Is God Really Free?


Free will and the nature of God can be pretty confusing stuff. A lot of people have a bunch of different opinions about it. I’m just gonna’ give you some of my thoughts on the subject:

How Free Is God?
About the only time this question arises is when we start asking, “Can God do everything?”. Some people start to say, “Yeah, He’s God. Duh!”. But after a little thinking, they then realize He cannot (1) be illogical and (2) be immoral. A logical God, I think, is a given, but what about the God and immorality? Does God have the ability to be immoral? If not, is God really free?

My Take:
God by definition doesn’t have the ability to be immoral. When the Bible says “God is good”, it’s basically saying “God’s nature is that of perfection”. God is the supremely perfect moral being of the universe. But the question arises, “Doesn’t this infringe on God’s free will?”. I’ll use an analogy by Harry Frankfurt:

‘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 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. What makes his choice free is the absence of any causally determining factors of his choosing A. This conception of libertarian freedom has the advantage of explaining how it is that God’s choosing to do good is free, even though it is impossible for God to choose sin, namely, His choosing is undetermined by causal constraints. Thus, libertarian freedom of the will does not require the ability to choose other than as one chooses.’

Since God’s nature is that of moral perfection, God will necessarily choose (A) freely and thus will never be forced to choose (A). Although it’s an impossibility for God to choose (B), God still has free will.  Think about it. A limitation in the range of possible choices is not the same as having no choice at all. If God is faced with a choice of either doing a particular set of good actions, (a), (b), and (c),  or a particular set of bad actions, (x), (z), and (y), His inability of choosing (x), (z), and (y) does not negate the fact that He freely chose (a), (b), and (c). In light of this, we can say with ease that God is actually free.

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  1. #1 by michaeleriksson on July 31, 2011 - 4:42 am

    As I understand you, your example with the electrodes would miss the point of free will and ability to choose: Effectively you say that the man resp. God are not able to choose differently, but that this does not matter because they still would have made the right choice. From my POV, it is exactly the other way around: God is fully able to choose evil (no electrodes), but this does not matter because he would not do so.

  2. #2 by studentsforchristianity on July 31, 2011 - 12:35 pm

    What’s the difference between man and God, in respect to free will?

  3. #3 by LoLgical Nihilism on August 1, 2011 - 9:36 am

    I personally think God is one who has free will. If he was good because he had to be good, then he is doing all his works out of duty rather than out of Goodness, and is not good, but a slave. If he willed to he could throw it all away and unmake the whole world just by a single act of evil, and he makes that clear. He walks the razors edge of what is just and good every day so that the universe and all his works may continue, because he wills it.

    but i always leave a little room for paradox when talking about anything bigger then humans, celestial bodies or divinity or what have you. Certain things may make no logical sense on one scale of perspective but all the sense in the world on another. We just can’t cognize it yet.

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