings of Orthodoxy by saying so, but am open to correction if I am misunderstanding.


Perhaps as someone pointed out earlier we ought to define what absolute free will is. I would tend to agree with this definition

absolute free will absolute free will is the ability for an individual to make a choice outside physical causality, i.e. one that results from something other than a combination of physical preconditions and physical laws.


Does and how does this differ from Orthodox understanding of what absolute free will is?

Edited by Jan Sunqvist, 22 August 2012 - 09:18 PM.


#43 Father Stephanos

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:48 PM

Yes this is so. Without the element of human betrayal in its broadest sense we are not speaking of redemption in an Orthodox sense. As the hymnographic texts of Holy Week strongly suggest and as our homilies should strongly say: Judas in fact is all of us.

This isn't merely a dramatic or literary device though. It is quite literally true.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

Dear Father Raphael,

I am not comfortable with the wording that "Judas in fact is all of us."

There is a vast difference between what Judas Iscariot did and "all of us" or at least "most all of us." Briefly, Judas Iscariot betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ and sinned against God to such an extent that he would not be forgiven by God, just as although Herod the tetrarch personally wanted to witness our Lord Jesus Christ perform miracles, our Lord would not perform miracles for Herod, since he had the Holy Forerunner John unjustly beheaded. Similarly, just as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not forgiven, so Judas Iscariot committed a sin that likewise is not forgiven.

There are some other people who also fall into this same category of sinners, but basically "most all of us" are given a chance to repent and to be forgiven as we do not commit sins that are not to be forgiven. There is a distinction. Although we all sin and we all need to be saved, for "most all of us" our actions are not so against God that we fall into the same grouping of sinners as Judas Iscariot and those who actually imitate him in committing an "unforgivable action."

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#44 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 12:04 AM

I would only add that I would most vehemently disagree with any definition of "free will" that is less than absolute. A "limited" free will is an oxymoron. I do not think I am in conflict with the teachings of Orthodoxy by saying so, but am open to correction if I am misunderstanding.


I am not knowledgable about this matter but I'm not sure we really have absolute or unlimited free will. We are made in the image of God and that must mean we have free will to choose between good and evil and to work with God for our salvation, but we can only strive to attain to the likeness of God by seeking dispassion, and since we exist in a fallen state and are subject to passions and sin, our free will must surely be limited by these. Even the Apostle bemoaned his inability to act as he wished: "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." - Romans 7:15.

Edited by Andreas Moran, 23 August 2012 - 12:40 AM.


#45 Father Stephanos

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 10:54 AM

Could it be that we only have freedom (free will) if/when we attain theosis?

+ Father Stephanos

#46 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 11:27 AM

Yes, Father! And what's more, I don't think theosis is a permanent, static state. If it were, then, technically speaking, we could just stop praying at that point. Heck, we could even stop believing! Sort of like the "I am saved" theology of some Protestants. Theosis is manifest in moments that cumulatively bring us closer to the Divine Image. I think I have had a few of those moments that possibly permit me to talk about it as if I actually know a little something about theosis, on the other hand, there is certainly an aspect to it that goes way beyond. Having the experience that there is something way beyond where I am now is part of the reality of theosis. One of the great challenges and opportunities in preaching in teaching is to inspire people to realize that there is so much more there for us than where we are now, and to desire to continue striving toward it.

#47 Rick H.

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 11:54 AM

If I am understanding Jan correctly, he is making the distinction between a degree of freedom and 'absolute' freedom.

#48 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 12:06 PM

This is a huge and difficult area in which close knowledge of the anthropology of the Fathers (such as St John Cassian and St Grgeory of Nyssa) is needed. I don't have such knowledge. I have been reading 'The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church' on this, and what is said in chapter 6 seems helpful. Our human nature is one thing; it is what we share with all people; it is made in the image of God. Our individuality is a consequence of the Fall: the person and the individual are two aspects of our being. Our nature is to seek and cleave unto God but our will to do this is restrained by our individuality which is self-willed or egoistic; accordingly, our free will is not absolute. We need to renounce this will of the individual and follow the true free will of our human nature. It would seem that theosis is the result of this. All this, though, involves also the matter of the trelationship between grace and free will and the concept of synergy. Clearly, this whole area is important but also complex.

It occurs to me that Christ took on our human nature but not an individuality which is why we say that He was not a human person but assumed the single human nature and so was and is 'theanthropos'.

#49 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:01 PM

I certainly hope, Andreas, that our individuality is nothing more than a consequence of the Fall! I am quite certain that the Fathers do not speak of things this way. Now, if by individuality you mean self-love, then OK. But that's not what the term individuality means. Each of us has a unique soul, if I'm not mistaken. That, I take it to mean, is that each of us is in fact created individually. That we are all part of creation as a whole does not negate each person's individuality.

As for absolute free will, can we perhaps distinguish between the principle of freedom, which is an absolute, embedded in the very fabric of creation, vs. the operation of free will in each and every individual case, which is perhaps rarely if ever absolute. Someone would have to be, as Father Stephanos has suggested, would have to be in a kind of perfect state of union with God to be able to operate his will in an absolute state of freedom, and even then I wonder, considering all of the case histories from the saints.

#50 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:09 PM

I certainly hope, Andreas, that our individuality is nothing more than a consequence of the Fall! I am quite certain that the Fathers do not speak of things this way. Now, if by individuality you mean self-love, then OK. But that's not what the term individuality means. Each of us has a unique soul, if I'm not mistaken. That, I take it to mean, is that each of us is in fact created individually. That we are all part of creation as a whole does not negate each person's individuality.



I can only refer you to the chapter 8 of Lossky's book.

#51 Rick H.

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:19 PM

. . . the operation of free will in each and every individual case, which is perhaps rarely if ever absolute.



Right.


. . . and even then I wonder, considering all of the case histories from the saints.



This is what refutes Father Stephanos' speculation.

#52 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:23 PM

We always have the choice to ally ourselves with God or not to. We can choose to subject ourselves to demonic influence and to things that pull us away from God. As we go down that path, the choices available to us become more constricted, our likelihood of change becomes harder, but we do not lose the ability to exercise our free will to choose God unless we willingly (and freely) choose to abdicate said choice.

I do agree that only in Christ do we actualize our true free will. We always have the ability to choose God or not. Perhaps this is how I am defining "free will".

#53 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:32 PM

I would argue that our free will is almost always seriously impaired by all kinds of factors, having to do with our personal upbringing, cultural historical factors, ignorance, and various weaknesses that the demons exploit. I think what God despises the most is that when people who ought to know better persist in evil, and those who have the good fortune to be exposed to the truth refuse to repent of their errors, out of pride or fear. This is not to argue that God gives people a free pass -- He created all of us with a natural knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and at some point in the life of every mature, mentally competent individual there is no excuse.

#54 Father Stephanos

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:37 PM

What are τὸ αὐτεξούσιον (self-determination) and ἡ ἐλευθερία (freedom)?

What is the difference between τὸ αὐτεξούσιον (self-determination) and ἡ ἐλευθερία (freedom)?

Who has αὐτεξούσιον (self-determination) and who has ἐλευθερία (freedom)?

What is theosis?

Who reaches theosis?

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#55 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:50 PM

Dear Fathr,

What I am referring to is our sin. This is what Christ has come to redeem us from. What we mean by this though is not just individual acts of sin as committed by individuals. Rather it is sin in its broadest sense as the force of death that mutilates and distorts the life which God has bestowed upon us. This is the force that Christ upon the Cross trampled on granting us life again.

However to participate in this new life there must be an acknowledgment of who we really are- that we participate willingly in the force of death in its completeness. We do this by will. But an aspect of this is also that as human we are tied into all, and we also share in the sins of all- they are there within us either in thought or deed. If not with the same details then with the same meaning, especially in terms of how we continually hand Life over to death and try to chase it out of our lives. So we too are betrayers like Judas.

However ackowledgement of sin is precisely what opens our hearts to Christ's redemption. And this is precisely the area where Judas fell grieviously- not that he was worse than us or we better than him. Rather that he did not repent as St Peter did, that he followed the path of his resentment, justifying rather than ackowledging it.

Now the whole point of this in terms of this thread is that Christ foresaw that this would occur but yet that at at any point right to the end Judas could have backed off from his betrayal. What Christ foresaw did not force Judas' hand but rather foresaw what Judas would freely choose.

If this choice though, as terrible as it is, was not common to all of us in some way, then the redemption also would not be common to us all - it would be limited in some way. It would apply only to those 'good' people who are bad- but not so bad as Judas. It wouldn't apply for example to those confessors in Romanian prisons who after psychological and physical torture came to the point where they were screaming at God that they hated Him for abandoning them (yes- the saintly ones did this; only a few didn't). But after the tears that arose in them from seeing that they too shared in the common weakness then they too felt Christ's deepest consolation. But only after this point. And then they knew of and could truly preach of Christ Whom they now knew from His power of love & restoration.

Anyway unless we see this side of things then Judas is no lesson to us.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#56 Father Stephanos

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:56 PM

From another perspective:

If a person has freedom (free will) and not just self-determination, what do they do with their freedom?

Do they always conform their free will to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, or are they at such a state/condition that our Lord Jesus Christ occasionally conforms His will to their will?

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,

+ Father Stephanos



#57 Georgianna

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 05:39 PM

In "On Spiritual Knowledge", St Diadochos of Photiki defines free will as follows:

5. Free will is the power of the deiform soul to direct itself by deliberate choice towards whatever it decides. Let us make sure that our soul directs itself deliberately only towards what is good, so that we always consume our remembrance of evil with good thoughts. - The Philokalia Vol 1, 254.


In "The Freedom of the Intellect [Νοῦς]", St Macarios of Egypt further states:

118. Just as the power of evil works by persuasion, not by compulsion, so does divine grace. In this way our liberty and free will are preserved. If a man commits sins when he is subject to the devil, he himself pays the penalty, not the devil, since he was impelled to evil not by force but by his own will. It is the same where a good action is concerned…. Grace does not make a man incapable of sin by forcibly and compulsorily laying hold of his will but, though present, allows him freedom of choice, so as to make it clear whether the man’s own will inclines to virtue or to evil. For the law looks not to man’s nature but to his free power of choice, which is capable of turning towards either good or evil. – The Philokalia Vol 3, 337-338.


With regards to "absolute freedom" … since we are not Almighty God, how would it be possible to have a limitless set of options over which to exercise our free will? In my ignorance, however, the lack of "infinite" choices does not negate our absolute freedom to make “deliberate” choices towards good or towards evil. The more our will inclines itself to the Perfect will of God and embraces "Thy will be done", the more we experience what true freedom means.

30. The devil has deceived us by guile in a malicious and cunning way, provoking us through self-love to sensual pleasure (cf. Gen. 3:1-5). He has separated us in our wills from God and from each other; he has perverted straightforward truth and in this manner has divided humanity, cutting it up into many opinions and fantasies. - St Maximos the Confessor, "First Century of Various Texts," The Philokalia Vol 2, 171.


18. Regard as free not those whose status makes them outwardly free, but those who are free in their character and conduct. For we should not call men in authority truly free when they are wicked or dissolute, since they are slaves to worldly passions. Freedom and happiness of soul consists in genuine purity and detachment from transitory things. -"On the Character of Men" Attributed to St Antony the Great, The Philokalia Vol 1, 332



#58 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 05:56 PM

The above quotes highlight something of the problem. For example, St. Diadochos only refers to the power of the deiform soul. That is, a soul that is properly attuned to God. Thus, it implies that only a deiform soul is even capable of making making free, deliberate decisions. At the same time, St. Macarios says something that, while not negating the above, focuses on the freedom that, in a sense, all people have equally according to their created nature. Then St. Maximos would appear to argue the the proper operation of free will is obscured and corrupted to a great extent among everyone. Then St. Anthony points to freedom, not just as an action of the will, but an actual condition of the soul. these are not mutually exclusive perspectives but different in emphasis and approach, which points out that it is nigh on impossible to have any kind of absolute doctrine regarding human freedom.

#59 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 06:05 PM

I don't believe that absolute is a synonym for infinite nor does it imply "limitless".

Absolute
Adjective: Not qualified or diminished in any way; total: "absolute secrecy".
Noun: A value or principle regarded as universally valid or viewed without relation to other things.

Infinite
Adjective: Limitless or endless in space, extent, or size; impossible to measure or calculate: "an infinite number of stars".
Noun: A space or quantity that is infinite.

NOT the same thing.

#60 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 06:15 PM

I would argue that for a variety of mysterious reasons that are not ABSOLUTELY in every case my fault, my free will is qualified and diminished, at least on an every day, operative basis. That does not mean that I agree ABSOLUTELY with Flip Wilson on the subject, but you kind of have to give the devil his due. It's like in business. You always have to reserve a seat on the board of directors for Mr. Murphy.




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