Does Forgiveness Make Sense without the Concept of Free Will?

We are all connected and so one person’s actions are not necessarily independent from others’ actions.  Is this true?  Some Eastern philosophies say this.  Some Western psychologies say this, too.  For example, family systems theory surmises that a misbehaving child likely is being influenced by pressures within the family generated by others’ behavior both inside and outside that family.  Psychodynamic theories in psychology say that an adult’s actions can have causes going back to how he or she was treated as a child.

Given all of the interrelated ideas above about our being interrelated in our actions, we can then make at least two moves in explaining people’s behavior: 1) no one can truly help certain actions because of others’ influences over us or 2) we all have free will and choose to act rightly or wrongly even if others’ make it hard to be good.

If we take the first turn on our journey of understanding persons, then we weaken such ideas as “right and wrong,” “justice,” and “forgiveness.”  After all, how can we say that one person acted wrongly? if we are all so interconnected, then this person is not acting with any kind of genuine volition.  In a certain way, his misbehavior can implicate his father, who can implicate his mother, who can implicate……..On it goes until we all share the blame which weakens the case against the original person and his actions under consideration.

If we take the second turn on our journey of understanding persons,  then we strengthen such ideas as  “right and wrong,” “justice,” and “forgiveness.”  After all, the person, even though pressed in on all sides by others, has choices.  One need not, for example, hit another person because of frustration. One’s mother has not so abused this person that she was left with one and only one option.  Yes, the mother’s misbehavior (whatever it was) may make it difficult for the daughter to control her temper, but control it to a degree she can.

Free will.  Independent choices.  Break the laws of morality (you will not take the life of an innocent person, for example), and you do wrong.  If the wrong is done to me, I can forgive.  If the other does not have free will, then an apparent wrong is just that—-apparent.  Do I then forgive a person for a wrong?  The conclusion is no longer clear.  We will have to re-define forgiveness in this case to keep the word.  Forgiveness becomes a kind of acceptance of all along with their actions, no matter how wrong they might appear to be.  We still retain such words as “compassion” and “understanding,” but the word forgiveness itself begins to fade.


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Categories: Our Forgiveness Blog, Uncategorized, What Forgiveness is


  1. Chris says:

    I choose not to have free will. Whoops, I guess even that choice shows that I have free will! The new game of the materialist philosophers is to deny free will so that they can deny sin so that they can deny the existence of God so that they can do as they please. How ironic! They go though all of these philosophical twists and turns of denying free will for one reason and one reason only: so they can *choose* to do whatever they wish.

  2. Samantha says:

    I have to admit that I am somewhat concerned about the “dumbing down” of education in the past 40 years. People are no longer taught to think. The new neuroscience will be misunderstood, even by its users and proponents this way: they will think that their science is the only way to know. Everything is on a material/biological basis, they will claim, because they are studying material phenomena. Studying material phenomena does not mean that everything, then, can be reduced to this. Yet I predict that they will persist and claim that the brain makes us do what we want to do. The mind telling the brain what to do will seem silly to them. And so, if our brain is controlling us then we have no free will. Presto! Free will vanished from the mind—-yes, the mind—-of those who study the brain.

  3. Neva says:

    How many civilizations throughout history have had a document belief that free will does not exist? None that I know of. Calvin might have made a dent in the view that free will does not exist, but that idea has been largely discredited and has faded through time. If the idea of free will has dominated most cultures, then are these cultures stupid? The modern academic views that dismiss free will probably think this way. Ya gotta love the academics!

  4. Opel says:

    Academics play tricks on themselves. In their quest to make themselves a god, they deny God. When they deny God, they must deny sin. When they deny sin, they must deny that we can choose to sin. When they deny that we can choose to sin, they deny free will. When they deny free will, they deny their own ability to choose. When they deny their own ability to choose, they deny that they can choose materialism over free will as an explanation of our behavior. They self-defeat. Academics can be absurd reasoners.

  5. Robin Christoph says:

    Opel, you hit the head of the academics right on the nail. If no one can help their behavior, then they cannot be condemned for it. What a way to go. “I couldn’t help it because my brain made me do it.” Nonsense. Here is an example of the nonsense. When a man batters a woman he had many other choices than that. No, his brain did not make him do that. He did it and he is responsible. The addle-headed academics are taking away personal responsibility as they so proudly bring out their new and absurd theories.


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