There Be Free Will in Heaven?
by Darcy West
reprinted by permission
When asked about the problem of suffering in this world, and why an omnipotent,
omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnieverything God would stand by and do nothing
in the face of so much human misery, Christians often use the phrase "free
will" as a sort of catchall justification for their god's foibles. The
Christians I have spoken with have informed me that one of the most wonderful
gifts God gave humankind (apart from the gift of his son) is the gift
of free will. They go on to say that without the ability to choose between
good and evil or to choose whether or not we wish to love him, we would
be nothing but robots. With the exception of the Calvinist sect, all Christians
I have spoken with seem to agree that God does not want robots because
robots are not capable of genuine love. God, the Christians tell me, wants
people to love him because they choose to love him not because they are
programmed to do so.
The problem I have with this view is that it begs
the question as to whether or not there will be free will in heaven. When
asked about this, I have noticed that Christians are divided.
On the yes side of those saying there will be free
will in heaven, almost all say that even though there will be free will,
there will not be any sin. I don't see how this is possible. If free will
means the ability to choose between good and evil and/or the ability to
choose whether or not to love God, how is it that no one can sin? I have
received a WIDE variety of answers to this question. The favorite seems
to be that it will be impossible to sin because there will no longer be
any evil since Satan will, at long last, be out of the picture. This solution
to the problem, however, does not add up. If Satan's presence is needed
for there to be sin, then who made Satan/Lucifer sin? Furthermore, if
it is only the presence of Satan that causes people to sin, then why didn't
God, who is allegedly all-knowing and all-powerful, simply destroy Satan
before creating Adam and Eve?
I have heard many Christians say that the reason
there will be no sin in heaven is because sin is limited to the flesh.
They say that we can't sin unless we are in the flesh. This response,
obviously, is easily seen as incorrect since most of the people making
this claim also believe Satan/Lucifer was not flesh, and yet, he sinned
or chose to rebel against God.
It seems to me that if one admits to a belief that
there will be free will in heaven, one must also believe that there is
no such thing as the oft quoted doctrine of "once saved, always saved"
or "eternal security" since free will would imply that even in heaven,
people would have the choice whether to "sin" or "not sin" or whether
to continue to love God and to wish to be in his presence or to decide
that they do not find God lovable or worthy or good and wish to depart
from his presence. Without the ability to choose whether or not one loves
God, there really isn't free will.
On the other side are those Christians who come
right out and say they do not believe there will be free will in heaven,
since there will no longer be "a need" for free will. Since most Christians
not only agree but frequently emphasize (when it suits their particular
argument) that without free will, we'd only be robots, then such a stance
would cause one to wonder why God does not want robots in this life but
he does want robots for all eternity.
I have heard many Christians say that the reason
there will not be sin in heaven will be because God will have perfected
them, i.e. they will no longer have a sin nature. This response has caused
me to ask Christians whether or not Adam was created with a sin nature.
Most Christians to whom I have posed this question reply that no, Adam
was not created with a sin nature, but that he was created perfect.
If Adam was not created with a sin nature, and
yet he sinned, then we know that people who do not have sin natures CAN
sin, and therefore, not having a sin nature in heaven will not be insurance
against sinning and "losing one's salvation". If, on the other hand, one
posits that Adam WAS created with a sin nature, then one would have to
question the wisdom, worthiness, and goodness of a God who creates people
with sin natures and then gets mad at them for having what he gave them.
To me, this would be like punching someone in the face and then being
irate and punching them again when you saw that you had given them a black
And one final thought, if it is true that God is
capable of creating people who have free will but who do not have the
ability to sin, as many Christians claim, then why wouldn't he have simply
done this to begin with? If, on the other hand, one believes that this
IS what God did when he created the Garden of Eden (i.e. if God set out
to make a "heaven" for his creation but that this "heaven" got botched
up when Eve ate the fruit) then how can one be sure that God's second
attempt at Paradise won't become as botched as his first one did? Trust
is earned, in my opinion. If God couldn't get it right the first time,
why should we believe, have faith, or trust that he will get it right
the next time around?
Copyright © 1999, 2000 by Darcy West. All Rights