‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage’ [Gal. 5:1].
The start of our life in the body, ‘formed … of the dust of the ground’ [Gen. 2:7], provides us with experience of being dependent on the forces of nature, with which necessity and determinism are connected. It is only through Christ that we can know the kingdom of the liberty of the Divine Spirit [cf. II Cor. 3:17] and then also of the human spirit [cf. John 8:31-32]. The human spirit, as the image of the Spirit of the Lord, created by God in some searchless way, is engendered, as it were, in the material of our body but by its essence stands above cosmic matter. Meeting with Christ causes it to grow in its hypostatic cognition to such maturity that it ceases to be dependent on the physical laws of the earth and begins effectively to breathe the breath of Divine eternity.
The freedom of the man who believes in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and who dwells in the sphere of His word, belongs to a plane of other dimensions. It is a freedom in no way determined from without. Such a man, approaching ‘unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ [Eph. 4:13], although he is a creature created by God, the Creator treats not as His ‘energy’ but as a definite fact even for Himself. God will never force anything from him, not even love for Him as His Father. He reveals Himself as He is, leaving man free to reject as he chooses. So the Church avoids even Divine—that is, Origenist—determinism, whereby God of His goodness will, without infringing the principle of freedom, find a way for all men and all things to be saved.
This liberty, experience of which is given to the Christian, belongs to the personal principle in man. The two—persona and liberty—are indissolubly related: where there is no liberty, there is no persona; and vice versa—without persona there is no liberty. This kind of eternal being uniquely concerns the persona, in no way the individual [cf. 1 Cor. 15:47-50].
We are created by God ‘in His image’ for life ‘after His likeness’—that is, for our ultimate divinization, for the communication to us of Divine Life in all its plenitude. Relations between God and man are based on the principles of freedom: our final self-determination with reference to God depends on our own discretion. When in our liberty we opt for sin, we then sever the ties of love, and withdraw from Him. The possibility of negative self-determination in connection with our Heavenly Father constitutes the tragic aspect of liberty. But this fateful free will of ours is nevertheless an essential condition for the created persona in his progress towards the assumption of Divine Life.
Yes, we are free. But not to the absolute degree in which God Himself is free: He determines His own being in all things. We, however, created from ‘nothing’, in ourselves have no life. We cannot produce any other sort of being which we might wish for in our wisdom or our folly. Before us is the fact of the Primal Self-existence of Goe besides Whom nothing self-existent can be. We are faced with the choice between ‘the adoption of sons’ [Gal. 4:5] by our God and Father, or withdrawing from Him ‘into outer darkness’ [cf. Matt. 22:13]. There is no middle way.