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Re: An Introduction to the Orthodox Christian Understanding of Free Will

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  • solascriptura1971
    Thanks Christopher, The article said: More than these, as St. Paul asserts, nature herself teaches us about God (Rom. 1); or, as as St. John ofDamascus says
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 24, 2008
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      Thanks Christopher,

      The article said:

      "More than these, as St. Paul asserts, nature herself teaches us
      about God (Rom. 1); or, as as St. John ofDamascus says (De Fid.
      Orth. 1,2), the knowledge of God is implanted in us by nature. And
      knowing God, even in a limited way, none may say that it is
      impossible for him to turn to God."

      This brings up a related issue. Is he saying that it's possible to
      come into a saving relationship with God apart from the means of
      grace?

      Thanks,
      Bobby


      --- In LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com, "Christopher Orr"
      <xcjorr@...> wrote:
      >
      > It should be noted that this article is written by a priets of an
      > uber-traditionalist, Old Calendarist schismatic group of Orthodox
      > Christians, so it will not necessarily be reflective of mainstream
      Orthodox
      > views. It should be closer to the Orthodox view than is an
      everyday
      > Lutheran view of the same.
      >
      > Christopher
      >
      >
      > *
      > **An Introduction to the Orthodox Christian Understanding of Free
      Will*
      >
      >
      > By Father Michael Azkoul
      >
      > http://orthodoxyinfo.org/AzkoulFreeWill.htm
      >
      > *Introduction*
      >
      > What is human free will? Is it the ability to choose between good
      and evil?
      > or is human freedom limited to a choice between things, e.g.,
      choosing
      > between a cup of coffee and a cup of tea? Do human beings in fact
      have any
      > freedom at all? When we ask these questions, we have nothing
      political in
      > mind. We do not ask here about human or civil rights --- which can
      be given
      > or taken away by the state --- but the greater question about the -
      > faculties of human nature.
      >
      > *1.*
      >
      > Philosophers commonly disagree about the definition of free will
      and the
      > human capacity to use it. Some have said that man is a machine,
      who must
      > follow the laws ofhis nature; therefore, he is neither free to
      choose
      > between good and evil (whatever they are) nor even between things.
      Even if
      > he could overcome the laws of nature, he would, as some ancient
      Greeks said,
      > be subject to "fate" (moira, eir mene) whose decisions must be
      fulfilled.
      > Thus, choice is a delusion.
      >
      > Augustine, the 5th century Bishop of Hippo, seems to have adapted
      the Greek
      > idea of fate. When discussing "predestination," that is, before
      the
      > creation of the world, God decided who would live with Him
      forever, and
      > those who would dwell in penal fire for eternity. Augustine called
      those
      > whom God has predestined to heaven, the Elect, and to hell, the
      Reprobate.
      > Thus, only the Elect have the ability to choose between good and
      evil, for
      > they alone have been given the grace to make such choices. This is
      a
      > revolutionary theory .
      >
      > It is contrary to the teachings of the Church which teaches, in
      the words of
      > St. John of Damascus, that God "know all things beforehand, but He
      does not
      > predetennine them. Although He knows what is in our power, He does
      not
      > predetennine it" (De Fid. Orth.. II, 30). Man is free because he
      was created
      > in "the image of God."
      >
      > Materialists have postulated that man is a soulless machine and
      subject to
      > the laws of nature. Freedom is an illusion. We eat what we eat,
      think what
      > we think, live as we live, according to the iron laws of the
      universe.
      >
      > Other philosophers reject the idea of the materialists. The 18th
      century
      > philosopher, Immanuel Kant, said that not only must we believe
      that man is
      > free, but also he has an immortal soul, and that God exists. The
      idea of
      > freedom cannot exist without the idea of God and immortality.
      Without such
      > beliefs, the happy life and civilization are impossible.
      >
      > Some modem philosophers argue that Kant did not go far enough. He
      should
      > have given greater attention to man a living organism with a
      spirit. His
      > body may be chained to the law of cause and effect, but his soul
      or spirit
      > is free. In the words of Nicholas Berdayaev, "Man is an enigmatic
      being
      > because he is not the product of natural processes, but is the
      child of
      > freedom which springs from the abyss of non-being. " Man
      possesses a divine
      > element within him and, therefore, he is free, with the power to
      create
      > beauty, to do good, to love justice. Certainly, man's body is
      controlled by
      > the strictures of time and space, but his spirit is free to
      transcend all
      > the laws of his finite nature. His spirit takes him where his body
      cannot
      > go.
      >
      > Curiously, modern thinkers ignore the fact that their theories
      about God,
      > man, his soul and freedom are nothing new. They were first stated
      by the
      > ancient Greeks and restated in the post-Orthodox Latin Middle
      Ages, only to
      > reemerge in modernity under different guises. What does the
      Orthodox Church
      > teach about free will? None of the above. She has never been
      concerned about
      > the so-called discoveries of human reason. Rather she trusts the
      sacred
      > Scriptures and her holy Fathers.
      >
      > *2*.
      >
      > Let me introduce the Christian teaching on free will with a few
      preliminary
      > remarks.
      >
      > First, one must understand that free will does not mean the
      ability to do
      > whatever we want. We cannot stop eating and breathing without
      eventually
      > terminating our existence. We cannot prevent the aging process,
      nor lift a
      > mountain, nor swallow the ocean. We are limited -- - not
      paralyzed --- by
      > our nature, the force of circumstance, the laws of Nature.
      >
      > Second, we are restricted by the passions. The passions limit the
      scope of
      > our choices. Thus, a person addicted to drugs has not the same
      liberty as a
      > person free of them. Sin limits our choices. In other words, our
      liberty
      > expands with the purity of the soul and body. In the Age to Come,
      St.
      > Gregory ofNyssa says, the saved will have an infinite number of
      choices. In
      > hell the damned will have no choice at all.
      >
      > Third, our liberty is restricted by ignorance. What we do not
      know, we
      > cannot choose, except, perhaps, by chance. But that would not be
      free
      > choice. Freedom involves deliberation. Ignorance is an excuse only
      for them
      > who have no ability or opportunity to learn, e.g., an infant has no
      > knowledge and, strictly speaking, it has no freedom to choose. But
      then it
      > knows neither good nor evil. The same may not be said of the
      normal adult.
      > In any case, God will judge us according to the way we exercised
      our
      > freedom.
      >
      > Fourth, there are matters entirely beyond our control, such as
      those things
      > which God has reserved for Himself only God has autarkeia or is
      > self-sufficient, absolutely independent; only God is autexousios
      or complete
      > "self-authority", "self-power", without any authority over Him.
      >
      > *3*.
      >
      > How does the Church define "free will"? It has two meanings and
      they are
      > interrelated. It is the ability to choose between good and evil
      and between
      > one thing and another. In every choice there is the risk of sin,
      unless we
      > call upon the Grace of God to aid« us.
      >
      > No choice, which excludes the Grace of God, contributes to our
      salvation for
      > by grace are ye saved (Eph. 2:6) declared St Paul. Grace also
      expands our
      > choices, purifies and directs them, especially choices which lead
      to our
      > salvation.
      >
      > But whether we choose between things physical or things spiritual,
      our
      > choices always involve the power to choose between good and evil.
      In
      > today's world, for example, there are many who believe that
      alcoholism is a
      > disease. The alcoholic is not a sinner, but a victim. Yet, in
      truth,
      > alcoholism is the result of cumulative choices which impacts upon
      the body
      > and cause chemical changes in it. Although alcoholism may compel a
      person to
      > drink, it was free choice in the first place which led to his
      slavery to
      > alcohol.
      >
      > *4.*
      >
      > Augustine of Hippo taught that "original sin" makes it impossible
      for us to
      > choose between good and evil and, therefore, to take any part in
      our
      > salvation. Before the creation of the world, God knew that Adam
      would fall
      > and plunge his posterity into sin, death and corruption. Knowing
      this, God
      > arbitrarily predestined some to salvation, others to damnation.
      Why He
      > decided to save some and not others, we cannot know. To the chosen
      few, the
      > Elect, He imposed grace irresistibly. They have the ability to
      choose
      > between good and evil. The rest of the human race deludes itself
      by thinking
      > that it has the same choices.
      >
      > Now, although he is wrong about predestination and compulsory
      grace, there
      > is some truth in what Augustine said. The liberty of Christians
      differs from
      > the liberty of the unbeliever, he who is outside the influence of
      God's
      > saving Grace. Nevertheless, he too was made in the image of God,
      and for
      > that reason he always has the power of choice, limited as it may
      be by his
      > passions and ignorance.
      >
      > To be sure, choice depends upon knowledge; and upon the knowledge
      of God's
      > Revelation, which presents the greatest number of choices. No one
      can say
      > that he has not had the possibility to know the Will of God ---
      not today,
      > not with the communications explosion, not with all the schools,
      libraries,
      > television, etc.
      >
      > More than these, as St. Paul asserts, nature herself teaches us
      about God
      > (Rom. 1); or, as as St. John ofDamascus says (De Fid. Orth. 1,2),
      the
      > knowledge of God is implanted in us by nature. And knowing God,
      even in a
      > limited way, none may say that it is impossible for him to turn to
      God.
      >
      > Put another way, with the knowledge of God comes the knowledge of
      the good
      > and, by implication, the knowledge of evil; and, consequently, the
      > possibility to choose between them. Without that knowledge and the
      choices
      > that result from them, we are left with no explanation for human
      existence
      > except fate or predestination, some unknown destiny. Understanding
      > ourselves this way, is to deprive human choice and action of all
      meaning
      > Worse, if there were a God, we would need to blame him for all
      evil. Not
      > even the devil, if one existed! , could be held responsible for
      his
      > conduct.
      >
      > Thus, the Fathers declare that God exists, that man has a soul. He
      is free
      > to choose, and not even the Grace of God is compulsory. As St.
      Justin
      > Martyr writes in his first *Apology,* 43,
      > *So that none may infer what we have said about the events
      we have
      > described. ..the*
      > * penalties and punishments, and the good rewards are given
      according
      > to each man's*
      > * action. If this not so, but all things happened in
      accordance with
      > fate, nothing would be*
      > * left us. For if it is destined that one man should be good
      and
      > another wicked, then*
      > * neither is the one to be praised, nor the other blamed. *
      >
      > St. Irenaeus concurs:
      > * This expression of our Lord, "How often would I have
      gathered thy
      > children together,*
      > * and thou wouldest not, (Matthew 23:37) II , set forth the
      ancient
      > law of human liberty,*
      > * because God made man a free agent from the beginning,
      possessing his
      > own power,*
      > * even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests of God
      > voluntarily, and not by*
      > * compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but
      a good
      > will towards us is*
      > * present with Him continually. And therefore does He give
      good
      > counsel to all. In man,*
      > * as well as the angels, He has placed the power of
      choice...so that
      > those who had yielded*
      > * obedience might rightly possess the good, given indeed by
      God, but
      > preserved by*
      > * themselves. On, the other hand, they who have not obeyed,
      shall,
      > with justice, be not*
      > * found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign
      > punishment : for God did*
      > * kindly bestow on them what was good;... *(*Against the
      Heresies*,
      > IV, 37, I).
      >
      > Contrary to Augustine, the Grace of God is not arbitrarily forced
      upon some
      > and denied to others. Grace is freely given, freely received. To
      quote St.
      > Faustus of Riez,
      > *We, however, maintain that whosoever is lost is lost by
      his own
      > fault; yet, he could*
      > * have obtained salvation through grace had he cooperated
      with it;
      > and, on the other hand,*
      > * whoever through grace attains to perfection by means of
      cooperation,
      > might*
      > * nevertheless, through his own fault, his own negligence,
      fall and be
      > lost. We exclude, of*
      > * course, all personal pride, since we insist that all we
      possess has
      > been freely received*
      > * from the Hand of God* (*Concerning Grace*, 1)
      >
      > And, finally, St. John Cassian asserts,
      > *These two, namely, grace and free will, although they seem
      opposed,
      > in fact are*
      > * complementary ...Were we to deny the one or the other, we
      would
      > appear to have*
      > * abandoned the Faith of the Church* (Conversations with the
      Desert
      > Fathers, 18).
      >
      > The cooperation between God's Grace and man's free will, the
      Church calls
      > "synergy" or acting together of two energies, human and Divine.
      What God
      > freely gives, we are free to accept or reject. At the same times,
      there are
      > some things God will not give us nor will He let us know about
      them. For,
      > as the Apostle Paul has written, *Eye hath not seen, nor ear
      heard, neither
      > have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath
      prepared for
      > them that love Him* (1 Cor. 2:9).
      >
      > *Conclusion*
      >
      > Philosophers cannot help us know whether we have free will. They
      do not
      > agree among themselves. Their theories, based on unproven
      assumptions, are
      > open to serious criticism. Also religious doctrine about
      predestination and
      > fate only put the blame for evil on God and deprive human beings
      of praise
      > and blame for their choices, for their vice and virtue. The
      knowledge of
      > free will comes by faith and experience. God created man in His
      Image, which
      > means that man has free will. The freedom which has been implanted
      by God in
      > created human nature is curtailed only by sin and ignorance.
      Without freedom
      > life is meaningless.
      >
      > *The above was given as a lecture at a Conference held at St.
      Anna's
      > Orthodox Church on Saturday, October 22, 1994.*
      > *Published by: St. Nicholas Educational Society 26 Edgemont Street
      > Roslindale, MA, 02131-1923*
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
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