The Human Truth Foundation

Monotheism and Free Will
God, Determinism and Fate

By Vexen Crabtree 2002

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1. The Theological Problems of Free Will

#christianity #monotheism

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.

2. Omnipotence2

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:

3. The Existence of an All-Knowing God is Incompatible With Free Will

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.

  1. God created everything with full knowledge and we have no free will to change it.
  2. God does not have full knowledge.
  3. God did not make the Universe or there is no God.

4. Monotheistic Religions' Holy Books are Determinist

4.1. Christianity

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.

"Biblical Christianity Denies Free Will" by Vexen Crabtree (2005)

4.2. Islam4


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:

Current edition: 2002 Jan 13
Last Modified: 2015 Nov 13
Parent page: Single God Religions (Monotheism)

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References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

Philosophy Now. Magazine. Published by Anja Publications Ltd.

The Koran. Penguin Classics edition. Originally published 1956. Current version published by Penguin Group Ltd, London, UK. Translation by N. J. Dawood. Quotes taken from 1999 edition.

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.

Eliade, Mircea
(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..


  1. Forsyth (1916) .^
  2. Added to this page on 2013 Jul 26.^
  3. Russell (1946) p335.^
  4. Section massively expanded. Added to this page on 2013 Jan 04.^
  5. Dr Imadaldin Al-Jubouri. Article "Islamic Rationalism" in Philosophy Now (2007 Mar/Apr).^
  6. Eliade (1987) Volume 5 entry "Free Will and Predestination". Added to this page on 2013 Jan 04.^

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