Within the next two weeks , I will be posting short pieces of writing regarding the following topics :
* Scripture and Command
* Nature and Creation
We begin this series of topics, in the field of Theological Ethics with Freedom.
Biblical Passage : Romans 8: 1 - 17
The Apostle Paul tells us that if we are one with Christ, then we are truly free from death and sin. God Has renewed mankind, putting our broken pieces together with His Only begotten Son Jesus Christ ; reconnecting humanity with Divinity. Paul makes it clear that it is the Holy and Life giving Spirit that can truly fulfil us and allow us to keep the Lord's commandments and Holy Law.
Our 'conduct is no longer controlled by the Old Nature, but by the Spirit.' Paul gives us a comparison between the old nature and the renewed way of life in Christ. 'Those who live on the level of the old nature have their outlook formed by it, and that spells death; but those who live on the level of the Spirit have the spiritual outlook, and that is life and peace.'
If Christ is within us, dwelling in our hearts, then this enables us to get rid of the pursuits of the body, and then this is where true life will exist. A life in Christ is not a life of slavery, the Apostle Paul adds, but a life of freedom, as God's children. St Isaac the Syrian says ' when you enter the path of righteousness, then you will cleave to freedom in everything.'
Do we have a free choice, regarding which path to take ?
Christos Yannaras writes ' the fall of man takes place when he freely renounces his possibility of participating in true life.' So the very fall of man was a free choice - just as we have the choice to fall or to fulfil our potential - which is to have personal communion with God. From the moment that a man rejects this call and opportunity, he becomes alienated from himself - from his very own freedom and existence. He rejects true freedom - freedom which transcends nature and frees existence from natural necessity.
Ancient Philosophy has always taught us that good and evil are parts of the structure of our universe. The Creator God Has set good and evil into the structure of bodies, matter, mentality and spirit. For Plato, Aristotle, as well as Moses and Christ Himself, 'the good life' is living in accord with a given structure. Christ uniquely calls this structure Love - for God and neighbour.
For the Apostle Paul, this Love ( Αγάπη ) is a higher authority than law. A prime example of this is when he discusses the eating of meat - he does not simply give us a set of rules; but advises us not to behave in a way that will offend any fellow human being. It is Love that we should act upon first - and if we do so then our choices and decisions will not be self-centred, and egoistic, but Χριστοκεντρική ( Christ-centred ) During the period of the fast, Orthodox Christians are advised by the Church to take this time to discipline themselves against temptation, and abstain from all animal products. However, if we are invited to someones house, and they kindly offer us something to eat which would mean breaking the Holy fast - we should take it and be thankful! This is exactly what Paul's message is; that we have a duty to our brothers and sisters - and that duty is love.
For Paul, persons are internally divided. We will the good, however we do not always act in a good way. He tells us that mortality is the consequence of rebellion against God, as is the σάρξ, the flesh; sinful, fallen and old nature. The 'Σάρξ' points out the contrast and gap between human and divine natures. However Christ becomes 'σάρξ' - adopting human flesh and blood, and in doing so destroys this gap and contrast.
Therefore to live in Christ or 'by the Spirit', is to do exactly that ; destroy this contrast between the flesh and the spirit. The divine nature and human nature.
This change goes from being in slavery, to being completely free - as the God-man ( 'Θεάνθρωπος' ) gives us the ability to be set free from death and sin.