Sunday, November 17, 2013

Human Will

“Sin acts in fallen human nature, and its action begins with the human will, which is the first to be subjected to its influence. Sin can dominate a person’s will, but not destroy it. This was the main point of disagreement between the Orthodox theologians and the Monothelite heretics in the seventh century. The latter insisted that Christ had no human will, because the will had been destroyed by sin and turned into evil. It deserved only to be rejected, and could not be accepted by Christ as part of His human nature. The Monothelites’ error was to identify the will and sin, with the will indissolubly dominated by sin. For Orthodoxy, the will, although prone to sin, remains part of human nature created by God. It is not the essence of the will that has undergone malignant change, but its focus. In Christ the human will has, if you will permit me the expression, been refocused on the will of God, with both now moving in one and the same direction. It is important to note that man himself could not change the evil direction of his will – this required the divine intervention through the Son of God becoming man and hypostatically uniting human nature, including the will, with the divine nature.

In this way the will becomes a primary element in the healing of human nature from sin. With the Incarnation the human will becomes a channel, no longer of sin, but of grace. Just as once through the will sin came into human nature, so through it, with the Incarnation, came the salvation of man. In line with this thought are the words of the eminent Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky: ‘If the will of the Son is identical with the will of the Father, then human will, which has become the will of the Word, is indeed His own will, and in this His own will is contained the whole mystery of our salvation’ (Dogmatic Theology).
In Christ, man’s will is totally aligned with the will of God. Throughout his entire life on earth, the God-man revealed the single thrust of his two wills. This was especially manifest in the agony of Gethsemane. Christ’s struggle in Gethsemane has proved a stumbling block for many. People largely have been unable to accept that Christ’s prayer in the Garden manifested His human will. Many have argued that Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was merely pursuing didactic goals and wanted to demonstrate once again his human nature. But for Orthodox it is important to understand that in the Garden of Gethsemane Christ showed not only his human nature, but also his human will, which remained subordinate to the will of God, even though the human will naturally seeks life and avoids death. This, in Gethsemane, Christ as a man showed his full and unconditional submission to the Divine will… The will of God together with the will of man are the two most important preconditions for salvation. Salvation requires the human will to be in tune with the will of God”[1].

[1] Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, Freedom and Responsibility, p.40-42

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