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Kirill (Gundyaev), patr. Freedom and moral sense - destruction of their inter-relationship (From the speech at the Jubilee Event marking the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg Theological Academy, St. Petersburg, October 9, 2009)
FREEDOM AND MORAL
SENSE - DESTRUCTION
OF THEIR INTER-RELATIONSHIP
From the speech at the Jubilee Event marking the 200th anniversary
of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, St. Petersburg, October 9, 2009
It was during the late 1990s that I began earnestly to consider the matter of human freedom. This thinking took up all my time. I thank God that, despite being very busy, I had the opportunity to read a lot and to rethink a lot. Ultimately, it became very clear that one of the greatest mistakes of humanity in its civilizational development was the destruction of the inter-relationship between freedom and moral sense.
This destruction did not occur overnight. Only theologically and philosophically gifted people were able to see the sinfulness and danger of the liberal Western idea at its dawn. These were very strong people who clearly saw, even at that time, the danger of uncontrolled development of the idea of freedom unconnected with human moral sensitivity. It was easier for me, because I had the opportunity to take part in different theological and political discussions which dealt with topics such as human rights and freedom. In this dialogue with non- Orthodox, it was revealed to me that the struggle for freedom without the struggle for the integrity of the human personality results in a disaster for individuals and society, because freedom without moral responsibility is nothing but the emancipation of instincts.
Human instincts are, moreover, easily emancipated. Today, watching TV, we can easily ascertain that. There is nothing easi-
er than to disclose these dark Dionysian principles in human life. However, when freedom becomes an idol - when freedom stays apart from the sense of responsibility - it becomes deadly.
I published two of my articles in 1998 and 1999 in ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta,’19 where I tried to take a fresh look at the topic of freedom and human rights. I must say that the ensuing period was difficult for me, because some people began to perceive concepts such as human rights and freedoms in the same way as the Marxists perceived the fundamental theses of their doctrine. Just as the latter deemed their doctrine to be indisputably true, nowadays defenders of human rights and freedoms apart from moral responsibility perceive their views as absolutely truth.
Ask people who do not know much about freedom a question: ‘Do you want to be free?’, and they will immediately answer: ‘Yes, we want it!’This is because freedom itself was given by God to the human race. Thus, there is only one answer. Our people answered this question with the blood of the Revolution. Only after going through all the consequent suffering did the best minds understand that this is a difficult question, and the answer to it can open either the gate of heaven or the doorway to hell.
Today, when we see the enormous tragedy of modern human civilization — the erosion of human civilization and the weakening of this civilization, founded on the idea of freedom without morality, we begin to understand that this ‘understatement’ by those who preached the idea of freedom were very costly to who uncritically accepted this understatement and gave all their energy to the service of freedom without considering the fact that freedom without moral responsibility is the way to Hell. Only now, perhaps, does the modern world (including the West) start to understand how important it is to pursue freedom in the context of morality.
I think the voice of the Russian Church has awakened a lot of people, including Western politicians who, particularly in the current crisis, have dramatically changed their rhetoric. Today those
19The 1999 article is published on p. 27
who, perhaps five or six years ago, could not even imagine defending the very theses that were loudly proclaimed by the Russian Church to the entire world, do so. I think our Church has made a very important contribution not only to the development of modern philosophy and modern political philosophy but to modern ethics as well.
I do not want to say that the process is completed, with everyone accepting everything and agreeing with everything. It is sad that among some Christian and Protestant communities we find very strong opposition to what the Russian Church proclaims today. When I read their texts, I cannot stop thinking that some of our Protestant brothers are writing as if to order, long after the order has been given, indeed a whole era later, and that no one today is asking them to defend what they are trying to defend.
It is totally obvious that in the Christian worldview and in the Christian ethical system, it is impossible to detach freedom from responsibility. I am thankful to God that more and more people understand this.
I have spent more than ten years thinking about this. I have never tried to write any doctoral thesis, but I have published hundreds of articles, given a huge number of interviews, lectured, tried to convince and then rejoiced when it became possible to undertake this work on a Church basis. A group of theologians was set up who, under my chairmanship, theologically developed the theme of relations between freedom and morality. It offered the most recent Council of Bishops20 a document for adoption that, for the first time in the history of Orthodox theology, clearly stated, from an apologetic position, what human freedom is and is not, and in which way Christians must fight for freedom and human rights, in such a way that does not bring greater grief, either to individual persons, or to the human race.
20 The reference is to the document ‘The Russian Orthodox Church's basic teaching on human dignity, freedom and rights’ (2008).
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