Final Question from the Reddit Thread
This is, at last, the very last question from the Reddit thread of questions that theists supposedly can’t answer. It is a three-part question:
- Does free will exist in heaven?
- If so, what’s to prevent god from kicking you out after the fact?
- If not, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of giving man free will in the first place?
In general, as a Calvinist, I’m not overly impressed with questions about free will. We Reformed folks don’t really think that humans have it. In the sense that when faced with path A or path B, do I believe that we can pick either without respect to God making us choose the one he desires? Yes, I think we can do that. But, I also believe that in so doing we are doing God’s will and advancing his plan for our lives as he saw fit to declare from eternity. It seems to be a contradiction, but the Bible affirms both an exhaustive divine decree and the free moral agency of humans. Therefore, the two might appear to conflict to us but in reality work in harmony.
As a Christian theist, I’m also not overly impressed with atheists who bring up free will as a supposed airtight objection to the concept of God. Without God, there could be no free will. In the Westminster Confession of Faith, we see that human freedom is upheld and founded on the decree of God. In fact, metaphysically speaking, it seems illogical given the atheistic commitment to naturalism that we would have a free will.
Stephen Hawking’s latest book is the first among many to come that proposes that the universe exists by necessity. It is an unbroken chain of cause and effect that literally couldn’t have happened any other way. And, given the value of Newtonian physics and the Laws of Motion, it seems highly unlikely that a self-contained system like the universe would alter its course without the intervention of some outside intelligent agency. Anything that is in the universe is mere matter and motion, and subject to the Laws.
So that we humans are able to debate these topics on an Internet of our own design, form our own opinions about it, and devise scientific experiments to test it, all seems to point to intelligent agency and possession of a free will. That free will must itself be rooted in something outside the universe, because matter and motion in the universe are both unintelligently bumping around and therefore couldn’t create within creatures the volition to do anything differently.
So assuming that you have something that you have no right to have under naturalism, then using it to argue with naturalism as your primary assumption even though you couldn’t have it under naturalism, then using it to expose fallacies in the system that seems most natural to put you in possession of… I lost it. Too many assumptions on the part of the naturalist. Again, we see how naturalism refutes itself. So let’s just answer the questions.
First, yes, free will exists in heaven. No sin will be committed in heaven since in heaven God will complete the promised sanctification by glorifying us. This means that we will no longer be enslaved by sin, so that our choices will flow from a purely good nature and therefore we will not choose evil. We remain able to do so, but we won’t because of our fully realized good nature.
Question (2) doesn’t actually follow from (1), since God’s free will isn’t impacted by anything except that his choices remain consistent with his nature. That said, I suppose that nothing prevents God kicking a person out of heaven per se, but it is doubtful that God would do such a thing given that he always keeps his promises.
I think that (3) follows from (1). I’ve already said that in heaven, we would be glorified. This means that our spirit is re-created as immutably good, and we no longer are bound to sinful flesh. Therefore, our choices flow from a completely good nature, with no residual evil. We’re still free in the sense that we could do evil, but since our natures are now purely good, we won’t do evil.
Why doesn’t that defeat the purpose of free will? Because God wanted us to freely choose to will and do good on our own. Obviously, that didn’t happen with Adam in the Garden, but in the New Heaven and the New Earth, that is exactly what is going to happen. Creation will be completely renewed, and we humans will take our rightful place with God, and our free will choices will be the good things that God had intended all along, instead of the corruption that we see now.
So, why didn’t God just make it that way all along? That’s a mystery. The Bible doesn’t give us an answer to that, so I’m confident in saying that I just don’t know. My best guess is that this first experience on earth teaches us how bad things could be if God had left us to our own devices.
Think of it like this: there are two ways to learn a lesson. We can learn positively, by reading how to do something in a book or seeing it done by someone else. Or, we can learn negatively by failure. Failing teaches us what not to do. In Screenwriting, Syd Field tells budding screenwriters to experiment with the story structure and order of the scenes as much as possible, as this is the best way to see what won’t work. In turn, that will help the writer figure out what does work. Master Splinter once said that defeat can be more instructive than victory. Real people are just as wise as cartoon characters, as Malcolm Forbes tells us, “Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.”
We’d never know how horrid things could have been for us if we simply were born into and inherited heaven. Like the rich kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he’s spoiled and appreciates nothing that his vast wealth gives him. My mom works at a private school, and quite often hears the kids complain when they “have to” go on a dream vacation (Vail to ski, the Bahamas on a cruise), again. My mom would just like to go once!
Since, however, we’ve seen earth and the abundance of sin on it, and known people that have gone to hell for eternity, those who have inherited heaven will be much more appreciative to God for his deliverance. The rich kid who, on mom and dad’s dime, gets to earn an advanced degree and begin their career supervising two (or more) layers of management and 100 or more employees in a division (I’m not cutting on you Rob, if you’re reading this!) instead of returning shopping carts to the front of the store for minimum wage never appreciates how privileged his life is. So God wanted us to experience sin and death first, before living eternally in a place without evil. We now, appropriately, know what it could have been like.