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Freewill: What the Eastern Orthodox Church Teaches

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Freewill: What the Eastern Orthodox Church Teaches

Editor’s Note: FāVS has launched a new series on Freewill. For the next few weeks our columnists will answer questions on the topic, including: What is free will? Do human beings have it? Is it possible to have some form of free will in one or more areas of life and not in others? What role, if any, does God play? If it exists, does it bring a sense of security, if it doesn’t exist does it lead to complacency? How does your view impact concepts of justice and accountability?

By Nicholas Damascus

The general perception of freewill is our ability to choose between good and evil, right from wrong. However, what is right is not always what is good, nor does what is wrong always mean it is evil. An example of this was in Germany in WWII. It was against the law (not the right thing to do) to give shelter or aid to a person of Jewish decent. However, to conceal this person and aid them in their escape from persecution from the authorities was a good thing to do.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is understood that God is good, and man was created in the image and likeness of God.

As an Icon of God

Man’s natural inherent will is the desire for good. In Galatians 2:20, Saint Paul says, “….it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me….” Once the choice is made to have Christ live in you and to allow his will to become your will, then there is no need for freewill.

Man Knows Good and Evil

If man knows what is good, then why is it necessary for the freedom of choice? If man chooses other than good, he often yields to the impulses of the flesh and is dragged into the abyss of misdirection.

We know that God’s will for us is 100% for our benefit. Abiding in us, he aids us in governing our feelings, our mind, and thoughts. It is said when the Kingdom of God enters a man’s heart, the veil of ignorance is discarded from his mind. 

Freedom of choice or freewill is a sign of imperfection, more often making choices that are not of good, increasing the propensity to sin, and leading to a gradual loss of divine nature and a clouded perception of reality. It is free choice that often leads us into slavery of the passions of pride, anger, jealousy, lust, gluttony, etc. It is only when we follow the good that benefits us and become truly free.

Orthodox Christians, in submission and obedience to their beliefs, may be seen in Western Christianity as a loss of something, an end to individualism and identity, restriction, confinement, a type of control or slavery, and most of all, a loss of freedom. Christ did not come to take anything away from us. On the contrary. He came to transform us from our fallen state to our original state of creation, to make dead men alive.

The Word of God implies I have come to free you, not to enslave you. 

Nicholas Damascus
Nicholas Damascus
As an infant, I was baptized as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. However, I would say that becoming a Christian is a work in progress, and I often wonder would there be enough evidence to convict me of becoming a Christian. The Orthodox Church is the ancient Church that Christ and the Apostles established. It is not a religion but rather a way of life. It is not about rules and regulations but rather guide posts to make choices to transition to what we were designed to become. Becoming Orthodox is not a conversion but more so a transformation of self. It’s not about being right: it is about “right being.” In John 14:6, Christ says I am the Way (to love and serve one another), the Truth (there is only one reality), and the Life (that life source is love). I invite you to submit any topics or questions to “Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian” on the website. Join me in finding our way back home to the original teachings of the Church. When you change the way you look at things, things change the way they look.

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