I recently read an article talking about free will. I did not realize that Christians besides extreme calvinists were actually teaching and making a serious argument that free will does not exist.
In the article, the author proposes that there is no free will, and his conclusion from this is the sarcastic remark that it is “laughable” that there is an eternal hell with everlasting suffering. This was not an Atheist but actually a Christian who twisted some Bible verses out of context to support their views.
While the author’s conclusion makes a lot of sense, the problem is that his premise is entirely false. As a result, his conclusion is also horribly false.
There is free will, and there is a Hell
First let me preface: there is free will, and there is hell. Anyone who denies free will is deceiving themselves. And anyone who teaches that there is no hell and no one goes there to suffer, is a false teacher who rejects the Bible and the teachings of Christ – or does not know what Jesus taught at all.
We are not merely complicated automatons and God is not the author of evil. While God sometimes uses evil for good (“for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”, Romans 8:28), God is not the one who created or caused the evil.
While it is true that God does some things that may seem evil to us readers, such as the destruction of entire cities in the Old Testament like Sodom and Gomorrah (and others which we will not be discussing here for the sake of brevity and to stay on topic), and the existence of a hell, the truth is that these only seem evil because we don’t like the idea that 1) there are consequences for our poor choices, and 2) if we make bad choices there are consequences.
Denying the existence of free will is merely another way for people to push the responsibility for their sinful actions onto God. By saying they are not the author of their evil choices, but rather saying, effectively, that “God made them do it”, is the equivalent of a child trying to get out of punishment for hitting their sibling and saying “they made me do it!”
The truth is that no one wants to face the consequences for sin. This is true for children trying to get out of trouble, as well as for adults trying to avoid the consequences of a sinful life.
The choice of the forbidden fruit
This is the same problem that has plagued humanity since the first humans. When God asked Adam why he ate the apple (actually the Bible says it was a fruit, but does not say apple), he passed the blame to Eve, saying Eve gave him the fruit. Then Eve passed the blame to the serpent who tricked her. (The serpent had no excuse, but he also was not human.) Did God say, “well since you put it that way, you’re right, it wasn’t your fault. You were tricked Eve, I get it, that pesky serpent lied to you; and Adam, you were simply unable to resist the influence of this beautiful woman I gave you. Don’t worry about it”
As we know, this is not what happened. While they both had a pretty good excuse, God kicked them out of the garden of Eden and cursed them for all generations anyway. Why? Not because God is unfair, but because God knew that the real reason both Adam and Eve sinned is because they chose to sin out of their own free will, not because they were victims of circumstances out of their control; and because God created a world of cause and effect, where each action has a consequence. Adam and Even made choices that resulted in consequences.
It all comes down to accountability
Ironically, the same argument that some Christians use to support their assertion that there is no free will is the same argument that Atheists use to disprove the existence of God entirely. Both refuse to accept accountability for their own actions, so they pass the buck to someone else.
These Christians teaching no free will are passing the buck to God, saying that God made all evil happen and therefore they are not accountable for their actions and therefore should not go to hell – so hell should not exist.
Atheists on the other hand pass the buck onto science, saying that no loving God could be so evil as to send someone to an eternal hell, so there must not be hell, or God, and science made them do everything because they are merely cells reacting to other cells and molecules in the environment like robots and that they have no control over their actions.
The people teaching no free will are saying that God made them do everything, and that even if they chose to not do something then it was God making them not do it; and if they chose to do something, then God made them do it as part of His plan. Personally, I think anyone making this argument has lived too sheltered of a life, because some of the atrocities of the world could never lead a person to believe that a loving God was responsible for these things – even if it could in some way be justified by resulting in some good. Child rape, or the Armenian (Christian) genocide (where Muslims in Turkey committed mass murder in the name of Allah to kill all the remaining Christians) are two examples that come to mind. In no way was God responsible for such atrocities.
The Atheists similarly are saying that we are effectively robots made of meat, blood, and cells and that ultimately we have no control over our choices and even if we choose to not do something because we thought about having the free will to choose to not do it when otherwise we wouldn’t have made that choice, that this was just a natural course of events that with the right supercomputer could have been predicted from the beginning of the universe with absolute accuracy, if every variable were measured.
Both are saying the same thing. If there is no free will, then we are not in control and therefore not accountable for our actions. If we are not accountable for our actions, then we should not have any consequences for our actions. If we have no consequences for our actions, then there can be no hell where sinners are sent to suffer.
Denying free will is lying to yourself
This line of thinking, that we are not in control of our own actions, is the inevitable path to godlessness, and ironically, actual hell, since hell really does exist. The tragic thing is that many people will be led astray by these false teachers by believing that since there is no hell they can do whatever they want, because either God made them do it or science made them do it.
Both, however, are delusional. I say this not for the sake of namecalling but for the sake of truth. To reject the idea that you have a choice in whether to pull a trigger to kill or whether to type in an ungodly search into the internet, is to live in a fantasy world where 1) you are not in control of your actions, and 2) there are no consequences for your actions.
As far as consequences go, it is obvious that God created the entire universe with the law of cause and effect. If you do one thing, something happens. If you do something else, something else happens. If you rob a bank, you will almost inevitably be caught and face legal consequences. If you have sex, you will eventually get pregnant. If you spend all your rent money on food, shopping, or drugs, you will get evicted. There are consequences for actions. The consequence for choosing a life of sin is hell.
God is a perfect, loving, and just God
It may not sound very nice, but in today’s hyper-sensitive society, people really need to learn to grow some thicker skin. God is a loving God, but God is also a wrathful God against sin and evil. God hates seeing children raped and innocent people slaughtered. God hates adultery, and the sins leading to an orphaned child. God hates when people make up lies to cause suffering to another. You will find the evidence that God hates these things in Proverbs 6:16-19.
As a result of a perfectly loving and just God, the only inevitable result is that God must also hate evil. God hates evil because it pains him to see injustice. God also instilled in us these same qualities to hate evil, so that is why we feel a sense of horror when we see evil acts committed. This does not make God evil, it makes God perfectly just and righteous.
If a person stands before a judge after murdering their entire family, arguing that he could not help himself, and the judge agrees and lets him off without any consequences, would that judge be called a just judge? Certainly not. The injustice and outrage would certainly result in riots in the streets, especially if the family murdered was very well-known, loved, and respected. The same goes with God. If people can commit atrocities, or even just regular sin, and get off without any consequence, this would not be a just God, but an unjust God.
Likewise, a judge who sentences someone for their crime which they did commit is not an evil judge, but a just and fair judge. It would only be unfair and unjust if he sentenced an innocent person. This is the argument given by those claiming they have no free will. They are effectively saying they are innocent and therefore there cannot be a hell where they go to suffer if they live a life of sin.
Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” No one is righteous, and the reason we are not righteous is because indeed we do hold the responsibility for our sinful choices – thus meaning that we did in fact have the free will to make the choice to sin.
There is hope, but the choice is not easy
Fortunately, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place. However, Jesus’ death did not automatically let all of the Earth off the hook forever to continue to commit evil and have no consequence. Rather, God provided the way, which is Jesus Christ, and this is the only way. Few however will accept the way of Christ.
You do not get to spend eternity with God forever just because Jesus died if you do not accept Jesus and love Jesus and show your love and faith by living a holy life. Many will go to hell because they reject Jesus. Many reject Jesus not with their words but by their actions. Faith without works is dead. You cannot say you believe and live a live which does not reflect what you say you believe. Jesus said in Matthew 16-20,
“16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 16-20)
If you are a good tree, then there will not be evil, malice, slander, hate, spite, pride, unholy anger, sexual immorality, lying, stealing, adultery, or other sins readily in your life. If there are, then you are not a good tree. According to Jesus, if these and other sins are a part of your life, then you must be a bad tree, because a good tree does not bear bad fruit. If you live a life of sin, it is evidence that you are not part of the body of Christ and you are in danger of the fire of hell, because a bad tree does not bear good fruit.
Hell is real and terrible
Hell is a real place, and as much as some people would like to deny its existence, it does exist. It was created for the devil and his angels. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41,
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)
Jesus said this after painting a vivid and literal picture of hell, a place of fire where people are conscious and aware of their torment and suffering, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mark 9:48 says that it is
“where ‘their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.'” (Mark 9:49)
What if we didn’t have free will?
Surely, the author who stated that hell is “laughable” would be right if we did not have free will. Say there was a man who was kidnapped and inserted into a car. This car was controlled by another person who used the car like an RC car to run over and kill someone.
When the man was brought before the judge and he said “I really was not in control, I was a victim and the person controlling the car that I was inside is the real killer”, then he would have a completely valid claim. To condemn this man would be evil, because he very clearly was not in control.
In that case, someone else is the real murderer, even though he was the one inside the car which killed the person. To sentence that man, or worse, to give him continuous torture for eternity, would be extremely cruel to the greatest degree.
If God was really the one controlling people’s every action, thought, and deed, and then condemned them to hell for all eternity even though they were not in control, then certainly that would not be a good and just God. This means there are only two choices: There is no free will and no hell, or there is free will and the option for hell is a real possibility.
You are not a robot
Truthfully, we are not stuck inside a machine that someone else is controlling. When God created us He gave us control and dominion over our bodies (to some degree), our minds and thoughts, and our actions. We do not choose whether our hearts beat or not (although we can slow it down or speed it up with our thoughts, as is seen in free divers), we do not manually control every aspect of digestion or our immune system (although with our thoughts we do have a high level of control, as it has been proven that we can increase or decrease our immune system simply by choosing to think positive or negative thoughts), but we do have complete control over our thoughts and our actions.
Even our very habits, although once strong can be hard to break, are created as a result of our choices that we have chosen. If there is an exception to the rule, such as being forced to become addicted to drugs, then that person is, clearly, not responsible if someone else injected them. However, such cases are extremely rare – and the existence of such a case has no bearing on the existence of free will.
No one is holding your eyelids open and your head turned toward a woman to lust after her. You made that choice. And just because someone else did some horrible injustice does not force you to retaliate, no matter how bad you may feel about the matter. Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Surely, on some level people can be victims of their environment. A person chooses to go outside in a thunderstorm and is struck by lightning. Has it happened to you? Has not happened to me yet. Mainly because I usually do not choose to walk outside during a thunderstorm.
While we are not in control of 100% of our outside environments, we are in control of our own thoughts and actions. A robber holds up a knife and demands your wallet. Do you run? Plead? Yell? Shoot them? The choice is yours, but those choices have consequences (Note: throw your wallet and valuables in one direction and run in the other direction! You can always get a new ID; and the cash, well, it’s not the end of the world). To say you have no choice in the matter is nothing but nonsense.
Most of the time, however, our choices are not at all a result of such extreme circumstances such as getting struck by lightning or getting mugged. Some choices are easy. You can choose not to walk outside during a thunderstorm. You can choose not to walk down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood at midnight.
Other choices are not so easy. Do you say a elaborate falsely, spread rumors, or gossip about someone behind their back because they were cruel to you? Do you cheat on your spouse when an opportunity presents itself? Do you type in that internet search – no one will know (except God)? All these things are sins, and many of us face them often. Some more than others.
But to delude yourself into a fantasy world where none of these choices are really yours to make and that you are utterly beholden to your urges and inclinations that are totally out of your control – this is nothing more than a delusion that someone who is too afraid to face the realities of life (and death) lies to themselves to make them feel better for the bad choices that they make.
Is it easy to choose not to do something that you really, really want to do but which you know is the wrong thing to do? It’s not hard to choose to not run into the rear end of the car that is driving too slow, but it is hard to choose to reject a fiance who wants to have sex even though you know not to have sex before marriage. Both, however, are choices that we are free to make, so do not fool yourself into believing otherwise.