1. Freedom of God within the Trinitarian perspective.
The concept of the freedom of God and of the human being is based on the Christian doctrine of the three-hypostatic Creator and the human personality created according to His image. According to the Holy Bible and the Tradition of the Christian Church, God is simultaneously an absolute unity and an absolute distinction of the three Hypostases – Persons who are in a perpetual motion of mutual divine dialogue of Love. The divine Love of the three Hypostases consists in their free, always unique, and full personal communion, which is “undetermined by any necessity”. Ιt is clearly reflected in the doctrine of the one Essence and indivisible unity in the “perichoresis” of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. “God is not simply One, but He is One in the three Persons as He is a communion of Persons which participate in each other through love”. This communion and dialogue within God are conducted in absolute divine freedom. As a matter of fact, slightly opening out the mystery of the intra-Trinitarian existence, we can say that only the three-Personal Creator gives us the ground for defining the concept of true freedom, which appears to be inseparably linked to the mystery of true personal existence. We will quote here the famous thought of Prof. V. Lossky, that “the Father would not be a true Personality in the full sense if He had no Son and Spirit”, if “He had not shared His essence with them”. This thought can be continued in relation to the concept of freedom as follows: each of the Hypostases of the Trinity would not be absolutely free, including freedom with respect to their common Essence, if it did not have another two Hypostases participating with it in possessing this Essence. Thus, freedom and triplicity in God appear to be mutually dependent.
Thus, we can state that had God been an absolutely self-enclosed Monad, first, He would not have been in full sense a Person, and, second, He would become somewhat of a “hostage” to His own nature. Therefore, the concept of absolute freedom would not be applicable to Him as well. Here we are not talking about so-called “formal” freedom, which has to do with the capability of formal choice. It is obvious that the theological concept of “gnomic” will and “formal” freedom cannot be applied to God as they are connected with a lack of knowledge and, as a consequence, with the necessity of a somewhat random, arbitrary choice between appearing possibilities. “Gnomic” choice always implies some procedure of making a decision under certain limitedness of knowledge whereas God possesses perfect knowledge about everything and does not require any advice.
It is possible to speak about three aspects which constitute the absolute freedom of God: firstly, the freedom of mutual personal relationship of Hypostases, secondly, freedom of each of Hypostases with respect to their common Essence. According to Prof. Yannaras: “God, being a Person, absolutely freely defines His own nature, rather than vice versa”. It is obvious that these two components of divine freedom of the Holy Trinity supplement each other, because relationship among the Persons is carried out through Their common Essence. And, last but not least, we should talk about the freedom of God in relation to His creation, which was brought into being by Him in absolute freedom, without even the slightest necessity, and which is constantly maintained in being by His full divine freedom and independence.
It is especially important to notice that the concept of freedom within the consciousness of usual human reasoning is reduced to a concept of freedom which is almost totally opposite to the divine freedom described above. Oftentimes, in the view of individual human beings or of entire human societies, freedom is considered to be fuller and more perfect, the further it allows for the absolute external independence and the possibility of self-realization without any need to give attention to someone else’s interests. Such an emasculated and distorted concept of freedom was dominant during different historical epochs, being expressed as a principle of inevitable suppression of “others” for the sake of the expansion of oneself. As we will see further, without the Revelation of the three-Hypostatic God mankind has proved in its own history to be unable to overcome narrowness and obscurity of approaches to the problem of freedom.
2. Human Freedom as an aspect of our image and likeness to God
Created in the image and likeness of God, man carries within himself a reflection of the mystery of the divine form of being and the potential for the realization of the completeness of this being.
The enigma of human personhood and freedom receives a very special meaning in the theological perspective of the Holy Trinity. Moreover, the anthropological conclusions which one can draw from the dogma of the Trinity are vast and deep. Trinitarian theology “determines the very essence of the human being. The unilateral approach to God as a Monad, and to man as created according to the image of this Monad, would lead to an opposition of the two monads, divine and human” and to “an intolerable face to face opposition in which man would be crushed or dissolved. On the contrary, bearing within himself an image of the Holy Trinity, the human hypostasis finds itself, as a being capable of dialogue” and moreover, called to self-development in the process of dialogue with God and human beings, who are similar to him.
According to the Serbian theologian of the XX century Fr. Justin Popovich, “the Holy Trinity is the ideal and perfection of catholicity”, that is an ideal and perfection established for mankind for aspiration to God Himself. Bathing in free love and in loving freedom, God had created the world so that there became possible “life of other beings which can participate in His life and His love”. It is exactly the three-hypostatic existence of God which enables us to speak theologically about the readiness and desire of the Lord “to share His life with the created according to His image personalities, who can freely answer to Him”. Where there is no true freedom, true love cannot exist either, and vice versa.
Man, being in the image and likeness of God, possesses the gift of freedom, but, of course, “not in that absolute measure in which God has it, because God Himself defines His own being in everything”, while human being is constrained to a certain extent by its limitedness and createdness.
Similar to the above-mentioned three aspects of the freedom of God, we can consider three components of human freedom which are granted to us by our Creator. Namely: 1) freedom in our personal relationship with God, 2) freedom in our personal relationship with other human personalities, 3) freedom of the human personality in relation to its own nature, consisting of body, soul and spirit, (as the highest part of the soul) and to all the world around it.
It is obvious that true human freedom is freedom in development and in the process of formation. This development of our freedom is directly dependent on the formation of our personality, just as the absolute freedom and personhood in the Trinity are mutually dependent, though obviously not demanding any development which is alien to the Absolute. Just as God would not be an absolutely free Personality if He was not a Unity of Trinity, in the same way the human individual cannot become a free personality without being involved in the process of constant relationship with other personalities – firstly, with the three-hypostatic God, and secondly, with His image, namely human personalities. It is exactly for this reason that we hear the words of God at Adam's creation: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). The notion of “personality implies “openness of being”, directed towards relationship, which overcomes the borders of “egoism” and, hence, leads to freedom”.
The dogma of creation of the world by God “from nothing” so to speak “releases” what has been brought into being “from itself” i.e. from “slavery” to its own nature, thus liberating the being of any creature from obsession by the philosophical concept of necessity. According to St Maximus the Confessor, man was put as a mediator between the two worlds – visible and invisible, physical and spiritual, in order to be free with respect to nature and matter. Nevertheless human freedom from nature and matter is understood by St Maximus not in the sense of detachment or disregard to them but as an antithesis to unnatural human slavery, to the matter which followed after the Fall. Freedom of man in its third aspect - in relation to his own nature and to the world around him, is formed in the process of prosperity in freedom and love in the first two aspects, in relation to other personalities – both Divine and created ones.
Love towards others is a necessary condition for the establishment of right relations with them. The same divine love is a necessary condition for the development of our own freedom, including our freedom with respect to the world and body matter. By ‘love’ here we certainly imply a theological concept. Love in its original theological sense is revealed to mankind as an image of the existence of the Holy Trinity. Also, due to the limitations of our capabilities of understanding which have been dulled by sin, this divine love had to be revealed through Christ, who was crucified for the sake of mankind on the Golgotha Cross. Divine love is the best term to describe the type of free relationship among the three Persons of the Trinity who are free with respect to their common Nature. This fact sets the vector of the development of human personality in the course of relationship with other human personalities similar to it and possessing a similar human nature.
Sacrificial Christian love is often distorted in our consciousness as something inappropriate to the principle of full freedom. This is a usual psychological error which is connected directly with the illness of egoism and other passions of the human soul which make the principle of sacrifice hard and painful to accept. The Holy Tradition considers man after Adam and Eve’s fall as the object of a special Divine Providence, in which Fatherly Love guides the beloved creation through the pains of purification to the soul’s rescue. However, the obscured consciousness of mankind does not perceive the necessity of free-will and the painful sacrifice of “personal interests” as a strong appeal and the only possible way to true freedom. Any restriction and narrowing of this way are perceived as almost an absolute evil, and instead of internal growth in a God-like ability to sacrifice, the person sets himself on a struggle against different external “irritators” and “violators” of its freedom. But, according to St Isaac the Syriac: “Ignorant freedom is mother of passions and its end is the cruel slavery” of its owner. Meanwhile it is correct to say that human person “exists in that measure, in which it exists for the sake of another person”.
Personal love and sacrifice are conducted through the nature belonging to the subject of loving and sacrificial action. This brings about the subject’s growth in true freedom with respect to that very nature which conducts its personal acts and with respect to other subjects involved in personal relationships, whether they accept this love and sacrifice or not. With the increase of the degree of freedom the pain of sacrifice yields space to the joy of love, and human sacrifice becomes more and more similar to God’s kenotic love, which has nothing to do with pain so long as we speak about intra-Trinitarian relations. Kenotic love is not just a way of God’s Revelation to us but is the “mode of being” of the Persons of the Trinity. Christ’s kenosis by itself “reveals his Deity for those who can recognize greatness in humiliation, wealth in scarcity, freedom in obedience”.
Relationship between God and man within the Christian outlook is based on freedom principles. From the very beginning God, freely wishing to share His love with other personalities, created angels and people possessing freedom. And with the gift of freedom, theoretical possibility of the sin had been open in front of us as well. “God has done it so as to limit His omnipotence in some measure. He ‘has stepped aside’, ‘removed Himself’ in order to leave for creation some space for love”. Because God has created human beings not for His own sake, but for humanity’s sake, for the sake of their life.
The extremely high level of the Christian understanding of human destination is concealed in its appeal to the free development in God-like respect to other personalities – to the Lord Himself and to any human being also. This respect as the ability to “give way” and “recede” in front of others can be based only on the same love which truly reshapes personality according to the image of its Creator.
3. Distortion of human freedom
When a person, misusing the gift of freedom, tends to sin, it breaks off the union of love with God and moves away from Him. This possibility of negative self-determination of human person “in connection with our Heavenly Father comprises the tragic aspect of liberty” and a tragic aspect of the Divine gift of free love.
Initially God had allowed the possibility for Adam and angels to commit a sin and had not banned the presence of evil and suffering in the world, and emerging from it, because He is God of Love. Love implies unity as well as freedom. “Where there is no freedom, love cannot exist. Compulsion excludes love”.
Many people have rejected belief in God because it appeared to them that had God existed, such wild rage of evil, such great deal of suffering, so much absence of order and sense in this life could not have taken place. But, “the Creator cherishes our freedom as the basic principle in the creation of god-like beings. If God were to interfere every time men felt drawn to evil it would be tantamount to depriving them of the possibility of self-determination and of the end result would be to reduce everything to impersonal cosmic laws”.
Possessing and misusing the God-given gift of freedom, people systematically deny the freedom of similar beings. Intended to freely change the world into a place of blessings and to endow it with new sense, man has abused this power.
The Fall of the first humans is considered by the Church Fathers to be “a turn away from God-centeredness to an ego-centrism” in which an individual starts to deal with similar creatures “as with his property, grasping, enslaving and destroying them”. The sinner sees people surrounding him only from the point of view of his own pleasure and the satisfaction which they can bring to him. He is enclosed in a vicious circle of his own desires which in the process of their fake satisfaction become inflamed more and more with a new round of hunger. Man, thinking of finding freedom in possession, loses it in all its aspects – with respect to his Creator, to other individuals surrounding him, and in relation to both natures, his own and the surrounding one.
The concept of freedom in the pagan world was understood as “freedom from” – freedom from something or someone. It was introduced as freedom from obstacles, from external compulsion, 'causality', fate and other burdens of existence. In ancient philosophy (in Socrates and Plato) it is a question of freedom from destiny, then from political despotism (in Aristotle and Epicurus) and from disasters of human existence (in Epicurus, the Stoics, and Neo-Platonism).
During the Renaissance and the subsequent period freedom was understood as an unobstructed expansion of human personality. In the epoch of the Enlightenment, the concept of freedom was borrowed from the philosophy of natural right (Altusius, Gobbs, Grotsy, Pufendorf; the Bill of Rights in England of 1689 etc.), supplemented with ideas about the domination of all-powerful natural causality and law.
Among secular philosophers it was Kant who probably most closely approached the Christian understanding of freedom. In his posthumously published notes, he sums up his reflections in the following remark: “The question, whether freedom is possible, apparently, coincides with the question, whether man can be considered as having a genuine personality or not”. But in his successors in German classical philosophy, for example in Schelling, we already find a different approach: “a possibility of free action is caused by the ability to absolutely abstract oneself from all objects. By means of this abstraction “Pure Ego” understands itself as an independent source”. Here, again, freedom is thought of as “freedom from”.
Similar abstraction continues and develops among existentialists of the XX century. According to religious existentialism, freedom can be found only in God, but thus genuine freedom begins “on the other side of the social sphere”. Society and communication between individuals “limit the individual personality”, “reduce every man to the level of an average person, and deprive man of his real existence”. In addition, Camus declared that freedom is acquired through negation of the importance of the surrounding world. Social revolutionary movements have shown themselves in history as those which finally lead to tyrannies of the worst type. External freedom appears to be in conflict with internal freedom because it sets free the numerous passions and low instincts of fallen human nature. “The modern world evidently has altogether lost the capacity to understand what freedom is. Freedom is not pretension and a demanding by man, freedom is not a lazing about and dissipation in life. Freedom is not a demand put forth by man to God, but the rather, a demand put forth by God to man … Freedom is not easy … Freedom gives rise to suffering”.
“Freedom for”, unlike “freedom from”, is understood, first of all, as a creative power of overcoming the conditionality of this life. Unlike the negation of the deep value of the world around us and the runaway from reality which we meet in existential philosophy, the thought of the Church Fathers considered our freedom as a God-given “ school of piety ”, and people surrounding us as direct assistants on the way to God. “Freedom for” is not freedom of egoistic self-affirmation, but “freedom for being” according to God’s plan, freedom of realization of the Divine idea of unity of mankind in mutual kenotic love. It is also appropriate to name such freedom as “freedom in”, implying that true freedom can be attained and realized only in and through the reality of Divine love.
After his Fall man had lost his former free integrity. “Weak-willed, shattered in himself, he had turned into his own enemy and executioner” and into an enemy of his fellow men as well. Overcoming this internal and external dissociation of the human being demands a refusal of the false understanding and fake implementations of freedom based on egotistic principles. For “personal freedom is not freedom from “another”, but for “another”. “Perfect personal love overcomes the individual nature and enters into close relation with personal freedom. We can say that without personal freedom, personal love in general is impossible”, and vice versa!
4. Restoring the gift of Freedom
Saint Apostle Paul testifies: “Where there Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). Man is given a blessing to experience this partly in the course of Christian life, according to progress in prayer and life according to the commandments. It is impossible that there could be a person in the world to whom the mystery of the God-like freedom of the Heavenly Father’s children would be open in its fullness. “It cannot be learnt but is a gift from above”.
That freedom and fullness of life to which every person, according to the Divine Revelation, is called, can hardly be comprehended because of the immeasurable greatness of these gifts. The value of sacred personal freedom for human beings consists not only in that it is obtained as a result of the victory over sin, but also as in that it is the only way to such a victory. The free moral choice between good and evil makes the human person responsible for his own life and the lives of those around him. Moreover, it is exactly our personal freedom which makes us worthy of receiving an award for our truly free choice and for adhering fast to the good. By moral choice here we understand it to be “not an inclination or tendency of our soul, but an act of our person”. This personal choice is ontologically different from the “gnomic” choice which has intrinsic arbitrariness in it because of the lack of knowledge, and which is determined much more by our nature than by our person. A truly free choice is not an arbitrary one, but one which is not forced or determined by anything except our personal intelligence. Thus, according to St Maximus, agent or subject is revealed through the character of action. It is specifically someone who determines “the mode of action, … marking it off by this or that manner in accordance with the free will”. And “had we all acted through our natural energies in the same way … then similar nature and virtue would have been in everybody without greater or lesser measure”.
“It is namely freedom that demands a self-surmounting, just as creativity demands a self-surmounting. Creative freedom is an incessant transcending of man, a regeneration, an ascent”. This fact leads to the conclusion that without the gift of personal freedom the “salvation of man, understood in the higher sense – namely salvation as theosis” is simply impossible, because the salvation and divinization of humankind is an ontologically free process, requiring a personal free answer directed from man towards his Creator and Savior. This free human answer can be identified with the “way of the usage of the will, belonging to the user and distinguishing him from other ones”.
The antinomy between freedom and determinism, so often discussed in philosophical treatises, can be resolved in God. The divine gift of freedom can be asserted as being determined by nothing from the outside, not even by God. The Creator treats man not as if he was His own “energy” or “act”, but as a certain phenomenon, even for Him. This human phenomenon has been granted personality and free will forever. God imposes nothing on us by force or pressure. Even love towards Him, as our Father, is in no way imposed on us, nor proposed with any trace of compulsion. Of course, God as Creator determines the laws of natural and spiritual life, and He decides which creatures will be given the gift of personal life. But once having granted the gift of personal freedom He never withdraws or violates it.
The restoration of the way of freedom is revealed to us through the example of relations of the three Hypostases between Themselves and by the example of the relation of God to the reasonable human beings created by Him and in His image. Generosity of creative love and communication among people, standing on more or less the same level of spiritual development, are an image of intra-Trinitarian love in its projection onto the plane of human relations. Voluntary sacrifice of oneself for the reason of the infirmities and sins of other human beings is an image of the Sacrifice of the Only-begotten Son of God in its projection onto the same plane. The free and abundant love of God has resulted in bringing the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ to the Cross for the sake of releasing mankind from the bonds of sin. Thus, the freedom of God has not triumphed over His Love, but has obeyed the latter. Or rather, His freedom has been revealed in its fullness through His sacrificial Love, and His Love is valued by its intrinsic freedom.
For Christians, the great gift of God is that “God gives Himself to man in the immensity of His eternity”. Here, again, we find our way to the true liberation of our personality through self-giving, which appears to be inseparable from the problem of the liberation of the personalities of our brothers and sisters in God. The Church Fathers urge us to adopt the way of self-belittling following in the footsteps of Christ (Philippians, 2:5-9). This action in its essence is “a free revelation of “kenotic” love, which leads to adoption of man by God.... There is no greater love than this”.
Thus, the way to true and full freedom is a way of struggle for the triumph of love towards God and towards our fellow men, the victory of sacrificial and kenotic love. This way lies within the catholic life of the Church, and everyone is supposed to and has all the necessary means to shape and “develop himself by means of love towards others”. In this way the problem of personhood and the problem of society can solved perfectly. “Both a perfect person and a perfect society can only find their fulfillment through the Church”.
The aspiration to adopt the image of existence similar to God should become a norm for people’s minds, as well as refusal of domination over others and comprehension of the fact that the passion of masterfulness leads to the loss of one’s own independence as an immediate consequence, and to deviation from the loving God and deprivation of the Holy Spirit. “Failure into the emptiness of non-existence is born in the heart of the enslaver”.
In Christian life the principle of internal imitation of the incarnated God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, becomes a crucial way of restoration of lost freedom. As the humanity of Christ found its free personal existence by being en-hypostasized in Logos, in the same way our personal freedom lies within the route of following Christ’s way of personal being. Spiritual growth in Christ is measured by a degree of self-renunciation, which brings about self-acquisition. “We are urged to give ourselves away again and again, every day, every hour, and always in a different way”. The purpose of this self-giving is the life of other humans and, paradoxically, of ourselves. It is exactly through others and in others that we acquire our own full existence. Everyone is called to a realization of God’s plan for himself and, at the same time, to promotion of the life and unity of humankind and the Church. Truly, the gift of personal freedom granted to us by our Creator “reflects the maturity of man” and is “the immense potential we have for self-realization” as humankind and as a society of personal images of God.
 Yannaras C., Person and Eros, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2007, p.235.
 Kallistos (Ware), Bishop, The Orthodox Way, St. Vladimir’s Press, 1982. p.60.
 Lossky V., Dogmatic Theology, Moscow, 1991, pp.216-217.
 “Ό δέ θεος πάντα είδώς απλώς, ού βουλεύεται” Damascene Jh., De Fide Orthodoxa, II. PG 94, 945 D. It seems clear that the verb «βουλεύεται» is more appropriately translated as “to take advice” here rather than “make a decision”.
 Yannaras C., The Church Faith, Moscow, 1992, p.102.
 Bobrinsky B., The Mystery of the Most-Holy Trinity, Moscow, 2005, p.8.
 Popovich Justine., Archim., ‘The Dogmatics of the Orthodox Church’, Ecclesiology, Moscow, 2001, p.221.
 Kallistos (Ware), Bishop, The Orthodox Way, p.61.
 Kallistos (Ware), Bishop, The Orthodox Way, p.77.
 Sophrony (Sakharov), Archim., We Shall See Him As He Is, 1985, Essex, England: Stravropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, 1988., p.109.
 Zizioulas J., Metr., Communion and Otherness, Edinburgh, 2006, p.212-213.
 Zizioulas J., Metr., Being as a Communion, St.Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993, p.39-40.
 “υλης οντα κατά φύσιν ελεύθερον” PG 91, 376 D
 Isaac the Syrian, St., word 71.
 Mounie E., Manifestation of Personality, Moscow, 1999, с.480.
 Lossky V., ‘An Essay on Mystical Theology// An Essay on Mystical Theology’, Dogmatic Theology, M, 1991, p. 109-110.
 Kallistos (Ware), Bishop, The Inner Kingdom, Kiev, 2003, p.61.
 Athenagorus of Athens, Patr. Migne. PG 6, 996.
 Sophrony (Sakharov), Archim., We Shall See Him As He Is, p.110.
 Kallistos Ware, Bishop, The Orthodox Way, p.78.
 Sophrony (Sakharov) ), Archim., We Shall See Him As He Is,p. 114.
 Kallistos Ware, Bishop, The Orthodox Way, p.78.
 Proceedings of XII regional scientific conference ‘Higher education science to the North Caucasus region’.Vol.2, Social sciences, Stavropol, 2008, p.194, www.ncstu.ru
 Ibid., p.194.
 Pozov A., The fundamentals of Ancient Church Anthropology, vol. 2, Saint Petersburg, 2008, p.419.
 Berdyaev N.A., ‘Concerning Authority, Freedom and Humanness’. Put', 1936, No. 50, (p.37-49), p. 40.
 Zubiri X., Man and God, University Press of America, 2009, p.240-241.
 Kallistos Ware, Bishop, The Orthodox Way, p.80.
 Zizioulas J., Metr., Communion and Otherness, p.566.
 Chursanov S., Face to Face, Moscow, 2008, pp.170-171.
 Sophrony (Sakharov) ), Archim., We Shall See Him As He Is,p.114.
 Zubiri X., Man and God, University Press of America, 2009. p.165.
 PG 91 137A. See: Madden N., ‘Composite Hypostasis in Maximus Confessor’, Studia Patristica XXVII, 1991, p.194.
 “ Ὡς εἴπερ πάντες ἴσως, ἐφ᾿ ᾧ καί γεγόναμεν, ἐνηργοῦ μεν τά φυσικά, μία ἄρα ἐδε ίκνυτο ἐν πᾶσιν, ὥσπερ ἡ φύσις, οὕ τω καί ἀρετή, τό μᾶλλον καί ἦττον οὐκ ἐπιδεχομένη”. PG 91, 309 B.
 Berdyaev N.A., Concerning Authority, Freedom and Humanness, p.40
 Sophrony (Sakharov) ), Archim., We Shall See Him As He Is,p. 114., “freedom signifies salvation of humankind” (Yannaras C., Person and Eros, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2007, p.237.)
 “τρόπος ἐστί τῆς τοῦ θέλειν χρήσεως, μόνῳ τῷ κεχριμ έν ῳ προσόν, καί τῶν ἄλλων αὐτόν χωρίζον” PG 91, 293A.
 Sophrony (Sakharov), Archim., We Shall See Him As He Is,p. 113.
 Justin Popovich, Archim., ‘The Dogmatics of the Orthodox Church’, Ecclesiology, p.219.
 Ibid., p.220.
 Ibid., p.115.
 Madden N. ‘Composite Hypostasis in Maximus Confessor’, Studia Patristica XXVII, 1991, p.189.
 Kallistos Ware, Bishop, The Inner Kingdom, p.130.
 Vasilii (Krivoshein), Archbishop., St. Simeon the New Theologian, Nizhny Novgorod, 1996, p.356.
 Berdyaev N.A., Concerning Authority, Freedom and Humanness,. p.40
 Yannaras C. Person and Eros, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2007, p.233.