Reading a question on this site I suddenly realized that I do not know what 'free will' means. I cannot find a definition in other questions asked and my philosophy books clouded the whole issue. Augustine says a lot but also seem to think I already know what it means. So I thought I would look in the Bible but can't find the term.

Where in the Bible can I find a definition or explanation?

  • Wait for more answers. Better answers might come later. Accept the answers after at least 2 days.
    – Mawia
    Oct 23, 2013 at 19:00
  • I'm surprised that I'm the only one voting this up. Naive though it is, I think this is a good question. Why are others not voting this? Please explain.
    – Mawia
    Oct 24, 2013 at 5:10

2 Answers 2


In "An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" (ἔκδοσις ἀκριβὴς τῆς ὀρθοδόξου πίστεως), Book II, Ch. XXX (§44), John of Damascus wrote,

Χρὴ γινώσκειν, ὡς πάντα μὲν προγινώσκει ὁ θεός, οὐ πάντα δὲ προορίζει· προγινώσκει γὰρ καὶ τὰ ἐφ' ἡμῖν, οὐ προορίζει δὲ αὐτά· οὐ γὰρ θέλει τὴν κακίαν γενέσθαι οὐδὲ βιάζεται τὴν ἀρετήν. Ὥστε τῆς θείας προγνωστικῆς κελεύσεως ἔργον ἐστὶν ὁ προορισμός. Προορίζει δὲ τὰ οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν κατὰ τὴν πρόγνωσιν αὐτοῦ· ἤδη γὰρ κατὰ τὴν πρόγνωσιν αὐτοῦ προέκρινε πάντα ὁ θεὸς κατὰ τὴν ἀγαθότητα καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ.

which I translated as,

It is necessary to understand, while God foreknows everything, yet He does not predetermine everything. For He even foreknows those things that are dependent on us, but He does not predetermine them. For He neither wills evil to occur nor forces virtue, so that predetermination is the work of the divine command of foreknowledge. On the other hand, God predetermines those things which are not dependent on us, according to His foreknowledge. For according to His foreknowledge, God has already forejudged all things according to His goodness and righteousness.

  • That is great. Thank you. I can see where that is going. Really excellent. How would you define 'free will' from the Bible if you had to do it for a child? (I feel really dumb here but I only have a philosophical understanding.) Oct 23, 2013 at 17:59
  • I can take a couple numbers and ask my friend to calculate them. Because I'm smarter and can compute mental math very quickly, I can know the foreknow the answer without predetermining them. That does not mean the numbers have free will.
    – corsiKa
    Oct 23, 2013 at 18:55
  • @gideonmarx: God's attributes are typically difficult for man to comprehend. For example, God knows everything (He is omniscient). Before He created Adam, He already knew Adam would sin. Why then did He create Adam? This question perplexes many. "Free will" is just that. Man has the ability "to will" (want, desire, purpose, determine, intend), and consequently, "to do" whatever he wills. Of course, man is limited in "doing" according to his (physical and mental) ability, not his will. For example, I will to jump over the moon. It's not my will that precludes this. It's my physical ability.
    – user900
    Oct 23, 2013 at 19:56
  • @gideonmarx: Clearly, God did not want Adam and Eve to consume the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But, they did. This is an example of free will. They willed to eat it, and consequently, they ate it. Of course, they could have willed not to eat it, and not eaten it. In addition, they could have willed to eat it, but changed their mind (and their will), and thus not eaten it. But, they did will to eat it, and they ate it. We know that Satan influenced their will, but one is always responsible for their own actions (the things they do).
    – user900
    Oct 23, 2013 at 19:59
  • @gideonmarx: According to John of Damascus, God predetermines things that are not dependent on us (τὰ οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῖν), but as for the things that are dependent on us (τὰ ἐφ' ἡμῖν), He does not. Does this change your understanding of free will? Do you agree with his assertion?
    – user900
    Oct 23, 2013 at 20:02

The word "Freewill" doesn't exist in the Bible but the concept does exist. The Bible doesn't spell out the term "Freewill" clearly and hence doesn't provide any clear definition of what freewill is.

The Freewill theology has a long history, at least 2000 years ago, discussed by philosophers. Many Christian theologians have studied this and made many theories on it. One of the first being Augustine and many debates were held among theologians on the topic of Freewill.

There are many instances from the Bible to explain what freewill is. Let's see few examples.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

It is clear from this verse that anyone, who believes in Jesus Christ is promised an eternal life. This means that we are given freewill to accept or deny Jesus Christ.

Another example is Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. God gave them orders not to eat the fruit and told them that they will die as a result, but when they were about to eat it, God did not stop them, though God was aware of it because He is omnipresent. God did not interfere in there choice making. God allowed them to choose death, even though God knew that it would result in the death of His one and only Son Jesus Christ.

  • I believe this would fail the "Turing test of free will" by failing question 4. Adam and Eve would be capable of predicting their decision before they calculate what decision they should make if they could persuade God to tell them the outcome.
    – corsiKa
    Oct 23, 2013 at 18:51

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