I am frequently told by Christians, usually ones that have never read their Bible, that their god has given us free will to choose. Today, I will be addressing this misconception.
There are a few reasons why Christians mistakenly believe this. One reason is to deal with the problem of evil. The problem of evil usually goes like this:
1. If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god exists, then evil does not.
2. There is evil in the world.
3. Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God does not exist.
The common apologetic is for the Christian to declare that their god has endowed us with free will and evil exists because we choose to do evil or we have chosen to sin. This allows them to get away with not placing the blame on their god as the author of evil (despite Isaiah 45:7).
Another reason they may say we have free will is because it is unacceptable to think that we will be held accountable for our actions unless we have free will. In other words, if everything is predestined and there is an eternal place of torture and unending agony, then God is responsible for every single person that endures that suffering.
There is one other reason that is sometimes used and that is that love demands a choice. To word it slightly differently, without free will we would all be robots who have no choice whatsoever.
Seems like this all makes sense, right? Even the Greek philosophers knew that the lack of free will led to some extremely unsettling implications, but where does this idea of free will come from? To be totally honest, it is Christian fan fiction. Free will is not taught by the scriptures. The Bible makes it very clear that predestination is a major theme and that all things happen according to God’s will. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Most Christians herald Jesus, or Yeshua, as divine, the Son of God, and the Word. It is my understanding, then, that his words must be extremely valuable and without error. In John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This verse explicitly denies that man has a free will ability to equally accept or reject the gospel. The Greek text of this passage denies, in no uncertain terms, any inherent ability to either choose Christ or reject Him. The primary reason is that the Bible teaches that man is in bondage to sin and has a natural tendency to suppress the truth or to refuse the gospel at all costs. The Bible would have us believe that when a nonbeliever hears the gospel, he will always reject it.
The Greek text says ouvdeis dunatai evlqei/n prosj me (oudeis dunatai elthein pros me). This verse literally says that no one has the ability, in and of themselves, to cause themselves to believe in Christ. This one verse alone denies free will and since Christians think that Jesus is God incarnate, this is sufficient grounds to reject this idea once and for all.
Christians believe Jesus was God, but if there is one man responsible for Christianity—it would be Paul. You would think that a man who established the very fundamentals of Christian doctrine would know exactly what he is talking about, right? Let’s take a look. In Romans 8:7-8, Paul states, “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is NOT EVEN ABLE TO DO SO, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Emphasis added).”
I don’t think he could have made it any clearer than he does in this passage. It is painfully obvious that submitting to and pleasing God is directed by God himself.
In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
This verse is so straightforward that it should not need an explanation. Man, in his natural state, is unable to accept God or the things attributed to his spirit.
Let’s take a look at one more example from Romans to put the nail in the coffin. In Romans 8: 28-30, Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been CALLED according to HIS PURPOSE. For those God FORKNEW he also PREDESTINED to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Emphasis added).”
This passage explicitly states that God calls people according to his purpose, he knew who they were from the beginning of time, and he selected them from many.
At this point, the free will argument should be totally blown out of the water, but allow me to present more verses that will demonstrate the Bible denies free will (Acts 4:27-28, Acts 16:14, Isaiah 10:5-16, Psalm 105:25, Ezra 6:22, Proverbs 21:1, Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:3-6, Ephesians 2: 4-10, Romans 9: 10-15, Romans 9: 16-19, Romans 9: 20-21, 2 Timothy 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
There are even a few verses that speaks of the ones that God has not chosen and what fate he has decided for them (Revelations 13:8, Ecclesiastes 7:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-13).
With the verses I have supplied directly from the book that Christians believe to be the holy inspired and inerrant Word of God, we can draw the following conclusions:
1. Humans cannot believe in Christ of their own choice.
2. Humans cannot subject themselves to God’s Law of their own choice.
3. Humans cannot accept the things of the Spirit as being true of their own choice.
4. Therefore, humans do not have free will.
Theologians usually respect the early church fathers as authority figures and believe they were inspired by their god to establish church doctrine. In that case, it is worth mentioning that there are many authority figures or church fathers who were respected predeterminists and held that free will was not a biblical concept, including; St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.
I have demonstrated, thoroughly, that the Bible denies free will and any element of choice in any works that we do. The Bible teaches that from the beginning of time, God has selected who will receive salvation and he will punish and reward people based on what he has predestined. Also, the Bible teaches that all things are in accordance with God’s plan. How does that make you feel? It seems unfair, immoral, and downright evil by any standards, right?
If the Christian God exists, then there is no doubt that it is the most malevolent being in the entire universe. A Good Christian God would choose that everyone be saved; however, the Bible explicitly makes the case that the Christian God has chosen for many to suffer. This plan of God, according to the Bible, has absolutely nothing to do with free will and everything to do with exercising power—without any regards for morality or free will.
This leaves us with quite the dilemma, either:
1. God is evil or immoral because he chooses that many will perish
2. The Bible is not the Word of God
*This post is adapted from a paper that I wrote in seminary that received a failing grade from my instructor. However, it was overturned by the Dean, who also was one of theologians who was paramount in translating the New International Version. I received a perfect score on the paper. I thought that was worth mentioning.*
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