Free Will, or Ultimatum?


In my discussions with theists, I often get the argument that we enjoy free will for obeying God or not.
God desires us to “choose” to love and obey him, while in reality, it is a command.

To Adam he said “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17).
Also Jesus said that the first commandment was that “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”
(For a comparative, )

To say there is free will here is clearly a definition fallacy! 

“Do or die” is not a choice!

Again, death is a punishment and consequence of disobeying — not a choice.

A “choice” must have an alternative — and clearly, God is not giving anyone an alternative.
It’s one way, or death.

It’s not this apple or that apple, but this apple or die!

In plain and correct english, we call this an “ultimatum”.
Certainly not a choice by any stretch of the imagination.

I do not know how one can dispute this in earnest.

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6 thoughts on “Free Will, or Ultimatum?

  1. I would offer that this springs from a particular interpretation of the text, such as the ones you cited, BUT that we need not presume that this interpretation is the One Right Interpretation.

    It seems to me that much of your disagreement is with one branch of Religiosity (the My Way or the Highway branch that is found in many religions and philosophies), but not every Christian believer interprets the Bible in this manner.

    In my way of thinking/reading the Bible, we are offered with some rational options and ideas.

    We are all prone to make mistakes – to err really IS human.

    We all have free will – the ability to choose to do good, or cause harm (in our lives or the lives of others) or to opt to do nothing, even. We have the ability and free will to say, “I’d like to walk in Good Ways – in a life of love, peace and grace,” or “I’d like to opt out of doing anything good, kind or extending grace to anyone else…”

    God’s way is the way of Grace, kindness, goodness, love and forgiveness. In THAT way is salvation (whether here on earth – in whatever flawed and imperfect salvation that may be – or additionally, in a more everlasting sense). We can choose to embrace that way or not. If we choose to NOT embrace the way of Grace, then we have the other Way…

    Hell’s way is the Way of NO grace, no love, forgiveness or kindness. We are free to choose that way, but we are creating a hell for ourselves and those around us as we do so (whether that is only here on earth or in some more everlasting way).

    So, getting to your quote from Jesus, here’s what it says in context…

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

    And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.

    The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    So, we don’t have Jesus saying we MUST do this or die, but saying (if I may summarize), “These teachings are the greatest: Love God and Love Everyone else… All good teachings spring from these two ideas…”

    And indeed, who could argue against this?

    One man’s opinion.


    • Thank you for this comment in depth. I see your perspective.
      I also see some loose ends I would like to comment on. It’s just that I have this huge deadline to honor.
      So please accept my apology for not answering just now. I promise to come back on this.
      Thanks again!

      • No problem. At your leisure. If I may offer one illustration in the meantime that might touch on some “loose ends…”

        CS Lewis was a fairly traditional/conservative sort of Christian and a brilliant thinker. I’m sure you recognize his name as the author of the Chronicles of Narnia book series and perhaps some of his other, more serious treatises on Christianity (“Mere Christianity” is a very helpful, thoughtful book, in my opinion, about exploring the purely rational reasons why Christianity makes sense).

        In one of the Narnia books, Lewis offers the story of Aslan (the “God” representative in the story) and Tash (a “false god” in the story). Tash had many followers including a soldier in the army of a nation that worshiped Tash.

        At the end of the book, it becomes clear to all that Aslan is the True God (so to speak) and there is a “judgment day” of sorts. Sorting out whether people would go with Aslan into joy and Grace or depart from that joy and Grace. Many people, because their allegiance was to Tash, choose to NOT embrace Aslan, even when it seems clear Who Aslan is. Aslan does not stop them from rejecting him.

        But one soldier of Tash is asked by Aslan to join him. The soldier fell on his face and said he couldn’t, he was a follower of Tash and there is no way that Aslan could accept him.

        Aslan says to the soldier, “Throughout your life, you have strived to do good and the right, and to stand for Truth for your god, Tash. But the things that are Good, and Right and True, ARE of ME and my way. There is not “Tash’s Truth” and “Aslan’s Truth,” there is only Truth. And so, what you did, thinking it was for Tash, was actually for Truth, and so, for Me.”

        Or words to that effect.

        I like that story and find it fairly faithful to the message of the Bible. There isn’t “pagan Truth” and God’s Truth and Allah’s Truth… there is only Truth, and Truth is of God. So those who embrace Truth (or Good, or Love and Grace) ARE embracing God and Jesus’ way, whether they name that or not.

        It’s not about naming “The Christian God” as your leader and, failing to name that name means God punishes you for an eternity in a burning pit, but about accepting a salvation by Grace, by Love, by forgiveness and Truth, because any other way is a way of Hellishness.

        This is the Way of God, as taught by Jesus in the Bible, seems to me.

        Just an extra consideration.

      • I will expound — but let me tell you, nothing cheers me up more than correcting my perspective when it’s wrong! Nothing… I see the flaws of my reasoning, and also some good points — but your argument is strong in my opinion.

        Just trying to understand… and voicing opinion is a good way to start!

        Thank you… will get back either tonight or tomorrow, because there is a lot here, and I already know I will have to add a corrective addendum to this article.

  2. As with all law, even God’s law, the human being is free to choose to follow the law or not.

    Even though a law be a command of God, man or universe, the human being is still free to follow it or not.

    • If you assert that freedom has such limits, then you are right. But then is that freedom?
      We may indeed have choice, but certainly not FREE choice, which is the whole basis of my argument.

      When you MUST obey any law from man or God, then it’s a perversion of semantics to call it “free will or free choice”.
      Freedom is not in the equation here.

      That is my point.

      As for Universal Laws, they are not commandments nor orders to obey, they just impose natural limitations.
      Using the scientific meaning of “Law” here is misleading and a red herring.

      Here’s an example of choice:
      You have legally NO Freedom of CHOICE to over-drink and drive.
      But on a personal level, you do have free will:
      — you can choose not to drink.
      — You can choose to drink responsibly
      — You can choose to get drunk

      The latter will have dire ‘consequences’, maybe death for you, or worse, for others. DUI fines and prison at best.

      The two first are wiser choices — and legal.
      But importantly, they do offer FREE choice. Here, the law does give alternatives to drinking. The latter is not a free choice — it’s a choice that comes with dire consequences. That’s why the Law does not offer it up as an option.

      Does that clear up my article?

      Obey God or die with no other choice is clearly an ultimatum. Not free will.

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