Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, Free Will, God, Religion, Truth

If You Go to Heaven, Do You Lose Free Will?

If you guys have time, I’d like for you to check out the discussion a few of us have been having over at the Thomistic Bent blog on the post “Can We Be Free in Heaven and yet Not Sin?” Humblesmith wrote this post to answer the following question:

If evil and sin are the result of mankind’s free will, then why is it that people in heaven will have free will, but not sin? God made angels, and they do not sin. Why could it not be the case that God could have made humans that do not sin?

Humblesmith’s response borrows heavily from the apologist Norman Geisler, who said that in Heaven we won’t be able to sin because God will “perfect” our freedom. This “perfected freedom” means we won’t be able to sin at all. Of course, I don’t view this as a real answer at all, since it still leaves the obvious question “then why didn’t God do it that way to begin with?” Not to mention the problem inherent in creating a whole new definition for “freedom of choice.”

The post and the subsequent comments are definitely worth reading and weighing in on, so if you have time, head on over there and check it out for yourself.

49 thoughts on “If You Go to Heaven, Do You Lose Free Will?”

  1. Howie, yes I think we can look at this both ways. I just felt it important to put the case for the alternative view. And I agree Nate was generous.

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  2. Interesting topic. I honestly think that, if heaven exists the way that most Christians believe, then there must not be free will, since free will implies the possibility of sin. That means that free will would not apply to living in heaven because everything would be joy and happiness, so there would be no need to consider doing bad things. But I truly think that heaven, after life, nirvana, or whatever we choose to call it is more than just being up there somewhere. It would be total freedom. It would be enlightenment. It would entail not being bound to the selfishness and illusions that this world offers. It would mean loving other unconditionally. And because of this view of heaven, I believe that heaven can begin to be experienced here on earth.

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  3. Noel, so you’re saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, that there is no freewill in heaven, but those that go there would have total freedom…. just not freewill?

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  4. I think he’s making a contrast between what most Christians think about Heaven and what he personally thinks the afterlife would be like. But let me know if I’m wrong, Noel. And thanks for the comment!

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  5. @ Hayden
    “‘So I’m an Atheist?”
    Sigh…sorry to break it you buddy, but ,YES! In fact every Christian is…
    As historian, Stephen Roberts so eloquently puts it;

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    I don’t care what universe you are frm, that’s got to hurt. Truth. Love it!

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  6. Suppose I said “Barack Obama is a Republican, Muslim, Communist President of the USA who was recently elected for a second term.” “That statement would be correct in some details but wrong in others. But this doesn’t mean that Barack Obama doesn’t exist, only that my description of him is inaccurate.”
    What I am really interested in is WHICH details are correct Personally, I always had my suspicions he was a Republican Communist.

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  7. William, what Nate said is correct. The total freedom I am talking about is not the state that souls would be experiencing in most Christian’s view of heaven. I still don’t have a fixed idea of what we would experience after our bodies die. But I do have the faith and belief that we are on earth to learn how to love one another unconditionally, and those of us who successfully accomplish this, would be experiencing true heaven.

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  8. but not only learning to love unconditionally, doing that along with unwavering belief in a book and its characters – the firm faith that the book’s authors were 100% accurate.

    So if a member of a different religion learned love unconditionally, they would still miss out. But I guess most Christians would say that part of the unconditional love is to believe the bible… I dont know.

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  9. “unwavering belief in a book and its characters – the firm faith that the book’s authors were 100% accurate.”

    “100% accurate” is not an article of faith for many christians, denominations and theological positions. And who has “unwavering belief”? I fear you are setting the bar way higher than most people can ever reach!

    ” if a member of a different religion learned love unconditionally, they would still miss out”

    Exclusivist christians believe that, but inclusivist christians do not. Many christians are inclusivist. CS Lewis was and Billy Graham has said he is too – that’s perhaps the two most influential English-speaking christians of the past century!

    I presume the christianity you are describing is a form you are familiar with, but I think you should know that it isn’t universal, and in fact is probably minority. I’m sorry if you have been labouring under a false impression.

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  10. LOL, yeah, you’re probably right. And I do tend to rattle off about the brand that I left years ago, so it isn’t fair to paint with such a broad brush. i do apologize for that.

    I do admit, though, that while I understand your position, I dont understand how you get it from the bible. I know I am still viewing the bible from my upbringing and my own experiences with it, but the bible still seems to pretty clearly demonstrate that belief and discipleship in Jesus are prerequisites for salvation/acceptance from God.

    And though i know this has been discussed by many before, i still don’t quite get how anyone can have faith that the bible speaks accurately of God, Jesus and their perfect love, when that book is shown to have indisputable flaws. So far I just have a hard time understanding how that isn’t picking and choosing. Perhaps i am and idiot – that’s a likely problem, but perhaps not, too.

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  11. “while I understand your position, I dont understand how you get it from the bible …. the bible still seems to pretty clearly demonstrate that belief and discipleship in Jesus are prerequisites for salvation/acceptance from God.”

    I get it from several passages, plus my judgment of how a loving God would behave. Here are the passages:

    Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (This quotes Joel 2:32, which Peter also quotes in Acts 2:21.)

    Romans 2:14-16: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”

    Acts 17:26-27: ” From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

    “i still don’t quite get how anyone can have faith that the bible speaks accurately of God, Jesus and their perfect love, when that book is shown to have indisputable flaws”

    We learn every day from books, papers and people that have flaws, so perceived flaws shouldn’t stop us learning from the Bible. The question is whether overall we get a reliable picture. For me as a christian, the key is the NT, which has superseded the OT, and the verdict of the historians is that we get some reliable history from the NT. Of course they have doubts and questions and sections they think are not historical, but what they do affirm is quite enough for me to draw a conclusion. And my conclusion is that Jesus told the truth, the writers told the truth as much as they were able, and the christian witness to that truth has been continuous ever since.

    It’s a matter of faith building on facts. No conclusion is 100% certain, but I am happy to go with a conclusion that seems most probable.

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  12. Unklee, I get you and see what you’re saying. I can see that there are truthful parts in the bible, whether they be moral truths or historical truths, etc; but like you also mentioned, there are flaws and errors – inconsistencies.

    I think that a book or movie or people can have good parts and bad parts. I think that the good parts shouldn’t take away from the bad or that the bad should take away from the good, so I don’t want to act as if the bible has nothing to offer. I believe it does, i just don’t believe it is from god.

    The bible itself defines god’s character but then also claims that god does things contrary to that character (examples have been listed many times in other posts).

    And you wrote that you thought Jesus told the truth, but I dont think Jesus ever wrote anything. What we have from Jesus is reported by other people, so if one believes that Jesus is truthful, that’s really only saying that you believe his claimed biographers are truthful.

    Despite all of the inconsistencies, errors, contradictions, and logical problems, what really did it for me was when i realized that my faith had never been in god or jesus. Neither god or jesus ever told me a thing, never handed me a book. Everything I had on them was given by some other person, who got what they had by someone else, and so on until we get back to the authors of the bible who made claims… My faith had always been in the human authors of the bible. What did i have to verify their claims? As it turned out, all there was was an old edited collection of books and letters that held nuggets of truth and morality, but also contained its share of errors, contradictions and immoral actions (some of which were carried out by god himself with genocide, etc). All of this was enough for me to also draw a conclusion. Nothing here looked beyond the abilities of man’s own imagination and capability.

    I ask people, “why do you think the bible is from god?” they typically answer, “because the bible couldn’t have been written by man,” or “for the bible to be written by man would be the greatest miracle of all.” Really? A series of books and letters that were written one after the other, that were assembled after a lengthy review and removal of books and letters that didn’t make the cut, whose final compilation is still less than perfect is the handiwork of an all powerful, perfect deity that wants nothing more than for all man kind to be saved by the word of his son? I wasn’t born at night, but if i was, it wasn’t last night.

    It is sad too, because I was a fervent and devoted believer. I like the idea of god and heaven. I like the idea of self control and pursuit if righteousness and enlightenment. I dont like thinking about the possibility that life and cognition simply end into nothingness. But truth, real truth, has little to do with what my desires are. The evidence convinced me. My faith and my belief were bound to follow my conviction.

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  13. @Unklee:
    “It’s a matter of faith building on facts. No conclusion is 100% certain, but I am happy to go with a conclusion that seems most probable”

    I think you will find that it is faith first, second and last.
    The facts are pretty much irrelevant to the most important detail of what drives Christianity, namely the Resurrection, of which there are no historical facts at all.

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  14. G’day William, I appreciate your reply too. There is much I could take up there, but this isn’t the place. Just a couple of comments ….

    ” if one believes that Jesus is truthful, that’s really only saying that you believe his claimed biographers are truthful.”
    That is true. I think the historical evidence points that way, the internal evidence indicates to me that they cared about the truth, and the multiple sources suggests they told it accurately. The rest is trust.

    “My faith had always been in the human authors of the bible. What did i have to verify their claims?”
    I can understand that too. And the Bible has been under increasing criticism for some time, so it is understandable that you would have doubts. But at the same time, the other reasons to believe in God and Jesus (cosmology, neuroscience, ethics, personal experience of God via healing and visions) have, it seems to me, become stronger in recent years. I can’t help feeling God keeps the evidence finely balanced so we all have real choice – when the Bible becomes less powerful evidence for some, these other things increase. The result is that I believe the evidence is still strong, just a bit different to what it once was.

    “My faith and my belief were bound to follow my conviction.”
    Of course. It is the same with me, only opposite. Best wishes.

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  15. @Ark,

    Sorry, I missed your posts earlier on. “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen Roberts

    This is not exactly what I believe. We’re off by a few more than just one God. I believe he has manifest himself to different cultures across the world throughout history. I am not quite a “Universality” but I tend to be close. I believe he has had different names with different people. Ahara Mazda for the Zoroastrians of Iran, The God of the HIndu’s that is worshiped as mnay different facets and of course, “Aten” with the ancient Egyptians:)

    Aten bless.

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  16. @ Hayden
    Ah, yes. How to confuse an already confused and befuddled human population.
    Step 1. Create Mankind.
    Step 2. Instill a guilt complex and set them up for a fall,then evict them from their home.
    Step 3. Demand subservience and ritual worship including blood sacrifice.
    Step 4. Realize you have screwed up and destroy the world save a few specimens who are forced to resort to incest to repopulate a rather damp planet.
    Step 5. After dispersing humans all over the bloody place and confounding their language you begin to appear to the different tribes and nations in an even more bewildering array of ‘god disguises’, including large-breasted black women, Wooden totems of men with huge penises, an old, fat bald guy, various animals, and STILL expect them to suss out that you are the ‘real deal’.
    Step 6. When you finally realize this is not working out, you send yourself to earth in the form of a real live human bean, but because of more misunderstanding, and you inability to convey a straightforward message you get yourself crucified. They just wont LISTEN, hey? Effin’ ‘humans!
    Step 7. After returning to Heaven, you have one more go with a Arab camel trader, but forget to mention you been here before as a god called Geez-Us? In the end, you realise what a colossal DICKHEAD you have been and decide to spend the rest of eternity sulking, only occasionally venturing out of your room to whisper in into the ear of someone called Hayden, or send down the odd meteorite over Russia to vent your frustration.

    Ah, yes. Perfectly clear. I get the picture. WTF And people die for this CRAP?

    Please stop the earth.I really NEED to get off.

    Silly person.

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  17. Ask your god…surely he is in regular contact and would willingly help an emotionally challenged follower?
    If you don’t come right with good old Yahweh, I am reliably informed from David Attenborough’s autobiography that back issues of National Geographic or the Discovery channel.should sort you out.

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  18. See? Now you better never need any photos from me!
    Seriously though, you do realize that most of your “7 points of crap” are not what God did but what his followers “claim” he did, right?

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  19. in Heaven Satan and his demons will not be there like they are on Earth and like Satan was in Heaven, they tempt us to do sin, if we have already chosen God over them and they are cast into Hell than we will no longer have any temptation to sin, we have made our choice. You say that angels were not allowed to sin yet Satan and led the whole world to so it looks like God did give them free choice in a sense and did not create them perfect unless you think in theory since you no longer believe in him that Satan is perfect. Actually I guess you could look at it like they weren’t given a choice and Satan rebelled because he didn’t have a choice so then God creates us and we have choice unlike the angels and yet we rebel too lol Very ironic actually to think we would be happy either way. If God makes us perfect we would be mad he did not give is choice but if he gives is choice we are upset he did not make us perfect mindless robots who obey him and we are mad at him for making it all this way. We get mad if we have to obey him even if given the choice because we don’t like what happens to us if we don’t which really is just separation from him but since everything good comes from him and it also separates us from everything good we don’t like that either. Sounds like God can’t win in this scenario to me. God will never be the kind of perfect and just God some of you all think you apparently would be. Feels like employees at work with managers, they always think they can do better even when they do not know all the manager and HR do, they have not seen the other people’s personnel files they have no idea about budget or anything behind the scenes yet they know better and could do better or that they would be better off with no manager and can manage themselves.

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  20. As a Christian, more specifically catholic, I have to say that some things require a sense of faith. There’s a lot that I don’t know, and have to trust in God.

    As a fellow human I have to say that the lack of hostility and the acceptance and sharing of one another’s viewpoints is amazing. And reading discussion and debates can get quite frustrating when there’s a tinge of passive agressiveness. All sides of this discussion, thank you

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