September 2016

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  


« Convince Someone about God's Perfection without the Bible? (Video) | Main | Living Biblically »

October 30, 2012


With respect to the question whether or not God has free will it first has to be established in what way exactly man is free. In my view the freedom God supplies us with is not the freedom to act morally or immorally, as we are unable to live without sin (Romans 7,14-19). It’s the freedom to turn to God and as a consequence to receive the power to withstand sinful desires (Romans 8,5-9, Galatians 5,16-18). If freedom is seen this way it becomes clear why God cannot have the freedom we have, as He simply is unable to turn to Himself or fail to do so.

In a manner of thinking, God does not have free will. He cannot act against His nature, so since goodness is His nature, He cannot choose to sin.

However, I'm not sure I'd say God is omnibenevolent. He is good, and he is just. Which means He is certainly capable of meting out justice to His enemies - up to and including everlasting damnation in Hades. Rom 8:28 teaches us the He works all things for good... for them that believe. That promise is for His people only, not His enemies. Omnibenevolent implies nothing but good-will toward all, and that path leads very tidily to Universalism.

God always makes a choice that is consistent with his nature and that nature is good. Therefore, god will always choose to do that which is good. The rejoinder on this might be that then he does not have the freedom to chose otherwise(choose evil). This is actually true, but the freedom to do otherwise is a form of freedom called libertarian free will. The kind of free will that god exercises in making a choice that is in accordance to his nature of goodness is called compatibalism. It is another form of free will in which an actual choice is made, but that choice does not include the ability to do otherwise as it is tied to the marriage of god's nature and his will that cannot be divorced.

Yes, God is omnibenevolent and he cannot choose evil. But how, exactly, does the inability to choose to do evil result in God's lacking free will? This does not follow. Although a perfect, all-good God cannot chose to do evil, he can make other decisions, such as creating a universe or not, or in which family to place each person. Lacking the ability to do evil does not cancel out God's ability to freely choose between certain other options. Note that this does, however, apply to imperfect humans who have the ability to choose evil. So God can clearly have free will while being omnibenevolent.

God is free to do anything and everything he desires but God is not free to desire all things equally. God cannot desire evil as he desires good. So God is not free to desire things contrary to his nature and will. But then again, no one is.

Since God is completely and totally free to do anything and everything he desires, he is the most free being in the universe.

God is omnibenevolent to the extent that His character is the definition of benevolence. He, through His essence, defines what is good.

God can't choose evil because He cannot choose to be what He is not.

You are a human, right? Can you choose to be nonhuman? Suppose you choose to be a dog. You act like a dog, you bark, you scratch your chin with your foot, you eat from a bowl. Does that change your human essence?

Because you cannot choose to be nonhuman does that mean you don't have free will?

I like Don's answer. God can choose to do evil in the very same way I can choose to no longer be human being - i.e. He can't.

Every moral agent has free will, starting with God.

Just reverse the question and ask it of yourself. It's not in MY nature to be omnibenevolent. I cannot choose to be perfectly good. Does that mean I don't have free will? Of course not. I'm free to do anything that I'm capable of doing. Likewise with God.

The never ending battle between omnibenevolence and justice. Omnibenevolence is incompatible with justice. Mercy is not. Yes, there is a difference. Can anyone tell me why that is?

I approach this first in the light of what free will means to us. We have free will based on the bounds established for us by God. It is an outside set of standards that defines our free will. It is not outside of our nature to act on any particular whim. We are just as capable of doing good as doing evil. God, however, is not a created being. He is not subject to choices outside of those that He provides. I would see God's free will as the ability to act within the bounds of his nature. It is not in God's nature to sin, so he does not sin. It's not a moral choice he faces, unlike what we face. God doesn't do what's wrong because he can't. But that doesn't limit God's free will. Rather we see him freely express his own free will in his creation. God could have chosen to create us or not create us. That was a free will choice.

I think the real problem is that it seems to suggest that if God can't choose to do evil, that he is in some way limited. Rather than being a limitation though, I see that it is simply the only logical choice. For God to choose something evil, it would violate his nature, which would be illogical. God cannot choose something that is against his nature. Rather he can express free will within the bounds of his nature. I see this in no way limiting God's power or who he is, but rather it helps define who God is.

irst, we would prob. have to determine, if the "challenger" really believes that free will exists (rejects nomological determinism).
Free Will is mostly understood as "the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints" (note that it does not say "from ALL kinds of constraints).
How does our challenger define "free will"? Is it identical to freedom of action? Or is it just the freedom of will?
...with other words: The concept of "free will" has many different dimensions.
Do I have the freedom to choose based on my desires? Or based on my desires and values? Is somebody who is physically incapable of making bad/wrong/evil choices, somebody who we would considered "strong willed" or somebody who is weak? Who is the most liberated / free man? The one who has it in his nature to choose everything bad? Or the one who has build character/can constrain himself/chooses good so often that he prob. is bearly capable of choosing bad?
...and now we look at "man's" character and compare our little successes in this field (trying to be more like him), to the perfect being that He is. The one who is good and just ALL THE TIME. Making the right choices all the time. Does his inability to make the wrong choice means that he does not have a choice? ....I don't think so ....what we often understand as "freedom" could also be described as "weakness". Gods will is not only on a level of freedom that is prob. incomprehensible for us "small" threedimensional beings. His will must also be looked at from a perspective of power and strength, that is not comparable to us.
Being free from evil, free from sin, free from any worldly restrictions ...we need to consider God's understanding of freedom vs. the World's understanding of freedom. God is not limited in his will like us. We have free will within the realm that's granted to us. God's will has not the boundaries that we have. We are comparing incomparable things. Gods capabilities vs. ours ....he is not capable of our weaknesses. Not because of a lack of freedom, but because of allpowerful strength...

There are various models of "free will." The two most popular models, broadly speaking, that affirm the existence of free will are libertarianism and compatibilism. Briefly and a bit simplistically, libertarian free will usually involves the power of contrary choice. Compatibilism sees determinism and free will as compatible, so that an agent can be free and lack the power of contrary choice.

It seems obvious that in some instance God does not have the power of contrary choice. So, for example, God cannot lie (he does not have the power of contrary choice when it comes to truth-telling). Regardless of whether or not God might have the power of contrary choice in other instances, are libertarians willing to say that in these instances (e.g., truth-telling instances) God does not act freely? I doubt it, or at least I don't think they should concede that God is not free when it comes to those actions (like truth-telling).

So I think we will want to say that God does not have the power of contrary choice in all instances, but this does not mean God is not free, because free will does not always require the power of contrary choice (whether it *ever* requires the power of contrary choice is a much debated topic).

They need to define freedom of the will. If it means "able to do otherwise," then God is not free with respect to moral decisions.

But if freedom means "able to do X without external compulsion," then God is free with respect to morality because He is never compelled by an external source to do X. He freely chooses to do X.

While it is true that God cannot sin, this is not a limitation on God, but a perfection.

God is free in the compatibilist sense.j

Psalm 115:3 "But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases."

Psalm 135:6 "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps."

1 Timothy 2:13 "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."

Titus 1:2 "...God, who cannot lie..."

The reason God cannot lie or deny himself is because is does not please him to do so. He has a moral inability to lie or deny himself due to a lack of desire. God's desires determine his acts, which is why he always does whatever he pleases. He is free in the sense that nothing compels him against his will to act one way or another.

Isaiah 14:27 "For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?"

Nobody can force or restrain God to do anything other than what he pleases.

"Does God have free will?" by Philochristos

I posted a response to this question on my blog. Really interesting question.

Does an act of free will begin to exist?

It is helpful/necessary that the term "free will" be defined for a question like this to be answered. It does no good to talk past each other simply because two different understandings of the term are being used. God is infinitely be God, and no less.

BTW, Sam's link is worth looking over. I remember reading that one years ago as soon as I read the first sentence. Anyone wanting to answer this question should read it before answering. Nice job on that, Sam.

Here is a common argument against Libertarian Free Will:

" 1. Choices are either caused or uncaused.

2. If a choice is uncaused, then it springs from nothing and is, therefore, morally irrelevant.

3. Choices are morally relevant.

4. Therefore, choices are caused (and therefore necessary).

5. The causes of choices are either chosen or not chosen.

6. If the causes of choices are chosen, then an infinite regress of choices and causes must precede any choice.

7. An infinite regress of causes and choices is impossible, therefore, the causes of choices are not chosen.

8. From 4 and 7 --> Choices are causally necessitated by something not chosen.

9. LFW contradicts 8, therefore, LFW is false."


Does an act of free will begin to exist?

That's a sloppy way to put it since "exist" implies a substance, and acts are not substances, but I agree with what you're getting at. Libertarian freedom violates the principle of sufficient reason. If a free will act is an act that is not determined by any antecedent causes or conditions, then no antecedent causes or conditions (including a person's own motives, desires, and inclinations) are sufficient to account for why they acted one way instead of another. Libertarians do have a response to that, though. They respond to it by qualifying/limiting the principle of sufficient reason.

We must understand that God's will is not the same as man's will. God's will is creative. Man's will is reactive. Man doesn't choose the conditions or the determinants of his choices. Mutually exclusive paths (conditions) are set before him from outside of himself and he cannot choose by using information or stimuli (determinants) outside of God's created order. For God, however, the conditions and the determinants are the same for he creates them out of nothing more than his nature which his will reflects. Since goodness has its foundation in the nature of God, there is no higher ethical standard against which God's will can be compared. So whatever God does is good.

Now the problem we have in trying to ascertain God's goodness is the effect of sin on epistemology. Sin distorts our ability to perceive truth by creating ethical dilemmas inside of God's creation. God himself is not conflicted, but we perceive conflicts because of the distortion.

Perhaps a metaphor will help. God's will is like a river that flows gently but swiftly and strongly. We are like swimmers in the river who can choose either to swim against the flow of God's will or with it. If we swim against God's will we push against the water that is carrying us downstream. Our efforts are frustrated by the strength of God's will. Our swimming is laborious and difficult and we are buffeted by the current. Are we not swimming as god has instructed? yet because we swim against the flow we feel God may be doing some evil against us.

On the other hand, if we choose to swim with the current, our swimming is easy and we are carried along to our destination. Perhaps the speed at which we are carried along is frightening and other swimmers struggling against the flow impede our path dangerously. Perhaps rocks or some other natural peril threatens us. Nevertheless, we find that we are carried to our destination handily.

God has established not only the river, but its source, destination, obstacles, and us. We will be carried along willingly or unwillingly. The willing with be happy with the destination. The unwilling will not. God has done no evil to either.

God is perfect. In being so He can only be defined in positive terms which in turn must be expressed in infinite measures. For example His knowledge (not ignorance), presence (not absence) and power (not frailty) are described as omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. 

Evil is a corruption or tainting of these positive terms but not a true negation or opposition to them. Thus you cannot have an infinite value for evil or any of its expressions. This is why the most evil being in all of creation is still just a contingent creature.  The most vile place although everlasting is not evil but obtains it infinite properties as an extension of God's perfect justice and perfect love. 

With this being said God does have free will but evil is ironically out of His reach. In His infinitude God cannot choose evil just as I in my finitude cannot choose to create a star. 

This is a reason why Jesus as a true man was able to be tempted. If He was only God disguised as a man then sin could never pose a real threat to Him. But as truly God and truly man Jesus could face real temptation and yet resist it each and every time. 

I don't know about sloppy, but never mind.

If your free act is 'not determined by any antecedent causes or conditions' then why do you do one thing and not the other?

YOu say you CHDO. So why didn't you?

Wow. This is a huge question to take on here I think. And lots has already been covered here, so I will just share some resources:

I recently read a couple of incredibly helpful articles on this,

one by

1. Thomas V. Morris titled "Duty and Divine Goodness,"

and another by

2.Mark D. Linville titled "On Goodness: Human and Divine"

that readers may wish to use to continue their readings and reflections (hopefully you can find them online... I got them from JSTOR) on this. Look into these if you have not yet done so. Have a good day everyone.

Keven, are you referring to my question?

If you could have done otherwise, then why (given that you have free will) didn't you?

This is a huge question?
It has been covered here? Where?

I think Kevin may be talking about

Does God have free will?

I don't think that is huger than, nor independent of, my question. You need to make sure free will is a coherent concept before you start distinguishing types.

Louis Kuhelj wrote:

"The never ending battle between omnibenevolence and justice. Omnibenevolence is incompatible with justice. Mercy is not. Yes, there is a difference. Can anyone tell me why that is?"

I don't think that omnibenevolence and justice are incompatible. In fact, I would posit that justice is a prerequisite for omnibenevolence.

Can an omnibenevolent God allow atrocious acts of evil to go free without justice?


You need to make sure free will is a coherent concept before you start distinguishing types.

But whether free will is a coherent concept might depend on which type you're talking about. Your questions, for example, only make sense if you're talking about libertarian free will.

If your free act is 'not determined by any antecedent causes or conditions' then why do you do one thing and not the other?

There is no answer to this question. Given libertarian freedom, your choices can be influenced by antecedent conditions, but they can't be determined by them. So there is no sufficient reason for why you choose one thing rather than another. If a libertarian says that his choice was influenced by some motive, but not determined by it, then the most accurate answer he could give you that would sufficiently account for why he chose as he did is, "I did it partly because of my motive and partly for no reason at all. The reason I didn't do otherwise is partly because I didn't want to and partly for no reason at all."

But these questions are not problems under a compatibilist notion of free will. In compatibilism, our choices are determined by our strongest motive when all of our biases, preferences, desires, motives, inclinations, etc. are taken together. In compatibilism, there is a sufficient reason for why you chose one option rather than another.

So it may be that libertarian free will is incoherent, but compatibilist free will is not.


Sorry, I didn't read you closely enough at first. But now I think I am all caught up.

In compatibilism, our choices are determined by our strongest motive when all of our biases, preferences, desires, motives, inclinations, etc. are taken together.

Yeah, in compatibilism, our choices are determined.

So what shall we say about CHDO?


Great conversation, everybody!

Sam, excellent comments. I especially like this quote from your post you linked to:

Here's another argument. If God could do evil, then God is not necessarily good. God only happens to be good. If God is necessarily good, then God cannot have libertarian freedom.

It seems to me that personal, moral beings make choices out of their will. This is as true for God as it is for us. As you pointed out so well, to say otherwise is not to describe choices, it’s to describe accidents.

As for the challenge, to act evil is to fail to act perfectly. To say that a perfect being will never act in an imperfect way isn't to describe a failing or a lack of power on the part of the perfect being! (Magezi had good points on this.) On the contrary, by definition, a perfect being will act perfectly because He is perfect. God makes choices all the time, but since he's perfect, His decisions are perfect. Does it even make sense to ask the question, "Can a perfect being do something imperfect?" That's like asking, "Can a square be round?" The answer isn't simply "no," the answer is, "such a thing is logically impossible." And just as a square isn't failing because it can't be a circle, neither is a perfect being failing because He can't be imperfect. It isn't logically possible for a thing to be itself and the opposite of itself at the same time.

Now, we praise God as a perfect being precisely because He is perfect. It's a glorious and beautiful truth that His character is perfect--it's precisely because He's good to the core of His being (and so, logically, it can't be the case that evil comes out of Him) that makes Him worthy of praise.

It's never the case that God would want to do evil but couldn't because of a lack of power. As was pointed out in the comments above, the fact is that God will never want to do evil, so He won't. He has perfectly free choice to do whatever He wants. He's praiseworthy because He only ever wants to do good, even though He's capable of enacting any action He wishes.

For some reason, people more readily accept this view of free will when it comes to God than when it comes to us (i.e., we freely sin and rebel against God and will never choose Him unless He removes our moral disability so that we want to choose Him). But I don’t see why the nature of choosing should be any different for us than it is for God.


Yeah, in compatibilism, our choices are determined.

So what shall we say about CHDO?

Compatibilist will qualify that by saying, "...could have done otherwise if I had wanted to," or "if I had been so inclined," etc.

^^What Amy said. :-)

Philochristos says...

That means no desire, motivation, inclination or anything compells [sic] the will to act. Now granted these things can have an influence on the will, but they don't determine the will.

So on one occasion 'the will' does one thing. But, on another occasion, with THE SAME desires, motivations, inclinations, etc., 'the will' does something else!

If I had one, I'd want it removed.

"If God cannot choose to do evil, does that mean He doesn't have free will?"

If God cannot make a square circle, does that mean He's not omnipotent?

Same kind of argument. Not even God can do something that amounts to a logical contradiction.

If I had one, I'd want it removed.

They can be unwieldy, for sure.

It's not logically possible for God to do evil since that'd be against His very nature - who God is. That doesn't physically bind God but logically (like making the squared circle).

that'd be against His very nature

How do you know that Andrew?


Free will is analogous to faith. Free will is claimed to explain effect beyond cause. Faith is claimed to justify belief beyond evidence.

Hey RonH. Good to talk to you. Thanks for the clarification question. Yes I was referring to the original question, "Does God Have Freewill?" And yes, your question is a good one too. But I merely mean to say that there are a considerable number of important qualifications, distinctions, etc. that can be made when discussing whether or not God has freewill, and whether or not there is some contradiction between holding both that God is necessarily good and yet still free (in either a compatibilist or libertarian sense). And many of these things have already been talked about here. But the resources offered make further distinctions that I don't think have been covered (not sure though), and are worth considering when contemplating this. I'm not completely sure that I am fully on board with their conclusion (still reflecting on it), but I find some points compelling. But yes you are certainly right when you say that if the very concept of freewill is incoherent, then distinguishing types is superfluous. And so that would definitely need to be handled first. Thanks for hitting me up man.

Initial Observation

God is free because He is omnipotent, and if He is not free, then He cannot be omnipotent. This is because omnipotence is nothing more or less than maximal freedom.

So the question of God's Freedom and His Omnipotence are inherently inter-related.

The Problem of Essence

Now, let us suppose that an individual has the ability to scratch his ear. That is the only ability he has, and no one and nothing can stop him from scratching.

What's more, he can't even stop himself from scratching. It is part of his essence (i.e. it is a property he has in every possible world in which he exists) that he is continually scratching his ear. (This ear-scratcher is the invention of a philosopher named Richard LaCroix)

Is this being free?

Oddly enough, by some people's definitions, this being is not only free, but omnipotent.

He can, after all, do every logically possible thing that is consistent with his essence, or nature.

That is to say, he can scratch.

But I think it's brutally obvious, isn't it, that this being, dubbed Mr. McEar (I think by George Mavrodes), is neither omnipotent, nor free.

Now, it seems that God's moral perfection is just a more complex form of ear scratching. As with Mr. McEar, God has the ability to do something, and no one and nothing can stop Him from doing that thing. What's more, it's part of God's essence to do that thing. Even He cannot do something other than that thing. It's just that the thing God can do is not scratching His ear, it's the good.

God, it seems, is just Mr. McGood.

Possible Response: God Has a Choice Among Goods

Now, one objection that might arise is that there may be many possible ways of doing the good that are incompatible with each other. God is free because He can choose between these. God can see to it, for example, that the Savior is born in Bethlehem (and have all the prophecies point to that), or He can see to it that the Savior is born in Damascus (and have all the prophecies point to that). Both are good. He can't do both because they are logically incompatible. But He can choose between them, so He is free (and omnipotent).

One problem with this is that, when all the details are fleshed out, it isn't at all clear that these multiple options exist. There are consequences of the Savior being born in Bethlehem and consequences of the Savior being born in Damascus. And one set of consequences is probably better than the other, and that is why the Savior was born in Bethlehem and not Damascus.

It isn't obvious that the consequences of any of God's apparent alternatives are equal. So God might really only have one alternative. When you expand to include all apparent options and consequences, it looks like there may be many possible worlds, but only one best world that God can create.

But even if that isn't so, it seems we have these three possibilities..., and none of them seem to leave God free:

  1. There is, as already considered, only one best possible world.
  2. There are many, equally good, best worlds.
  3. There is an infinite series of non-empty sets of possible worlds such that (a) There may be a first member of the series, but there is no last member, (b) For any set in the series, Sn, the members of Sn are equally good, and (c) for any set in the series (after the first, if there is a first), Sn+1, any member of Sn+1 it is better than any member of its predecessor, Sn.

In case one, there is only one thing that God can do, He can make that best world. He has no alternatives.

Refinement: God Has a Choice Among Equal Goods

In cases two and three, it would seem that He does have alternatives. But now there is a question of how He chooses among them. He seems to have no reason to choose one rather than another. Leibniz thought that this was actually proof that the world we inhabit is the best of all possible worlds (with no ties). If there weren't a best world, there would be no basis for God to make the world, but He did make a world, ergo...

In case three, the problem seems to be particularly difficult, since for any choice God makes, there is always a better choice that He could have made.

But even in case two, God seems to be caught between equally appealing alternatives, like Buridan's Ass trapped between equally succulent bales of hay, with no way of choosing.

Well, maybe, for all that, He does choose. Peter VanInwagen once held the view that cases like Buridan's Ass were the only cases of real choice. So maybe God is free because there are several equally good best possible worlds, and He chooses which to create. And that is a free choice consistent with His nature.

There are two problems with this view: first, it seems just to make God's Free Will a proxy for dice. Second, while it is true that God chooses the good (and the best), it is not clear why God should get any credit for that. After all, He just did what he was compelled to do by His nature. So we seem to have a God who always does the good, but who is not in fact good

Compatibilist Freedom to the Rescue

Now Sam, and others, will argue that this is only a problem if you have a 'libertarian' view of freedom, i.e. if you think freedom is the ability to do otherwise than you in fact do.

But if you hold a 'compatibilist' view that freedom is the ability to do as one chooses (or wants, or intends, or plans, or whatever), then God is perfectly free. This is because He chooses to do what is good, and does it. What's more no one can prevent Him from doing what He chooses.

(I prefer to refer to these views as an Alternate-Possibilities view and a Conditional view of freedom, since one could be a libertarian and hold either view and one could be a compatibilist and hold either view.)

Now, don't get me wrong, I think that it is absolutely true of God that He has the irresistible ability to do what He chooses..."God chooses that X should be true" logically entails "X is true".

But that is not yet freedom. It begs the obvious question: Was God free with respect to his choices?

I mean, this is really the question: Does God have free choice?

Sam seems to be answering this question: Does God get His way?

Now, Sam's reply to this salvo will be that a being's choices are free if they stem from His nature, or essence, but they are unfree if they have another source.

God's choices did stem from His nature, so they are free.

McEar Triumphant?

Now, I do not want to deny that god's choices stem from His nature. Of course they do.

But I don't think it solves the problem.

You see, this is all true of Mr. McEar. His choice to scratch his ear stems from his essence. It is, in fact, the only choice he's capable of making, and no one or nothing can prevent him from so choosing.

But Mr. McEar is not free, and he is not omnipotent.

What Is Essence?

I think the solution to this problem lies elsewhere.

It lies in the idea of what a nature, or essence, is.

I don't want to reject the formula I implicitly adopted above when I said of McEar that in every possible world in which McEar exists, he scratches his ear.

But I want to recognize that there are two notions of possibility: de dicto possibility, and de re possibility.

There are things that are possible or impossible because of how they are described. A round square is impossible because of how it is described. These are de dicto possibilities and impossibilities.

Then there are things that are possible or impossible because of what a thing is. It is impossible for Socrates to be an inanimate being because of what he is, not because of a special meaning of the word "Socrates". These are de re possibilities and impossibilities.

So when we say that is is part of McEar's essence to scratch his ear, we are saying that "McEar scratches in every world in which He exists".

But what do we mean by that?

Do we mean that McEar scratches in every consistently describable world? Or do we mean something more. Do we mean that He scratches in every consistently describable world where things never take on properties contrary to their nature?

I think it is the latter.

And I think the same goes for God's goodness. When we say that it is God's nature, or essence, to be good, we mean that He is good in every consistently describable world where things never take on properties contrary to their nature.

God's Power vs. God's Essence

But I think God's power is such that He can bring about situations where things do take on properties contrary to their nature. Indeed, the fact that some property is or is not contrary to a thing's nature is nothing more than the exercise of Divine Power to make it so. When I say that God could make any possible world, I mean that He could make any consistently describable world. Full stop. No additional rider about things never taking on properties contrary to their nature limits God's power.

As such God is totally free to create many worlds other than the best. A world that is not the best will, of course, be a world in which God is not perfectly good. But it is within His power, but contrary to His nature, to not be good. It is, thus, to His credit that He brings about a world where His self-chosen essence of Perfect Goodness is fully realized.

What about passages in the Bible that say that God, for example, cannot sin? Haven't I just denied that?

I don't think so.

Normally, when we ask what a being can do, we do limit that question to what it can do within its nature. In fact the question may well be precisely this: what are the limits that this being's nature places on its action? And if that's what we mean when we ask whether God can sin, the answer is, of course, "No, He cannot".

Nevertheless, He is free and omnipotent because He creates, and has power over, everything...even essences.


Thanks for keeping it interesting. You and I talked about Mr. McEar a couple of years ago on a thread about whether Jesus was really tempted. I didn't totally understand what you were saying then, and I don't totally understand now. One thing I was confused about then was about how the McEar scenario related power and freedom. I'm a little more clear on that now, I think, having read your explanation here.

You said, "Omnipotence is nothing more or less than maximum freedom." I don't agree with that definition of omnipotence. You used McEar to show that if we take freedom in the compatibilist sense, then we'd have to conclude that somebody whose sole desire was to scratch his ear and was free to do so would be omnipotent. I agree that's absurd. But the problem isn't that my definition of freedom is faulty. The problem is that this definition of omnipotence is faulty.

I make a distinction between two types of abilities--a natural ability and a psychological (or moral) ability. A natural ability describes one's power. A psychological ability describe's one's mental dispositions (the sum total of their character, their desires, biases, motives, preferences, etc.)

If a person is completely and totally free in the compatibilist sense, then they have the psychological ability to do whatever they want. But the scope of their psychological abilities does not include everything that is within their natural ability (i.e. their power). So their freedom does not equal their power. God has the power to lie, but he does not have the freedom to lie. So God's power is not equal to his freedom.

McEar may have the raw power to do something other than scratch his ear. So there's a sense in which he is able to do something else. But if that's all he wants to do, and he has no desire to change, then he has a psychological inability to do anything else. But that tells us nothing about his power. He may have the raw power to do something other than scratch his ear and just lack any desire to do so.

Not even God does everything he has the power to do. God has the power to cause a fully formed unicorn to appear in my living room right now, but he's not doing it, presumably because he doesn't want to. As I pointed out earlier, God does whatever he wants.

If all McEar ever wants to do is scratch his ear, and if nothing stops him, then McEar is perfectly free in the compatibilist sense. But you think it's obvious that he isn't free.

I can understand why you might think that. It's because we think of McEar as being in bondage to this obsessive compulsion to scratch his ear and that life would be more worth living if he could do something else. The reason we consider his ear scratching to be a bondage rather than a freedom is because we think it's sad that somebody would want nothing more than to scratch his ear for the rest of eternity, and we'd like to rescue/free him from this fate.

But here, we are talking about "freedom" in a different sense than the compatibilist sense. We are talking about freedom in the sense that Martin Luther talked about freedom in The Bondage of the Will. Luther thought that people were in bondage to sin. Sinners are free in the compatibilist sense, but they are not free in Luther's sense. They are in bondage to sin, and it is Christ who makes them free. We consider an irresistible desire to sin to be "bondage" because we think sin is bad and destructive.

The analogy between God and Mr. McEar breaks down because of these two different senses of "freedom." If both God and Mr. McEar are free in the compatibilist sense, then even though we might say Mr. McEar is not free in Luther's sense, God nevertheless is free in Luther's sense. While McEar has an irresistible urge to live his life in an unworthy manner, God has no such irresistible urges. All of God's irresistible urges are to live his life in a worthy manner. God is free from all unworthy bondages.

You say it's brutally obvious that Mr. McEar is not free because he can only do what he desires most (scratch his ear), and if God can only do what he desires most (to do good), then God is just Mr. McGood, and he isn't free either. But free in what sense? Clearly he's free in the compatibilist sense because that's what we're stipulating in this analogy. You must mean "free" in Luther's sense. This seems to be the argument in a nut shell:

1.) If McEar is only free in the compatibilist sense, then he is not free in Luther's sense.


2.) If God is only free in the compatibilist sense, then he is not free in Luther's sense.

But 2 doesn't follow from 1. The analogy doesn't work. Even if everybody is free in the compatibilist sense and can only do what they most desire, whether they are free in Luther's sense or not depends on the content of their desires. A person who desires only to do unworthy things is in bondage in Luther's sense, and a person who desires only to do worthy things is free in Luther's sense. That's why God is free and McEar is not, even if both of them can only do what they most desire.

In the case of McEar, he experiences total freedom, and even experiences omnipotence since the only desire he has is fulfilled continually and or perfectly if you will. [Perfection carries with it power to perform that cannot be thwarted--this is why I include omnipotence]

Is he less free compared to others with more desires and abilities to perform them? Even if said others are continually and perfectly fulfilled, they do not experience more freedom so they cannot be said to be more free in any sense. Both are consigned to perfection and are most free.

The idea of freedom of the will is relative to the experiences of the one who is under scrutiny is it not? Creatures are quite different from the above examples, but we aren't discussing men, we are discussing the freedom God has. Maybe necessary beings vs. contingent beings would be an adequate distinction--we are not talking about contingent beings in the above examples. Since none can thwart Him, He has no frustration or unfulfilled desires. He is most be God which he desires and fulfills...this is ultimate freedom, perfect freedom.


I delayed a while on this response simply because I was mulling over your point. I hope you are still following this thread as well as the response thread.

I don't in the end, think we're as far apart on this as it may seem and as you and I may have thought in the past.

Let's set the issue of whether omnipotence = maximal freedom to one side for now. I'll get to it near the end of this post.

I'm saying that God's power is limited only by what is logically contradictory. And I'd rather put that as saying that we are incapable of describing any limit on God's power without contradicting ourselves.

I think you actually agree with me about that when you speak of what God has the power to do.

I think we also agree that "God chooses to make X true" logically implies "X is true".

In any case, I think we both agree that:

Case-1 There is a reasonable sense of "can" and "cannot" in which it is true to say "God can make something less than the best."
What is more, I think we agree that, by nature, God always chooses to make the best. And that means that it is a (de re) necessary truth that God always chooses to make the best.

I think you might also agree with the principle that If A is a necessary truth, and A logically implies B, then B is a necessary truth. So it is a (de re) necessary truth that God always makes the best.


Case-2 There is a reasonable sense of "can" and "cannot" in which it is true to say "God cannot make something less than the best."
And, of course, we agree that the sense of "can/cannot" in case 1. differs from the sense of "can/cannot" in case 2.

Where I think we disagree is precisely about the point that the sense of "can" in case-1 is "raw power", but the sense of "can" in case-2 is "free".

To some extent, then, we may be words, rather than worlds apart on this.

On Freedom vs. Power

I think that morally significant freedom does require the conditional dependence of your actions on your choices, but I also think it depends on the raw power to choose otherwise than you in fact choose. Otherwise, I don't think one can, for example, be praised for choosing good.

I also think that God's Omnipotence is not adequately expressed by simply expressing the scope of the power being 'limited' by logical consistency, i.e. His raw power. That's been the dominant view since Thomas.

What I've only recently started noticing is that anyone might have that same scope of power. I might have it. I might have the power to bring about any consistently describable state-of-affairs. Maybe the reasons I don't are that (a) I don't know that I have this 'great' power, and/or (b) even if I know, I can only exercise this power if I am not resisted by greater powers arrayed against me (but I am so resisted).

So, I think we do have a pretty good characterization of the breadth of God's power. But I think that what's missing is an adequate expression of the use God can make of His power and the depth of God's power.

Obviously, Omniscience, and probably perfect rationality, are needed just to get a being to know that He can do the things omnipotence can do. Without that, He'll not be able to use his power, and will fall short of Omnipotence because of it.

Second, I think we must also say of the Omnipotent being that He must always get what He chooses. That is, it must be true that "God chooses that X be true" logically implies "X is true". No matter what powers are arrayed against God, He still gets His way. That is the depth of His power.

So I think that the very things you think are unique to a discussion of God's freedom, but not His power, are also essential just to a discussion of His power.


It's a miracle! I agree with almost everything you said. Where I don't quite agree, I would only make small qualifications.

I think we agree that, by nature, God always chooses to make the best.

I think the ultimate end in everything God does is for the best, but the immediate end it not necessarily always the best. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a "problem of evil."

Where I think we disagree is precisely about the point that the sense of "can" in case-1 is "raw power", but the sense of "can" in case-2 is "free".

Yup, that is where we disagree. I think Case 1 is God's raw power, or natural ability. Case 2 is his will, his freedom, his moral/psychological ability.

I think that morally significant freedom does require the conditional dependence of your actions on your choices, but I also think it depends on the raw power to choose otherwise than you in fact choose.

In general, I agree with that, but it is possible to come up with a counter-example. For example, say you have a brownie and some ice cream in front of you, and you can choose which one to eat. Little do you know it, but if you were to move toward the ice cream, a man from behind the curtains would jump out and wrestle you to the ground before you got to it. But you go ahead and choose the brownie, so that never happens.

In that case, you don't really have the natural ability to choose the ice cream, but that doesn't mean your choice of the brownie wasn't significant.

What I've only recently started noticing is that anyone might have that same scope of power [that God has].

I seriously doubt that. However, I do agree that most of us have powers we are unable to use due to a lack of knowledge.

But I think that what's missing is an adequate expression of the use God can make of His power and the depth of God's power.

If I'm understanding you right, you're saying that God's raw power is informed by his knowledge of how to use it. So it's possible for some being to have some latent power he can't use because he doesn't know how, but since God knows how, his power has depth as well as scope. If that's what you mean, then I agree with you.

The question is can He create other images besides His Own Image?

There is Angel. There are Many-Eyed "some-things" in Heaven, and on and on. Man is in His Image; Many-eyed some-things in heaven are not. Heaven and its odd species precede Earth. “…….they will all grow old and wear out like a garment. Like a mantle [thrown about one’s self] You will roll them up, and they will be changed and replaced by others…..” Worlds come; worlds pass away; other worlds come.

It is obvious He can and does. Not all species are "Man" and not all worlds are "this world".

Wisdomlover's description of His mastery over even essences themselves is a helpful way to approach this.

Now, among “these” is there a “more perfect”? “Less perfect”? If things are “Different, yet, Perfect” then we run into a nuance which mirrors that which we find within the Triune: Multiple Perfect Distincts.

Are Angels "less perfect" than Man? Are many-eyed some-things less perfect than Angels? Has God done something truly Imperfect then? Well, maybe, maybe not. Shall we tell Him He has done some imperfect act? Perhaps each work may be a *Perfect-What-It-Is* in its own right (its essence). And that is enough. Will we charge Him with Imperfection and Imperfect Acts? Multiple Perfect Wills. Within the Triune we find what most likely to us is an unsearchable array of options, acts, and delights.

Among the Triune’s Multiple Holy-Most-Perfects we find Self/Other Agency and Freedom of Motion among Many, and, also, Rigid Constraint within that same Many.

This Freedom is not All-Ways, for the Triune not only "is" but is [Within] that which we call God. Thus Rigid Constraint. All options (and there are countless) [within] Him are Good, Lovely, and Perfect, just as all Selves [within] Him are Holy-Most-Perfect, Holy-Most-Perfect, Holy-Most-Perfect, yet all are constrained [within] the Triune. We find in Him both Freedom among Multiple Perfect Distincts, and, juxtaposed therewith, Rigid Constraint. His acts are more free than any freedom we have ever known, and, His acts are more Concrete, Rigid, and Constrained then our own mutable frames have ever known.

Regarding the problem of Evil, “The Best” is His-Image, which means Agency (and other things) which then leads to Eden’s Two Doors. “You may eat of any Tree…..” Even the Tree of Life. That is His Will expressly stated to them in Eden. Now, that “Self/Other” Agency in Man is Good, Lovely, Perfect. Man may use it to dive into the Uncreated Other, or, he may use it to dive into the prison of the Pure-Self. The former is “better” in a sense, although the later houses nothing which the former does not. Love, Good, is the Triune’s I-You-We. Evil is but the Isolated-I. Evil is God-Minus-Two rather than God-Plus-One. To be brief: Man is placed with Agency in Eden though the game is rigged for “Knowing” is a Lovely and Perfect Palindrome and either end will bring Insufficiency face-first into All-Sufficiency. And seeing Him as He is will transform us as, whether we dive into Him (and so plunge into the I-You-We of Himself) or whether we dive into the prison of the Isolated-I we will, ultimately, “Know” the A to Z in fullness and “all” will cry “Holy!”. And so Agency (God’s Image is the Best Image) is placed inside an arena in which yet another Best-Image will not be otherwise: The Full Manifestation of the A to Z to Man. That too is “the best”.

Now, Man is given the choice of which end of Knowing’s Palindrome to delight in (Self or Other) and that is a Good Thing, and, the results of either End of that Palindrome is His Manifestation in the eyes of the Created Self, though by differing modes. Now, if there is a Self who delights, always, in Self rather than Other, that Self has two Good things: Agency, and, the full awareness of the A to Z. God’s Image is the Best Image (Agency, among other things) and there is, perhaps, a very present God-Minus-Two in that Self that so delights, always, in Self and not Other, though God has made it so that such is not “necessary”. Culpability is not found on His end, and, in a sense, the Highest Image necessiates, not that's Self's eternal delight in Self rather than Other (God), but the very capacity to so move. That capacity, freely exercised, is Good, and so, the problem of evil begins to fade.


I think I was also trying to say this.

We are all familiar with the standard Thomist understanding of omnipotence: omnipotence is the ability to render true any logically consistent proposition.

But I don't think that's enough.

It's certainly a necessary condition and sets the breadth of Divine power.

But I think that this claim (which I think we both affirm) is a separate aspect of a proper definition of omnipotence and sets the depth of Divine power:

"God chooses that X be true" logically implies "X is true"
What this statement says is that God's power is indefeasible. If He sets His will to achieve any end, it is not logically possible that that end will not be achieved. The point being that anyone and everyone might have a defeasible ability to do anything. But God's power must be indefeasible.

I was also pointing out that even having the indefeasible power to render every consistent proposition true does not render an individual omnipotent, this is because a power that cannot be put to use because of ignorance or stupidity is no power at all. Which is why knowledge and reason are essential to omnipotence (and there can be no limit to these either).

This may have been said, but God desires (wills) not to do evil. So, if that is His will then He has a free will because He chose, willed, planned, desired, ordained--all characteristics of a free will.

RonH (or maybe it was Ben?)

God’s Freedom:

I believe you asked if God’s Will is determined by some other thing within Him, and thus is not Free. Cause/Effect, so to speak. This is the question which the Un-Linear must necessarily ask of the Triune, as the Uni-Linear’s perspective cannot fathom the Multidimensional and thus by default cannot fathom the sorts of Motions and Movements which occur inside of that very same Multidimensional. The very concept of “Uncaused Cause” strains us, yet we know such a thing must, ultimately, exist. We who are imprisoned (for now) within the Uni-Linear, we who are a ‘straight line’ strain to peer into what lies within that ‘Cube’, as it were (Lewis). Can there be, in God, more than one Perfect? More than one Actuality? More than one Will? More than one Person? And on and on and on. The Cause of Good within God? Of Choice within God? Of Love within God? Will’s Volition is not the whole of the Uncaused Cause for the Uncaused Cause is God Himself, All-Of-Him in His Fullness, and not one part of Him, for in Him we find no such thing as just the Isolated-Will, but also Wills (Being’s Cubic Topography), and not just Person, but also Persons (Personhood’s Cubic Topography) and not just Know but also keeps-on Knowing (Epistemology’s Cubic Topography), and not just Sight but also Seeing (Ontology’s Cubic Topography), and not just Desire but also Desiring (Joy’s Cubic Topography), and not just Love but also Loving (Love’s Cubic Topography), and not just an Option but also Multiple Perfect Options (Agency’s Cubic Topography), and not just Agency but also Multiple Perfect Agencies (Option’s Cubic Topography), and not just One but Three and not just Three but One (Perfection’s Multiple Perfects which are Distinct from Each-Other, which is Perfection’s Cubic Topography, Multiple Bests actually coexisting, ‘Holy-Most-Perfect! Holy-Most-Perfect! Holy-Most-Perfect!’). And also we find Self, and also we find Other, and also we find the Singular-We, and all of these Multiple Perfect Distincts comprise the very Singular Triune whose interior Motions and Movements live within, among, and between all of these perfectly exerted combinations and permutations forever flowing within the immutable semantics of an eternal language which is to us the singular Word yet which is to Him countless Words and we here in love’s delight embrace that singular Word now made manifest to us and are promised that one day, having thus swallowed Word, having thus dived into Him, and He into us, we will also, then, begin to read on past this ‘Title Page’ and delightfully devour the endless Words of a Book whose theme we cannot now even begin to see, or even think, or even imagine.

Perfect Mercy.
Perfect Justice.
Perfect God.
Perfect Man.

Multiple Bests All In One. This is Perfection's Cubic Topography.

This is the Cross. This is Man's Destiny. This is, or will be, our Final Amalgamation.

The question itself is flawed. It is trying to compare a being that is not bound by space and time. That knows the end from the beginning. That is truth and knows all things. A being of such infinite wisdom that he can not only create from what we perceive as nothing but is able to design universes and realities complete with all the laws of physics necessary to govern his creations.

How is it possible to ascribe our notion of free will to such a being? From our limited perspective we would have to conclude – and thankfully so – that God by his own admission does not have free will. He has made it clear to us that it is impossible for him to lie. From our limited perspective that means he cannot be contrary to his nature which is love (love as defined by God not man)

Therefore we would have to conclude that God is not free to be contrary to his nature or to lie. The problem is such terms as “free will” my not be applicable to such a being as God.

Imagine that you not only knew the end from the beginning but completely understood the effects and outcomes of every act and every decision leading to potential futures… How would that change your perspective of “free will”


I think what is meant by free will is the Capacity of Choice. In the Triune we find Multiple Perfect Distincts. Perfect Choices, which are Distinct from each other. We don't like the notion of One Person and Three Persons, much less the notion of One Will and Three Wills. God's Triune Topography strains our grasp of things. A and B and C are fully perfect and fully distinct one from the other. "Holy-Most-Perfect! Holy-Most-Perfect! Holy-Most-Perfect!"

The comments to this entry are closed.