The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Building a doctrine of Free Will…

Absolutely Cinders! Salvation is a process of gradual liberation from our bondage to sin. And it comes when we hear God’s truth and start to really believe it and act on it. In that sense you could argue that poor old Pelagius got it right :smiley: .



Jesus indicated to those who believed themselves to be free, that they were slaves to sin. However, being a slave to sin is not tantamount to having no free will. Even a person who is a slave to another person has a free will. Some slaves have chosen to disobey their masters. This is also the case in the way Christ used the word. I knew a person who had been a slave to alcohol. Yet, that person overcame his bondage simply by determining to stop drinking. He succeeded, though many others have tried to do so and failed. Having an addiction does imply a difficulty in breaking with that addiction. However a difficulty is not an impossibility.

I still maintain that we have libertarian freedom even though under the influence of many forces. Strong as they may be, these influences do not CAUSE our behaviour.

You’re not arguing with me people. You are arguing with the word. Almighty God has put a plan together with salvation for ALL…All…not less those who choose otherwise. Do you seriously believe that your and my fickle will can over power the will and intentions of God himself? We are not gods yet. … ewill.html

No, Watchman – neither I nor Paidion nor anyone else whose responses I’ve read (and remembered) here on this thread are arguing that God will fail to save every created person. (Unless Jaxxom has commented on this one – which I don’t recall he has.) Many of us also believe He will save every created thing period. We just differ a bit on how that will come to pass. Paidion believes in a little bit more free will than I do (at least if he’s understanding me and I’m understanding him, that’s the way it appears to me that we stand relative to one another), I believe in a good deal more free will than you do. But we all believe that God wants all His creatures saved and that He’ll get what He wants.

You sound kind of like a Calvinist-leaning universalist. I’m probably a little closer to that than Paidion is, but wherever each of us is, we’re all on the same page with regard to God’s salvation of all. We just differ as to the methodology God takes in accomplishing His purposes. It’s probable we’re ALL less correct that we perceive ourselves to be. God is so magnificently OTHER, I think, that our currently cloudy vision simply can’t perceive Him except as in a mirror (the old kind, made of bronze), darkly.

Er, nobody’s saying we are. I for one do not for one minute think that I can somehow defeat God’s ultimate will for my life, or confound any of His purposes. I am an Arminian, yes, but not to the extent that I enthrone the human will above God’s. Of course, a belief in ECT requires assent either to the notion that we are indeed free to reject God forever (I call this ‘hard’ Arminianism) or that it is God who rejects us, as in Calvinism. It is because I find no credible, coherent or systematic scriptural or philosophical evidence for either view - quite the opposite in fact - that I am a Universalist.

One need only look around at all the manifold evils for which we humans are directly responsible for incontrovertible proof that God has blessed us with the dignity of causality, to use Pascal’s phrase. Had he not done so He might just as well have refrained from creating us at all. For me, it is a sign of God’s greatness that He is able to achieve all His purposes within the framework of an ‘independent’ creation.




Just wanted to say how much I appreciate and concur with your comments here. I only skimmed the early posts in this thread when I posted last night, and I see that you have already presented the majority of my points with great eloquence!

Keep up the good work :smiley:



Thanks Johnny! I think that 's the bottom line.

I know I’ve already said this, but I think it worth repeating perhaps in a different way:

I think that belief in libertarian free will does require belief that theoretically, some people could resist God indefinitely. But practically, I think this impossible.

In a similar way, because I believe in libertarian free will, I think that theoretically, a person could be sinless for the rest of their lives here on earth. After all, you could be sinless for a single minute, couldn’t you? If so, then why not for 5 minutes? One hour? A whole day? A week? A month? A year? A life time? But practically, I don’t think it possible. Or do you know someone (other than Christ) who has succeeded in remaining sinless for a lifetime?

So I think the idea of some people holding out against Christ forever, is somewhat analagous to the idea of being sinless for a lifetime—theoretically possible because of free will, but practically impossible.

Well, today was the day. And all in all I’m rather happy with how it went!
Our class tends to get sidetracked easily; veering off into territory that happens to suit whomever. Today I managed to keep things focused and moving along.

Again, my hope was to get our completely Arminian class to consider the limits of free will; not argue it’s existence or reality.
I began by telling of a young girl I met in the OR this week who had several tattoos on her right arm. She was an orderly/patient transport person, very tall and slender. On her arm in huge letters was written “TRUST THE UNSEEN”
In addition was a really pretty tattoo with a Bright Yellow Sun shining on a turbulent (looked like BIG waves) ocean with a small boat thereon. The Sun was “God watching over her” (in the boat I guess) on the “journey of her life” (the waves) with great compassion and love. I then shared with her John 20:28 where Jesus says to Thomas, blessed are those who have NOT seen, yet have believed. “No one’s ever shared that text with me before” she exclaims…

I tried to make the point that I had initially misjudged this girl because of her tattoos – but there was a huge tension between my initial judgement and the reality of the meaning of those tattoos in HER life.
So I was hoping to underline that as we seek to process and understand God and theology and how He works there really do seem to be tensions. Not that tension is a property OF God, but it is in our perceptions of Him. This should serve as stimulus to further study/meditation etc etc.

A couple examples from the printed “official” lesson served to help make my point. The author on Sunday wrote that clearly Adam and Eve UNDERSTOOD the nature of their “choice” – but then on Tuesday, in a slightly different context wrote that clearly they DIDN’T have “full understanding” of their choice! What!!! How can it be both! Also, the author sought to explain what was happening on the Cross as Jesus died and claimed that the relationship between JEsus and His Father had changed/was altered/ and that Jesus was “separated from God” at this time.

Well, this doesn’t seem entirely compatible with how I see the matter. God cannot be separated from Himself for example; and if so, who did the separating? Jesus obviously died in complete trust of His Father is seems to me; just as He had lived. (“Into thy hands I commit my Spirit”) So the point being that it’s hard to be dogmatic about things like this; that surely there are things outside our realm of understanding that prevent us from seeing everything in it’s complete reality.

Next we talked about some examples of what the Good News actually is. Starting with Jesus own words in Luke 4 when He quoted Is 61. Good news for the poor, freedom for the captives, sight for the blind, and setting the oppressed free. The resulting outrage at hearing Christ claim that “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” seemed in large measure a denial of themselves as prisoners.

Then I presented 15 of my favorite UR texts. Except I referred to them as GOOD NEWS texts. So positive and full of hope and redemption. And utterly void of the sorts of qualifying clauses that so many common gospel definitions contain. You will be saved “if”… (you respond, obey, etc etc) And after each text I offered a short paraphrase of what I heard as Good News in that particular text.

On about the 7th text –
7) “With God NOTHING is impossible.” (Luke 1:37) or, (NIV) For no word from God will ever fail."
(GN: God is victorious in His purposes!!)
one of the class members – who teaches on the second week each month – said “OK; Bob’s clearly setting us up for something.” (I had guessed that someone would offer this protest after the fifth text!!) So we moved to the discussion of “Free Will” that I shared above. I presented it as a tension between the predestination (I didn’t use that word; another in class offered it) to be saved vs the apparent reality of free will. They saw by this time that I wasn’t belittling free will per se, but rather questioning if it was as robust as they’d previously thought.

In the course of what ensued, I spoke about Colossians 1:15-20 where Christ is declared the creator of all, and where He is also declared the cause of reconciliation with that very same cohort of created things. There is no ambiguity here at all. Similarly Romans 8 where Paul rhetorically asks Who can separate us from the love of God/Christ?? The answer is clearly “nothing”.

We talked about the 3 necessary aspects of freedom: one must be informed, undetermined/unforced, and rational.
As time was rapidly coming to a close, I returned to the story of Luke 4 where Jesus claims that He is the agent of freedom! When God comes to us with Good News He will not settle for us being UNfree. He WILL set us Free. Clear evidence that we are NOT free is our rebellion (“choice against” God) and thus has a right to set us free.

Anyway, I’d hoped to get the class to rethink freedom as an all-or-nothing issue and further to question how it is that the Christian church has come to be so equivocal and ambiguous about what are some stunning good news claims in the bible. The Total Victory of God, through Christ, constricted into something less than total…

Thanks all so much for helping me get my thoughts centered. And possibly work this into a more formal essay some day…
And happy to chat with you again Johnny! Last time was, I think?, back on the if-evolution-is-true-what-does-salvation-mean thread!!

Blessings all,

I am a man without labels Cindy. There are no ‘ism’s’ or ‘ist’s’ in my name or beliefs.
I stand where I stand because that’s the road that God has led me, including diabetes and a stroke like event and I trust him enough to be not only my Alpha, but also my Omega. His will and purpose be done.

Hi BobBobBob

Good to speak with you too. Always a pleasure to read your stimulating and challenging posts.

This free will business is a perplexing one. Whatever the ‘objective’ truth of the matter, what seems to me unarguable is that the world and we proceed on our merry way as if we really do have free will. Like the man said, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … :smiley:

Glad your class went well.



Hi Paidion

As far as I understand it, the classical definition of libertarian freedom is that we are free to choose to do or not do something inasmuch as our choice is not predetermined either by God or by our own genetic make-up or innate desires. While I most certainly agree with the former I am equivocal about the latter. I simply do not know whether the cards I was dealt at birth, combined with the sum total of my life experiences, render it impossible for me to act as I do in any given situation or not. But as I said in my reply to Bob above, it surely seems like I have a free choice, and hence to all intents and purposes I do - even if I really don’t!

Just in passing I would cite Jeremiah 32:32-35 as proof that God neither predestines or causes us to sin:

"The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem. They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. They set up their vile images in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr Calvin :smiley:. Game, set and match for free will!

I think I agree with you that it is theoretically possible both to live a sinless life (original sin, at least in its classical formulation, is not a Biblical doctrine anyway) and to resist the saving love of God forever. But it is also theoretically possible to throw a double six a thousand times in a row with a pair of unloaded dice. Indeed, it is theoretically possible that Paris Hilton will win the Nobel Peace Prize some day. But I’m not holding my breath :smiley: :smiley: .

All the best


Hi TotalVictory,
Although I didn’t contribute any thoughts I very much enjoyed the various perspectives presented above.
As you will recall ,I am an attendee of SDA bible classes at least some weeks; I was quite looking forward to engaging some discussion on this topic last weekend. The class unfortunately is currently taken by the minister each week so limited possibilities there.
Feeling that this topic was one not to miss I was dissapointed and frustrated to say the least that he continued with the previous weeks topic instead!! Oh well, another time perhaps.
I’m glad it went well for you.

Okay, God’s statement definitely contradicts Calvinism. But doesn’t it also contradict Arminianism? For the Arminianist believes that God “sees every event in advance.” However, if Gpd knew in advance that they would do this destestable thing, then it must have entered His mind.

God’s statement seems consistent with open theism.

It’s a fair point, Paidion. I guess my honest response to that would be a resounding ‘maybe’ :slight_smile: .

Ever since I first came to belief in God I have never had trouble with the notion that God is outside of time. “Before Abraham was I am” - not “before Abraham was I was”. Time is part of creation, I would say, meaning God both existed ‘before’ time began and is independent of it - in the same way He is independent of (but nevertheless intimately involved with, and present in, the physical world).

Now I freely confess that my little brain cannot begin to wrap itself around such esoteric concepts as ‘before time began’. And anyway, we don’t even have the language to express such a concept properly - the word ‘before’ is itself a temporal word is it not? But there are plenty more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy, Horatio :smiley: .

One way of dealing with this is to view the expression 'never entered my mind" as a bit of an anthropomorphism not to be taken literally. For the wicked behaviour of the Israelites was always a possibility, and whether God foresees future actions, or simply observes them happening in his ‘unbounded now’, in His omniscience He must surely be aware of every possibility. Even open theists would admit that, I suspect.



Oh yes sturmy!! very much aware of our similarities in culture/context…

For those interested in the Romans 9 discussion of the potter and the clay, this thread might be interesting…
Is Paul’s potter/clay analogy about freedom?

[Is Paul’s potter/clay analogy about freedom?)

Sabbath blessings sturmy!!


I have noticed that applying the idea of “anthropomorphism” to any of God’s characteristics is frequently done by those who do not wish to believe that God possesses that characteristic.

I’m not saying that you are doing that, Johnny, but I would like to ask you this. If “never entering God’s mind” is an anthromorphisim, and therefore does NOT MEAN “never entering God’s mind”, then what DOES it mean?

As for God “existing outside of time”, that concept, for me, has no meaning whatever. And if it DOES have some meaning which is beyond my mental capabilities, why should it imply that God sees the future (especially since the future does not yet exist)? God (or anyone else) knowing that I shall perform action A tomorrow implies that I WILL perform action A tomorrow, and cannot do otherwise. If I cannot do otherwise, that implies that I do not have free will.

Hi Paidion

What I mean by ‘never entering God’s mind’ being an anthropomorphism is simply that it is using ‘human’ language to emphasise that the wicked behaviour of the Jews in sacrificing their children is totally abhorrent and against the divine decree. By most classical definitions God, being omniscient, knows everything that it is logically possible to know. Saying that a particular thing, a particular possibility, never occurred to Him - literally ‘never entered His mind’ - is, as far as I am concerned, tantamount to saying that He is not omniscient.

As for God being outside of time, I would ask you this: do you believe God created time? If He did not, then time is self-existent, which seems incredible (and unbiblical) to me. If He did create time, then He must be outside of it.

God does not ‘see’ the future before it happens, He ‘sees’ it as it happens. I think it was CS Lewis who offered the image of time as a line on a piece of paper, with the events of history represented as points on that line. God is, in effect, the piece of paper - He is present at, and aware of, all points along the line simultaneously. He never ‘forgets’ anything that has happened, and always ‘knows’ what is going to happen, because every event both past and future is eternally present to Him.

But from where we are along the line, the future is not fixed. We have the freedom to act how we wish, and when we do God ‘sees’ us act. That information is in His eternal mind now. It always has been.

God sees what I did yesterday in exactly the same way as He sees what I will do tomorrow. In fact, God sees what I did tomorrow!



I don’t think this would mean He is not omnicient. I think that what a free will agenet will choose is not logically possible to know in advance, for the reason I gave in my previous post.

No—not directly. Only indirectly. Time is the consequent of the creation of the first two events.

This does not follow. Time is the measurement of temporal “distance” between two events. God performed the first act—the begetting of the Son, and then through the Son began creation. Time was the consequent of the first two events. If there were no events, there would be no time. Also space wasn’t created. Space is the measurement of the distance between two objects. If there were no matter, there would be no space.

If you create an equilateral figure, the consequent is that it is equiangular. You don’t directly create the equiangular figure.
That simply follows from creating the equilateral figure.

You might suppose that God had to exist before He brought about the first event, the begetting of His Son. But there was no time before that first event, and therefore no “before”. Thus to speak of God’s existencse “before” He begat His Son, is meaningless. This is difficult to comprehend, and I don’t claim to fully understand it. But God was simply “there” and begat His Son and time was the consequent. I find this MUCH easier to believe than to believe there is an infinite regression of time into the past (as I used to believe). So even though the begetting of the Son was a single act of God’s part, there never was a time at which the Son did not exist.

Some say that God still exists outside of time.I say He exists within time. Otherwise how can his acts take place at various times throughout history? I think He even exists within space (though invisible). The Bible seems to suggest that He fills the universe with His presence.

Hi Paidion

I agree that from our temporal viewpoint it is not possible to know in advance what a free will agent will choose to do. But given my view of God as being outside time, observing all events as they happen simultaneously in His unbounded now, then to all intents and purposes God does indeed see and hence know the future. And I reiterate that even if He doesn’t, His omniscience requires that He knows everything it is logically possible to know. The choices and possible courses of action open to free agents at any given moment are such things, hence I believe God knows them - and hence I believe the expression “never entered God’s mind” is not true, or very likely meaningless.

I think your argument that time is “the consequent of the creation of the first two events” is valid. Nevertheless, this does mean that time only ‘came into being’ because of God’s creative fiat - hence my contention that He is ‘outside’ of time holds also, I reckon :slight_smile: .

Orthodox Christian doctrine says that the Son and the Father are basically co-eternal anyway, and the Son is begotten not created. Whatever *that *means?! :smiley: