- Jesus Christ’s act of salvation, his victory over death and sin through his cross and resurrection, is indeed complete and definitive.
- “Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom. 6:9).
- But, while the Lord’s victory is certainly an accomplished fact, my personal participation in that victory is as yet far from complete.
- As St. Paul states “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own…” (Phil 3:12).
- My personal incorporation in Christ is incomplete, not because of any defect or lack of strength on his side, but because for my part I retain continuing freedom of choice, the ability to refuse as well as to obey.
- In the words of St. Anthony the Great of Egypt: “Expect temptation until your last breath” and with temptation there always goes the possibility of falling.
- My trust is therefore in Christ, not in myself, and I am confident that Christ is faithful and stands firm.
- According, then, to the soteriological perspective of the Orthodox Church, salvation – when viewed from the standpoint of the human subject that receives it – is not a single event in that person’s past but an ongoing process.
- To quote Martin Luther (not that the Lutherans consider salvation to be a process): “This life is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming.”
- I am on a journey, and that journey has not yet reached its conclusion.
- On the Orthodox understanding of the fall and its consequences, humans – retaining as they do the divine image – retain also the freedom to choose between right and wrong.
- The exercise of our free choice, while restricted and undetermined by the fall, has not been abolished.
- In our fallen state the human will is sick but it is not dead; and although more difficult, it is still possible for humans to choose the good.
- We Orthodox cannot agree with Augustine when he maintains that, in consequence of the fall, “free will was lost” or when he claims that we are under “a harsh necessity” of committing sin, and that “human nature was overcome by the fault into which it fell, and so came to lack freedom.”
- Against this the Orthodox Church affirms, in the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, that each human being “has the power to do what it wishes. For you do not sin by virtue of your birth.” Fallen humanity has always the possibility to resist temptation: “The devil can make suggestions, but does not have the power to compel you against your will.”
(Kallistos Ware, How are we Saved?, pp. 4, 6, 32)