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Human will, Divine will, and theosis

salvation free will sixth ecumenical council

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#1 Bill Turri

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 11:41 AM

I've recently been trying to understand the issues of "free will" from an Orthodox perspective. I came from a Calvinist background, so all my thoughts were shaped in the Calvinist vs. everyone-else mold. None of which fits Orthodoxy. 

 

So I'm trying to get my  head around the 6th Ecumenical Council and it's decisions on the relationship between Christ's human and divine wills. To loosely paraphrase, it seems to me that some key points from this are:

 

  • Each nature has the property of "a will"
  • Each will is free to operate
  • Neither will dominates, overpowers or determines the other
  • His human will always cooperated with, and submitted to, his divine will
  • Every action (of his ONE person) was a synergy of both wills

Did I goof any of that up?  :)

 

So if our salvation ultimately is a participation in God through the Incarnation, I would reason that our salvation will bring us to the point at which our wills cooperate with, and submit to, God's will at all times and in every action. We will be, by grace, what Christ was by nature(s)...a difference being that we will never be a single person with two wills!

 

So, in this sense, any scheme of salvation in which the human will is overridden by the divine, or is inoperative until "kick started" by God, or must somehow supplement or add to God's will, would break the proper understanding of the Incarnation, In every human action, we act freely, but when we act "in Christ," each action is really the operation of God, in and through us. Maybe another way to say it would be that every free action of man, is 100% the work of man, and also 100% the work of God.

 

Does that all make sense? Can anyone add to this, or correct it, or tweak it? 



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 02:20 PM

It is summed in the Orthodox concept of synergy, the necessary though unequal co-operation between God and man.  The Mother of God is the supreme example of synergy. 



#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 06:11 PM

Simply put, God does not act without our consent at some level, He does not save us against our will. We always have the freedom to accept or reject His freely given gift. We still have to seek in order to find, we still must knock for the door to be opened to us.

#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 06:39 PM

More precisely, Christ knocks at the door and the handle is on the inside: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.'



#5 Owen Jones

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 09:51 PM

I think we have to be careful about what we infer from Christological doctrine.  We are not Christ, and we have but a human "nature" and a human will. 

 

Yet we are all called as believers in Christ to imitate him, which is, paradoxically, an impossibility based on our own will!

 

Then there is the important distinction to be made between healing and salvation.  To be saved, most of us first have to be healed.  Many of us have or have had an impaired will due to any manner of spiritual and/physical sickness.  Some people are healed without asking, without expecting it.  So you might reasonably argue that God heals us, or at least some of us, without an action of our free will.  There are of course Biblical examples of this.  One might say that God healed Saul of Tarsus of his blindness toward Christ and his enmity toward Christians, much without his will or consent. 



#6 Lakis Papas

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 10:35 PM

First we must be careful about the terminology.
 
In modern times when we talk about "free will" usually we mean a conscious dialectic decision shaped by syllogisms. Modern terminology defines "free will" as personal expression of a decision making process. That is, man has several options at hand and by exercising his "free will" he makes a free choice. Wikipedia rightly defines "free will" as the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors.
 
This modern concept of "free-will" has no place in the terminology used by the 6th Ecumenical Council and by Church Fathers. The "will" that the 6th Ecumenical Council talked about is arising from the nature and not from the person (likewise, energies are arising from the nature and not from the person).
 
Orthodox and patristic terminology defines the "will" (the word free is missing) as an appetite and momentum of nature, as a physical movement of reason, as a self-determined movement of noetic soul, thus "will" is connected to nature and not to the person.
 
St Maximus the Confessor talks about "volition" ("προαίρεση" in greek) as distinct from the "will". Will is a physical appetite (desire, appeal, motion, momentum, mood) logical and vital, while volition is the outcome of cooperation between appetite, thinking and critical process. Modern terminology uses the word "will" in place of the patristic term of volition. Then, all misunderstandings start. 
 
This is crucial, because in the patristic term "will" you can find no opposites, when in the term volition opposites are inherently present as dialectically contrary options which are at hand to choose one from them. 
 
We must make clear that the Patristic term "will" is not about making a choice. It is about having an innate natural appetite. For example, St Maximus says that all saints have just one single "will" to be with God. This one "will", that all saints have in common, is a desire that is in man's nature - it not a choice they make. All humans have this "will" to be with God in their nature. 
 
You may say, why are not all men saints? (since they have the same natural "will"). The answer is because men have also a "gnomic will", that is they make use of volition and start making choices. According to St Maximus, usually a person has to make a choice among alternatives (most of the times between opposites) .
 
Well, Christ had no gnomic will. Christ had just natural wills, that is two natural wills - one human and one divine. He had no gnomic will (volition).
 
Jean-Claude Larchet  defines "the logoi of a being" of St Maximus as its principle or its  essential reason, the one that fundamentally defines and characterizes it, but also its finality, the purpose for which a being exists, briefly its reason of being in a double meaning of principle and end of its existence”.
 
In this context, saints cleansed their hearts, so then it becomes clear to them the "logoi of beings", they realized the real authentic "will" that is in their human nature. When, every other false version of "logoi of being" disappears from their view, there will be no option, because there will be no choice, and only remains the active mental appetite apply to those who are appetizing in nature to be with God. It is a situation analogues to a man that has in front of him a bread and a stone, his natural human appetite is to eat the bread, he makes no choice, there is no volition involved.
 
So, what st Maximus said and 6th Ecumenical Council accepted about Christ having two natural "wills" has nothing to do with modern "free-will" concept. 


#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 12:15 AM

What Lakis says is interesting.  For Russian speakers, my wife says that the word воля would be used in a spiritual context rather than желание.



#8 Dusja

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 06:46 AM

Herman, what about the Prayers Before Sleep? In the prayer of St. John the Damascene we pray that the Lord would save us, whether we want it or not:

 


 

O Lord, Lover of men, is this bed to be my coffin, or wilt Thou enlighten my
wretched soul with another day? Here the coffin lies before me, and here death
confronts me. I fear, O Lord, Thy Judgment and the endless torments, yet I cease
not to do evil. My Lord God, I continually anger Thee, and Thy immaculate
Mother, and all the Heavenly Powers, and my holy Guardian Angel. I know, O Lord,
that I am unworthy of Thy love, but deserve condemnation and every torment. But,
whether I want it or not, save me, O Lord.
For to save a good man is no great
thing, and to have mercy on the pure is nothing wonderful, for they are worthy
of Thy mercy. But show the wonder of Thy mercy on me, a sinner. In this reveal
Thy love for men, lest my wickedness prevail over Thy unutterable goodness and
mercy. And order my life as Thou wilt.

 

 

(By the way, it was really hard to find the complete evening prayers in English (I just had a few minutes to spare, so I didn't carry out a thorough survey. This I found in Myriobiblos. All the church sites had only very brief excerpts of the morning and evening prayers in English.)



#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 09:33 AM

This is the prayer by St John of Damascus in the Jordanville Prayer Book.  I have nothing to go on, but I think the previous words give us the answer:

 

"yet I cease not to do evil. My Lord God, I continually anger Thee, and Thy immaculate Mother, and all the Heavenly Powers, and my holy Guardian Angel. I know, O Lord, that I am unworthy of Thy love, but deserve condemnation and every torment."

 

These words acknowledge our wrong exercise of will in the sense of choice and the words 'whether I want it or not' are about that wrong choice.  The saying of the prayer itself, though, must speak of the innate volition Lakis spoke of.


Edited by Andreas Moran, 27 June 2013 - 09:41 AM.


#10 Owen Jones

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 01:10 PM

Thanks, Lakis, for a very clear explication of St. Maximos on will, et al.  And you make a most important point, that when people today speak of free will, it has little or nothing to do with Patristic concepts.  It really means choosing and deciding, largely according to what the individual person deems necessary to him, absent any outside influence.  In the modern religious context it really refers to fideism, which is a type of voluntarism which is the assertion that will, not intellect, is the fundamental principle of both the individual and the universe.  So I will myself to believe.  I will myself to have faith in God.

 

So with respect to God, voluntarism claims that God exists substantially as will, and it is through exercise of His will that defines what He is, and that He wills whatever He wills without recourse to any other aspect of the Divine Essence.  And will is what makes man what man is as well, as a choosing, deciding, free agent. 

 

At the same time, I think we have to acknowledge that the Church's tradition on free will, or the relationships between will and volition as you point out, is paradoxic both in nature and in operation.  The Jewish and Christian revelations are of a God that is very different from other Gods, but that applies to man as well.  In fact, reality (creation) is paradoxic in its very structure.

 

Genesis 1 refers to a very diffierent kind of human being.  Both God and man are more subtle and more complex as are relations and participation between the two.  So while we acknowledge that God created us free to choose, He is the one who offers us the choices.  And he also offers stark consequences.  And he moves us in subtle ways and sometimes not so subtle ways to conform our lives to His precepts.  And let us not forget the deceiver, who is constantly at work trying to distract our attention and also convince us that the free exercise of our will requires us to reject God's precepts.  For some reason, most of us find this argument to be quite attractive.  If I submit to God's will, then there is no freedom! 

 

But true freedom for the Christian is not the absence of outside coercion or influence or force in our decision making, but rather a condition.  And as you point out, it is a condition that is familiar to the saints.  It is the natural operation of our created nature which is in harmony with God's nature (although never a steady or static state of existence.  As St. Maximos pointed out, it is possible to relapse into a state of non-existence!). 

 

So I think the underlying point is that Orthodox Christians need to embrace the paradoxic nature of freedom and not rely just on dogmatic formulations. 



#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 01:52 PM

I think this is a very important topic because the relationship between our 'free will' or 'will' and God is crucial to our lives in Christ.  The OED has 23 different definitions of 'will' but two took my eye.  One is to do with exercising choice, and the other is to do with what a person purposes or intends. I wonder if scripture and patristic writings use different words for these different shades of meaning.  The NT (as in 1 Timothy 2:4) seems though to just use thelei.


Edited by Andreas Moran, 27 June 2013 - 01:53 PM.


#12 Bill Turri

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 04:21 PM

First we must be careful about the terminology.
 
In modern times when we talk about "free will" usually we mean a conscious dialectic decision shaped by syllogisms. Modern terminology defines "free will" as personal expression of a decision making process. That is, man has several options at hand and by exercising his "free will" he makes a free choice. Wikipedia rightly defines "free will" as the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors.
 
This modern concept of "free-will" has no place in the terminology used by the 6th Ecumenical Council and by Church Fathers. The "will" that the 6th Ecumenical Council talked about is arising from the nature and not from the person (likewise, energies are arising from the nature and not from the person).
 
I'm actually quite new to the Orthodox understanding of the will. I've been Orthodox for two years, having come from Calvinism, where "free will" is nearly all that's ever talked about. So I will assume that by "modern times" you probably include the Reformation, since it's quite "modern" from the perspective of St. Maximos? 
 
Since coming to Orthdoxy I find few people (at the parish level, anyway) who've thought deeply about this, or are willing to discuss it. So I appreciate the opportunity here.
 

 
Orthodox and patristic terminology defines the "will" (the word free is missing) as an appetite and momentum of nature, as a physical movement of reason, as a self-determined movement of noetic soul, thus "will" is connected to nature and not to the person.
 
St Maximus the Confessor talks about "volition" ("προαίρεση" in greek) as distinct from the "will". Will is a physical appetite (desire, appeal, motion, momentum, mood) logical and vital, while volition is the outcome of cooperation between appetite, thinking and critical process. Modern terminology uses the word "will" in place of the patristic term of volition. Then, all misunderstandings start. 
 
This is crucial, because in the patristic term "will" you can find no opposites, when in the term volition opposites are inherently present as dialectically contrary options which are at hand to choose one from them. 
 
We must make clear that the Patristic term "will" is not about making a choice. It is about having an innate natural appetite. For example, St Maximus says that all saints have just one single "will" to be with God. This one "will", that all saints have in common, is a desire that is in man's nature - it not a choice they make. All humans have this "will" to be with God in their nature. 
 
When I heard people discuss this in my "old circles," and when I read Calvin on the matter, or summaries of the Reformation thinking, they made a distinction between "desire" and "will." It sounds similar to what you describe. They stated that man always chooses according to his strongest desire at the time. So it wasn't that they taught that man's will is not free to operate, but rather that it is free to operate according only to its desires. So the problem, they said, was that man's desires were fallen into sin, and that man desires himself rather than God. Thus, until the desires are liberated from this sin, man cannot choose God because man cannot desire God. Stated differently, man will always freely use his will to choose against God. Nothing coerced, nothing forced. Man self-chooses, freely, his own destruction. Of course this leads to monergism, the idea that God chooses which individuals he will "regenerate" (think of flipping on a switch) so that they suddenly desire God, at which point they must struggle to overcome the remaining effects of sin, so that they no longer have to choose. In other words, when they are fully sanctified in the Spirit, they will always choose God because they will always desire God. At this point, it's unclear whether it still makes sense to speak of choice. There's nothing left to choose.
 
In some sense, this doesn't sound too far removed from what you've stated here. Except...
 

 
You may say, why are not all men saints? (since they have the same natural "will"). The answer is because men have also a "gnomic will", that is they make use of volition and start making choices. According to St Maximus, usually a person has to make a choice among alternatives (most of the times between opposites) .
 
Well, Christ had no gnomic will. Christ had just natural wills, that is two natural wills - one human and one divine. He had no gnomic will (volition).
 
I'm sticking my little toe into the vast, deep blue sea at this point...
 
So if the "gnomic will" is personal, whereas "natural will" is...well...natural...then how can Christ truly have been "a person" without having a gnomic will?  :huh:
I'm not trying to trivialize things, but how could Christ have decided between two options on anything? If I have a gnomic will, and Christ does not, then is Christ still really a person as I'm a person?
 
Now, where "Augustinian" thinking (and Calvinistic and much that followed, by extension) would hold that the desires ("natural will?") are held in bondage to sin, and therefore a person can only exercises his freedom of choice, to choose from among Godless options...Orthodoxy would hold...what? That our "natural will" is still as it was before the fall, but that our volition, our "gnomic will" is what has become corrupt? Or at least, some combination of factors (intellect, emotions, etc.) that affect how we choose?
 
I will always say it bothered me when Calvinists spoke of our "sinful nature" being replaced (by God) with a "new nature." I always understood that, at least per the thinking of the pre-schism church, there was only one human nature. Christ assumed the very same nature that we all share. Thus, if "will" is proper to "nature" then our human will, and his human will, must be the same human will...or else he'd have become incarnate as something other than human. 
 

 
Jean-Claude Larchet  defines "the logoi of a being" of St Maximus as its principle or its  essential reason, the one that fundamentally defines and characterizes it, but also its finality, the purpose for which a being exists, briefly its reason of being in a double meaning of principle and end of its existence”.
 
In this context, saints cleansed their hearts, so then it becomes clear to them the "logoi of beings", they realized the real authentic "will" that is in their human nature. When, every other false version of "logoi of being" disappears from their view, there will be no option, because there will be no choice, and only remains the active mental appetite apply to those who are appetizing in nature to be with God. It is a situation analogues to a man that has in front of him a bread and a stone, his natural human appetite is to eat the bread, he makes no choice, there is no volition involved.
 
So is this something like saying that the saints are those who've chipped away all the filth that clung to their nature, to let the real "human will" shine through, thereby reaching the point at which there was no longer a choice to be made, because God was all they desired?
 
Luther once said that a human is a dunghill, and a Christian is a "dunghill covered in snow" (the idea that Christ's righteousness covers us like a garment). This sounds more like the Fathers would have seen a human as a gem covered in mud, a Christian as a gem being cleansed, and a saint as a gem restored to its original brilliance. 
 

 
So, what st Maximus said and 6th Ecumenical Council accepted about Christ having two natural "wills" has nothing to do with modern "free-will" concept. 

 

Thank you for clarifying this. I hope you're able to continue the discussion!!!



#13 Bill Turri

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 04:44 PM

Thanks, Lakis, for a very clear explication of St. Maximos on will, et al.  And you make a most important point, that when people today speak of free will, it has little or nothing to do with Patristic concepts.  It really means choosing and deciding, largely according to what the individual person deems necessary to him, absent any outside influence.  In the modern religious context it really refers to fideism, which is a type of voluntarism which is the assertion that will, not intellect, is the fundamental principle of both the individual and the universe.  So I will myself to believe.  I will myself to have faith in God.

 

And this really sums up the endless debates over the matter, between "Calvinists" and "Arminians" (which terms I put in quotes, because there's considerable reason to doubt whether either group accurately reflects the teachings of its namesake). 

 

The former says we cannot will ourselves to have faith. Our wills are so destroyed by sin that we cannot ever desire God. Thus, faith is something that must be given to us, like something implanted into us by God. The latter says, essentially, "we will ourselves to have faith." 

 

I'm guessing that neither side is framing the discussion in terms that would fit with the patristic concept? Or rather, that each side is sharing unspoken and unrealized starting points, and these starting points themselves are what do not fit with patristic thought? 



#14 Bill Turri

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 04:53 PM

Oh, and can somebody recommend a good, simple "St. Maximos for Dummies" guide to his thought?  :D



#15 Bill Turri

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 05:31 PM

So with respect to God, voluntarism claims that God exists substantially as will, and it is through exercise of His will that defines what He is, and that He wills whatever He wills without recourse to any other aspect of the Divine Essence.  And will is what makes man what man is as well, as a choosing, deciding, free agent. 

 

One other thought. You're saying that "voluntarism" claims that God is essentially coterminous with his will? Or, that God in his essence, is will? 

 

Is this as opposed to the understanding that "will" is one of God's energies? And therefore God cannot be identified strictly with his will?

 

I'm just beginning to get my peabrain around these kinds of concepts :) 



#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 06:27 PM

I wonder of it is better to talk of God's purpose?

 

As to how a person gets faith in the first place, most Orthodox Christians are brought up in the faith, but we can consider those who come to faith.  I was taught (by Bishop Irenaeos and Archimandrite Zacharias) that the heart of a person bears the image of God within him and the heart is restless until it finds rest in God.  Many people do not recognise the nature of this restlessness and seek to gratify it in the things of the world, the passions.  In some, there is a spark of humility which attracts the Holy Spirit and faith is then a gift as a response to humility.  That is one thing.  Subsequently seeking to discern God's will in our lives is another.  But this latter is a very important matter because people can so easily go wrong, or take the wrong approach.



#17 Bill Turri

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 12:20 AM

A pressing question then, is why one man has the spark of humility and another does not.

#18 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 12:29 AM

I asked Fr Zacharias that.  He said, 'it's the mystery of the person.'



#19 Lakis Papas

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 12:50 AM

Owen Jones -  post #10
 
I endorse your viewpoint.
 
Bill Turri - post #12
 
1) I think Reformation is included in "modern times" regarding free-will concept.
 
2) The theory that "man's will operates according to its desires, which were fallen into sin" is not in line with orthodox theology. The phrase describes the process of volition (here again is the confusion will/volition). 
 
There are two distinct things: a)to want something and b)to choose the path that will lead me to get what I want. According to patristic theology sinners have proper natural desires but they choose to look for them through a false path, they are in doubt through the process and ultimately feel that making the right choice is impossible. For example, it is a genuine authentic desire for a human to want to be like God, but the protoplasts tried to achieve this legitimate desire following the wrong path and they failed. Their desire was not sinful, their actions were.
 
(another example: it is a genuine authentic desire for a human to have an appetite for beauty, but many people try to achieve this desire by following the wrong path and they fail in the process - one of the right paths "to see beauty" is to see God through creation)  
 
St Maximus says that "will" is a built-in feature originating from nature. But, where all humans share the same nature, each human being lives in a separate and personal time-frame and place and each human being is a distinct person. A specific person selects his own operations, to achieve the things that desires by nature, and this process of volition is called "gnomic will".  Gnomic will is nothing else than an act of willing in a particular way. The reason for this personal process of the natural will is that humans are imperfect and they need to gain perfection. 
 
The following excerpt is typical of St Maximus theology(St Maximus, Disputation with Pyrrhus):

Pyrrhus: Virtues, then, are natural things?
 
Maximus: Yes, natural things.
 
Pyrrhus: If they be natural things, why do they not exist in all men equally, since all men have an identical nature?
 
Maximus: But they do exist equally in all men because of the identical nature!
 
Pyrrhus: Then why is there such a great disparity [of virtues] in us?
 
Maximus: Because we do not all practice what is natural to us to an equal degree; indeed, if we [all] practiced equally [those virtues] natural to us as we were created to do, then one would be able to perceive one virtue in us all, just as there is one nature [in us all], and “one virtue” would not admit of a “more” or “less.”
 
Pyrrhus: If virtue be something natural [to us], and if what is natural to us existeth not through asceticism but by reason of our creation, then why is it that we acquire the virtues, which are natural, with asceticism and labours?
 
Maximus: Asceticism, and the toils that go with it, was devised simply in order to ward off deception, which established itself through sensory perception. It is not [as if] the virtues have been newly introduced from outside, for they inhere in us from creation, as hath already been said. Therefore, when deception is completely expelled, the soul immediately exhibits the splendor of its natural virtue.

 

 
3) Christ does not have a gnomic will.
 
St Maximus says: "So then, the gnomie is nothing else than an act of willing in a particular way, in relation to some real or assumed good. … Thus, those who say that there is a gnomie in Christ, as this inquiry is demonstrating, are maintaining that he is a mere man, deliberating in a manner like unto us, having ignorance, doubt, and opposition,since one only deliberates about something which is doubtful, not concerning what is free of doubt. By nature we have an appetite simply for what by nature is good, but we gain experience of the goal in a particular way, through inquiry and counsel. Because of this, then, the gnomic will is fitly ascribed to us, being a mode of the employment [of the will], and not a principle of nature, otherwise nature [itself] would change innumerable times."
 
Christ is a divine Person already before the incarnation and after the incarnation remains the same Person that possesses the full knowledge of the natural good. Since Christ as a God-man already possesses the knowledge of the natural good, He does not has a need for the gnomic will as a tool of getting the proper knowledge. Christ’s mode of willing is not deliberative but rather natural insofar as Christ already wills in accord with the natural inclination of his human faculty of willing. 
 
The lack of gnomic will does not make Christ less of a human. We must keep in our minds that Christ is like us in His human nature and not in His person. Christ did not assumed a human person, He assumed human nature. We share the same mode of natural (human) being with Christ, not the same mode of personal being.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 28 June 2013 - 12:54 AM.


#20 Bill Turri

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 03:17 PM

Lakis,

 

You said:

 

St Maximus says that "will" is a built-in feature originating from nature. But, where all humans share the same nature, each human being lives in a separate and personal time-frame and place and each human being is a distinct person. A specific person selects his own operations, to achieve the things that desires by nature, and this process of volition is called "gnomic will".  Gnomic will is nothing else than an act of willing in a particular way. The reason for this personal process of the natural will is that humans are imperfect and they need to gain perfection. 

 

Could you elaborate on where sin does fit into this? There is a difference between the "gnomie" (as you say St. Maximus describes it) falling into wrong action due to ignorance, error or finitude, and falling into immoral action through self-love or hatred of neighbor, etc. I realize that all that's wrong in the world can fall under the broad heading of "sin" since it all misses the mark, but I'm referring more to moral corruption than simple error or miscalculation. 







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: salvation, free will, sixth ecumenical council

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