Free will, in humans, the power or capacity to choose among alternatives or to act in certain situations independently of natural, social, or divine restraints.
Free will is denied by some proponents of determinism. Arguments for free will are based on the subjective experience of freedom, on sentiments of guilt, on revealed religion, and on the universal supposition of responsibility for personal actions that underlies the concepts of law, reward, punishment, and incentive (for additional discussion of free will and determinism, see moral responsibility, problem of). In theology the existence of free will must be reconciled with God’s omniscience and goodness (in allowing people to choose badly) and with divine grace, which allegedly is necessary for any meritorious act.
A prominent feature of existentialism is the concept of a radical, perpetual, and frequently agonizing freedom of choice. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80), for example, spoke of the individual “condemned to be free.”
This article was most recently revised and updated by Brian Duignan.
ARTICLE TITLE: Free will
WEBSITE NAME: Encyclopaedia Britannica
PUBLISHER: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
DATE PUBLISHED: 23 November 2017
URL: https://www.britannica.com/topic/free-will ACCESS DATE: April 17, 2019
Doctrine of Free Will and the Sovereignty of God
1. In the battle over free will, the question arises how it relates to the sovereignty of God.
2. Humanism exalts the free will of man over the sovereignty of God and so oppose the doctrine
of election and the doctrine of predestination.
3. Divine providence is also a challenge to those who exalt free will. How can God govern and
rule His creation in sovereignty and power and man have free will? Of God the Scriptures
affirm that He raises up nations, and destroys them, all things are by the determinate counsel
of God, and a man’s days are determined by the Lord.
4. Does God make intelligent guesses about tomorrow, or does He determine what will happen
5. Does God knowing something make it certain? Does foreknowledge carry with it
predetermining what is going to come to pass?
6. To solve this tension, the metaphor of the parallel lines is used, sovereignty and free will, and
they “meet” in eternity. But, this metaphor of the parallel lines does not solve the problem but
only affirms the problem.
7. Human freedom and sovereignty are not inheriting contradictory, though they are a mystery.
8. What is contradictory is sovereignty and human autonomy, meaning man is a law unto himself.
If man is autonomous, God cannot be sovereignty, and vice versa.
9. We can conceive of human autonomy and we can conceive of divine sovereignty, what we
cannot conceive is how they are reconciled: like an immovable force meeting an irresistible
10. The Bible does not elevate the freedom of man of autonomy. The chief sin of Adam and Eve
was for autonomy. The sin of Satan was to be like God!
11. Freedom is real, freedom is far reaching, but the freedom God gives is not absolute. Do not eat
of the Tree of Knowledge or you will die. Sin is the attempt of man to increase the scope of
the freedom to which he has been endowed.
12. It is argued that God is limited by human freedom. But if my freedom can stop God in His
tracks than man is sovereign! There is no other option. God is freer than me and in any conflict,
man will lose. God will permit sin, in His sovereignty. He does not force, or bless sin but He
will allow it. But that is how God govern providentially.
In Genesis 50:20 we read, “You meant to hurt me, but God meant your actions for good!”
Judas freely chose to hurt Jesus, but God used his treachery for good.
13. Intentionality is an important part of the discussion of the sovereignty of God.
14. This is in contrast of something being done accidently. We see the moral import of
intentionality when there is a car “accident.”
15. However, even our intentions are subject to the authority of God. In God we live and move
and have our being.
16. We are real secondary casual agents, and bring about an effect, but we are still subject to the
sovereign. God does not force what we do, nor excuse what we have done.