The Human Truth Foundation

Monotheism and Free Will
God, Determinism and Fate

By Vexen Crabtree 2002

#christianity #free_will #free_will_and_god #god #monotheism #religion

God cannot have free will. A benevolent god always chooses the path that causes most good so therefore has no real choice. As 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 influenced by the things we have experienced in life: God set in stone all those circumstances when it set in motion the clockwork of the universe.

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. He still concludes that God and free will are compatible because the ramifications are too great for him to shoulder: 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.

1. God Has No Free Will

#free_will #free_will_and_god #god #omniscience #properties_of_god #religion #theism #theology

There are four philosophically strong arguments that God cannot have free will. Here they are:

  1. An omniscient being cannot have free will because it is predestined by its own certain knowledge of its future actions. To change its mind would be to contradict its omniscience.

  2. A perfectly benevolent God cannot have free will because there is only one perfect course of action, which God, being perfectly good, must follow. Even if it could choose its future actions, there is only ever one course - the most perfect one. To exercise free will to veer off this course contradicts God's perfection.

  3. The creator of time cannot have free will: if God exists outside of time then it is immutable, unchanging, and as such it has no mental states except one everlasting and perfect state. Choices require changes in mental states over time. An eternal being that created time cannot already have free will.

  4. If God created free will then it cannot itself already have had free will before it done so: yet, an omniscient being already knew (before it created free will) everything it would do. Therefore, any creator-god cannot have free will about any of its actions.

For more, see:

2. 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.

3. 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:

4. Monotheistic Religions' Holy Books are Determinist

4.1. Christianity

#christianity #determinism #free_will #free_will_and_god #philosophy #religion

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. Augustine3 (one of the founders of Western Christianity), Martin Luther (founder of Protestantism) and John Calvin (founder of Calvinism).

For more, see:

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 such as the Sunni Ash'ari school6, use the following verses from the Qur'an to back their position: