I’ve been spending some time thinking about how free will relates to the Bible, and in this post I’d like to present an argument claiming that it’s not possible to describe the Bible as the Word of God and at the same time maintain that we have free will — an idea at the heart of the Christian faith. I will lay out my argument in five points.
1) Many Christians consider the Bible to be the infallible Word of God, useful for doctrine, teaching, rebuking, training in righteousness, etc (see 2 Timothy 3:16).
2) But much of the Bible (both the Old Testament and New Testament) is describing real-life historical events. For instance, God guiding the Israelites to the Promised Land in the Old Testament, the crucifixion of Christ in the New Testament, and countless other examples, of course. Few Christians would deny that the narratives recorded in the Bible represent the unfolding of God’s plan for creation.
3) If the Bible is indeed God’s narrative, then the events described in Scripture must have been brought about by God, otherwise Scripture could not be considered authoritative and infallible. If the events recorded in the Bible were not brought about by the will of God, it would be illogical to describe the Bible as ‘God-breathed’ and ‘God’s Word’ — on the contrary, the Bible would have to be understood as merely human reflections on events which may or may not have happened. To say God inspired the Bible, but not the events described in the Bible, would be incongruous. If the Bible is inspired by God, then God must have willed the events described therein.
4) But if the events described in the Bible are brought about by God, then there is no room for free will in them. If there is no free will, key Christian ideas such as sin, judgment, the fall, the atonement, and salvation, don’t make sense, because these ideas depend on the notion that we freely sin.
5) If God is sovereign over the events recorded in the Bible (events unfolding over a period of thousands of years) then it would logically follow that God is sovereign over all events throughout the entirety of history. If God is sovereign over all the events of history, then clearly, there is no free will, and the logic of the Christian worldview must be called into question.