I want to wrap up this short series which began on morality and has evolved into a discussion on the freedom of the human will and our salvation. If you are interested in catching up, here is the first, second, third, and fourth post in the series.
In the last post I ended by saying purification and illumination lead to union with God (theosis). It is through this union where we can truly call ourselves free and autonomous beings. Theosis is the central focus of salvation; it is the final destination of our journey to perfection in Christ. Salvation is far deeper than acceptance into heaven; it is seeking the Will of God in all things so that His Will becomes our will. It is repairing the damage done at the Fall where humankind placed their will before God’s.
Humans were created as the final masterpiece of all creation. God, having spoken everything into existence, took extra care with us. He formed us out of the dust and then breathed life into us. It is humanity alone that is made in His image and by “cleaving” to God “like a shadow” we were in “a state of blessedness” (Athanasius). We are rational beings whose will was in union with the Will of the Creator. That is, until we chose to disregard His Will which damaged the union, beginning the movement towards that final state of separation from God—death. Death does not enter into the picture as a punishment so much as it is the inability of the creature to live independently of the Creator; when we break union with the Source of life the only recourse is death.
God was not finished with His creation though. A new Adam appeared in history and completed the work which began in Eden. Humans, created with flesh, then imbued with the Divine Spirit, fell away from that state of grace due to the exertion of our own will. It was only when God, uncreated and ever-existing, took hold of His creation through the incarnation in a body, that humanity was lifted back to a place where union was once again possible. Death for Christ was necessary because His humanity would not have been complete if He did not experience the same fate as us. Since He was in perfect union with God, being fully God and fully man, death was defeated since it had no claim to Him. Christ then becomes the first man as truly The Image of God, and it is in Christ’s image which we are created. He has shown us that the way to salvation, the union of God and humanity, is possible by putting to death our own will so that God’s Will can reclaim its rightful place.
How are we free if the goal is to subject our will to something outside of ourselves? This is like asking, “How can we be free to breathe if we are required to need air?” Central to our will is desire, but a desire for things created can never satisfy our appetites. This is why the richest in the world still desire more. It is why scientists will still seek to answer the question “why” even if they find the elusive “god particle”. The desire which drives our will is a creation, created to seek its Creator; it can only be satisfied by “cleaving” to The Image in which it was created. This is why we can now say that the Christian life is not directed by a morality or even a “herd instinct”; the desire for joy is directly related to our existence (existential). Salvation through union with God (theosis) is not morality, social evolution, or anything observed around us; it is nothing less than the sole purpose of our existence. Finally, since we have all been created unique, we will never truly find our divine identity until we come back into communion with God. It is where we finally love, not based upon a desire for comforting emotions or heavenly reward, but because it is simply in our nature to do so.
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.”—1 John 4:17