Gnomic will

The notion of gnomic will belongs to Eastern Christian, especially Byzantine Orthodox, ascetical theology, being developed particularly within the theology of St Maximus the Confessor. The term 'gnomic' derives from the Greek gnome, meaning 'inclination' or 'intention'. Within Orthodox theology, gnomic willing is contrasted with natural willing. Natural willing designates the movement of a creature in accordance with the principle (logos) of its nature towards the fulfilment (telos, stasis) of its being. Gnomic willing, on the other hand, designates that form of willing in which a person engages in a process of deliberation culminating in a decision.

Within the theology of St Maximus, which was endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in condemning monothelitism, Jesus Christ possessed no gnomic will. St Maximus developed this claim particularly in his Dialogue with Pyrrhus. According to St Maximus, the process of gnomic willing presupposes that a person does not know what they want, and so must deliberate and choose between a range of choices. However, Jesus Christ, as both man and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, possessed complete congruence of His two wills, the divine and the human. Therefore, St Maximus reasoned, Christ was never in a state of ignorance regarding what he wanted, and so never engaged in gnomic willing.

Aristotle, a major philosophical influence on Maximus, in comparing the works of Nature with those of a human worker, had also declared that any process of deliberation, far from indicating superior intellect, is a sign of our weakness.

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