Can God be philosophically compatible with free will?

But that be the case, how can we say God chose to create rather than say he had to create (not on the basis of external influence but rather by an internal determined nature)?

Because creating is not some imperative or end of God’s nature. His nature is perfectly fulfilled whether he creates or not. A human being acts to fulfill his nature. An automaton acting in a programmed way is it fulfilling its nature. St. Thomas argued that God necessarily must know and will himself. It cannot be otherwise, and God is his own end. But he does not necessarily will other things. Or to try to put it another way, the general, natural tendencies I have (or a bird has, or a rock has) are all tendencies that in some way are directed to fulfilling that creature’s nature. We tend towards fulfillment. God’s nature is already fulfilled, and so has (and so his nature has…) no tendency towards not creating, or tendency to create, or tendency to create this world instead of that world. Creation is not an end of God’s nature.

Now when it comes to mankind or other creatures I want to be clear that I don’t think having natural tendencies (towards needing to eat, for example) behind our choices rules out free choice. What’s important is that we have in a sense the capacity to choose between different options and that we are agents in making choices (that is, the choice follows from intrinsic principles in us, such as our knowledge and the movement of the will towards what the intellect grasps as a good), that if in principle we (following our knowledge) grasped some different end as more good we would choose that instead. The choice stems from these intrinsic principles and are not just because we’re being moved like puppets by external principles (or for no reason at all).

[And my toddler just woke up, but I was nearing the end anyway.]

But my point was to illustrate what I wrote in a previous post, that in this consideration God’s choice to act as he has seems may be seen as the examplar case of a free choice.


By one eternal act of his will, God wills all things including those things he has freely chosen to do such as the creation of creatures and the universe. The option or freedom to create the universe and the choice or will to do so are simultaneous in God and this from one eternal act of his will. In fact, since everything is one in God except the distinction of persons, God’s freedom to create the world or whatever is external to him and the decision or will to do so are one and the same thing just as his justice and mercy are.

@Wesrock so it seems to me proven that God cannot be forced by any power or principle to create (because God, being pure act, is his own end and thus needed not the world).

The problem whose solution I still feel blind to is encapsulated by this reply. For I agree that his will can effect one possible result of his powers, but to claim that he could have instead effected another result from his power seems to me a claim that he could’ve decieded to use his power differently. But once you enter the words “act differently” into the equation, you affirm that his will is something changable, correct? But that doesn’t seem to be possible to me, for God cannot change at all, so it seems.

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Well you affirmed my conclusion, which is that God’s will is unchangeable:

How then, if this be so, is free will still possible? For it seems as if a necessary element for free will is the ability for the will to change (for example, we say that God created this world but could’ve created a different world; to say that, however, is to dually say that God may have willed differently then the way in which He has chosen to will. In other words, His will could change). But if the will of God is as immutable as the rest of him, how can he be compatible with free will?

I do indeed acknowledge that the will of God is separate from to will that certain things should be changed. However, that distinction does not seem to prove the case that God has free will in the sense that he could will differently, it is only to say that a will may wish something to change. But an algorithm of a program may also change something according to its programming. Does that prove that free will is an aspect held by the algorithm? It doesn’t seem so. (The analogy is not to say God is like a program, but only to say that were he constant in his will he’d behave deterministically in accordance to his constant will the same way an algorithm would act deterministically in accordance to its program.).

My question is this then: what is the difference in cause that would bring about our world or a different world? If we believe, as we do, that God caused the world, and also hold the idea that he may have created differently, how can there be room for an unchangeable will? For if God is completely immutable then we must say that there was not even a change in will between his creation in our world and the creation of another. But if creation is stemming from the will, and there is a possibility in difference of creation then there must also be the possibility of a difference in will, right?

God does not exist sequentially. All acts of a being in eternity are perpetual, i.e., never beginning, everlasting and never ending. God wills eternally. He is always in the act of freely willing perfectly. Change is only possible for beings that exist sequentially. God exists eternally. And what He wills, He wills freely eternally.

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There is no change in will when God makes Earth and when God makes Mars. The Holy Spirit is infinite enough to make all the worlds that are in the universe without re-doing his intentions.

I don’t know if you realize that your question, rephrased, is “If we believe, as we do, that God caused the world, and also hold the idea that he may have created differently, how can there be room for The Holy Spirit?
Have you ever met a determined worker, who will not ever let you distract him from getting his full work accomplished? He does not turn to pass the time of day with you nor stop to wonder what other stuff he might be doing. That is God, and that is the Holy Spirit (another name of “Holy Spirit”, as said, is “The Will of God”; there is no attribute inside God called “God’s Will”; God IS His Will, completely, and he is that determined maker of worlds, not turning right nor left to consider some mind experiment about alternate possibilities of what he might do instead of what he is doing. He is free, He is not in slavery to distractions, but doing all his making of worlds with full volition. His immutability is this, that he knows what he wants and will not be deterred by anything which says, “I am more powerful, change what you are doing.” Immutable means “Determined to do what I intend to do and no one can change my mind.” Immutable does not mean “unable to do opposites.” “Immutable” is a matter of 100% intent.

As to how God does things in material reality, you have to learn what is the co-operation of the unchanging God with a contingent creature (angels and men), co-agency, co-causation, which then allows for God to do things in Time while being eternal apart from the temporal of creatures.

Let me step back a little on the subject and talk through it, for your point (so far as I understand it) is: “If God’s will could be different, doesn’t that mean his substance could be different, insofar as God’s will is one with his substance?”

The resolution as to why this agency is attributed to God may be found in St. Thomas’ Fifth Way, which demonstrates that all natures are directed to their end by an intellect. Our difficulty may be due to putting God’s nature and its tendencies first and his intellect and will second. That is to some degree true in respect to man, but the Fifth Way shows that this cannot be the correct way of thinking about God. It is wrong to conceive his nature as determining his intellect and will. God’s intellect, understanding, and will are all one with each other and one with his nature. God’s understanding and his willing is not determined by his nature, but is his nature. What God therefore understands and wills is wholly determined by him and not by any prior tendencies or ends that are caused by externalities or just brute facts.

Furthermore, it may be incorrect to see God’s will in any way as potentially different. However, at the same time, all things that are not but could potentially be remain possible insofar as they are within God’s power to effect. Even if this universe is not necessary absolutely by God’s essence, it is necessary by supposition, insofar as this is what God wills therefore it is necessary (by supposition) that other worlds are not.

God’s will is both eternal, and perhaps could not be different, but is at the same time wholly self-directed by God, as again, his nature does not “set the stage” (so to speak) for what he understands and wills, but what he understands and wills is his nature. And he understands everything absolutely, and what he wills he does so eternally and it could not be otherwise while also not being predetermined in any sense prior to his understanding and will.

And there is no such thing as a capacity for God to not will his own being and goodness. But it is not necessary absolutely that God will anything else for Pure Act to be wholly fulfilled. That is, no act of creation is an end in itself of God nor in any way fulfills him more than any other. It is necessary by supposition that since God determined to will this world and not that world that this world be and that world not be, but this is self-determined and not pre-determined by anything prior to his understanding and will.

I’m still musing on my reply here, but I thought I’d share my train of thought.

I guess all of this boils down to two things then, if I am not mistaken. First, the nature of immutability (which I hold to mean the complete inability to change), and the second, the nature of free will (which I hold to be the ability for a conscious mind to decide how they may act). Many of you have said that either my definition of immutability is wrong (most of the time being alternatively described as the determination of God) or, more frequently, that my definition of free will is wrong (most of the time being alternatively described as absolute freedom of influence or force by a restricting, higher power). My problem with the alternate definition of immutability is that it implies then that God could very much be determined in another given manner than perhaps the manner He is, which necessarily means He can change, but such would contradict premise 2 (God is devoid of all potentiality). Furthermore, were one to say that He is determined in an unchangeable manner that would lead directly down the exact same conclusion as my idea of immutability (complete inability to change). My problem with the alternative of my definition of free will is that even if God were free of all exterior influences and forces, He still does not seem as if He could act in any other way than His being allows. And were His being to be understood as pure actuality, it means that His existence cannot be of any state outside of pure actuality. But His will is also a part of His existence (or rather, His will is His existence due to divine simplicity), and therefore it must follow that it is not only unchanging, but also completely unable to change (for change necessarily needs potency to actualize). That be so, how could one say that God could have created a world alternate to our own if to be able to create a different world but choose this one would obviously necessitate choice on God’s part, and thus eliminates the idea that God is completely devoid of the ability to change (for once we say that God could’ve acted differently we imply that His will is changeable, because the will could’ve gone one of two different directions; but ‘could’ve’ is not an element compatible with immutability for it implies possible change). Side note, I don’t actually believe God has no free will, other wise, as Wesrock pointed out, he would not have created the world (for God is not fulfilled by creation, for He is already fully fulfilled through Himself) . It’s just that this philosophical problem does not seem to me properly answerable, which is why I’m looking for a sufficient refutation of it on the internet.

*the Classical Notion of Free will as oppose to the modern notion which is more like (free opt:A choice which is not constrained)

Free will is not as simple as choice with out constraints but Free will is when the will can do it’s thing or can freely move to it’s objective end.

The Will is our intellectual Desire. Which means the will always moves us towards what we apprehend as Good. But it’s end is not just what we apprehend as Good but the Universal Good and true Happiness.

And again a Free will is the Free movement of the Will to move towards it’s end.

Applying it to God. God only desires and loves himself his Free will is the most perfect will of all for he have now and eternally have willed the Universal Good which is himself or simply his will is completely and perfectly free.

That be the case, God certainly would have free will because of exactly what you said, which is God desires only himself. But my follow up question to this notion of free will is always the same, that being, is God free to choose between making world A (our world) and world B (a valid alternative world) with this idea of free will utop the fact that God is perfectly immutable due to his pure actuality? For it seems to me, @aThomist, that God can’t have this freedom of choice because, as I said in my last post:

That be so, no matter how you define free will, the point of the matter is thar His will must be immutable for He is immutable, and therefore He has no freedom of choice.

-I certainly think you have a point, But the -problem is that “free opting”(as the notion of Freedom for your argument)is only true for beings of the 10 categories (substance and accidents) for “choicing” is a matter of action and passion.

-And I think would also agree with you for God have the full intellect of good so he would always choice one option than than the other but there is a error that we should be careful is that God doesn’t need in anyway to create a Universe but with the principle of Divine Providence your statement would be true for the determined acts of determined beings belongs to the will of God and all Free acts of Free beings also belongs to the will of God.and i repeat God doesn’t need to create a Universe we should keep that in mind.

-And in relation with Aquinas: Via negativa
Your statement again would be correct God doesn’t choice.but via negativa is more perfect with Preeminence so you could state your statement:God doesn’t choice for he choice beyond men’s choosing.

A advice:It may be daring to look and explain God’s attributes:intellect and will but we should always be open to the fact that we would never fully understand God unless we come to Beatific vision.

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For a human? Sure.

For God, who doesn’t ratiocinate as such? No. He simply knows. And, knowing, He wills. Freely.

‘Change’ is a side effect of free will and ratiocination in humans. Not in God.


If by “you”, you mean “a human”, then sure.

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God does not “choose”, as such, but eternally wills. “Freedom of choice”, then, does not apply to His existence. But, what applies to us properly doesn’t necessarily apply to God univocally, and even perhaps analogically.

Hmm… so, correct me if I’m wrong, but would that mean that God willing the universe to have existence was something eternal? If so, does that end up meaning that the universe is eternal because God wills eternally?

That’s the way I see it, but you have to be careful in the mode of expression:

  • internally, within its own framework, the universe is temporal, not eternal.
  • externally, with respect to God, the universe exists within eternity

Ahh… I think I may be coming to understanding. But I have one final question, which would be if God cannot “change will” (in whatever way my finite mind may understand), and God eternally wills creation, does that, perhaps, lead to a conclusion such as creation being an almost necessary, unalterable extension of God? For it doesn’t seem to me, on the basis of eternal unchanging will, that God would ever not be able to create, right? Another way of putting it would be that God did not, as the Bible states I believe, freely create even when he didn’t have to create, right?

[quote=“quaestio45, post:33, topic:618329, full:true”]

This does not imply that God’s will is changeable.
Changeable from what? Not willing to create our world to willing to create it? Or, not willing at all? Neither of these is acceptable. God freely chose to create us and our universe although He could have willed not too and then us and our universe would never exist. Thankfully, it was in God’s will from all eternity to create us and our universe and thus we were necessarily going to exist since what God wills to be is going to happen. Yes, God could have willed from eternity not to create us and then we would never exist. But, that is not what He willed to do. So, where is the change in God’s will and how was it not free to create this world or any other world?

So we both agree, @Richca, that God is unchangeable, yes? That be so, if we were to say that God did not have a choice in whether or not he made this universe or another, or made at all, then it seems compatible with the fact of his immutability. The conflict comes when we affirm that God could’ve created differently or not create at all (it seems to me), because were that to be true, what we say is that God could’ve willed differently (to will to create, or not to create; there is undeniably some difference here stemming from the will, would you agree?), but the possibility of difference is incompatible with immutability (for immutability is the complete inability to be changed whatsoever). That be so, it doesn’t seem to me that God could be compatible with, if not free will, at the very least choice.

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