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What Does the Bible Say About..Sin and Free Will?

This question came up in a discussion a few days ago and I have not been able to come up with a satisfactory solution. If God is all-knowing, wholly good, and is responsible for creating each human being, then why does he create people that he knows will not end up being saved? It would seem cruel for God to create people who he knows will end up condemned. Therefore, God must either not be omniscient, not be intimately involved in the creation of new life, or not be completely good. I can't accept any of these alternatives, however, and am left back at square one. Thanks for any insights you might have about this predicament.


This sounds like one of those questions raised by people who try to disprove the Bible by faulty logic, similar to "can an all powerful God create a rock so big he can not pick it up?" Since you took the time to ask, though, I will assume you ask honestly, and give you the best answer I can.

I would argue with the initial premise, and one of the conclusions you reject. God is responsible for creating humanity, but I am not sure that the Bible teaches that he is "responsible for creating each human being." He created man in his image, which may include man's ability to choose to do good. In giving man a free will, God chose to limit his own power to control man. God created the first man and woman, and provided reproductive capability. Whenever each human is born it is as a result of a process established by God in creation, but not necessarily (maybe not ever) the direct result of God's intervention in that process. In other words, the second of the options you say you can not accept may be the one you should. Unless you can show me in scripture that God creates each human separately, that remains a valid option. I can not find any scriptures to say that he creates each person separately. Instead, I find in Genesis 2:2 that God finished creating and rested. He is still resting from that creation and does not create new things, including specific humans.

Does God want anyone to be lost? Certainly not! "The Lord is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) However, he is limited by his goodness and purity, and by his love and justice. Because of his purity he can not have sinful man in his presence. Because of his goodness he has provided a sacrifice to take away sin. Because of his justice he must punish sinners who don't take advantage of that sacrifice. And because of his love he can not set aside that justice and save everyone whether they obey him or not. That would be unloving to those who follow his will.

If you take out the option of free will, as Calvin does, then you do indeed have a problem. If God has determined the life of each person before they are born, and arbitrarily decides who will be saved and who will not, then it is indeed a difficulty. One of the problems I have always had with Calvinist (Presbyterian, Baptist, and others) doctrine is that, like Islam, it presents a God that is arbitrary and unjust. How could a just God preordain that a man can not choose to follow him even if he were to want to? If we have no free will then we would be better off to be the product of atheistic evolution than of a manipulative god.

Thank you so much for your response. As you correctly assumed, I was not out to try to disprove Christianity, but rather came across a problem that I was having trouble with. I suppose I was having difficulty with how God could be creator without having direct responsibility for every person born. Your answer, however, that God created the system by which people are brought to life, and that this system runs (possibly) without intervention, seems to answer this problem (at least to my satisfaction). It also leaves open the possibility that God can influence the process as well (as he certainly did with the birth of Jesus). Of course the question remains as to why God would make a system which would create some bad people. I suppose it is not God's responsibility for bringing into the world a child that might end up being bad, however, since the decision to have such a child was made by humans, not by God. I strongly agree with you about Calvinism. Faith and faithful living mean nothing if they are preordained. Free-will is necessary for salvation to have meaning, as far as I'm concerned. Also, what would the point of preaching the gospel be if the lines are already drawn? As you pointed out, it would certainly be devious if not malicious of God to set people up for failure. I would be interested to know, however, what you think of passages like Romans 8:29-30 and 9:11-18, since these do seem to support the Calvinist position. Thanks again for your prompt and thoughtful response, and I really appreciate the service that you offer.

God didn't make a system which would create some bad people; God made a system that creates good people. When a person is born, they are born without sin. It is the choice of each individual as he grows and learns whether to obey or disobey. Adam chose to disobey, and brought sin into the world. Jesus became the sacrifice for that sin. That is a summary of what Paul says in Romans 5:12-21.

Concerning the passage in Romans 8:29-30, the general view of those who believe in free will is that Paul is not talking about individuals here, but about the church. That is, God foreknew and foreordained that the righteous would be so through a system of faith. Those who choose to obey God put themselves into that foreordained group. Those who choose to disobey place themselves outside that group.

The passage in chapter 9 (the whole chapter, not the portion of a sentence to which you refer) actually lends credence to that interpretation. He is saying that the Jews were selected as God's chosen people for a purpose. He did not choose individual Jews (although he, through his knowledge of what was going to be, said that Jacob would be the greater), but the nation as a whole. If so, then the passage in chapter 8 that leads up to this discussion is probably also about choosing a people, not a person.