Sunday, September 1, 2013

Christian free will is a lie

: voluntary choice or decision
: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention 

Many Christians like to use the term free will when discussing salvation and damnation in the context of their religious beliefs. But based on all of the arguments I have seen for and against the existence of free will in a religious context I have come to the conclusion that many theists don't quite understand its meaning. In this post I want to put the concept of free will under the microscope and bring to light what it means and how it is applied to religious beliefs. I will be using biblical citations and examples to further clarify my points of discussion. 

The first thing we need to do is to put the idea of free will into perspective. As the definition I have cited above the word will refers to your ability to make choices. When you refer to free will then the words together expand on its original meaning. It is the ability to choose or make choices freely without any prompting or threats. With this in mind many Christians have implied that we have the free will to choose to worship God (good) or to live as we please without him (evil). But is this really a choice or is it an ultimatum? 

: a final proposition, condition, or demand; especially : one whose rejection will end negotiations and cause a resort to force or other direct action  

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Christians want you to believe that without a belief in their god you are incapable of living a good life, or of even knowing right from wrong. They claim that objective moral values come directly from God and that if you don't have him in your life then you cannot possibly live  accordingly because by default your are a sinful creature. This is what the idea of salvation is all about. It's not only about saving you from eternal damnation which we will get to later, but about saving us from ourselves.

5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 6:5-6

 10As it is written:“There is no one righteous, not even one;11there is no one who understands;there is no one who seeks God.12All have turned away,they have together become worthless;there is no one who does good,not even one.”  Romans 3:10-12

Basically, even today the above mentioned quotes are the biblical deities opinion of mankind as a whole. You see in the eyes of God man is inherently corrupt and in dire need of salvation from himself. I have written about the concept of sin before and have determined that outside of a relgious concept it like the idea of the existence of God does not make sense. It takes a belief in God to accept the concept of sin. You have to believe that you are a filthy vile creature whose very existence is an offense to God because he is holy. Christianity like Islam requires that you recognize your need for a god in your life. Not only that but you have to also be willing to submit completely to the god of your choice in order to be redeemed and ultimately forgiven. With this forgiveness comes eternal reward but without it the consequence is eternal punishment. 

40“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Matthew 13:40-42

The above mentioned quote is a parable which speaks of the end of the age. It indicates that those who do not submit to the Lord will be tormented and burned for their disobedience. This parable is explained in its entirety in the paragraph that precedes it. 

37He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Matthew 13:37-39 

Given this explanation man is divided into two groups the righteous (good seed) and the unrighteous (weeds) Notice how it refers to the people of the "evil one." It further explains that this evil one is the devil. The reason for this is that in the mind of a believer you are either a servant of God or an enemy of God. There is no middle ground, when it comes to Christianity and some other religious groups there is no neutral position. If you don't serve one then you automatically are considered a servant of the other. The Bible refers to nonbelievers specifically as enemies of God. 

10For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10

I've heard believers state often that we are given free will and that God does not force us to worship him but rather gives us the choice to do so. I am convinced that this is not true at all. In fact, I can think of several instances in the Bible where God violated an individuals so called "free will" to carry out his own purposes. For the sake of brevity I will turn to the tale of the Hebrew exodus from slavery in Egypt. After seeing all of the signs and wonders that God had done in Egypt like the 9 plagues that they were hit; with it is impossible not to ask why did Pharaoh take so damn long to give in to God's demand to let his people go? The answer is clearly given within the text itself.

1Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them Exodus 10:1
God made it so that Pharaoh would not give in to his demands so that he can show off his power to both Egypt and to the Hebrews. In other word he made him an obstinate man and in doing so violated his so called free will. No rational leader would sit back and watch his people suffer what Pharaoh supposedly saw and lived. Before closing I want to put God's offer on the table by bringing to your attention the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I will only quote the pertinent points but I suggest if you have the time or the interest to read it in its entirety, you will find that it is quite illuminating.

This story can be found in Daniel chapter 3 most theists use this tale to demonstrate the power of God's salvation to those who remain faithful even in the face of imminent death. But we are going to look at it quite differently and parallel it to the plan of salvation that the New Testament endorses. According to the story King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden image. He then commanded that all who were under his reign had to bow down and worship this image as a god. 

4Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Daniel 3:4-6

In our telling of this story God represents Nebuchadnezzar who commands all nations to worship his idol. But in this case God wants all nations to worship him. All those that refuse to do so are thrown into a blazing furnace (hell). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in our retelling represent atheists and agnostics who refuse to bow down to God. The only difference between us and them is that they were faithful to God and in the end they survived the flames of the furnace because God was with them in the fire and no harm came to them! But as atheists and agnostics we do not have another God who will come to our rescue. According to the scriptures our end will be painful and horrible and without end. Come to think of it what is the difference between King Nebuchadnezzar demanding that everyone worship his idol and God demanding that everyone worship him? None!

In all reality, the only free will you have in the entire plan of God is to choose to worship him or not. That is it! Once you choose to worship him then you have to work towards pleasing him by doing his will to the best of your ability. You life is no longer yours you now live to edify your spirit and not your flesh. You seek your reward in heaven and no longer on Earth. You must submit to God and live and obey his word. Too bad that that word is not so clear and is often so contradictory that it is impossible to do so. The Lord's prayer has a line in it that confirms this.

6your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

36"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14:36

As his hour of death was approaching Jesus prayed to the father for deliverance. But he ended his prayer with the above mentioned quote: "not what I will, but what you will." You now live for the Lord and every decision you make in life has to be with the famous what would Jesus do question behind it. What would the Lord want me to do in this situation? 

So in closing, is the idea of free will as it relates to Christianity and belief in God true or is it an illusion? My answer is that it is an illusion and at the same time a false conclusion. If it were really about a free choice (free will) then there would be no negative consequences for our choice. We would simply live our lives for better or for worse and die when our time came. But the Christian God threatens eternal torment as a consequence for disobedience or choosing not to worship nor believe in him thus making this an ultimatum. This monster of a deity will punish you for not believing in him, and even for having the audacity to ask for evidence of his existence before committing your life to him!

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures. All word definitions are taken from the Merriam Webster online dictionary.


  1. Christian free will is a lie. No it isn't.

    Once you choose to worship him then you have to work towards pleasing him by doing his will to the best of your ability. No you don't.

    As a Christian you are not under the law of Moses or any other laws. The offer from Jesus regarding salvation is free. If you accept the offer then great. If not then so be it. Either way there is nothing to be done about it. It is a gift.

    I don't have to go to church. I dont have to pray. I dont have to tithe. I dont have to be good. After I have accepted the gift from God, God will not let anyone take it from me, as it says in Scripture. In fact not even I can take it from me!

    I have, I believe as a Christian, as much free will as anyone. I suspect even more-so. I FEEL GOOD - AND I KNOW THAT I SHOULD (sorry, got James Brown playing in the backround)

    This is all, I accept, based on the premise that one has really and truly accepted Jesus into one's life. God is not daft and would know if He was being conned.

    There is no way in a million years that I feel I will be punished by God over wrong things I have done. And the only adverse effect on my life has been when some have raised their eyebrows when discovering I'm a christian. But hey-ho.

    1. "As a Christian you are not under the law of Moses or any other laws. The offer from Jesus regarding salvation is free. If you accept the offer then great. If not then so be it. Either way there is nothing to be done about it. It is a gift."

      This is what is referred to as the wonderful art of cherry picking your way through the Bible. Salvation like so called freedom in the U.S. is not free.

      "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Matthew 5:17

      Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. Romans 3:31

      Your faith only gets you but so far. You are required to walk the walk as well.

      14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

    2. I am not cherry picking at all. Two things. (a) You have to be mindful of what was said to Jews for Jews and what was directed to the world in general. (b) Of course I "walk the walk" but, for example, I go to a church building to be with other Christians because I want to go, not because I feel under threat if I don't. The idea is absurd.

      The thing is you are creating the perfect storm here. If you truly gave yourself to Jesus in the past, then you are still His. Just because you are an atheist now and run this blog is nowhere near enough reason for God to disown you. God is as devoted to you as He is to me or any other Christian. Like Scripture says, not even you can block God's salvation for you. It's too late.

      God, if He exists, will read your blog too and see everything that you do. But He is not compiling a list to punish you with. As I have said before, even though the Bible is not about God's Love, He is not going to hit you over the head with it at the end of your days.

      Another thing that keeps popping up (by others mostly) is the topic of religion. Christianity is not a religion (not true Christianity). I am not religious at all. It is about having a personal relationship with the Maker of the Universe. That's so fantastic. Of course God might not be true, we cannot prove it as God will not allow that stream. But for me, alternative theories are more far-fetched, in fact some (from brilliant scientists) are just wild and crazy. Anything to avoid God eh?

      Maybe I am just happy in my ignorance. But happy I am. I have had problems and heartache in my life just like everyone else but the hope of God (nothing wrong with hope) is a good goal. If I die and God is not there, then that's that. However if He is there,

      The idea that the God of the Bible is some sort of monster is a red herring. Sure a lot of it makes awful reading but at least it is all written down no matter what. The Bible has not been written in a mode that is all nice and sweet. And remember, sometimes stuff was written when the author didn't even know what he was saying, the truth's only coming out centuries later when science caught up. (like the Earth is not flat, there will be an explosion of speed and knowledge, etc etc).

      Just realised I am rambling on. Sorry.

    3. "Maybe I am just happy in my ignorance. But happy I am. I have had problems and heartache in my life just like everyone else but the hope of God (nothing wrong with hope) is a good goal. If I die and God is not there, then that's that. However if He is there,"

      Terence, this is a classic example of Pascal's wager. If your god is omnipotent and omniscient, don't you think he can see through your doubt?

    4. "The thing is you are creating the perfect storm here. If you truly gave yourself to Jesus in the past, then you are still His."

      I disagree with this statement entirely. If this were true then there would be no such thing as back sliders. You seem to forget that the Bible has many things to say on this matter.

      "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21

      "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Romans 2:13

      13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

      Why do you keep bringing up going to church? I never said you had to go to church to be saved.

      "If I die and God is not there, then that's that. However if He is there,"

      Yet another way of expressing Pascal's wager! Sigh....

      "the truth's only coming out centuries later when science caught up."

      Science didn't catch up to anything. It is not working off of so called divine revelation nor did it use the biblical texts as its guide. It is exposing the mythical nature of the scriptures although that was never their goal. But truth has a way of exposing lies and false information.

      "Christianity is not a religion"

      Are you sure about that? Of course it's about a personal relationship with Christ. But what is a religion?

      (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

    5. Now who’s cherry picking. Did you forget: -

      Jesus Himself affirms this regarding those who have believed in Him: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand” (John 10:28-29). Eternal life is just that—eternal. There is no one, not even yourself, who can take Christ's God-given gift of salvation away from you.

      Not Pascal’s wager please. Interesting on an omnipresence note, apparently an atom can be in two places at once i.e. New York & London.

      Backsliders? Yes, many of the great men of the Bible were, in fact all of them I think. To be a backslider you have had to be somewhere first in order to slide (obviously) but this does not lose you that connection with God. For example Judas Iscariot was not a backslider. We are told that he did not believe in Christ in the first place.

      A Christian who backslides is like a child who disobeys his parents. It does not affect his sonship but it affects his fellowship.

      Let me tell you something straight. All Christians backslide.

    6. According to the scriptures salvation is free but you have to work to keep it. If it was that easy than everybody would be saved.

      "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

      According to this verse all you need it to believe to obtain the gift of salvation which includes eternal life.

      8"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 8-9

      It's a free gift from God and of course the gifts of God are irrevocable. But....

      14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
      James 2:14;17-18

      10Therefore, my brothers and sisters,a make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11

      Let's not forget that

      "For many are invited, but few are chosen." (I know it's a parable but it makes its point quite clearly). Matthew 22:14

      13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

      I could go on forever and not only that I can find and quote many verses in the scritpures that will contradict these. That's what happens when you rely on the work of many authors all claiming to be inspired by God. It makes God seem like a schizophrenic nut job with so many contradictory views.

  2. I honestly don't think belief is a choice. Belief - as religion goes is mostly dependant on what you were raised to believe. The rest is if you are convinced of it. If you actually weigh evidence none of the religions are at all convincing. Could you choose to believe that 2+2=7? You could certainly pretend to and maybe act as if it were (people would probably think you were either stupid or insane) but I really don't think any intelligent, sane person could make themselves believe that 2+2 actually equalled 7. If you pretended to believe but actually didn't, wouldn't God know?

    1. Belief is not a choice it's an ultimatum. God demands belief and obedience. The alternative is not a choice but a threat. If it were a free choice then we could just go on living our lives with no problem till it was time to check out.

  3. @terence

    "You have to be mindful of what was said to Jews for Jews and what was directed to the world in general."

    That's what's is called keeping things in context which I am pretty good at. When I do take things out of context I usually state it and say why I am doing so.

    In fact, when you come to think about it all the words that were put in the mouth of the fictional Christ was for the Jews. It wasn't till Paul came on the scene that he created a new theology that was more acceptable to the gentiles. Even the biblical Jesus appears to believe that the end was supposed to come in the first century. When it did not happen the early church began to doubt and so they had to find a way to fix it. thus the claims that no one knows the day nor the hour of his return. That makes the promise of the return of Christ undefinable and you can preach that card till the end of time.

    1. Why would Paul invent a new religion? He had a perfectly good one already. Come to that, why would Jews (of all people) change to a brand new belief system and, actually, die for this new faith? It beggars belief that strong Jewish men would suddenly believe in something that was clearly fictional and made-up. Sorry, I don't buy it.

    2. Why would Paul invent a new religion?

      What you are forgetting is that Christianity is a Jewish sect. It started out as a Jewish movement with Christ only looking to reach the Jews or as he called them the "lost children of Israel." One of the problems that the gentiles had with Judaism was primarily with the many ritualistic obligations. Circumcision was one issue amongst the early church that had to be resolved when it came to the gentiles.

      In order to make Judaism appealing to gentiles Paul had to eliminate many of the ritualistic and auster requirements of orthodox Judaism of the day.

      5When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”Acts 18:5-6

      On circumcision
      28A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code... Romans 2:28-29

  4. @terence

    You see what's happening here terence? For every verse you throw out to support your beliefs I can throw out a verse that contradicts it. This is one of the major problems with the Bible being divinely inspired. The very fact that it is subject to human interpretation and does not speak clearly to many of our modern day dilemmas is just one more proof that it is not inspired by God.

    Also, the fact that not one of the original texts are extant. What we have are copies of copies of copies. Then you have to take into consideration the difficulties of translating ancient languages such as Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek which are not the same today as they were back then and have changed and evolved considerably. You must also wonder as to the reliability of those existing copies that the Bible is derived from.

    The fact that there are over 35,000 Christian sects and organizations the world over is significant in that it testifies to the difficulties I have pointed out and some I have not. Every new Christian sect is a derivative of an individual or group that did not agree with how their church interpreted the scriptures. So they started their own group who would teach the "truth."

    Speaking of truth every religious group claims to know the truth and have their ancient texts to prove it! The Tanach,New Testament,the Koran,and even the Bhagavad Gita. What makes the New Testament so special? This reminds me of the saying:"When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Stephen F. Roberts

    1. Well, although I take on board all the fair points you make, I still don’t buy into your interpretations. I would say there are no contradictions anyway in the Bible and when someone says there is, the view is always found wanting. At least in my eyes. The fact that we are not in agreement is absolutely normal. We are not the first to disagree on Scripture and we wont be the last. It would be boring anyway if we all agreed.

      If God appeared in the sky with His big white flowing beard, sitting in a big comfortable chair made from the clouds, we would not need faith. Faith is God’s thing, so what do you do. The fact that the original writings have been copied is also absolutely normal. It’s what they did and they were meticulous in their work. Yes you can wonder as to the reliability; or you can marvel at the attention to detail. It is not so much the translation that is remarkable it is the interpretation. The interpretation is all-important, far more so than translation.

      What makes the New Testament so special is Jesus Christ or more to the point, the Uniqueness of Christ. As I have indicated before, this Uniqueness creates the opportunity for a relationship, not a religion. Religion carries with it all sorts of ceremonies etc. With Jesus you need nothing else, not even a church building (as you are aware a church is a few Christians together not bricks and mortar)

  5. "What makes the New Testament so special is Jesus Christ or more to the point, the Uniqueness of Christ."

    Spoken like a true fundamentalist apologist! I too was once as blind as you are. The bible is self contradictory on many matters you don't see them because you refuse to, but they are there and they are blatant and there are many.

    "Faith is God’s thing, so what do you do."

    Yet another of the many reasons that rational thinkers and believers will never see eye to eye. Faith doesn't count for nothing to a thinker. We demand evidence which a theists is unable to provide for all the ridiculous claims that they make. You can't prove that God exist. You can't even prove outside of the scriptures that Jesus Christ was an historical figure. Even if he was what separates him from the rest of the quacks which still abound even today?

    Faith is nothing more than voluntry ignorance. You have not shown me anything new. All you have managed to show me is that you like all other fundamentalist believers suffer from confirmation bias, cognitive disonance, and how your preconceptions about your faith are in your minds irrefutable and not open to honest analytical examination and critique.

    Adolf Hitler said it best

    "It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge."

    Hitler had great insight regarding matters of religion as is evident in his own writings.

    "I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few."

    Christianity is an emotion based religion even by your own admission. Faith is a feeling or hope that what you believe is true and it does not require evidence. When looked at rationally and objectively contrary to what you may think it does not hold up to scrutiny.

  6. I think free will is something that an omniscient god does not allow regardless of the outcome of your "choice". An omniscient god knows everything so then the default position is they know your choices before you make them. If this is the case then free will does not exists if god exists and the whole argument fails. More importantly god has already condemned you before you are born.

    1. I agree with you Christian in Christianity the only choice you have is to serve God or reject him. Once you make your choice to serve him then you have to submit to him as well your will ends there. You now live to do what you think is God's will.

  7. Thanks for this - sums up that uneasy feeling I get when talking to a family member about this. They once said that a person who 'chooses' a life of sin (and therefore hell) instead of worshipping God was the same as a cancer sufferer being told by a doctor to take some sort of panacea and have a 100% chance of survival...

    The analogy is almost right, but in my version the doctor is brandishing a shotgun and if you don't take the cure, he's going to blow your brains out. Also, if you choose the cure you have to marry the sociopath and do everything he says for the rest of your life. Yep, even if you're a dude (especially if you're a dude ;P).

    Sounds appealing, eh? Oh, and I know I'm a bit late here, but Terence - you are being willfully ignorant. If you are going to follow a faith of any kind, at least learn the basics of it. I had a old school friend who came out with the same bullshit. But we were twelve at the time. -_-