Free Will in Heaven?

Under Christian theology, humans have the free will choice to accept or reject God and to follow or reject the temptation of sin. Assuming this version of reality is true, what happens when you go to heaven? Do you stop wanting to sin? Is it impossible to sin? Or can you still choose to reject God and be sent to hell?


I would guess that most Christians never think about this. And it brings up a number of questions.

If you stop wanting to sin in heaven:

1. If sin is a choice in heaven, you can still be immoral and harm other people. Thus making heaven an imperfect place.
2. The only deterrent to evil behavior is fear of consequences and guilt. If heaven has no fear, guilt or consequences, what is stopping people from evil behavior?
3. If God has the power to stop people from wanting to sin in heaven, why can’t he do it on earth?

If God makes it impossible to sin in heaven:

1. Why not bypass earth and create all people in heaven? Does God get joy from watching people suffer? Why put his “beloved” humans on an imperfect planet? Is our existence on earth some sort of twisted game?
2. If your free will taken away from you in heaven, how is that a reward? Do you become a slave with every day controlled like a mindless robot? If your free will is taken away, that makes you a prisoner.
3. Lastly, how did Satan fall away from God if he couldn’t sin in heaven?

If you can reject god and/or sin in heaven:

1. If you can sin in heaven and be sent to hell, how is it different than earth?
2. How could evil things happen in a so-called perfect place?
3. People would spend eternity avoiding sin and fearing God’s wrath. That doesn’t sound like a joyful eternity.

The idea of a perfect Christian heaven is flawed no matter how you look at it. Either you are a mindless drone, or God is some sort of ruling dictator in heaven still threatening people with hell. Under either description, heaven isn’t a perfect place.

Or there is always the possibility that heaven is an imaginary place invented by ancient Jewish men.

Link.

23 comments:

Linda said...

I've often asked myself many of these questions. It never made sense to me, from a young girl up, how "satan" could rebel in heaven. Thinking everyone up there is perfect, how could he rebel? The whole idea is just ridiculous as "satan" is a made up bad buy by the early Roman church.

Mike D said...

Just more evidence that the entire concept of Christianity is logically incoherent. Add this one to the idea of God putting a curse on humanity, naming the price for removing it, then removing it himself by sacrificing himself to himself. Yeah...

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

The Kingdom of heaven is within....

I believe that the soul-to-spirit connection is what travels with us beyond the death of our physical bodies and as far as any further details beyond that, I trust it will not be boring (just as it is in the here and now).

As far as "free will" goes, I did not know what freedom was until I connected with God's free spirit. So for me, I do not agree about the concept of free will - I do not agree that we possess it until we receive it and bond with it spiritually.

Prior to faith, I was unaware that my lifestyle and choices were made upon a foundation of an ulterior, or subliminal, message of destructive fear. Although I had eventually been able to become law abiding, I was perishing inwardly and my life was shrinking into sophistication and conceited, territorial pride.

Although, physically, it appeared as though I was moving freely and autonomously, I really was a slave to fear of reproach and fear of rejection. My entire life was shaped around these subliminal fears and a very condemning message.

At any rate, by faith, I am learning to trust and focus on living in the here and now, which, really does create the kingdom of heaven within.

3M

Rob R said...

post 1 of 2

I would guess that most Christians never think about this.

Most Christians? Most Christians don't go deep into theology. Many others however spend a great deal of time on related topics. Don't forget the ole free will theism/theological determinism debate in which this topic comes up every now and then.


The answer is a psychologically responsible view of free will of our behavior and our choices. For one thing, not all of our free choices are moral choices. Should I go swimming in the great chocolate river and ride down the 5 mile drop falls (not lethal after the resurrection!) or should I visit the planet of talking dinosaurs. Maybe I could build a planet of mysterious forests (and how many choices would that entail!?). Perhaps I could go and meet and converse for a few months with the saints of old (or even possible "holy pagans" like Socrates or Siddhartha Gautama) So if it is impossible to sin, that doesn't mean we won't have free choices.

Secondly and more importantly, we are not designed to be perpetual random choice generating machines (and besides what I will say here, there are other reasons not to consider it that). Free choice particularly when it comes to morality is part of the process of developing character which will become consistent and reliable in choices to the point where they won't have the libertarian quality. But even when free will ceases to be a part of some set of choices, it can still be a moral choice in virtue of the fact that it arose from a self determined character that developed in a libertarian free way.

Let's look at two examples. A drunk is in a situation where alcohol is available so even if he freely chooses the time at which he drinks or perhaps even how much, he is not free in the libertarian respect with whether he will drink or not. He may decide today that he will not drink, but as the day wears on, his resolve dissolves and just one more drink keeps leading to one more. But perhaps he was free in getting to this place. There was a time in which he exercised free will and knew he needed to stop but decided to put aside his worries and eventually, his indulgence led to a addiction. While he may not have a choice whether to drink or not every night, he may every now and then have a free choice to do something about his condition as a whole. He takes notice of the local AA chapter and every now and then seriously considers going. Sometimes he almost does but he freely chooses not to. After perpetually refusing, again, his character solidifies and he no longer freely chooses not to. The thought may cross his mind, but he inevitably turns to his fear of losing his constant companion. Then new people come into his life, friends who are concerned, they may even pray for him and they encourage him to get help. Perhaps one is also a member of AA. Again, the libertarian moment comes back. What he does in those moments is simply not knowable until he does it so authentic is the free moment.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2


Second scenario, and closer to our issue with heaven. So you have a married couple madly in love. Course they got their issues and they tolerate them, but the passion and fire is not constant and these issues become unavoidable. They fight and during these times, they actually consider divorce. These considerations bloom into legitimate free choices where one partner or the other really could go one way or the other. But they persist, they get marriage counseling, they rough it out during the times when it's just not pleasant. They grow past this and their relationships deepens to the point where they are never free with respect to the decision of divorce. One may occasionally consider it and then thought processes continue and have been established such that a consideration of divorce immeadiately becomes an unwise and undesirable idea, and eventually an absurdity. But could they still go down that road? new situations lead to new libertarian free choices. Do I continue to resent this? Do I allow myself to lust after a coworker? The libertarian choices continue to be made and eventually the character solidifies even in these new choices, and the couple has matured beyond even squabbles and in their old age, each prays to God that he or she will die first so that they don't live in the world without the other.

This is to be like our growth with our love of God, though after death, God takes the willing spirit of the faithful and solidifies it the rest of the way. But the less God has to do it, the greater our reward in heaven.

Howard said...

All Christians will counter with this argument by saying our minds cannot comprehend the mind of god or the don't think about it comment when something about Christianity sounds absurd.

Brandon Muller said...

Rob mentions reward in heaven which always fascinated me. Heaven is a perfect place, but some people will have even *more* perfection than others! Plus, there's no jealousy in heaven so those with "less" reward wouldn't be bothered in the least.

Anyway, we already know that there's free will in heaven because Satan and one-third of the angels chose to disobey God. That's why God created humans because he wanted beings with free will unlike angels who don't...have...free will. Oh, wait. :)

Steven Bently said...

If Satan is bound up in hell, what is to stop him from infiltrating heaven again?

Just because they throw away the keys, locks can be picked, ya know?

Apparently Satan and evil cannot be destroyed, because Satan will reign in hell for eternity.

But Satan is so clever, he'll find a way out to pilfer and continually corrupt, it's his solemn duty, right??

Rob R said...

Howard, pay attention to what's been said above. Two Christians have given an answer and one or both don't fit your prediction.

Brandon,


Anyway, we already know that there's free will in heaven because Satan and one-third of the angels chose to disobey God. That's why God created humans because he wanted beings with free will unlike angels who don't...have...free will. Oh, wait. :)

I have already answered the issue with Satan indirectly.

Houx said...

I don' think the Bible teaches libertarian free will. As I understand it it teaches compatibalism. People's hearts are enslaved by their desires. They still make choices but without the influence of God's grace they sin and are therefore responsible for their sins. When people get to heaven they will never sin because they have been confirmed in grace. They still make choices an do what they want. But because all desire for sin has been removed they will always choose the right thing.

Rob R said...

oops, Brandon, After thinking about it, I did not implicitly answer your question.

What I argued was that the lack of moral free will in heaven is completely consistant with a psychologically responsible view of free will.

I would say that it is similar with fallen angels and Satan but would note that they were created a bit psychologically different than we were. As creatures who had significantly more soverignty and power over some aspects of creation (unlike ours which is developed), they were also highly mentally developed. They were created in such a way that they knew better and understood better, thus when they fell, they fell harder. They had a potential for rebellion and when they divided between rebellious and faithful, they resolved that potential.

Lee said...

Houx, compatibilism doesn't explain why Satan and the other angels fell, nor why Adam and Eve fell. Where did their desire to sin come from if they were created perfect?

The calvinist (determinist) answer of course is that God decreed both the fall of satan and the fall of man, as well as all the fall out, for his glory (wtf!), and that he chose beforehand those he would cause to desire to be saved (election) and those who would not (reprobation). See Romans 9 for example.

So free will is only a conundrum for the arminian version of christianity. When I was a christian I was 1st an arminian, and then a calvinist, and like I've said somewhere else they both have problems.

I was never sold on the idea of compatibilism either, which is an attempt to reconcile the two. I don't think they can be reconciled logically, without appealing to "mystery", which many theologians end up doing.

Rob R said...

So free will is only a conundrum for the arminian version of christianity.

I don't think so.

Shane said...

Guys, you're making this too complicated.

If I decide, in heaven, to kick Jesus in the nuts, what happens?

Houx said...

Lee,

I think that God removed His hand of grace from Satan and Adam and Eve and allowed them to sin of their own will. In that way they were responsible for their evil deed. We see compatiblism taught in the bible:

Genesis 50:20

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.


One act two intentions. God's intentions were good in allowing the evil. Man's intentions were evil in doing the evil and God held them responsible for their evil actions and intentions.

Bob said...

http://home.earthlink.net/~btodd2/freewillnote.html

If you want a Biblical answer, go to the URL above.

If you don't care, don't go there.
k7vhq@earthlink.net
Bob Todd
San Jacinto, CA usa

Tyler said...

Yes there is still choice in heaven. But now only the chosen are allowed in. Angels defied god before. not humans. I think you need to read more about the subject before making such suggestions thinking you got the big guy by the balls. Yep. you single handley debunked it all. Way to go ace. You are truely an idiot. Think more. Listen more. 2 ears one mouth. Do the math.

Lee said...

Houx, you said "I think that God removed His hand of grace from Satan and Adam and Eve and allowed them to sin of their own will. In that way they were responsible for their evil deed."

Houx, this just raises all kinds of questions: If Satan, Adam, and Eve were created perfect, then why did they need grace? Isn't grace defined Biblically as God's free gift of salvation and supernatural help to spiritually helpless sinners? Adam and Eve were created before the fall, therefore they had not inherited a "sin nature" like everyone after them supposedly has. In other words, grace became "necessary" because of the fall. Will perfected believers still need grace in heaven? If so, will God someday decide to remove it like you say he did with Adam and Eve?

But let's grant for the sake of argument that you are right, even though there is no hint of it whatsoever in Genesis or anywhere else in the Bible that I'm aware of that that was the case. It begs the question: why did God remove His grace from them? And by the way, this still doesn't answer the question as to where the desire to do evil came from in perfect creatures created by a perfect God. Because, if God is perfect, then anything He creates must also be perfect right? Did He create flawed creatures? According to Genesis God looked upon His creation and declared it "good". Where then did evil come from? It had to either come directly from God or indirectly from God via His creation. Did the desire to do evil, whether in satan or man, come into being on it's own somehow apart from God?

You also mention Gen 50:20 as proof of compatibilism and then go on to say "Man's intentions were evil in doing the evil and God held them responsible for their evil actions and intentions."

Earlier in this discussion you asserted that "People's hearts are enslaved by their desires." In other words, people choose according to their nature. As a former christian and student of theology I'm very familiar with this idea. In other words, people choose evil because they are born with a "sin nature", they can't help but to choose what is evil. As Paul said in Ephesians, people are born "dead in their sin". A spiritually dead person cannot help them self any more than a physically dead person can. They cannot apart from God's grace choose what is righteous, correct? Then why are they held responsible for their actions? It's as ridiculous as saying that a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome is to be held responsible for their problem because his mom abused alcohol during her pregnancy.

But besides that, I don't think the bible is consistent at all when it comes to the whole question of libertarianism, compatibilism, or determinism. This issue has been hotly debated within christianity for as long as the canon has existed, and for good reason...because you can find passages that assert either explicity or implicity all three notions in the bible. All three camps are convinced that they can biblically justify their position.

Ah, but you'll say some people just aren't interpreting the bible accurately, despite their best and most sincere efforts. But wouldn't you think that God would make such a foundational issue as this crystal clear for his followers' sake? If only for the sake of their unity?

Piero said...

"2 ears one mouth. Do the math."
This has to be the silliest comment ever. We have two ears because we need to locate spatially the sound source, and only one mouth because it would give us no advantage to have two, as we can only be in one place at one time. Why is it that some people have this annoying habit of making up bad analogies and deriving norms of behaviour from them? Do they actually take them seriously? Do they walk twice as much as they blow their nose, or shit half as much as they breath?

Lee said...

Piero dude, I think Tyler is a troll myself. Not only did his post add nothing constructive to the discussion, but it is fucked up on so many levels that it doesn't merit any serious attention imo.

Houx said...

"Houx, this just raises all kinds of questions: If Satan, Adam, and Eve were created perfect, then why did they need grace? Isn't grace defined Biblically as God's free gift of salvation and supernatural help to spiritually helpless sinners? Adam and Eve were created before the fall, therefore they had not inherited a "sin nature" like everyone after them supposedly has. In other words, grace became "necessary" because of the fall. Will perfected believers still need grace in heaven? If so, will God someday decide to remove it like you say he did with Adam and Eve?"


Lee,

Before the fall of Satan and Adam and Eve everything recieved God's grace not as a response to their demerit but still without deserving it. You cannot deserve as a non-being to be created and have all your needs met by God. So, before evil entered all these creatures lived off of grace. Grace, wether common or saving is unmerrited favor and is therefore never owed by God. He reserves the right to be gracious on whomever and whatever He pleases. God promises to never remove it from those in heaven. I don't know why He removed it in the first place but I know He had good intentions with morally justifiable reasons for doing so and that He is never under obligation to be gracious to His creation. People make choices apart from God's grace and are therefore responsible for their evil actions.

Lee said...

Houx man, not only are you not answering anything, you're just begging more questions:

"You cannot deserve as a non-being to be created and have all your needs met by God."

Why not? And besides, doesn't the bible state the opposite (e.g. Phil 4:19)?

"So, before evil entered all these creatures lived off of grace."

According to what passage(s)? And again, where did evil come from? Can anything begin to exist apart from God creating it?

"God promises to never remove it from those in heaven."

Where is this promised?

"I don't know why He removed it in the first place but I know He had good intentions with morally justifiable reasons for doing so and that He is never under obligation to be gracious to His creation."

See this is one of the reasons why I eventually left christianity. As a Christian you have to assume that God is perfectly good and just and loving all of the time, and then reconcile that with the notion that He apparently picks and chooses to whom He is gracious and when among other things.

What Christians end up having to assert is that God is good, therefore anything He does is good regardless of how much it insults our sense of decency as social human beings. God can get away with anything, because to question His goodness is to ultimately deny your faith.

"People make choices apart from God's grace and are therefore responsible for their evil actions."

So, even though according to compatibilism, the reason people make evil choices is because they are born with a sin nature to which their will is in bondage, they are still responsible for their choices if God chooses not to grant them the grace they need to make the right choices?

So, even though Adam and Eve were created perfect by a perfect God, they still needed His grace for some reason. Nevertheless, God decided for some good reason that we can't comprehend because we are too dumb to understand God's ways to remove His grace from them, and guess what? Suddenly evil shows up in their hearts, with a little prodding from satan who suffered the same fate of having God's grace removed, and they chose to sin. So now, for some reason, because they chose to sin, everyone born after them is "born dead in their sins", ie, born with a sin nature, which causes them to be unable to choose what is right apart from God's grace. Nevertheless, God for some reason only grant His grace some of the time to some of the people. Those to whom He doesn't grant His grace are still responsible for what they cannot help to do, even though they had no choice about whether or not they would be born with a sin nature. Makes all the sense in the world to me!

Double A said...

"Either you are a mindless drone, or God is some sort of ruling dictator in heaven still threatening people with hell."

...very interesting that you are the omnimetent one in this case. You've laid out the only two choices which are possible? Wow, you must really have an insight unmatched by anyone! Sorry for the sarcasm, I just find it humorous and annoying that you think you can disprove something which we know nothing about simply by acting like you know something about it!