Does God Have Free Will?

Does God Have Free Will.001The Bible portrays God as having personal qualities that are both perfect and inalterable. ((Genesis 18:25; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8)) That is, whatever personal qualities God has, He has them fully and He can in no way lose them. This is one way in which God’s infinity separates Him from finite creatures such as ourselves. We have our qualities to only limited degrees. For example, Bob is a good person, but he occasionally does something that is inconsistent with his goodness. Sally has some good qualities, but not all or only good qualities. God has all good qualities and these good qualities are never compromised in Him. He is immutable. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that God is omniscient. That is, God knows all past, present, and future events. ((See Caleb Colley, “The Omniscience of God,” (2004).))

The combination of God’s immutability and His omniscience raises a question about His ability to choose. If God is defined entirely by His qualities, is it then still possible for Him to choose between alternatives, Or is His freedom negated by the definite nature of His unchanging character? This is a serious question because it might seem that God’s character is so certain and His knowledge so complete that His responses are automatic, i.e., that no choice is ever made, as in the case of the workings of a pre-programmed machine. Such a representation of God would seem to eliminate meaning from His love for us. (Ordinarily we would say that only those who choose to love us really do love us.)

One response to this problem is to point out that the perfection of God’s character does not rule out the possibility that He makes choices that are in perfect harmony with His character. On a lesser scale, consider that we humans make choices that are the result of longstanding, settled convictions (e.g., that we should wear clothes, that we should not drink poison), but nonetheless such choices may be characterized as being “free.” God’s character is more settled than ours, but this does not mean that He cannot choose.

But more fundamentally, God’s character is undetermined by any factor external to His being and essence. God alone is responsible for His having the qualities that He has, and therefore all of His choices can be considered as being far more free than any of the choices that we make. Whereas all of our choices are influenced by various factors external to our own essences (social factors, physical necessities, etc.), only God’s choices are unconditionally rooted in His own essence. God’s choice is ultimately free.

We humans could not have free choice if it were not the fact that we have been created in the image of a God who can choose for Himself.


- 2024

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