Science vs. the Bible: The Battle over the Concept of Free Will

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The Bible says humans have free will, yet it also shows predetermination, while a flawed scientific study purports to prove that the concept of free will does not exist, while other scientists say humans act on conscious choice.

Did science really prove free will doesn’t exist?

In the irony of ironies for scientists, in the age of quantum physics, string theory, multiverses and more, science and religion are reaching agreement in many areas. In fact, both the Bible and science are split on the idea of free will versus predetermination.

Scientific American published an article in December of 2019 titled: “How a Flawed Experiment ‘Proved’ That Free Will Doesn’t Exist,” with the subtitle of “It did no such thing—but the result has become conventional wisdom nevertheless.”

In the 19th century, Darwin’s theory of evolution struck a blow to religious beliefs that God created everything in the universe. In the late 19 century, T.H. Huxley said humans were “conscious automata” without free will.

“Volitions do not enter into the chain of causation,” Huxley explained in 1874. “The feeling that we call volition is not the cause of a voluntary act, but the symbol of that state of the brain which is the immediate cause.”

In other words, free will is all an illusion. Our sense that the decisions we make our choices is only an awareness of her decision that the brain has already made for us.

Huxley’s view has become a commonplace materialist view among modern scientists.

A 1980 study by Benjamin Libet seem to show that our brains “register” a decision to make a movement before the person consciously decides to move.

However, other scientists say the experiment was flawed. Steve Taylor, author of Spiritual Science, says within the materialistic viewpoint of our world and science, it’s possible that the assumptions about free will are false.

He says there is a logical inclination to assume that “our sense of self is an illusion, and that consciousness and mental activity are reducible to neurological activity.”

The religious viewpoint on free will

All of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) believe that human beings have free will. Humans have a free choice in believing in God and making conscious decisions whether to live righteously or sin.

God did not want to create human beings as an automaton that acted according to His will. Love and worship of God had to be a free choice of each human being. In other words, a robot programmed to love God isn’t true love. The choice to love God had to be real and sincere. This can only occur with free will.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1 that God made mankind good and sinless. However, in Genesis 2, mankind is tempted by Satan and, through free will, chooses to sin. At this juncture, mankind’s eyes were open to good and evil, and humans now had the knowledge to do either one.

Different religious viewpoints of free will

Here are four different viewpoints that attempt to explain free will from a religious perspective.

Libertarian viewpoint

One viewpoint is called a “libertarian view” of free well, Ligionier reports. In this view, human beings have “the ability to make spontaneous choices contrary to our dispositions and inclinations.” Human will is completely neutral and humans are always able to choose good or evil. Two problems exist with this definition of free will.

1. If definitions are spontaneous, there is no reason or motivation behind the choice. This contradicts the Bible’s teachings that God takes human motivation into account in rendering judgment.

2. If human will is neutral, why would a human make a decision at all?

Calvinism view of free will

Under Calvinism, free will for humans is extremely limited because of God’s sovereignty. God has the ability to reject human free will. Critics of this view say that, at extremes, it completely rejects all human free will.

Arminianism view of free will

Under Arminianism, which is a liberal reaction to Calvinist doctrine, it believes God’s sovereignty in human free will is limited. Critics of this view say that, at extremes, it implies God does not have knowledge of future events, which contrasts other biblical teachings that God is omnipresent and omniscient.

The extra-dimensionality viewpoint

Just as science has looked to extra dimensions to explain developments in physics, religion has also looked at extra dimensions as a way of explaining human free will.

This viewpoint works on the theory that God is extra-dimensional, existing in a fourth, and perhaps even multiple, dimensions. This would place God outside of the boundaries of time that humans are trapped in within their three dimensions. In this way, God could remain in control and still allow free will.

In this scenario, God can see every event that occurs throughout a person’s life, as well as the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual conditions as well. God would be able to prescribe the exact conditions to generate the response of our will at any given moment that fits into his plan.

A biblical view on a mixture of free will and predetermination

Another viewpoint is called the “election viewpoint.” This theory posits a mix of free will and predetermination. The election viewpoint states that God has chosen “the elect” as those who will be saved.

There are some biblical verses to back up this idea.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”

– Ephesians 1:4-5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

– Jeremiah 1:5

These verses speak to the foreknowledge of God and, at least a mixture of, pre-destiny. It is God’s will that chooses prophets. It is God who speaks through prophets. Therefore, it cannot all be a matter of human will.