[Editor’s note: The “salvation” of God is free…, but this article considers the nature of God.]
Is God truly “free”? This topic has been discussed by many, and the conclusions have been either one way or the other.
Conclusion of Some: God is no freer than a robot
Some believe that God is no freer than a robot could be free. Vexen Crabtree, for example, (on December 31, 2001), states that God “automatically carries out precise action of doing perfectly good” (1). So that means that God has no free will, according to Crabtree’s reasoning. This is because God is perfect and perfect in everything He does (Deuteronomy 32:4; Matthew 5:48; and James 1:17). So if He is perfect and cannot change and is immutable (Mal. 3:6), then obviously He would be limited by His own nature in what He could do. He has no choice. He cannot choose. So goes that reasoning….
Another factor to consider here is God’s Omniscience (meaning “He knows everything”). Bible verses that can be used are: Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 139:1-4; I John 3:20. He knows everything. No one can teach Him (Isaiah 40:13, 14). He knows the future before it happens (Matthew 6:8).
It is like the interesting question, “Can God make a rock bigger than Himself since He is all powerful (Matthew 19:26; Job 42:2)?” to which the answer would be, no! He can’t do something that goes against His very nature and being. He is over everything (Daniel 4:34-35; Deuteronomy 10:14; Job 42:2)!
Another Conclusion: God is free and sovereign and can choose anyway He wants to go.
On the other side, it is stated that God is free and sovereign and can choose anyway He wants to go. But all that He chooses has to be in agreement with His nature and character. So considering that God is three different and separate persons but one God (Deut. 6:4) He must act in one accord (Genesis 1:26; John 14:10).
So then, looking at these two opposing positions, I would like to know what the Bible has to say about it. So I am going to present the following topics: 1) change and choosing, 2) will, and 3) freedom.
The first topic is change and choosing
The Bible teaches that God cannot change. This is taught in the following verses.
- Malachi 3:6 – “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed”.
- Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
- Isaiah 31:2- “Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.”
- Psalm 33:11 – “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations”.
- Isaiah 46:10 – “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:”
- Hebrews 6:17 – “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:”
- James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
- Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Jesus is God (Rev. 1:8, 17; Isaiah 9:6; John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14; Col, 1:5; 2:9; 2 Peter 1:1; John 1:1). (2)
The Bible also teaches that God doesn’t change his mind:
- Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
- Isaiah 31:2 – “Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.” (3)
There are Scripture verses where it seems that God changes His mind. But if we read carefully, we see that God actually did not change His mind. For example:
- Genesis 6:6 – it seems that God changes His mind: “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Genesis 18:13 – “And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (2) Ibid.In this passage it appears that God is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the homosexuality. Genesis 18:20 says, “And the LORD said, “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous…” Now Abraham responded to God and said in Genesis 18:26-33, if I find in Sodom 50 righteous, then you God will not destroy the city. And God said “yes”. Then Abraham changed the number to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally 10 hoping that God would not destroy the city. And God told Abraham in Genesis 18:32 that if he found 10 “just” people, He would not destroy the city.So it appears that God changed His mind. But in Genesis 19:24 we learn that God destroyed the city. God knows everything (1 John 3:20), and knew there were even 10 righteous people in Sodom, but He allowed Abraham to ask, showing Abraham His patience with Abraham (2 Peter 2:9) and mercy with Sodom (Deuteronomy 4:31; Ephesians 2:4, 5).
We see God did not change His mind. For example, even in the New Testament – homosexuality is still wrong, as is seen in 1 Corinthians 6:9.
- Jonah 3:10 – it seems that God changes His mind: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” In Jonah 1:2 we see that God is going to destroy the city of Nineveh and says, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” So Jonah took a ship that went to Nineveh but he decided he wanted to go in a different direction because he was afraid of the Ninevites and what he had heard about them (Jonah 1:12-17). But when he was thrown over ship and spent 3 days in the stomach of the great fish, he changed his mind and finally went to Nineveh to prophesy against them.In hearing this message from God, the Ninevites repented (Jonah 3:5) and God did not destroy them. But it is interesting to note that later on in 612 B.C. the city was destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians as described in Nahum 1:14; 2:6-11; 3:19; y Zephaniah 2:13-15. So in this instance it appears that God changed His mind, but He really didn’t. He was only going to destroy the city if they didn’t repent. But they did.
- Genesis 2:2-3 – it seems that God changes His mind: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made”.The seventh day is considered a day of rest. It was a Saturday. The word in Greek σάϐϐατον means “rest, peace, tranquility refreshment.” The word can be seen in Psalm 95:10-11 and Hebrews 4:9-11 of “enter into rest”. We see in Exodus 20:8-12 that it was part of the commandments to keep the Seventh day holy as a day of rest.Now when Jesus arose from the dead and appeared to many it was on the first day of the week Sunday (John 20:1). And in the Council of Laodicea (364 A.C.) it was decided that Saturday would be changed to Sunday. Bible verses that talk about Sunday are John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Colossians 2:16-17; and Romans 14:5. So again it could appear that God changed his mind. But not.
The Sabbath day: a change there?
Now concerning the Sabbath day of rest and the meaning of the word in Greek meant that – “rest”. All the Commandments that are in Exodus 20 (minus Exodus 20:8-10 regarding the seventh day) appear in the New Testament. There is Matthew 14:33 regarding worship and Matthew 15:4 which reproduces Exodus 20:12, which says: “honor your father and mother”. And there is the command against committing adultery (Exodus 20:14) that is found in Matthew 5:32. Plus 1 John 3:15 states that murderers do not have eternal life, which is the command in Exodus 20:13 – not to murder.
In Matthew 12:1-8, Jesus deals with the Pharisees who are accusing his disciples of picking wheat stalks on the Sabbath. But according to Deuteronomy 23:25 it was legal to pick grains and eat them to satisfy hunger on the Sabbath. At the end of this passage Jesus says, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:8).
So we see that God did not change His mind about the day of rest. The first day of the week is still a day of rest, as Jesus arose from the grave and was resurrected on that day.
- Exodus 32:14 – “So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.”(4) In Exodus 32:1-10 we see that Moses was late in coming down from the Mount Mariah for 40 days while the Israelites were waiting for him. So they decided to go to Aaron and asked him the make them two calves of gold and they would worship them claiming that they had brought them out of Egypt. With this news, God told Moses to descend immediately. God in the meantime had seen what Israel had done and in his anger and hurt said in verse 10 that He would consume them and make a great nation from Moses line. But Moses repented for the people of Israel (vs.11-13) and Exodus 32:14 was stated. So we see here again that God did not change His mind. Repentance was made (Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Acts 3:19) and grace followed (Hebrews 4:16; 12:15; Ephesians 4:7; Romans 4:16; 5:20-21).
The next part would be regarding choosing.
Man has a free will with which to make a choice: (5)
- John 3:36 >> “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
- Hebrews 11:24-25 >> “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;”
- Amos 5:15 >> “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.”
- 1 Kings 3:9 >> “Give therefore your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this your so great a people?”
- Joshua 24:15 >> “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
God also has a free will with which to make a choice. Even though Vexen Crabtree tried to argue that God has no free will to choose with, we can clearly see examples of where God does choose. For example, the word “elect” means to “select or choose out”. God chose! (This particular example is #8 in this list here.)
- Numbers 16:5, 7; 17:5. God chose Moses to be the leader of the nation of Israel.
- 1 Samuel 10:24. God chose Saul to be king.
- 2 Samuel 6:21; 1 Kings 11:3. God chose David to be king.
- 1 Chronicles 28:53. God chose Salomon to be king.
- Deuteronomy 7:6-8. God chose the nation of Israel.
- Luke 16:13; John 13:8 Acts 1:2, 24. Jesus chose the disciples.
- Matthew 20:16; 22:14. Many are called but few are chosen.
- Mark 13:20; Romans 8:28-39; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10. The “elect” or “chosen ones”.
The second topic is regarding “Will”.
The Bible teaches that God has a will.
- Numbers 16:5, 7; 17:5 – He chose Moses to be the leader of Israel.
- I Samuel 10:24 – He chose Saul to be the King of the Jews.
- 2 Samuel 6:21 – He chose David to be the King of Israel.
- Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Acts 13:17; Romans 9:11 – God chose Israel.
- Luke 6:13 – Jesus chose his 12 disciples.
- Mark 13:20; John 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Rev. 17:14 – the “elect” are chosen.
- 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some people understand slowness, but is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent.” (6)
It is interesting regarding what 2 Peter 3:9 says that “God is not willing that anyone perish”. It states in 1 John 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 13:11 that God’s nature is “love”. He loves mankind and demonstrates his love by sending Jesus to pay the penalty for sin (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Obviously not everyone is going to become saved. Some have stated that John 3:16 really is focused on the “elect” and that Jesus only died for them. They translate “the world” meaning only the elect. But looking at 2 Peter 3:9 it should be obvious that God does not want anyone to perish, not even the elect. And if He chose the elect it makes no sense why He would state “He does not want anyone to perish”. Why would the “elect” who He chose perish?
Determinism comes into play here. Determinism is the notion that all propositions are either true or false, whether about the past, present or future. It is the thesis that God determines all that humans will do – by knowing their actions in advance. This is achieved by His Omniscience. The problem of the free will of man, in this context, is the problem of how one’s actions can be free, if God has determined them for man ahead of time. So those who hold to the theory of Predestination would be Determinists. (7)
Defining free will. Another way of defining free will is this: it emerges from the interaction of finite rules and deterministic parameters that generate infinite and unpredictable behavior. For example, God could determine what man will do given God’s Omniscience, but His Free will and man’s free will could generate infinite and unpredictable behaviors. That doesn’t mean that God wouldn’t know what would happen, but it does mean that having a free will would generate decisions made that might not be so predictable for man.
Continuing on with the topic regarding the “Will”.
The Bible teaches that Angels have a free will.
- Jude 6 – “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” (8)
The Bible teaches that man has a free will.
- John 3:36 – “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
- Hebrews 11:24-25 – “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;”
- Joshua 24:15 – “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
- 1 Kings 3:9 – “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (9)
Now it is interesting to think about man’s “will” in regards to him making a choice that will affect him, or having a choice made that he didn’t make, but will affect him. Examples:
Man making a choice:
- He can choose to believe that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus paid the price for his sin with perfect blood, that he can repent for his sin and that by believing he can be saved from his punishment. (John 1:12; 3:36; 1 John 5:10-12).
- He can choose the person who to marry (Proverbs 5:18).
- He can choose to do good and not evil (Amos 5:15; 1 Kings 3:9).
- He can choose who he will follow (Joshua 24:15).
A choice over which he has no control:
- Where he is born.
- Who his parents will be.
- What his DNA is like when he is born.
- Being born with AIDS or some other disease.
- Being born a boy or a girl.
The last topic is regarding “Freedom”
Is it possible for God to be free if He is perfect in everything he does (Genesis 1:21) and He is perfect (1 Peter 1:16)! Thomas Aquinas, an Italian Catholic Philosopher of 1225 to 1274 A.D., argued that the mind of God is immutable (it doesn’t change). If He is perfect and He does what is perfect and He is Omnipotent (all powerful: Ephesians 1:19, 20), Omnipresent (everywhere: Psalm 139:2-12), and Omniscient (knows everything: 1 John 3:20), so then why would he be free?
Defining “free”. The word means: “unobstructed, not restrained, not controlled by obligation or will of another, not bound or attached.” (10) So using this definition we see what God is:
- Not restrained;
- Not controlled by obligation or by the will of another (like the angels or man, even though the roles of the three persons of the Trinity are clearly defined in what they do);
- Not bound except by what He is (His nature) but what He does has no boundaries; and
- Not attached to anything. “He is” –past, present and future (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 43:13; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 44:24; Acts 17:25; Exodus 3:14; John 5:26; 8:58).
The freedom of man
- John 8:32 – “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
- John 14:6 – “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
- John 8:36 – “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
- Romans 6:22 – “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”
- Romans 8:2 – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
- Galatians 5:1 – “Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
- Romans 6:7 – “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (11)
Jesus, who is God (John 8:58), said that he can make man free (John 8:32, 36). And by making man free, man is free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:32). Sin and death control man. Man will sin, for he was born in sin (Psalm 51:5), he inherited sin (Genesis 3:1-19), he serves sin (John 8:34) and he will die in his sin (Romans 5:12; 6:23; Galatians 6:8). So if God is free, then man can be free as well if he chooses to believe in Christ.
We have seen that God cannot change — but He can choose.
- He already chose – outside of what we, in our limited minds, could comprehend (Job 12:13; James 3:17; Romans 11:33).
- He does whatever pleases Him (Psalm 135:6).
- There is no way to resist God’s will (Romans 9:19).
- He is perfect in all His ways (Matthew 5:48; 2 Samuel 22:31).
- He chooses according to His pleasure and His nature (Numbers 16:5; Acts 13:17).
- He has a “will” and that “will” is to be followed, just as we see in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus had his own will but chose to do the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36).
So with that will, God chose. In having a will God is free in making choices. But He does all these things outside of what we can fully understand with our limited minds and our limited understanding (i.e. He knows everything about me -Job 31:4; He can measure the heavens and knows the earth – Jeremiah 31:37; He knows everything that is secret -Matthew 6:4, 18; He knows everything about everything – 1 John 3:20; Who can resist God’s will? – Romans 9:19).
“Constraint of nature
does not equal the lack of freedom.
It is, indeed, the ultimate freedom to do as one is.”
-Pastor John Crandall
- Bane of Monotheism (This is a totally Godless site, which is described as ¨Arguments against religion and God as portrayed by Christianity, Islam and Judaism¨. So be aware of their lies.): http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/god_has_no_free_will.html
- http://www.scripturetext.com/, and http://www.biblegateway.com/
- http://scripturetext.com/, http://www.biblegateway.com/
- http://scripturetext.com/, and http://www.biblegateway.com/