My Question: Election vs free will

Hi everyone,

I have been in discussions about election vs. free will. I am having a hard time understanding how God can be love when he predetermines people will go to hell. Does His choosing us vs us choosing him mean the doctrine of election is the only possibility? Why would I pray for anyone if He already determined who He saved?


@Maureen_Miletics Good question :slight_smile: There are a lot of things to unpack there - both the issue of free will and the issue of Hell. I’ve included resources on both below.

There is plenty of room in Scripture to believe that God gives us a choice and we respond rather than our choice being predetermined. For example, why are all of the covenants conditional in the Bible if God has predetermined our response? That seems silly. Of course, there are answers for that within a Calvinistic framework, but my point is that free will is a perfectly logical conclusion from Scripture.

People can argue back and forth all day over whether making a choice constitutes a ‘work’ and whether or not choosing God somehow reduces the glory He receives (I find this a very strange argument anyways - I do not think our choosing God reduces His glory…). But I can say with confidence that there is room in Scripture for both views, so we should love and respect one another even if we disagree. Also, you should feel free to explore free will in Scripture and the arguments for it :slight_smile:

Both groups base their beliefs on Scripture and they both claim their view promotes the holiness of man and glory of God. For example:

  • an Arminian may say that if ‘once saved, always saved’ is true people will just go around sinning because they don’t need to worry about their salvation. Of course the Calvinist counters that if they were truly saved they would not behave that way.
  • a Calvinist may argue that if a person can lose their salvation that implies they were saved by their own effort in the first place - lessening God’s glory and grace. The Arminian of course replies that accepting a free gift from God does not lessen His glory or grace in any way.
  • an Arminian may argue that if ‘once saved always saved is true’ that means some people were born destined for hell with no chance to be saved. And that would be cruel - like God creating a bird with no wings. The Calvinist would respond that what God does is always good and just and if His glory were our main concern we could accept His will.
  • they both claim Scriptural support

Romans 9

This passage does not actually suggest individual predestination in my opinion and in William Lane Craig’s opinion.

Paul’s burden, then, in Romans 9 is not to narrow the scope of God’s election but to broaden it. He wants to take in all who have faith in Christ Jesus regardless of their ethnicity. Election, then, is first and foremost a corporate notion: God has chosen for Himself a people, a corporate entity, and it is up to us by our response of faith whether or not we choose to be members of that corporate group destined to salvation.

Book Study

The Issue of Hell

The three views of how God handles sin ultimately are:

  1. Eternal torment - some form of eternal suffering or separation from God
  2. Conditionalism - those who reject God are judged and then cease to exist
  3. Universalism - sin is real, but all people will eventually be brought to repentance

Hello Maureen!

You have posed an interesting question and one which I believed is talked about immensely; the understanding between the relationship between free will and election, especially in light of the concept of love, as you have mentioned. A lot could be addressed on this but let me give you a philosophical analysis that will help reach to the heart of the issue and I hope provide some clarity.

As the foundation of this discussion, we need to understand one very important point: “knowledge” IS NOT causal. The ability to know something does not have the subsequent ability to cause something else. For example: I know that my wife will do X (whatever that is). Me simply knowing that my wife will do X cannot force, coerce, or tempt her to do X; that is, “cause” her to do it. The implication of knowledge not being causal extends to the fact that just because God knows it does not mean that he “causes” it.

So, by another example, if God knows everyone who will choose to accept or reject him, he knows this not by him causing them to choose or reject him, but rather knowing that they will “cause” themselves to choose to accept or reject him, prior to the foundations of the world. God does not predetermine anyone to go to Hell, they predetermine themselves to a life with or without God.

If you need me to clarify anything or have additional questions please feel free to ask! I think once we understand this foundation the rest of your concerns dissipate, leaving both love, justice, and free will intact. God Bless!


Choice determines an allowable outcome. Are we predestined because of our choices? Right from the Beginning, He gave us the freedom of choice as seen in the Book of Genesis. He could have left the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil out of the Garden and sin would not have entered into the world. Instead, He allowed the tree and giving them a choice to obey or not, which allowed sin to enter their lives and ours. Being God , yes, He knew what would happen and how we would choose. But, out of Love, provided a Savior and Redeemer for those choosing Christ Jesus. We make choices everyday. With the help of the Holy Spirit, May we make the right ones leading to Christ. God is Good to All. Fred Proch


Thank you for your help with this!

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Hi Maureen. I have struggled long and hard over questions like the one you raise. And i have found a sense of peace regarding some answers, which may not be a guarantee of correctness, but it sure helps live with the uncertainty,

Suppose the purpose of God in creation is to develop a family of eternally intimate children who will learn to “walk by faith”, in this life. But for faith to exist, the possibility of not having “faith” (in the Biblical sense) must be very real and available.

And suppose His nature is perfect love, (which we can know from His Book); that is what He wants to develop in us, and it requires the ability to freely choose to return His love for us, or reject it.

Suppose He has perfect knowledge, in advance, of every decision that every person will make in their entire lives. Then He knows who will choose, in the end of their life, to be with Him forever, or not. Yet, though He knows who will respond to His love and who will reject His love, ultimately, we don’t.

Suppose He loves every person He creates and wants them to be with Him for eternity, but not if He has to “force” them – He will give the final choice to each person whether or not they come to want Him more than anything else in the world, just as He loves them more than anything else in the world.

So then, with His inspiration and guidance and empowerment, we can either submit to His drawing us to Himself, or continue to resist Him until death. And, though He loves us all equally, because that is His nature, He will grant unending Life (connected to Him) to only those who really want it, and will grant to others complete separation, in the end, from the only real Source of Life, Christ.

Thus, “free will” and “predestination” are both true. But we don’t fully experience predestination in our lives, since we don’t have all knowledge (like He does), and so we only experience “free will”. When we are fully “saved” we will know that it was only His grace and mercy that rescued us from our self-obsession and tendency toward self-destruction.

“The lost” will be treated with the utmost fairness, in terms of punishment, since they reject the forgiveness and mercy in Christ, given freely. And they will then be “banished” with compassion, even as Jesus wept over the Jerusalem He knew would soon have to be destroyed for their rejection of their Messiah.

Within these ideas is a peace that is beyond my previous understanding. Hope it somehow helps.


This is how I would like to believe it and I love how you state it. Thank you.

You’re welcome. I can believe that you also find peace in this conception, since it glorifies God, both in His provision for His eternal kids, and in His grace-full treatment of His opponents. He commands us to love our enemies, and take care of them – can He do anything less with His?

@Maureen_Miletics, I’ve also struggle with reconciling the love of God with the idea that He predestines people to hell. Either there’s something I don’t understand, or the law of non-contradiction says that one of these concepts in untrue. I haven’t found solid evidence in Scripture for the doctrine that God predestines people to hell. I think most of the verses used to support this doctrine mean something else when examined in context. @SeanO, is there a topic on Connect that explores these verses?


@Jennifer_Wilkinson This thread should help :slight_smile: I really like the movie “Hell and Mr. Fudge” - it’s on Amazon Prime. It discusses in an engaging way the emotional struggle the eternal punishment view creates and the Biblical arguments for an annihilationist perspective.


Thanks, @SeanO! I look into the resources you shared on that link. It’s a topic I haven’t studied much.

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Hi Maureen, that’s a great question and one that’s been debated for centuries. Have you considered the Molinist answer to this question? While Molinism (mole-lynn-ism) isn’t a doctrine of salvation, I think it may provide a decent solution here based on middle knowledge.

Middle knowledge is God’s knowledge of what a person would freely choose to do in any given circumstance. That means, for example, God knows what you would have done if you were a member of the Sanhedrin or if you were the President of the United States.

So, on Molinism God uses this knowledge to order the world in such a way that his will is accomplished and then he creates that world. Specifically addressing the question of salvation, this would say that God aligns all events to make sure all people who would freely choose to enter into a saving relationship with Him through Jesus hear the good news in a context where the people do so.

If this is correct, and I think there’s good reason to think it is, it really highlights the greatness of God! God uses his knowledge of our free choices to make sure that everyone who wants to be redeemed is redeemed, wow!

One of the most visible proponents of Molinism and middle knowledge is William Lane Craig and he has a lot of resources on his website, like this article.


To all who answered here. THANK YOU. This is a doozy of a topic, and you’ve equated the community well in presenting thoughtful answers. This is a topic I’ve wrestled with myself, and this is going to be a fantastic reference.


@Maureen_Miletics, what would be your main reasons for thinking that God predetermines people to go to hell? Are they philosophical, or are they based on certain Bible verses? I enjoy both philosophical and Biblical discussions, and I want to make sure we answer your real questions.

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Clay Jones deals with this question in his Book Why Does God Allow Evil? It is a good quick read.

One of the main objections I come across regarding Election vs Free Will is: If God is love why would he condemn people to hell that never had a chance to hear about him or didnt choose him?

The answer is two fold I think.

First in Romans 1:18-32 Paul lays out that people suppress the truth of God even though they can look out the door or window and can witness his divine nature and attributes. This passage says they are “Without Excuse” So if People are without excuse it means they wouldnt choose God.

Secondly, since God is spaceless, timeless, immaterial and created the fabric of reality he is able to view and know all time at all times, frankly this blows my mind as it is hard to wrap my mind around that kind of power, however since God alone has this ability he is able to know those who will choose him and since he knows this he ensures that the invitation will reach those willing to accept him. Once the invitation is made it is up to us to use our free will to accept it.

To illustrate this : I didnt send the Queen of England an invitation to my birthday party this year. The reason for this is I know that the Queen would have no interest in coming to the party. In the same way God knows the people that would welcome an invitation to his family and he makes sure they get it.

This is one of those doctrines that is very hard to fully understand, and I think it is by design scripture tells us that Gods ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. As a result faith bridges this for us because I know free will is real, and I know that God has elected us that are called.

Hope this helps
Your Brother in Christ

This topic ties in well with another topic i have recently opened, “Conditioned immortality resurrected?” Hopefully it will present a viewpoint to see the ultimate way that election and free will can both work out in a completely fair (/just) and merciful way.

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I would say from a biblical perspective

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Are there specific Bible verses that you have in mind?

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Yes, I should have said that. Romans 8:33 and Ephesians 1:4. And I have listened to John MacArthur preach on this.

What if, as another topic suggests, eternal existence is coinditioned on receiving a connection with the Source of unending Life, Christ Jesus? Then there would be no predestination to everlasting torment/torture for the lost, only a fair/just punishment followed by a permenent removal of Life-force.

Then God no longer would be seen as pre-deciding to torture anyone forever, before the Creation, but instead, He pre-determined that every one of His potential children have the opportunity to reject or accept His love and passionate care, with which He humbly/gently draws them toward union with Himself, but if they persist in rejecting His advances until death, He honors their final choice to be judged and to end their lives permanently. And He treats them with fairness and compassion if they do not want Him.

So our Heavenly Father/Dad would be seen to be patient, kind, not envious, not rude or arrogant, not insisting on His own Way, not irritable or resentful, not rejoicing in wrong doing but in Truth that sets us free from death forever. Sounds a lot like Love, doesn’t it…

And what if there are Divine tears in His eyes as He withdraws the final life from those who reject Him in the End, just as Jesus wept over the Jerusalem He knew would have to soon be destroyed for rejecting their Messiah? Terminal compassion, compassionate termination, like we would show to a rabid dog, even if it were our favorite fur–friend, who had become a deadly danger to others.

Thus, God would be just/fair, and the justifier, of both those who come to choose to be in His presence eternally, and also of those who choose total separation from His Life. And His Plan provided ultimate freedom to each person to choose their destiny. He entreats us to choose His Life, not a righteous Judgement followed by “a mercy destruction”.

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