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The Freedom of Morality (Contemporary Greek theologians series) Paperback – 21 Mar 1985

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Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: St Vladimir's Seminary Press,U.S. (21 Mar. 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881410284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881410280
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,099,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Profound 25 Nov. 2005
By Fr. David - Published on
Format: Paperback
The problem that Yannaras exposes and addresses is that life (i.e., an ethical life for a Christian) is not about trappings, coverings, appearances or behaviors of Man; Christian life is about the existential Man. If the man beneath the appearances and behaviors is not Christian, is not free and moral, is not living the life God made for him, the appearances and behaviors are irrelevant; indeed appearances and behaviors undermine the ontological truth of existential Man and his salvation. Man's morality is located in his existential freedom. This freedom is a reality that exists and is always being realized by man through his willingness to be as God created him to be; this is the only way for man to be truly human and become a person. The Army advertises "Be all that you can be;" the Church adds "anything less is sin."This is only accomplished in the Church. Individualism is a sin. One becomes a person in relationship: relationship with God and relationship with other persons.

The only way for Man to live ethically (for Yannaras "life" and "Christian ethical living" are redundant) is for Man to exist in relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To imagine this to be an individual pursuit is to miss the point and to miss the mark. Man is created in community, and so the fulfillment of his ethical self is realized in a redeemed relationship with himself, the world and God.

This is not an easy book. However a thorough reading will change one's life and the way one thinks about life: it has mine. I especially appreciated the chapter on "pietism" and it as a heresy.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Profound and prophetic, reminiscent of the theology of Russia's 'Silver Age' 25 Nov. 2011
By Puddingmoose - Published on
Format: Paperback
Yannaras' work comprises the distillate of a vast body of radically Orthodox thought. Each chapter is embellished with prophetic insight, is contrasted starkly with Western thought, and naturally spawns the chapter that follows - as for any profound work on Orthodox theology, the logic is deep and the whole work highly intraconnected. It combines the span of Kallistos' popular titles with the brutal perspicacity (and challenging terminology) of Soloviev, and needs to be read more than once.

Initially, secular morality is contrasted with its Orthodox counterpart, which is defined as a measure of the ongoing reaction of freedom to a person's unique hypostatic identity (i.e. his own expression of his Imago Dei). This freedom enables a twisting of man's ontological identity, a rejection of God, and a jeopardy of his salvation. And it is salvation that we crave through exercising our morality, not simply improvements in character.
The difference between person and individual, the latter as a portion of a humankind, the former as a unique, potentially limitless distinctiveness expressed through personal relationship, is emphasised, and underpins this work.

The trend of undervaluing personhood ensures that the Imago Dei becomes associated with the nature of mankind, reducing Christian morality to a legalistic external system of rules, whose non-adherence is taken as sin. But Sin is missing the mark, man's voluntarily restriction to the autonomy of his own nature. Satre summarizes this in one statement: "Hell is other people", meaning that one's individual nature, by definition in opposition to the natures of others, is a tormenting reminder of being condemned to individual autonomy.
It follows that the God of the Orthodox Church is not juridical or vengeful; He is judge because He is the possibility of true existence, and man, by sinning, is automatically judged.

Sinlessness is beyond fallen man, who is not asked to check boxes, but to trust God "from the depths of his (own) abyss". Thus it is the transfiguration of life that Church morality strives for, whilst striving for individual atonement leaves man recursively enslaved to his autonomous individuality.
Scripture alone is (literally) disembodied teaching, prone to heretical interpretation. For man can only truly comprehend scripture "as he descends into the depths of hell" so "the infinity of divine love is revealed" - a tone strikingly reminiscent of the Spiritual Life in the Theology of Elder Sophrony.
Gauging one's morality bars repentance - thus the toughest language in the Gospels is aimed at the religious; fools for Christ remind us that salvation cannot be linked to society's respect, and " fine actions may keep man from salvation, enslaving him to glory and praise". The fullness of the Church is only ever realized by the progress of the saints.

The Eucharist and the sacraments guide man's recovery through bodily ascetism, the path to theoretical knowledge that is unattainable through purely intellectual concepts.

The Church, downgraded by contemporary standards, often functions merely as an institution, and Pietism is rife, in which assessable results from individual morality are demanded. Yannaris convincingly describes this as the great heresy of our times.
In exploring historical and social dimensions of the Church's morality, intellectual types of obedience assume similar individuals, and totalitarianism arises. Totalitarianism is not limited to regimes - it is endemic to the fall, and is also the foundations of capitalism, whose ideology may be identified with pietistic demand.

Yannaris concludes that through a genuinely Eucharistic community, politics may serve the truth of man, science may give reason to man's relationship with the world, and economics may serve life. Though the true Church's influence has been bound with early urban and rural life, as a historical example of a Eucharistic community, we have only Byzantium.

We are left with the hope of the possibility of a future culture that serves man's personal distinctiveness through presupposing the "crucifixion of the body", and not a utopian "exaltation of the mind".

If you can grasp the gist of this book, then I'd suggest moving on to other Christian existentialist writers such as Berdyaev or Kierkegaard, in order to further develop one's concepts of personhood and individuality, a process that is necessarily highly demanding, but one that may reward greatly.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Individual or Person? 29 Jun. 2006
By SKClimacus - Published on
Format: Paperback
Christos Yannaras' The Freedom of Morality explores the ethical ramifications of thinking about moral agents as 'persons' rather than as 'individuals'. The ontology of personhood he explores is rooted in the Trinity and in the Church, and hence, has a very theological and Christian character about it, albeit with a distinct Eastern flavor to it.

I thought this was a very strong and thought provoking work, and it would probably be very challenging to people who think of ethics in terms of objective rules, without thinking about how morality is rooted in the image God created us in. In a way, Yannaras' work reminds me of an Eastern Orthodox Stanley Hauerwas.

I would like to mention, though, in contrast to one of the other reviewers, that Yannaras' chapter on the 'Ecclessiological Heresy of Pietism' was his weakest, perhaps because he was writing as an outsider without much first-hand experience of Pietistic Christianity. His basic observation that Pietism tends to undermine the doctrine of the Church may be true in some cases, but seeing all the Pietistic mega-churches in Dallas, with 2000+ attendance every weekend, in comparison with the sparsely attended Orthodox churches I've been to, it would seem that Yannaras has his argument backwards, that Pietism reinforces Christian fellowship and devotion to God, even if it does not always rally its support to one monolithic institutional church. Miroslav Volf has wriiten a good exposition of free church ecclessiology that might interest some readers concerned with this question.

But that critique aside, I would highly reccommend this volume to people interested in reading a breath of fresh air - a genuinely unique perspective on ethics.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Climacus is nuts! 13 Jan. 2010
By Mr.Dupont - Published on
Format: Paperback
Climacus, you can't possibly mean that simply because Texas megachurches have a strength in numbers, they display a form of piety that is without criticism?! Each one of those megachurches is likely headed by some pseudo-motivational speaker/pastor, with his own "personal" theology, and an audience of would-be groupies just waiting for the latest religious light show and rip-roaring sermon to tell them how wonderful they are! They're a joke!

Read the chapter again sir! Christ instituted a Church, not a circus!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Decent reading 16 April 2014
By Lethifold - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I have not yet finished reading this work it is definitely original and forces one to think deeply about theological issues. I would recommend it for someone interested in Christian theology.
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