By Vexen Crabtree 2002
God cannot have free will. A benevolent god always chooses the path that causes most good so therefore has no real choice. Also because an all-knowing god instantly knows all of its future actions and its knowledge cannot be wrong, it therefore has no free will to choose otherwise. However a god with no free will cannot be a moral being; it must be morally neutral. Also, if an all-powerful and all-knowing God exists then this (by a long chain of cause and effect) denies any free will of any living being. Our feelings derive from our personality and character, and our choices are influence by the things we have learned in life: God has the power to change any of the circumstances that form our personality and character, and the things we learn in life are purely down to the providence of God, or, to a long chain of cause-and-effect which did begin with God and no other.
The free will of god is important for resolving the problem of evil. If God has free will, but never chooses evil, then it could have created life in the same way: With free will, but also never choosing evil. If God has no free will but is still good then there was no point creating evil to grant humans free will as it is possible to be good with no free will. If God, angels and other beings in heaven have free will where there is no evil or suffering, then it cannot be true that god lets evil exist because it is a required side-effect of free will.
These problems are ancient. Before they were discussed by monotheists such as Christians, they were discussed by classical philosophers and ancient sages. In 1916, theologian Peter Forsyth writes quite plainly that "many systems try to explain how human freedom and human action are consistent with God´s omnipotence and omniscience. None succeed"1. Somehow he still concludes that God and free will are compatible, but gives no reason for his opinion. Such is the difficulty of arguing a point of truth on a subject where our instincts do not lead us in the correct direction, and the necessary conclusion is counter to what we want to believe.
The omnipotence of God contradicts the idea of free will for anyone else. All causes and all effects and set in motion by God (as the first cause). With absolute power comes absolute control and absolute responsibility. For more on omnipotence, see:
The problem here is that God knows everything that has happened and everything that will happen. Its knowledge cannot be wrong. There is not a single event that it has not foreseen. Given that it created the Universe the way it did, do we have free will? Consider that when God made the Universe it could see every possible result of what it was doing. Which means: it could not create something without knowing what the results would be, and without knowing how it would be affected (and effect) the things around it.
Let's say that Fred has a choice that will save his life, to accept God or not to accept God and the final choice is to be made tomorrow. God knows already what choice he will make - God cannot be wrong therefore Fred cannot choose otherwise to what God has predicted. God made Fred and knew in advance how Fred's brain would fire when faced with this choice, and God knew exactly what it was doing when it allowed every life experience that would influence Fred's 'decision'. When God created the chain of events that made Fred it also knew that it was making Fred's choice for him, and knew how the various circumstances and character would make him choose either right or wrong. Fred would go forth and make that very decision that God knew he would make, and by virtue that God knowingly set up all the factors that affected his decision, it was not up to Fred but to God to decide how Fred would fare.
This argument does not imply that God does not exist. It leaves us with three results, two of which have to be wrong.
The Bible teaches that there is no free will. Examining Exodus, Ecclesiastes 7, Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2, Matthew 5:45, Acts 13, Romans 8, Roman 9, 2 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians, Titus 3:4-5 and Revelations, we see that God's plan overrides our free will; those that do good do the specific good that God predestined them to do, and all others are ruled by Satan because God sends "powerful delusions" to them. The Christian Bible frequently states that God creates our future and decides our fates, no matter what our own will is. It constantly denies that we have free will. Some of the foremost Christians in history have taught that there is no free will, including St. Augustine (one of the four great founders of Western Christianity3), Martin Luther (founder of Protestantism) and John Calvin.”
The first century of Islam saw a rationalist school of thought arise which held that as mankind had free will (qadar), there was no such thing as determined fate for men. People deserved what they got. These were the Mutazilites. They included "Mabad al-Juhni (d.702 CE); al-Ju'd ibn Drhim (d.721), the Damascene Ghaylan (d.743), and Jahm ibn Safwan (d.745)"5. Unfortunately all these men were executed because their belief in free will contradicted Islamic dogma, which upheld the supremacy of God's jabr (initiative - God's plan). Determinists use the following verses from the Qur'an:
God Guides Some, But, Makes Everyone Else Blind. God bestows abundance on those who he guides, and, blinds those others so they don't, and can't, believe. God has set veils on unbeliever's hearts so that they don't understand signs and proofs, it "closes their hearts, eyes and ears" and leads them astray so that even "if they see every one of the Ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) they will not believe therein". If God wanted, it could open their eyes and then they would believe. God could have guided all of mankind if it wanted (Qur'an 13:31). These themes are seen time and time again in the Qur'an. See Qur'an 2:213, 3:74, 4:88,143, 5:54,67, 6:25,35,39,111,126, 7:178-179,186, 10:99-101, 13:31, 14:4, 16:9,37, 17:45-46, 18:57 and 24:35. Whether you believe or not is not an issue of free will or personal choice, and any punishments based on belief or lack of belief is therefore arbitrary and without justice especially as Allah has the responsibility to guide people to the right path (16:9).
But this vast array of verses is contradicted in places by the occasional comment that says otherwise. Qur'an 8:38 instructs people to talk to those who have disbelieved in order to encourage them to change. 57:17,25 says "We have made the communications clear to you that you may understand" and 18:54-55 says that "nothing prevents men from believing". Although shortly after that, 18:57 returns to the old story, saying "Who does more wrong than he who turns away from [proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations] [...]. Truly, We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand, and in their ears, deafness. And if you (Muhammad) call them to guidance, even then they will never be guided".
Human actions cannot change who believes, and who is saved. Allah "bestows His abundance" and purifies "whom He will" (Qur'an 2:212, 4:49, 30:37). Qur'an 2:286 says that "God does not charge a soul beyond what is in its capacity" - if you're not capable of understanding something (because God made you that way), then, God will not then make you capable. You will remain hindered forever. And in Qur'an 5:42 it says "To everyone We have appointed a way and a course to follow". Sura 57 concludes by stating that even the followers of Islam cannot control who receives the grace of God as it gives it to whomever it pleases.
God ordains everything, in a book written before time. "Nothing shall ever happen to us except what God has ordained for us" (Qur'an 9:51) and this includes all misfortune which befalls people (Qur'an 57:22) and their lifespans (3:154, 35:11). When the Qur'an is so clear on a point there is no need to look to the Hadiths for further comments, however, there is every indication that the Hadiths are just as clear: "One was the report that the Prophet had said, 'The first thing God created was the pen; then he said to it, "Write all that will happen until the Last Day'"6.
Monotheism and Free Will: God, Determinism and FateThe Validity of Love Theodicy: God, Humans, Free Will and EvilBiblical Christianity Denies Free WillThe Illusion of Choice: Free Will and DeterminismGod Has No Free Will: 2 ProofsIs Free Will the Reason God Allows Evil and Suffering?Theological Problems with Heaven, Paradise and Nirvana: The existence of free will in heaven is proof that evil is not necessary for free will
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Philosophy Now. Magazine. Published by Anja Publications Ltd.
The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.
(1987, Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion. Hardback book. Published by Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, USA. 16 huge volumes. Eliade is editor-in-chief. Entries are alphabetical, so, no page numbers are given in references, just article titles.
Forsyth, Peter T.. (1848-1921) Scottish theologian.
(1916) The Soul of Prayer. American edition by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan, USA. Chapters 5 and 6 are an extract from a "another little book" published by Hodder & Stoughton (maybe The Power of Prayer, 1910) and "parts" of this edition also previously published in the London Quarterly Review..