The Christian Perspective

Ezekiel 33:11 states, "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'"

I do not see this as necessitating autonomous human free-will. Instead, I actually see it as requiring the opposite.


The supposed argument in favor of free-will from this passage seems to follow these general lines...

1. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.
2. Therefore God does not cause people to be wicked.
3. However, people are wicked.
4. Therefore, we have free-will.

From my perspective, the problem with this reasoning is the step from (1) to (2). I don't see how (2) is necessitated by (1). It may seem like a reasonable conclusion, but surely it isn't necessitated. I would instead suggest that apparently, not everything that God causes to happen gives him "pleasure" or "delight" (חָפֵץ), as some translations render it. But that in no way means He did not cause those things. It just means He receives no pleasure or delight in them.

We know that God repeatedly causes the death of the wicked, because the Bible is full of explicit examples of such behavior on His part (Genesis 6:17; 1 Samuel 2:25; Acts 5:4-5; etc). Obviously, God causes many things He takes no pleasure in. If He never caused anything He had no pleasure in, He would never cause the deaths of the wicked. Instead, He would cause the wicked to live forever (since He takes no pleasure in their deaths), or until they repented (since He apparently takes pleasure in that). God is in complete control of when we die, so this would be no problem for Him (Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 139:16; Acts 17:25; 1 Timothy 6:13; 1 Samuel 2:6).

Since we know from scripture that God causes things He takes no pleasure in, like the death of the wicked, there doesn't seem, from my perspective, to be anything in this passage that can be used to claim that God does not also cause the wickedness-of-the-wicked. Note that the passage doesn't even say that God takes no pleasure in the wickedness-of-the-wicked. As far as this particular passage is concerned, it's entirely possible that God does take pleasure in the wickedness-of-the-wicked.

I'm convinced He does not, but this passage doesn't actually say He doesn't.

Since whether or not the-wickedness-of-the-wicked is something that gives God pleasure is not actually in view in this passage, and since the only thing in this passage that God does not take pleasure in is something that we know from scripture that God causes repeatedly, I definitely fail to see how this passage claims that God does not cause the wickedness-of-the-wicked, and that therefore we have autonomous free-will.


Not only does Ezekiel 33:11 not seem to be arguing for human free-will, it seems to be arguing against such a thing.

First, the passage states that in God's view, at least some people are wicked. This is a judgment of their hearts or their behavior. In order for God to justly judge their hearts or behavior as being wicked, their hearts and behavior must be within the realm of His authority. But if they are not part of His creation, it is difficult to see how they could be under His authority. If, instead of God being the uncaused-first-cause of human desires and behavior, someone or something else is the uncaused-first-cause, then that other thing is sovereign over our thoughts and behavior, not God. When God then calls it "wicked", He is acting as nothing more than an usurper, condemning another God's creation.

But what justifies one God's condemnation of another God's creation? Why would the God who calls our behavior "bad" be right, rather than the God who caused our behavior in the first place? How can condemning our behavior be acceptable if our behavior is not under His authority? And how can it be under His authority if it is not part of His created domain, but rather part of someone else's created domain?

And who is this other uncaused-first-cause, that causes our wicked behavior? According to the Bible, there is only one God (Isaiah 46:9-11; Isaiah 44:6; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). The scriptures don't seem to leave any room for another uncaused-first-cause.

So, by stating that God condemns the behavior as wicked, the passage thereby indicates that the behavior is within God's created realm.

Secondly, if the person is wicked, this seems to mean that they have wicked desires or act in wicked ways. But if the person, created by God, acts in a wicked way, his wicked behavior is caused by he himself, but he himself is caused by our God who knows the future perfectly. The idea that God created a man knowing that if He created the man, the man would do evil, places the cause of the doing of evil ultimately at God's feet.

If He didn't create them, they wouldn't be wicked. If He did create them, they would. He knew all of this, and chose to create them.

So, by indicating that people, who are caused by God, are wicked, the passage indicates that ultimately God caused the wickedness of the people.

Thirdly, if anything occurs that is not caused by God, then God is not rationally justified in holding to universal, invariant noncontradiction. Whatever caused this behavior may not hold to noncontradiction and may not behave in a noncontradictory way. Just because God wants it to be noncontradictory, that doesn't mean it will be -- God isn't in charge of it. If God doesn't have rational justification for holding to noncontradiction, then we sure don't, and all of a sudden "meaning" vanishes. Nothing can have meaning any longer, not a single thought, observation, word, or anything else, because it may mean the exact negation of what it means.

What exactly is a square-circle? Or a married bachelor? If there are square-circles, what exactly is a circle? It loses all definition when contradictions can be viable statements of truth. Everything does.

So, by conveying meaning to us, the passage mandates that all events are caused by God, including wicked behavior.

Having said all of that, wickedness is condemned by God, but all of us have done wickedly, you and I included (Romans 3:23; Psalm 14:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20). And the penalty for wicked behavior is death (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4; Hebrews 9:22). Fortunately for us, Jesus has offered us forgiveness for our wicked behavior (Matthew 9:6; Acts 26:18; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24). He suffered and died in our place (1 Peter 3:18; John 11:49-52; Romans 3:25-26, 4:24-25), rising from the dead of His own power (John 2:19-22, 10:17), thereby demonstrating that He has power over death, which is the penalty of our sins, and can actually make good on His claim to be able to forgive us. He has offered us this forgiveness if we trust in Him (John 3:16-18, 11:25-26; Galatians 3:22; Acts 13:38-39).