Free Will and God: Mutually Exclusive? (An Apologetic)

I’m posting this because it was proposed as an atheistic argument and I could find nothing that really talked about this. The reason I couldn’t, I believe, is because it’s not actually an argument for atheism, and isn’t an argument *against theism because it is hinged on a non-theistic definition of “free will”. So, if anyone reading this is ever presented with a "free will and God are mutually exclusive concepts" argument, and you can’t find anything about it, here’s a place to start.

*Note, “Free Will” and “Will” are not equal and must be distinguished, as was pointed out by “John Martin” in this thread, post #17. That’s a more philosophical look, and I think the general argument, as it was presented to me, can be refuted without getting too philosophical. I may be wrong.

The main argument was that Adam and Eve did not have a free choice in the “fall”. They were “coerced” because there was a severe sanction attached to God’s command. Since they were threatened, they could not have acted freely.

My main rebuttal was that Adam and Eve obviously had a free choice, free will, because they obviously chose the exact opposite if what they were warned/threatened NOT to do.

In the summary (End Note), I concluded that this entire objection was not against theism, per se, but rather an objection to being told what to do/not do.

It’s about 2,500 words, but it reads more quickly than some posts I’ve made.
Feel free to comment/discuss/use as you please…

Are “Free Will” and “God” Mutually Exclusive Concepts?

There is no absolute self sustaining free will. It’s existence is logically untenable, a theistic delusion created in order that we may believe we are actually some sort of self sustained free agents participating in our own existence. What is this “free will”? 99% if not 100% of decisions we make are dictated by influences we aren’t even aware of. Science has now shown that the actions we take based on decisions we make are made before we are even conscious of them. Our subconscious seems to be driving and our conscious only aware of where we are going after the fact. So who’s in charge of our free will? What is it that pushes our decisions one way or another? Makes one person a murderer and another a hero? While we can’t possibly control every chaotic factor we may encounter what makes us believe we are in charge of the decisions we may make based on them? Even given individual differences, in all other factors our free will and our ability to act on it should be equal. But is it? Given differences in intellectual ability and emotional stability among incalculable other factors which effect our decisions how could it possibly? This is God’s story. Created by him, sustained by him and we are merely acting our part of existence which he has given us. He is the sustainer of our decisions because they are ultimately not apart from his own. Even my belief that our free will is a delusion is a part of God’s “story”.

So, you would concede that it makes no sense to punish a person who chooses a crime, because, afterall, it’s just part of God’s “story”, right?

But that doesn’t really matter. My point here (in the OP and the article) is that free will and God are not mutually exclusive terms in the way this atheist wants to believe (in the way he is arguing it). His argument is that Adam didn’t have free will when original sin happened [Adam was “coerced” because there was a severe sanction attached to one of his choices], Christians believe in free will, and therefore God can’t exist. While he DOES believe in free now, he believes that free will has a better chance without a deity.

My point is that free will and God are not dependent upon one another. A God that exists need not have given us free will. A lack of free will doesn’t disprove theism OR work as an argument for atheism. At best, his arguments presents 1) a God that exists, but whom he does not like, or 2) a God that theists misunderstand.

I would in no way concede that. Since the punishment would be a part of the same story. Indeed not punishing a person for a crime may well be impossible to do willfully because of that fact. My point is this…mutual exclusivity isn’t a valid question since our “Free will” Is a delusion created by God for his own good pleasure. It follows that because our free will is merely a delusion Adams free will is as well. Christians can’t help but believe in free will since that is part of the delusion. How that could possibly lead to a lack of a diety I’m not sure.

Our Free will is absolutely dependant on God since there is nothing which sustains itself apart from God including that delusion. God is absolutely dependant upon free will since a lack of it would render Gods existence impossible. God need not have given us free will and be able to still exist simply because he hasnt. Dare i say couldnt since to do so would be a contradiction of his nature. An existential impossibility. Like asking him to create a rock he could not lift. Indeed proving our free will to be merely a delusion would tend towards proving the existence of God in my opinion. The Wizard behind the curtain. It’d be more likely that our delusion of free will would be consistant in its function if it arose from God whose free will is self sustaining than to believe our free will arose from some other process since that process itself would factor into how free and consistent our will is while not itself being self sustaining. Either way complete and total “self sustaining” free will is not possible…for us. If it were self sustaining we would be God . If we make the decisions and God merely sustains them then we’ve only once removed the essence of our self sustaining once again making us have a characteristic only God can possess. It’s Barbie and Ken dolls on a cosmic scale. For God’s own good pleasure and glory.

But it would be unjust. Perhaps you do believe in an unjust God. I do not. Regardless, it’s not the topic o fthis thread, and I will appreciate you not hi-jacking my thread.

[Etc.]…It follows that because our free will is merely a delusion Adams free will is as well. Christians can’t help but believe in free will since that is part of the delusion…

Well, that pretty much destroys any real notion of ethics, justice, responsibility, moral obligation, merit, and sin…and the fundamental Christian belief that we can merit reward and punishment. It also renders Christ’s call for us to “be perfect” as nothing more than a meaningless part of God’s “story”. It also would have been pointless and meaningless, in your “delusion” model, for God to ask “What is this you have done?” to Eve, Cain, and David (via the prophet Nathan). But again, that’s off topic for this thread. Please open your own thread if that’s what you want to discuss.

I’m not here to convince you of free will. And if you want to discuss whether we have it or it’s a delusion, then start your own thread and have at it. The purpose of this thread is in the OP and via the link I provided. I also re-stated it in my previous response to you. If you don’t want to discuss the original topic, then please don’t post here (per forum rules).


Messages posted to threads should be on-topic. If you wish to discuss another topic, start a new thread.
Do not pad your post count with chatty or off-topic messages.

If Adam and Eve had no free will, why did God even give them an ultimatum?

My humble apologies. I disagree with your statements on what the delusion of free will does and does not imply. I furthermore believe I can address your assumptions to the contrary. But, as you’ve indicated, I apparently would be straying from the original spirit of your thread. Therefor out of respect I will not continue along these lines. I would love to discuss more on this subject with you if you ever happen upon the thread.
May God bless the “reality” he has created for you.

Good question. I went a step further with his analogy, and this particular question never did get answered: “If Adam had no free will because God coerced him (by the severe sanctions, etc.), how did he come about to choose the exact opposite of what he was being “coerced” toward?”
It came up again and again. Another form that question took was, “If I have no free will, where did I get the ability to disobey what I was told to do/not do?”

He never answered that, and he never did the route that setarcos is going…which I found curious. I told him, in the end, that this is why “free will” is not an argument used by atheists to prove their point…because it really only argues that we don’t have free will, and this has nothing to do with whether there is a God (as setarcos is showing).

Actually, while I accept your apology, you may as well run with it and post your responses here. While my interlocutor did not go the route you are going (with the delusion of free will), he did go down a similar path arguing that, while we have free will now, Adam and Eve certainly did not. So…go ahead and post your response.

In the conclusion of our discussion, my dialog partner gave a very long and detailed response that summarized to this:

[Paraphrasing] "While Adam knew right from wrong, he did not know good from evil. Because he could not conceptualize evil, he had no means by which to gauge the nature of a legalist choice (doing X is wrong) versus the moral choice (doing X is Evil). Therefore, he could not have had the free will necessary to make a choice.

Then it hit me. His argument isn’t actually against free will, it’s against culpability. Note that my partner DOES believe in free will, just that Adam did not have it. With that in mind, there are only 2 conclusions I can see:

  1. we (including Adam) have free will;
  2. “determinism” is true.

This was my final response:

"I disagree that being able to conceptualize evil was necessary in order to make an informed choice.

However, this argument, coupled with the facts that we know and the remainder of your argument, still works against the conclusion that Adam did not have free will: If not knowing the difference between good and evil took away his freedom of choice, how did he come about to do the exact opposite of what he was told?

The only answer that would suffice here, other than “he had free will”, would be determinism…that God has determined/caused all the actions of man from the beginning to eternity (Remember, God is eternal, so any quality of God is also eternal.)
But for that, **you must presuppose that “knowing” = “causing”. **(You have to prove that if I know what color shirt you will wear tomorrow, and then you wear that shirt, that I caused you to wear it.)

But that’s still not what your argument works toward, because you DO believe in free will (just not in Adam’s). Your whole response argues that Adam did not have all the information you believe he should have had, or that should have been necessary to make an informed decision. You statements, the entire sum of them, suggest that Adam should not have been culpable for his choice, or at least not as culpable as God held him. But this presupposes free will to make a choice. You aren’t arguing against free will, you are arguing against culpability."

[And BOOM, we are right at the door of setarcos’ posts. If man is not culpable, it’s because he didn’t have free will, and this must apply to all men, not just Adam.]

Free-will simply means that we can cooperate with our nature as made by God to do good and avoid evil. Our first parents chose freely, when tempted by Satan, to disobey God’s command – they suffered the consequences which they chose to inflict on themselves and their posterity.

Any assumption that God doesn’t have omniscience is false, as if He didn’t know of the “emergence” of evil.

Adam and Eve disobeyed His order and lost the power over death, wounding human nature and closing off access to heaven, which God repaired by sending His only Son to make amends for this catastrophe and enabled sanctification through His Church, and Purgatory as required, so that amends for sin could be complete and entrance to heaven possible. God knows of everything and that’s why He planned the redemption of mankind by God the Son taking a human nature as Jesus Christ, and enabling the reward of heaven for those who follow His Will.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit