Responsibility: Can’t have it with Free-will can’t have it without!

Most people only have a hazy idea of what free-will is. This is partly down to the fact that free-will is an inconsistent concept but mainly down to the fact that down the ages it has been the main-stay of the Christian faith. (By which I mean the orthodox – or rather mainstream and prevalent – version of Christianity).


There are two problems Christianity has had since its inception in it’s commonly known form. The first is the question: How can evil exist if God is good? The second is: “How can a loving God send people to hell?” The crux of the mainstream response to these questions is free-will.


Evil exists because people have free-will and People go to hell because the use their free-will to reject God.


But what does free-will mean? For the Christians it has to have a very specific meaning. Free-will is a theory of choice. It is a theory of choice that states that human choice is undetermined. The our decisions arise solely from us. That we are the only entities responsible for our choices.


In fact in this theory our decisions are uncaused causes. They arise from nothing. The second you allow any cause in – like say the self – then the whole thing becomes determined and human responsibility vanishes. If the self causes the content of the decision then why is the self the way it is? From a prior decision perhaps but that way leads to a regress to a point where the self couldn’t make a decision – as a fetus or sperm and egg.


So if we allow the self to be the cause of the choice responsibility and free-will vanish. But what happens if we don’t? We are surely left with chaos. We are left with a randomness that makes the roll of a dice look like an accountants heaven. We are left with an uncaused cause. With choices that spontaneously pop up out of no-where and as quickly vanish. How can the self – disconnected from choice – be responsible in that case?


10 thoughts on “Responsibility: Can’t have it with Free-will can’t have it without!

  1. According to Wesley, the will is God given. It is part of being made in God’s image.
    Wesley named
    three areas in the original creation of humanity in which the image of God was
    manifested. First, humanity possess ethical and unerring understanding where they are
    able “to distinguish truth from falsehood,” “stranger to error doubt,” “having just, clear and
    swift understanding”. Secondly, humanity possessed perfect will. They are filled with the
    unrivaled love of God. Thirdly, humanity possessed perfect freedom. They are free to
    choose and their choice was to determine them in all things.

  2. The problem is not responsibility. The problem is the penalty. We attribute “responsibility” to the person or thing that caused some harm. For example, suppose there is a traffic accident. If the accident was caused by a malfunctioning traffic signal, then we hold the broken device responsible, which means we send out the fixit guy to correct it. If the accident was caused by a drunk driver, then we hold the driver responsible and ask the judge to assign a penalty that either fixes him or gets him off the road (take his license, his car, and his freedom as necessary).

    The point of the penalty is correction (redemption) if possible. If not possible then he is imprisoned to at least protect the public from further injury.

    The question for God is how does he justify eternal torture as a penalty? There is nothing that anyone could do in a finite time on Earth that would justify even having his knuckles rapped eternally. You see, eternity is a pretty long time. And at some point the harm he has suffered will outweigh the harm he inflicted in the brief time he was on earth.

  3. I think we have a disagreement about what hell is about and possibly about sin.
    People aren’t sent to hell because they cheat at scrabble. They end up in hell because they don’t choose God.
    If we reject God our entire lives, why would he force us to spend eternity with him? How is it wrong of him to give people what they want-which is only their selfish selves and none of him?

    • Well that would seem ok if hell were a nice place.

      Also why would someone not choose god? It would be because God made them in such a way that they wouldn’t choose him.

      The problem with the popular christian view of God is that they make him too human. He is a failure in their world-view who is no different to a parent who tries to save their child from a heroin addiction.

      Also 1 cor 15: 28 (in fact read it from 20 to that verse – that is the biggest prophecy in scripture) says that ultimately god will be all in all – – – if what you say about hell is true then that verse is false – because god won’t be all in all but all in some!

    • Humanity doesn’t possess perfect freedom in the sense you mean. This is evident from experience but also the bible utterly refutes it. It nowhere explicitly states that your choice is free – it says you have choices but it says that god is in control of everything (romans chp 9). There is even a passage where Jesus says to his disciples that they didn’t choose him but he choose them.

      The key question is “Why do you choose what you choose?” Understand that because that question is easily within your grasp because you always make choices – watch what happens, study what happens for yourself when you make a choice – – you will see that you don’t choose the choice before you choose it – it comes from nowhere (at least it seems to)

  4. “Also why would someone not choose god? It would be because God made them in such a way that they wouldn’t choose him.”

    No, it would be because he created them in such a way that they could choose to reject his leading. In general, people won’t say they are choosing hell, but by choosing themselves, that is the reality.
    God certainty could have created a world with men did not have independent wills, but why would he want to be worshiped by robots?

  5. “Also 1 cor 15: 28 (in fact read it from 20 to that verse – that is the biggest prophecy in scripture) says that ultimately god will be all in all – – – if what you say about hell is true then that verse is false – because god won’t be all in all but all in some!”

    That’s a stretch. God will be sovereign over all, including hell. I don’t see any contradiction here with hell? And Jesus taught that hell was real, so what more authority do I need?

  6. Free will is a bit of a misnomer, because of course it has limits. I can’t freely choose to flap my arms and fly away. I can’t freely break laws of science that God has put in place.

    As for choosing choices and Roman’s 9, that’s a long discussion, but Romans’ 9 taken in context is clearly not about individual salvation.

    Could Mary have chosen not to be Jesus’ mother? I see no reason to believe otherwise. No, choices don’t come from nowhere, I never said they did. But, we choose what and who to listen to in response to each choice. To say it’s all pre-programmed by DNA etc is as absurd as saying all our responses are pre-programmed by God. No one lives as if that were true, even if they claim to believe it.

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