Tuesday, November 26, 2013

[PHI 3000] Can one act freely in heaven?

When I discuss the problem of evil and the free will defense with my students, the following idea usually comes up: "true" free will means being able to choose between good and evil. That is, if God were to take away people's ability to choose between doing good and doing evil, he would be taking away their free will.

To examine this idea, consider the following question: Can one act freely in heaven?

On the one hand, given that heaven is supposed to be devoid of all evil, and assuming that free will essentially means choosing between doing good and doing evil, it seems that we would have to say that there is no free will in heaven, either, since one cannot choose evil in heaven. On the other hand, if we want to say that one can act freely in heaven, then it seems that we would have to abandon the idea that acting freely essentially means choosing between doing good and doing evil. That is, heaven is supposed to be where one can act freely but there is no evil. If that is the case, however, then why didn't God make this world more like heaven? That is, God could have made this world devoid of evil but with moral agents that can act freely. Why didn't he?

Is there a way out of this dilemma?


  1. One cannot act freely in heaven because once in heaven, there is no way to choose evil. One cannot choose evil and be sent to hell. The problem then remains, why did God create free will on Earth but not in heaven? A benevolent God should not allow us to suffer for the safe of choosing good or evil. Free will on Earth is like a test, if one chooses morally, they will earn a place in heaven where there is only good.

  2. Free will is said to be the most important gift God gave to humanity, although in order to have free will we must have the power to do evil actions.
    God, being almighty and perfect, must have the power to create a place where he allows people free will and yet no evil occurs --heaven. Then why didn't he make this world the same perfect characteristics of heaven?
    A common answer provided by religion is that God put us on Earth to be tested if worthy of heaven or not. But if God is the perfect maker and knows everything, why would he need to test its creatures?
    Another answer found in the Bible is that we are being punished for Adam and Eve's first sin. Basically, we are paying the consequences of our early ancestors' actions. If God is perfect and wise, why would he be rancorous?
    Two conclusions are possible: a) Free will is overrated, and there is no need for it in heaven.
    b) There is no God, because a perfect being could not have so many paradoxes about its powers and features.

    Michele C.

  3. I agree that in heaven there would be no free will. Heaven is meant to be a place of all good, nothing negative. Everyone is “entitled” to this life here on Earth where God gives us the opportunity to choose between good and evil. Heaven would have no higher or greater meaning if God made it just like Earth. The purpose of Heaven is so that we can avoid all the evil that happens on Earth. Only a God loving and powerful is able to provide the two for us. Heaven is something to look forward to. I see how it can get tricky, but if you want a place that is all good than one will have to sacrifice the option of having free will.

  4. The question, “can free will exist in heaven?” questions the idea of what free will is and what heaven is. If we say, free will is having the ability to choose between good and evil, then a free will that alludes evil existing in heaven cannot even be a possibility. For this, it is best to assert that God may have created a superior free will that was made without evil and where he is powerful to do so. If God created the concept of evil within free will, then God would not be an all knowing, all loving, all-powerful God as it is defined. The definition what we created of free will most likely isn’t the same as compared to that of God’s, which brings this dilemma noted in the question. God has given us this superior free will as a gift of freedom here to use on earth and with this freedom we created the idea of evil. Our creation of evil has given this world a different image than what we make of compared to that of heaven. On earth both evil and good exists whereas in heaven only good exists. If evil exists in heaven, then the concept of what heaven is wouldn’t be that great to begin with and it wouldn’t make it that different compared to earth. In heaven, there is no evil and therefore we should be able to act freely without evil as God originally created it. If we get into heaven, we are ultimately believers in God, that is all loving, all knowing, and all-powerful. Therefore, having belief is why God did not make this world like heaven, and it is what separates the two. With this belief, there should be no room for evil in heaven, because once in heaven we live a nature similar to that of God. Here on earth, we will learn from our uses of free will and what we make of it, so that when we achieve our destination into heaven we will exhibit acts in the image of God like Jesus. Earth is where we are able to use free will in situations that can lead to limited points that bring up the choice of doing good or evil. Once we are in heaven, it makes no sense to act as freely as we have done so on earth.

  5. It is the believe by some that God has given each of us free will, allowing us to make the fundamental choice, to commit moral good or moral evil. With this belief, one can also presume that when one satisfies our moral obligation and live “morally good” we will enter Heaven. In order for God to determine which individuals have more value, one must be doing good freely. It is sound that the free choices of humans should include genuine responsibility for other humans and that involves the opportunity to benefit or harm them.

    When one is considering whether free will exist in Heaven, this theory should be applied to angels. It is logically possible, since a heaven with angels making morally good decisions is more valuable then a heaven with angels only doing good without choice. To create angels of moral good there must be moral evil. If angels could not decide whether they were doing good, and all bad thought were void, they would not be making a true morally good decisions. Although one does have free will that does not mean there is sin. Since God has the free will to determine whether moral evil is void, or whether one has free will. If the notion is that God cannot sin and has freewill. Therefore, it is possible that angels have free will in Heaven yet does not commit sin.

  6. Mhall, Moti, I discussed your points here:

  7. Here's an article on the topic that argues you can be free and unable to sin in heaven. http://people.nnu.edu/ktimpe/research/heavenly_freedom.pdf


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