Facts About Religion: Does God Have Free Will?

The blog Facts About Religion asks “If God Cannot Act Contrary to His Nature Can He Have Free Will?” The blog author writes, “Most people define ‘free will’ as having a genuine choice between multiple options. For example, in a given situation it would be possible for a truly free being to have a genuine choice between (a) telling a lie or (b) telling the truth.” In short, he argues that since God can’t lie he lacks free will.

Here is my comment in response, which I am posting here since, as noted previously, my comments tend to be deleted on that blog:

The answer to the question whether God has free will, depends on how you define “free will”. You are defining it as the ability to do evil, specifically to lie. But “freedom” generally is defined as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint”.

The only way God’s inability to lie would imply lack of freedom on his part, is if lying were something that he wanted to do, but that something or someone were hindering or restraining him from doing so. But on the contrary, God has no desire to lie, and there’s no good reason to think that he could possibly ever want to lie.

“William Lane Craig offers an insightful thought experiment to demonstrate that one need not be able to choose B in order to make their choice of A free and meaningful:

“‘Imagine a man with electrodes secretly implanted in his brain who is presented with a choice of doing either A or B [for our purposes, we’ll let A stand for good and B stand for evil]. The electrodes are inactive so long as the man chooses A; but if he were going to choose B, then the electrodes would switch on and force him to choose A. If the electrodes fire, causing him to choose A, his choice of A is clearly not a free choice. But supposed [sic] that the man really wants to do A and chooses it of his own volition. In that case his choosing A is entirely free, even though the man is literally unable to choose B, since the electrodes do not function at all and have no effect on his choice of A.'”

Quote from question submitted by “Jason”, Q&A with William Lane Craig, Freedom and the Ability to Choose Evil, http://www.reasonablefaith.org, May 12, 2008.

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5 thoughts on “Facts About Religion: Does God Have Free Will?

  1. How is it that you know the mind of your god? Maybe your god wants to lie and has. He did say Adam would die the day he ate from the forbidden tree. Maybe your god is satan but lied about that? You can’t possibly know either way. Saying that you do is pretty obnoxious.

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    • The basic premise of Christianity is that God has revealed things about himself to us. One of those things is that he is all-good and incapable of evil.

      A revealed religion that couldn’t say anything with certainty about God would be pretty pointless.

      It’s theoretically possible that God is lying in what he has revealed to us. It’s also theoretically possible that God is a flying spaghetti monster. If either of those things is true, then Christianity is false. But I’m not aware of any evidence for them.

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      • That’s the problem with believing in magic, there is never any proof and logic and reason say their claims are false. That leaves only the conclusion left when all the evidence fails to support god claims. The conclusion is easy.

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  2. Craig’s answer is a neat side step, although the way that the case is presented allows it. The point is: Does it make any sense to speak of freedom, or any other relative quality, when it comes to God? It’s the problem with presuppositional arguments generally. If morality presupposes a Real good and evil, for instance, mustn’t we acknowledge that those are conditions presupposed for God? If not, then we must simply say good and evil are no different than God’s will (as Craig himself) does, or we must say that god stands beyond all such things as an enigma (Pascal, etc.). Either way you are left with a problem regarding how you know these things. The same holds for such arguments regarding logic and order.

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  3. Making free will a question of good vs. evil, amounts to a subtle denial of free will: since, if every choice is a matter of good vs. evil, then there is only one “real” choice — indeed in Heaven there will be no free will at all because man has already made the right choice, and henceforth there is only one right ‘best’ answer to any question. (I am thinking here of the theodicy that man is capable of choosing evil in order for his choice of God to be ‘truly free’. That cannot be the only reason for the existence of free will; but free will must also be justified when it is used to choose between equivalent but mutually incompatible goods.) Man was put in paradise and was allowed to choose the fruits of any tree or combination of trees, except the knowledge of Good and Evil. But man (not God) decided to make this issue of choice into a question of whether he would choose God freely or have his entire mini-rebellion.

    On the other hand God had all manner of choices in terms of how to form a Creation, which had nothing to do with making a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ creation. If God did not make these choices, Creation would not be Creation so much as a one-off emanation He may have chosen to initiate, but whose actual contents were an involuntary product of God’s nature (which is a picture more reminiscent of the imagined deity of that creative blasphemer Douglas Adams, The Great Green Arkleseizure).

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