Looking on this site in many answers involving the problem of evil I see affirmations of belief in free-will.

According to Calvinist Mark Hausam, who presented a paper at a conference on Mormonism, the assertion that God gave us free-will and that God created everything ex-nihilo, beliefs that he asserts are held by many evangelicals, are incompatible. He argues:

Creation ex nihilo implies a radical metaphysical dependence upon God, one that logically guarantees that the creature will not be independent from God or be capable of independent contributions to reality in the ways envisioned in Arminian thought. In fact, creation ex nihilo logically leads directly to Calvinistic determinism.

Hausam continues to argue that Arminian thought is not all that dissimilar from Mormonism. Mormonism explicitly rejects the notion of creation ex-nihilo and as such resolves the problem of evil as well as the paradox: If God created everything, how is our will independent of him? He argues that Arminians, in order to believe in our having free-will, must reject the concept of ex-nihilo creation as well.

My question is directed to those who hold both these views. I am not entirely convinced that these views are irreconcilable as argued, but I cannot produce a good counter-argument. How do you resolve the paradox presented here by Hausam?

Note: I recognize one way to argue this is that God, being all-powerful, created our free wills out of nothing, but this is still the same paradox. How can God determine (create) something that is undetermined? (free-will). If you could present a logical argument for this view, I would gladly hear it.

  • 2
    Please if you choose to downvote, suggest how I could improve the question or why the question is not appropriate, otherwise nothing improves.
    – Dougvj
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 14:03
  • Hausam's argument is not quite that free will is incompatible with creation ex nihilo. Rather, he argues that free will is incompatible with creation ex nihilo by an all powerful God that wishes salvation for all of his creations. Anyway, I just thought this distinction is important enough to clarify.
    – amcnabb
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 14:33
  • @amcnabb You could be right, but I don't follow. Let us assume that God doesn't wish salvation for all of his creations; in that case the argument is still that free will can't exist; our wills are ultimately a manifistation of God's.
    – Dougvj
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 15:00
  • Yeah, you're right.
    – amcnabb
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 16:24
  • Hmmm. In his goodness God wills salvation for all his human creatures; but in his justice God wills that the propitiation must be paid according to the spiritual laws he's established. With the consequence that God does not will that evil, corrupted free-willed beings enter his eternal kingdom, only those who's wills are submitted to his, and whom he can therefore justly impart his incorruptible nature so that they can stay submitted in agape love for all eternity.
    – user32
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 4:56

4 Answers 4


With all due respect to Mark Hausam, the logic just doesn't hold water. That sounds like a category error.

Category Errors

These fallacies occur because the author mistakenly assumes that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. However, things joined together may have different properties as a whole than any of them do separately. The following fallacies are category errors:

  • Composition (Because the parts have a property, the whole is said to have that property)
  • Division (Because the whole has a property, the parts are said to have that property)

Free will is not dependent on our origins. To illustrate this, we can look at a polar opposite theory of origins and show that the same argument can be stated, and it's equally nonsensical.

Creationism implies a first cause, which is God. It deals with the origin of everything. Ex-nihilo creationism claims God as a first cause, leaving the question "where did God come from?"

Current Atheistic Naturalism also assumes a first cause - the Big Bang, and question "what existed before it? Where did the energy, which eventually became matter, come from?"

Both claim either a first cause, or a first known cause, leaving the question of whether or not this known first cause is truly first... But I'm getting off the subject.

Let's rephrase the question attempting to tie free will to this alternate theory of origins:

The Big Bang theory implies a radical metaphysical dependence upon energy and matter.

To which we can only reply "duh."

If the Big Bang is true, and we have a metaphysical dependence on matter and energy, that has nothing to do with whether or not we have free will.

The existence of free will has nothing to do with origins. It doesn't matter if the proposed theory of origins is the Big Bang, or Ex-nihilo Creationism, or the idea that a Turtle god barfed up the universe. (Sorry. I've been reading some odd legends lately.)

  • Very interesting, especially the part about first cause. Thank you.
    – Dougvj
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 14:14
  • 1
    I'm not sure the Big Bang is the most convincing argument. A lot of (or most) people who believe that the Big Bang is the first cause (in a deterministic universe) believe that free will is an illusion. The following article argues that free will is compatible with determinism, but I don't think this particular would be applicable to creation ex nihilo by God: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/…
    – amcnabb
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 14:47
  • 2
    @amcnabb: Not necessarily. A lot of Christians agree that the Big Bang could have happened, it just was set in motion by God, but this fact does not have any connection to the presence or absence of free will.
    – vsz
    Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 7:56
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    @vsz: These Christians believe that the Big Bang happened but not that it is the first cause.
    – amcnabb
    Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 16:05
  • The article doesn't say free will is an illusion, but rather that the idea that it's some mystical thing apart from how the brain works is an illusion. It states that free will is a result of how our brains work, which again, is separate from origins. Whether the brains evolved to allow free will, or were designed to allow it is a moot point. My assertion that the two are unrelated are strengthened in light of that article, which gives a more reasonable definition of free will... Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 18:44

When tend to think of God as merely a very powerful human who nevertheless operates within the rules of the universe we understand. He doesn't. God is outside the universe. He created it, every feature of it.

He created time, he created causality and thus set the laws of logic. To ask, what was god doing when he created time is to ask, "What time was it before time existed?"

God is not "eternal" save from our perspective inside time. He exist as he will in a single state of being. Inside of time, God exist at every instance of time. He does not see the future. He is in the future and in every moment in between. By another crude metaphor. All of existence happens at once, as a flash, for God.

He created time and space and matter just by willing it to exist. When he wills it not to it doesn't. He sat down the laws of nature and they run as he willed, until he changes the perform miracles.

By a modern analogy, God is a programer who wrote the universe as a video game. We are characters in the game. He programmed whatever attributes in to the game universe he wanted. He can start and stop the program or edit it on the fly.

As God is out of time, everything happens at once for God, even his thoughts. He thought of the universe into existence and saw it die at the same time. He speaks to Adam in the garden, Noah on his Ark, Hears the pleas of his son, and sits on the Throne of judgement all at the at once. Save the word once has no meaning to God.

Predestination and free-will are only paradoxical to those of us trapped in the flow of time. Most interpretations seem to mean that if we can't surprise God or he always knows what chooses we will make, then we don't have free will.

He created us with free will and knows every decision we will ever make because to him, we made all those decisions when he conceived of us.

Our real problem is we can't think about a being who exist wholly outside time when everything we experience and all our concepts and words assume the concept of time. As God is outside time, almost everything he does or says seem paradoxical in one way or another because causality requires time in all things.

  • Hi and welcome to the site! It's no particular reflection on your post here, but please take the time to review our site guidelines in the help centre as this site can be a bit difficult to 'get'. In particular just note that we are looking for answers supported with quotes or citation that are consistent with a particular identifiable Christian perspective (could be denominational, doctrinal etc.), if possible could you edit to fulfil that criteria? Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 10:21
  • Ah, yes, sorry I was careless. I know of cites that would support the idea of God existing a priori time, St Augustine for example, but don't have the time to dig them all up. I will simply remove the post if I have the rep and if not feel free to do so yourself.
    – TechZen
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 17:11
  • I really don't think it's necessary to remove the post - if the community disagrees, it will be either down-voted or flagged for deletion (which itself is not permanent - you can still edit and request un-deletion after resolving any issues). You can certainly leave it for now and improve it later when it's more convenient. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 17:26

Suppose a person sits down with a deck of cards, shuffles them, and then commences a game of Klondike Solitaire. In one sense, the player's rule over the cards is essentially absolute; the tableau (arrangement of cards) only exists because the player created it, and the cards have no physical ability to prevent the player from doing whatever he wants with them. On the other hand, the cards have the ability to "surprise" the player or absolutely prevent him from achieving a victory consistent with the rules of Klondike Solitaire. No solitaire police would break down the door of someone who broke the rules, but any "victory" by a player who broke the rules would, by definition, not be consistent with the rules of Klondike Solitaire.

The wills of God and Man exist in a similar balance. On a microscopic scale, humans can thwart the will of God; God generally won't like it, but is willing to accept that as a consequence of having given mankind free will. On a larger scale, however, there are generally enough people that are willing to do God's will that if someone refuses, someone else can take his place.


The phrase ex-nihilo is Latin and literally means "from nothing" and thus the doctrine of Creation Ex-Nihilo [CEN] is simply the belief held by most Evangelical protestants, and many Catholics that God created the world from nothing.
In other words, there was no starting blocks or original existing gas, or time or existing chemical elements or energy or anything. He spoke the entire universe into existence and this is soundly supported by scripture.

This has no more to do with the doctrine of free will than the virgin birth, or the deity of Christ, or trinity, or physical resurrection of Christ - all core tenets of Christianity

Calvinist Mark Hausam's paper and assertions are not only patently absurd, but by making the fallacious comparison of an Evangelical position held by the majority of Protestant Christians with a cult [Mormonism] he shows his ignorance of

  • what Creation Ex-nihilo really means,
  • the basic beliefs of Arminianism, and
  • the fundamental beliefs of Mormonism, which recognizes and relies on other 'sacred writings' in addition to the Bible, and denies the deity of Christ- 2 classic marks of a cult.


Reference & Creation ex nihilo Statement

  • Genesis 1:1 Implies a singular beginning and that God created everything in its totality.
  • Proverbs 3:19 By His wisdom God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Psalm 90:2 Only God is eternal; the created order had a distinct beginning
  • John 1:3 Jesus Christ, who shares the divine nature, identified as taking part in the work of creation
  • Romans 4:17 God calls things into existence
  • Colossians 1:16 God created all things visible and invisible
  • Acts 4:24 God is the absolute Creator of everything
  • Acts 17:28 Creation is dependent on God for its very existence
  • 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2 God existed before time, implying that He created time
  • Hebrews 11:3 An explicit statement of Creation ex nihilo
  • Revelation 4:11 Describes what creation's (humanity's) response to the Creator should be

"He [Mark Hausam] argues that Arminians, in order to believe in our having free-will, must reject the concept of ex-nihilo creation as well."
Not only is this totally false- both logically and scripturally, the overwhelming majority of non-Calvinist Protestant Christian denominations actually teach and believe creation ex-nihilo - it's clear he's very misinformed about what the majority of Protestants actually believe. [This is not surprising, when you consider that there is not a single clear scripture that proves Limited Atonement - says Christ only died for the elect, but not for the whole world.]
The plain reading of scripture when cross-referenced with other passages confirms both

  1. free will of man, [John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Acts 2:21, Rev 22:17, Joshua 24:15] and

  2. that God created the world from nothing.

Southern Baptists, Freewill Baptists, Bible Methodist, Nazarenes, most all Church of God and most all Charismatics and Pentecostals, all Holiness denominations, Wesleyan, Church of God Holiness, Christian Missionary Alliance, fundamentalists, 7th Day Adventists, and most Assembly of God, and many Evangelical Free Church of America as well as many Methodists.

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