Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Christian Dogmatics


Christian Love and the freedom of the person

V. Bakouros

Christian Love – Part 1

In the Christian faith, Love is not merely an emotion, a sentiment.  It is far more than that!  Given this fact, we shall present here an extract (the first part) of an article by the University teacher V. Bakouros that was published in the magazine “TREETO MAHTI” (December 2004 edition No.128, pages 22-26, with the general title “Socialistic Social Solidarity and Christian Love”).

This article is being re-published, by kind courtesy of the magazine, and will be completed in a series of segmented articles.


a) How “God is Love”

The notion of love in reality constitutes the cornerstone of Christian thought, both at a dogmatic (theological) level as well as a social one.  To be precise, it is not actually a notion, but an experience; and not only of mankind, but of God Himself!  In John’s Gospel, we find the following, succinct definition of God: “God is Love”. Unfortunately, the frequent repetition of this phrase and especially it’s mishandling by orators whose speeches proved to be inconsistent (to the practices that those words dictate), rendered the content of these words a coined expression. In this unique, affirmative definition of divinity that is recorded in the New Testament, John is actually providing the existential way of the divine, as a community of free persons.

However, given that man is a creation made “in the image and the likeness of God”, dogmatic theology cannot therefore be a dictatorial system of thought; it is essentially a form of sociology, because it underlies a concept of man analogous to God (proportionately of course), inasmuch as it is a free person who lives historically “in communion” with other free persons.


b) Love and Freedom. The philosophical ground of everyday speculation

So, what is the concept of Love in John’s above phrase, and what is its relation to the essence of God? Orthodox Patristic theology perceives love, not as a simple expression of sentiments, but as a voluntary experiencing of the divine persons of the Christian Trinity.  Given that these persons have chosen love, they come together as a unity. The God of Christianity is not One as a unit, but as a unity!  Every one of the divine persons with its particular distinctive features freely chooses to love the other two; it is in this way that “God is”, that God “exists” as “one”.  Therefore, the essence of the One divinity consists of love as a personal experience, since it is through love that each of the divine persons is enraptured and united, thus constituting God as an inseparable whole.

Freedom - in this specific, existential relationship - plays a leading role.  First of all, it constitutes a composing element of the person, because the absence of freedom annuls self-government –responsibility- and leads to a state of bondage. Freedom may of course be a necessity, but freedom per se is not sufficient, because Satan is also free, per se.

At a spiritual level, the freedom of the person –while comprising an expression of its essence- does not actually guarantee it, because it is nothing more than a façade when the person is no longer self-confirmed through it. If the freedom of the person is limited to the boundaries that it alone defines, without involving other persons, it is led to self-enslavement and is eventually converted to “fate”. The person, being free to be what it wants, cannot “not be”.  In other words, it is obedient to a role that cosmic Order has pre-designated for it.

It is this futile type of freedom that the (atheist) existentialism (Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus) denounces, by moving away from it –as an existential element of man- to an “absolute nihilism”.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s quote is both characteristic and tragic: «Man is condemned to be free. If he transcends his natural (essential) necessity, he is cancelled».

 Excerpt from the magazine “TREETO MAHTI”, December 2004 edition No.128, pages 22-26.  Article written by V. Bakouros, with the general title “Socialistic Social Solidarity and Christian Love”.


The continuation of this enlightening article can be found in the article: “Freedom and Divinity in Ancient Greek thought and the Fathers”.


Translation by A.N.

Greek text

Article published in English on: 19-9-2005.

Last update: 19-10-2005.