In principle, the decisions made by an agent endowed with freedom of the will (in the libertarian sense) are not determined. That is, a free agent's decisions cannot be the result of a sequence of causes and effects unfolding over time in accordance with deterministic rules (as would be the case of a rock falling downhill because of gravity, dominoes falling one after another in a chain reaction because of physics, light illuminating a room because of electromagnetism, a robot performing actions in an environment because of the sophisticated software with which it was programmed, etc.). In other words, the decisions of a free agent do not obey the laws of physics. They do not follow deterministic rules. They are unpredictable. Even if we had a supercomputer that could perfectly simulate the laws of physics, and if we had all the information about every aspect of the universe, it would still be impossible for such a supercomputer to predict what a free agent would do in any given instance.

Having said that, in Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV), Jesus declares the following:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

1 Peter 4:18 (ESV) affirms something similar:

And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Jesus and Peter make very clear factual statements about the final outcome of the decisions made by humans, namely, that most will perish and just a tiny minority will be saved. If human beings have free will, this means that Jesus and Peter are making predictions about something that by definition shouldn't be predictable. In other words, they are predicting the unpredictable. Moreover, Jesus provides a justification for his claim: he says that those who choose eternal life are few because the gate and path leading to that end are narrow/hard, whereas those who choose eternal perdition are many because the gate and path leading to that end are wide/easy. If we think about it, this is a logical, deterministic explanation for the decisions made by free agents (paradox bell ringing for anyone?), as if free will could be constrained in such a way that certain "free" decisions become statistically "more likely" than others. This goes against the intuition that free agents should be equally capable of choosing any course of action among their current options at hand, and, therefore, that salvation and damnation should be equally likely.

Question: How do Christians who believe in libertarian free will make sense of Matthew 7:13-14, 1 Peter 4:18 and similar passages? If free agents are equally capable of choosing any option, why is the option of damnation so overwhelmingly preferred over the option of salvation? Shouldn't the distribution be 50/50? How can free will and a strong statistical tendency toward damnation be reconciled?

For the curious, a related question I asked on the Philosophy Stack: Do probability and statistics apply to the decisions of an agent with libertarian free will?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 2:31
  • You seem to be under the impression that if LFW is true then 50% of people will be saved and 50% of people will be damned. I'm not sure how you would come to such a conclusion. LFW is a modal-logical principle, not a probabilistic principle.
    – zippy2006
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 17:32
  • @zippy2006 - you will probably find this question of interest: Do probability and statistics apply to the decisions of an agent with libertarian free will?.
    – user50422
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 18:03

9 Answers 9


Matt 7:13-14 is an empirical observation, not foreknowledge

I think you

  • overcomplicate things (by unnecessarily bringing God's foreknowledge vs. libertarian freedom)
  • neglected to consider the empirical evidence of how it's much easier to be wicked than righteous, both in the time of Jesus and in our own time (modern age).

Some things never change; it's human nature. Consider

  • a society without law and order,
  • families where parents let children do whatever they want,
  • high school where teachers and the principal don't impose order in the classrooms / school grounds.

Isn't it obvious that the powerful (thugs, gangs, bullies) will naturally form and oppress the weak? Or we can ask ourselves: is it easy to love our spouses / kids / parents with the ideal that we know of already through our conscience? Therefore, the default trajectory is far from 50/50 distribution, and that is simply what I propose Jesus meant when he said "the way is easy that led to destruction". It's common sense.

Even with the libertarian understanding of God's foreknowledge where God does NOT know the future, Jesus (and everyone in his time who knew a little of OT history) could have easily predicted the future based on the past:

  • OT history showed that since the fall of Adam, people had a tendency to be wicked: Cain, people in Noah's time, people of Sodom, etc. That's why God had to reveal the law (at Mount Sinai) and had to choose priests, elders, judges, and (later) kings to administer justice.
  • Even so, OT history since Moses showed that even after the Israelites already had the light of the law they STILL tended to choose the wicked paths of injustice & oppressing the weak, and consequently breaking the Mosaic covenant, necessitating God to punish the Israelites through the Assyrian and the Babylonian exiles.

We also need to remember the NT teaching that Satan is the prince of the world and is the Father of lies, deception, and temptation, and how Satan and his minions became the power behind the corrupting influence that Paul named "the power of sin", which explains the human default tendency to choose the wicked path, skewing the 50/50 distribution even more!

More insights into our damaged nature: the 4 wounds

The working of our free will is not deterministic, especially when considering the interplay of will with reason, emotion, desires, habits, passion, etc. Christian philosophers such as Augustine and Aquinas came up with an analysis that remains convincing today described in The Four Wounds of the Fall. The Fall brought about a destructive disharmony in our soul, each wound affects one "faculty"/"power" of the soul (freely quoted from the linked article, please read the article for the full details):

  1. Wound to Reason: Blindness or ignorance: loss of the intellectual capacity to know and form judgments concerning spiritual things (cf. 1 Cor 14:15).

  2. Wound to Will: Malice (from the Latin malum, which means evil): lost the inclination to the good. God has made the will of man desiring the good (cf. Rom 7:14-24).

  3. Wound to Desire: Concupiscence, which is disordered desire rather than desire to fulfill our immediate sensual need. Sensual desires in themselves are not sinful, but too much food, drink, sex, etc. without the restraint of healthy reason becomes concupiscence. Once a mere need, now it become the soul's unrestrained and driving force.

  4. Wound to Irascible power: Weakness, another failure of our will, in this case to muster a personal offense against evil. It has lost its aggressiveness toward the difficult.

Concluding paragraphs from the article:

The first two wounds touch upon ... the intelligence and the will. The last two touch upon ... our passions. Life is hard and the good is hard to attain. It requires a lot of energy to lay hold to it. ... We want to get everything the easy way and this is a hallmark of original sin: "I want what I want when I want it."

The Four Wounds are lethal and we are powerless to redeem ourselves from original sin. Try as he may over and over again to reform himself, he will fail, because reformation is not what he needs. ... But even in this condition human nature itself is not essentially corrupt, but profoundly wounded by suffering the loss of the supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, who animated and unified Adam’s powers and faculties in a free and godly harmony. Instead of the love of God, which is true reason, ruling from the center of our being and uniting our faculties around that one great love, we now have “self,” and thus, concupiscence at the center. But in Holy Baptism [or for other denominations when we are born again] we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and we are infused with the Heavenly Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity and thus we are equipped to begin a reversal of the Fall as the wounds are cleansed and healed through the grace given to Holy Mother Church [or for other denominations, given to the individual directly].


Statistically speaking, human being by nature tends to choose the wicked path when given the opportunity (not to mention the additional influence of Satan). Therefore, anyone (who doesn't need to be an omniscient being like God) could reliably predicts that the chance a person choosing the wicked path is greater than 50%. Why is it statistically so? It's because of the 4 wounds in our soul caused by the Fall, which predisposed us to choose the wicked path.

Objection: wicked tendency negates libertarian free will

Your comment:

How can free will and the human default tendency to choose the wicked path be reconciled? If an agent is free, how can that same agent have a tendency towards something? How can you be statistically biased to do something and still be perfectly able to do something else every single time? How does that work?

Objection summary: If God gives us libertarian free will, why does it have the tendency to choose wickedness?

Answer (from libertarian Christian perspective): although human will is predisposed to choose wickedness, it can still be called "libertarian free will" since God is not involved at all in a human decision (no foreknowledge, no predestination); he's completely "hands off". Yes, it's a "damaged" libertarian free will, but the predisposition is the result of the Fall of Adam, freely chosen by Adam, which forever tainted the ability of human will to choose good. The second influence by Satan's mission to destroy human kind was also freely chosen by Satan, not God. YES, in this tainted state we are not perfectly able to choose good. But it's not deterministic, simply an uphill battle from birth.

Objection: wicked tendency, fairness, and goodness of God

A natural follow up question is: How could a good God allow humans to be born with a damaged free will? Doesn't God want humans to have libertarian free will? Why did God let human nature to be tainted just because of one man (Adam)? Isn't it unfair?

Answer: This can be answered by one standard Christian theodicy:

  • Originally, God created human beings and angels with perfect free will but Adam and Lucifer messed it up.
  • As to why God let those 2 influences to affect every human being, it's a mystery.
  • But at the same time (which somewhat restores God's goodness) God sent us Jesus so as fallen men we can be rescued up and have our free will gradually transformed to be perfect once more (no tendency toward wickedness).
  • Another credit for God's goodness is how in the OT God demonstrates his faithfulness and unfailing love by providing several aids (see next section), by forgiving people who repent (although they may still need to suffer some punishment), and by remembering past offense no more (i.e. don't punish them over and over again).

Objection: wicked tendency, accountability, and fairness

Objection summary: How is it fair that humans are held accountable for this tainted free will?

Answer: The following points should make the case that God is fair in holding humans accountable for their moral choices despite our tainted free will, especially when we believe that God knows our weakness and God provides several aids:

  • Similar to our modern human legal system where punishment is given in proportion to the severity of the crime and the circumstances affecting the will of the criminal (i.e. punishment for crimes of passion is less severe than premeditated ones), the OT laws have this too.
  • Despite some damage, conscience is still functional enough to inform the will that a certain course of action is evil, especially when we include revealed laws (OT)
  • In the OT God provides a reconciliation process through repentance and animal sacrifice.
  • In the NT, God provides free grace for us to first be saved through faith in Jesus, and then when we sin again we can be restored back to him every time we repent.
  • God also restricts the power of Satan so we cannot be tempted beyond what we can bear.

Objection: wicked tendency and ability to respond to salvation

Your comment:

If God gives every human being a genuine chance to repent, shouldn't this nullify the tendency toward wickedness and restore the balance to 50/50? Let me explain why: it doesn't make sense for God to give someone a chance to repent if that person is incapable of taking advantage of that chance. Therefore, God would also need to grant the person a temporary restoration of their ability to make free choices, so that they have the chance to truly repent. During that period of time, the person should be equally capable of repenting or not repenting, correct? Then how can we explain that the distribution is so skewed in spite of these God-given chances to repent, which are granted to all human beings before their eternal destinies are settled? This is somewhat related to one my previous questions.

Your comment contains an excellent point and also some misunderstandings:

  1. Reading between the lines, I think you did not mean simple repentance of an act as in someone who just killed another in a brawl of passion saying

    "I'm sorry, I was drunk, I was upset, and I didn't mean to kill your brother."

    But repentance of heart goes to the root of the problem of our being which produces the act, saying something like the following to God (who always inserts himself as party to the injured side):

    "God, I allowed my neglect of taking care of my wicked tendency to offend you by killing one of your beloved creatures and I realize that I need your grace to HEAL my wounded nature so I will not fall into these kinds of situation anymore. God, I realize now that this sin, as in many other lesser ones, is rooted in an even greater offense against you: my rebellion against your standard by constructing my own moral standard (Isa 53:6a). I am now ready to surrender, laying down my arms, taken captive as prisoner of war, so you can perform surgery on my nature, give me a new life (born again), and adopt me as your own son (see C.S. Lewis quote)."

  2. Christian theology addresses this repentance of heart very differently from simple repentance of an act, something that even non Christians are doing all the time, as I explained in the answer to your other question. That is why I rephrase the objection as the ability to "respond to salvation".

  3. In addition to confusing the two kinds of repentance you are also conflating several "acts of the soul" into one act. From the human side of things, responding to salvation can be a complex process, not just one decision that you can measure the probability. Heart repentance includes multiple aspects of the soul: reason, will, desire, and emotion all play a part. All these aspects can be influenced by different crises at different times. C.S. Lewis's conversion (one of the most analyzed: books, dissertations, and papers have been written about this) takes several years in the making. Every conversion can be different, some quick some long, some emphasizes reason some emotion, etc.

  4. Some denominations even teach that we cannot know whether we will finally be saved; this is another area of Christian theology called Perseverance of the Saints. Going back to C.S. Lewis, the 1993 Shadowland movie took a dramatic license insinuating that after the death of his most beloved wife of 4 years, C.S. Lewis didn't believe in God anymore. But in real life C.S. Lewis didn't lose his faith. Before you quickly respond "Aha! Maybe the 'narrow gate' refers to God's exclusive knowledge of this final eventuality." I don't think that's the correct reading of the verse. At any rate, this is far removed from the kind of 50/50 free will decision the OP is about.

  5. Excellent point about "temporary restoration". This is the Methodist (Arminian) position, called prevenient grace which enables us to make the choice for salvation. Calvinists (Reformed) also emphasizes divine help, but instead of calling it "restoration" they call it "irresistible grace" tying it with predestination. Catholic position also doesn't call it "restoration" but as an initiative coming from God but requires free collaboration on our part (see semi-pelagianism).

Answer: Yes, like you said "God would also need to grant the person a temporary restoration of their ability", but NOT to make "free choices" (in a libertarian sense) or to "truly repent" (like a perfect human being), since even after one is born again we STILL do not have 100% free choice and we STILL are not able to truly repent of sins buried within our unconscious. That is why the gate is narrow and the road is hard. Thus, the "temporary restoration" which God does in the order of salvation does NOT imply 100% freedom that yields a 50/50 balance, but only enough so we can respond positively to the gospel (offer of salvation). In fact, in theory, if God heals the 4 wounds completely (the kind that Adam had) it should have yielded 100% positive response to the gospel, since human passions are wired to love God! The true mystery is how come Adam fell.

  • Good points, but there is a point that you haven't addressed yet, which is at the end of the OP: How can free will and a statistical bias toward damnation be reconciled?. Borrowing your own words, I could rephrase the same question as follows: How can free will and the human default tendency to choose the wicked path be reconciled? If an agent is free, how can that same agent have a tendency towards something? How can you be statistically biased to do something and still be perfectly able to do something else every single time? How does that work?
    – user50422
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 23:00
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator I was careful to say that "libertarian" simply means God is not involved. The dice is damaged, not tampered or perhaps I shouldn't use "dice" in the first place, since human will doesn't operate like a dice. Standard theology says God is not party to the tainted-ness of human nature; God is not responsible. The tainted-ness is not deterministic. It's like being born with a disability, requiring an uphill battle fight. About accountability, God takes the tainted-ness into account by having a provision for repentance (OT) and free grace (NT). Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 0:14
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Edited the answer again to address your latest comment. Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 0:46
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator I'm asking this BH.SE question to solidify this C.SE answer. I hope we both find a solid answer; I'm thinking of your C.SE question when framing it. If I remember my childhood Sunday school pictorial illustrations of it, I have a feeling that it's not that the gate is hard to find, but that it's unpalatable and even if one enters it it's strenuous and lonely to stay on the path. It's akin to New Year weight loss resolution. Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 5:15
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Sorry, I got distracted. The objection that I sensed from a mile away has to do with "how come God didn't give temporary restoration for everyone so they can have 100% freedom to choose the narrow way". I decide not to include this in my answer, since it's out of scope. It's about the doctrine of election; different denomination has widely different answer ranging from hard Calvinist's double predestination to universalist who thinks that even after dying people are given a chance to choose God and by that time overwhelming revelation makes God impossible to resist. Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 19:12

God exists outside of time.

First, you have to remember that God exists outside of linear time.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

2 Peter 3:8

While there's no biblical basis beyond this, I believe that both predestination and free will exist simultaneously because of quantum mechanics. Time isn't a straight line between past and future, but a tree that forks every time someone makes a decision - and since He is outside of time, God can see the entire tree. So, by making our decisions, we have free will - we can choose which branch of the tree our world goes down. However, God can see the sum total of all of the branches of the tree from the very beginning until the end of time, and He can tell how many people will be saved and how many won't be across all of them.

  • 1
    This is an interesting philosophical stance that seeks to reconcile free will and foreknowledge. However, this answer still doesn't explain why Jesus provides an explanation for the skewed distribution of saved vs. damned. Jesus said that there is a narrow, hard gate/path, and that there is also a wide, easy gate/path. Most people choose the latter because it is statistically more likely. But that's a logical, deterministic explanation, and free agents shouldn't be bound by that. A free agent shouldn't be governed by statistics, right? How can we make sense of this?
    – user50422
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 18:19
  • @nick012000 God can see the sum total of all of the branches of the tree from the very beginning until the end of time … Are these “branches” potential OR actual? Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 22:25
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator God sees the end result of every possible action and decision by every human in the history of the entire world, and can total them up to reach a conclusion. Evidently, there are more ways for people to choose to go to Hell than there are for them to choose to go to Heaven.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 23:08
  • @nick012000 God sees the end result of every possible action and decision by every human in the history of the entire world, and can total them up to reach a conclusion. Who told you that? (Luis de Molina, by any chance?) Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 14:36
  • @MigueldeServet I'd never heard of him before; I'd come up with the idea by myself, when considering the many worlds interpretation of the many worlds theory, but it sounds like I wasn't the first one to do so - though Molina predated quantum mechanics, which is presumably why his opponents were able to dismiss the idea of God's knowledge of counterfactuals as being baseless. Also, to answer the question you asked in your previous commend, yes, I'd say that they'd be "actual" in the sense that they exist somewhere else along the quantum waveform.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 14:57

Is it possible in the time dependent realm to have (statistical) and absolute statements from God about the “future” which are not conflicting with libertarian free will? Please consider the following.

In classical mechanics, a simple example is saying that if you role two normal 6 sided dice, there is relatively a small probability that the numbers add up to a number larger than 10. But here one could argue over aleatoric vs. epistemic uncertainty of the dice. And in a universe of only classical mechanics it would be at least in principle possible to predict all dice roll outcomes. Under the assumptions of such a universe it would be in principle possible to predict any actions. Therefore the concept of libertarian free will, is defined in such a way that the decisions of agents with free will can not be calculated with such certainty.

For non-classical mechanics and quantum mechanics, similar but different statistical statements are possible. If we have a rod of radio-active material, we can "predict" that there is an X-probability that P-percent of all atoms in the rod will show radio-active decay during a given time period. But we cannot calculate which atoms will decay, and in principle it is not impossible (although it might be very improbable) that none of the atoms will decay. So statistical statements and predictions are not in conflict with quantum mechanical phenomena or the concept of libertarian free will. But how about absolute statements?

The other answer that quotes 2 Peter 3:8, highlights an other interesting aspect that God is beyond or outside of time. Although this is maybe difficult to imagine, one could illustrate it with watching a video recording of a sports game of which you already know the result. The players of the sports game, have and had their free will, and completed a time dependent transient process. But a time independent observer (God) can see any part of the video and knows the result. So far so good, the players were not fundamentaly hindered in their free will by a mere recording. (Note however that knowledge of being recorded could have influenced their actions, but not the principle of free will itself).

The difficulties seem to arise, however, if the observer would communicate information with the players before the start of the game and would tell/prophecy them the final score of the game before the start of the game. Such there is some information feedback loop from the "future" or from "outside" of the system. Note that the outside observer (God) is not actually calculating, or predicting, he tells them what he already knows. But then, is there then still free will for the players or agents? or is there predestination?

  • One modification related to the examples above, to avoid contradictions is that the communication or information regarding the final result from the outside observer is stated as a statistical statement or subject to some probability (like with the radio active decay). But this is not very satisfying because it seems to imply that the observer God is not certain, because he only communicates a statistical statement that is still subject to some uncertainty.
  • Another perspective to possible contradictions of free will with telling the game participants the final result before the game is, to consider/assume that all participants have libertarian free will so they are free to choose to believe the message and messenger or not.

So ironically enough because of a the libertarian free will of all the participants, statements from the "future" or the realm above or outside of time, are not in contradiction with a free will, or a restriction with free will, because all participants still have the freedom to believe and act how they desire. This does however not imply that the behavior of the agents is not influenced by such statements. The influence of such statements is however dependent on how the agents use their libertarian free will and choose to believe the messenger, and how they will consider the message in their actions.

So even information from “the future” or from beyond time does not necessarily contradict libertarian free-will, but from a time dependent perspective it seems that it has a potential to influence the actions resulting from free will. So the essential point is that information from the future can influence free will, but that does not contradict the existence of free will. Some body can tell you: "Tomorrow it will rain" it will maybe influence your actions but, it does not take away your free will (regardless if that person was God, or just your neighbor). Some bible scriptures that are relevant to the topic of free will and predestination are for example:

Galations 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

This is pretty clear about the role of cause and effect.

Isaiah 46: 9,10: Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

This seems to indicate that God is not calculating or predicting, he makes/declares statements about what for us is perceived as "the future".

These idea's are quite general, but can also be applied to the particular case of the skewed distribution/imbalance in the statements of Jesus that only few will find the way that leads to life.

  • 1
    I like this answer, especially concerning feedback. God, desiring a certain outcome, through prophecy, miraculous action and increasing or decreasing the amount of effort He is exerting in different eras can create a desired outcome regarding the proportion of souls saved versus lost. (My college courses in Quantum mechanics were very much like the narrow door that few can pass through. I barely passed the second semester...) Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 13:48

A few thoughts:

  1. The passages you cited do not necessarily imply that few people will be saved - even authors at reformed sites like The Gospel Coalition acknowledge this point. Some passages imply many will be saved, others few - the point of those passages is likely not statistical but rather to exhort the hearers to action.
  2. Only God, who knows the heart of every person, knows the percentages on who will be saved - we must let God make the final decisions (1 Cor 4:3-5)
  3. As others have noted, free will does not imply a stochastic process where, all else being equal, there would be a 50/50 split as in a coin toss.

I think the most compelling evidence from Scripture that might explain a tendency for people to reject God is the fact that we must choose between the world (lust, greed, pride, self) and God. We cannot love both - it is impossible to have two masters. And if you read Scripture as narrative even the Israelites tended to choose the surrounding world system with its idols and false gods rather than the true and living God, yet in that same narrative, God always speaks as if the Israelites have free will to choose. So the narrative itself suggests a situation where free will exists yet many do not choose God.

The saints are those who set aside the love of this world for the love of God and neighbor. As Jesus says often, this requires taking up one's cross and is no easy path. Some quotes/Scripture verses below.

You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind. We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. …I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.–C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Romans 1:20-23

20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (NIV)

1 John 2:15-17

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (NIV)

Hebrews 11:13-16

13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (NIV)

  • +1. I was having your last passage in mind when putting together my answer. Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 1:49

There is a proverb about not killing the messenger, the reason behind it being that uttering a statement about something, and being either involved in or desirous of said outcome, are completely different things; as such, since most Christians who don't believe in libertarian free will seem to (also) espouse a (somewhat disturbing) tendency of deeming God (a non-human) ultimately responsible for the deeds of humans, those that question such (unwarranted) conclusions incline towards the opposite.

Also, character and temporality are distinct notions; thus the moral character of the eternal Logos did not change its (good) nature upon entering our temporal world; likewise, the wicked will not suddenly have a change of heart upon entering God's timelessness after leaving the temporal realm.


Your question seems to presume that free-will would result in a 50-50 outcome, or something like that. Or perhaps 99-1 where the overwhelming majority select life.

Part of the answer lies in the "mystery of lawlessness" spoken of by Paul in 2Th2:7 and the blindness caused by the devil: "in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2Co 4:4 NASB95)

I don't think the problem you are wrestling with needs to be completely answered. Some things are above our rank, as Jesus made clear. However, if you do believe in free-will (as I do), then you will also take it upon yourself to try to convince as many as possible of the truth of Jesus Christ, that all that can be saved (so far as it depends upon you), make it to the heavenly kingdom.

Also, I think you are underestimating the number of people who will be saved: "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and [all] tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches [were] in their hands;" (Rev 7:9 NASB95)


Read this article for perspective, titled "Average person makes 773,618 decisions in a lifetime":


If a person was so close to perfect that their odds of making a damnable mistake was one in a million per decision, this is the chance that they would lead a life in which they made no mistake so bad that they disqualified themself from entering heaven:

0.999999 ^ 773618 = 0.46134073532 => 46.1%

In a world of seven billion people, there are 7,000 one-in-a-million people, the most righteous among us. Statistically, if you took those 7,000 people aside, only 46% of that group would maake it from birth to death without making at least one really bad, damnably immoral decision, or 3,229 people. Some lesser people might make the cut by luck, but as you go lower on the perfection scale, the odds get bad pretty fast. I will spare you the integral calculus. I doubt the tally would exceed 10,000 people.

And real righteous people make more mistakes than one in a million.

There is the crux of the problem. We do not make a single decision in life, we make lots of decisions. The illusion of a fifty-fifty chance is just that, an illusion.

In statistical mechanics, you never care about which way individual atoms travel. You study averages. I believe that God does see the future, but even if he doesn't, with enough people, you can make remarkable predictions about averages. It is possible to make the claim that few are saved with much less than an omniscient mind, even in the presence of libertarian free will.

  • I get your point, but you are leaving out of your analysis the factor of God's grace which leads people to repentance. If someone's salvation depended on them not making a single mistake in their entire life, pretty much no one would be saved, as your probabilistic analysis makes very clear. However, we know that's not the way salvation works. We need to consider the fact that God intervenes in the universe by giving people the chance to repent. If each person is given by God a chance to repent and be saved, shouldn't this make the distribution 50/50 again?
    – user50422
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 23:50
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator - Of course you are right, but then again, I don't believe in Libertarian free will! As a Calvinist, I believe in Sovereign election, so the number of saved people is exactly the number that God says it will be. The fifty-fifty split is problematic. It may refer to all people, or merely those who claim to be Christians. The five foolish virgins appear to be those who profess to be Christians, so the ratio applies to the church. That would make the ratio less than 50% if applied to all of humanity. Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 12:08
  • According to Calvinists, what happens to people who die never having heard the gospel?
    – user50422
    Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 14:31
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator - An excellent question. This article doesn't deal with Calvinism versus Arminianism but Inclusivism versus Exclusivism: thegospelcoalition.org/article/… Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 17:55

This answer was originally written as a response to this question, but it was closed before I could post. Because the two questions are closely related, I've retained the original answer, and I've added a P.S. to tie it in to the specifics of the OP.

(the original question was Do we really have free will if we are born with a sinful nature?)

The Book of Mormon offers an explicit answer to this question (this post will present a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perspective).

The discussion is found in 2 Nephi chapter 2; I'll quote a few of the most relevant verses here:

16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.


21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation...

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

A few key points:

  • The existence of opposition is part of the plan
  • Departure from Eden was necessary for the progression of mankind
  • That we have moral agency is expressly taught (we are free to choose)
  • God created a program in which we could experience a time of probation & make mistakes, and that we could learn from those mistakes without being condemned by them--because a Redeemer was sent who would redeem us from the Fall and could redeem us from our own choices as well.

So yes, we can have both free will & a fallen nature--in fact that was part of the plan.

Another way to look at it--if there were no opposition--if we were never faced with multiple options that produced divergent results--could we really claim to have free will at all?

P.S. as promised

If the choices of free agents were comparable to rolls of dice or flips of a coin, we might expect a more even distribution--but the claim of believers in free will is that human decisions are not comparable to rolling dice or flipping coins. They are not backwards and forwards calculable (like the movements of the planets, for example).

That they may sometimes be predicted it is true, but prediction is no more causation here than it would be if I were to predict tomorrow's sunrise. I can predict something without causing it. The Lord, who knows the end from the beginning (see Isaiah 46:10), can go even further. I suggest that He doesn't need to consult a spreadsheet before predicting tomorrow's sunrise or the choices His children will make--He sees the whole picture. He's not making predictions based on probability distributions.

We predict the future inductively by assuming the future will be like the past. God declares what will happen in the future because all things are present before Him.

If the path to eternal life were easy, I would expect a distribution overwhelmingly skewed in favor of "that path that leads to life". If the path to eternal life is hard (I believe it is), I would expect a distribution skewed in favor of the path that is broad and easy. Thus, another way to read Jesus' statement is that the path is hard.

(I should point out here that I do not hold a particularly orthodox view on heaven and hell--for more see here & here. I don't believe God will send the majority of His children to spend eternity in unquenchable fire.)

How could I possibly read the Sermon on the Mount and not conclude the path is hard? I conclude that Jesus asks a lot; I also conclude that what He asks is worth it.


Universal problem: “I can get no satisfaction

Right solution:

“Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, where the needy can obtain help” (Heb 4:16)

In the story about the King making wedding celebrations for his son, the first wedding guests, through exercise of their free will, didn’t want to come to the wedding, because they were busy with other “more important” things. The host therefore send out his servants to invite strangers from the street, including crippled and blind. These had a “serious” lack in their lives and were hungry for something better, so they of their own volition came. (Mat 22:2-14; Luk 14:15-23). When the restricted space of the ceremonial premises were filled, the doors were shut close, and no more people were let in. (Mat 25:10-12).

Thus, the imbalance between saved and condemned has to be due to that heaven, like Noah’s ark, is a limited place; and that the in the Bible stated number of inhabitants happen to be the most perfect and suitable number for such a limited place. By free will wanting to be there is obviously important, but having chaste behavior, a good record of unselfish righteous acts, together with being there in time before the quota is filled has to be as, if not more, important.

“The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’. “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ (Mat 25:10-12)

You must log in to answer this question.