I’d really appreciate someone’s thoughts on this, and some insight as to how to resolve this in Scripture.
There will be no sin in heaven. Yet it’s assumed that we (believers) will still possess free will in heaven. How can we have free will but be 100% confident that we will not screw up as we do here in this life?
And, if it is possible for us to have free will but not sin, why didn’t The Almighty create Adam and Eve like this to begin with? Adam and Eve literally walked and talked with God, yet this didn’t keep them from sinning.
@Motorwolf I think the short and sweet answer is that because of the New Covenant of Christ on the cross we will become like Jesus when we see Him as He is! The transformation that the Spirit of God is doing and will complete in us will make us such that we will not sin.
I John 3:2 - Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Digging deeper, there are two parts to this:
the power of the New Covenant in Christ and indwelling of God’s Spirit
freedom from our sinful nature - freedom from the evil desires of the flesh - a redeemed body
The New Covenant
2 Corinthians 3 is all about how the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant because the Old Covenant of the law brought death, but the New Covenant in the Spirit brings righteousness. By the power of the New Covenant in Christ we are transformed into His image.
2 Corinthians 3:7-8,18 - Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Our Bodies will be Redeemed - we will be free from the fallen nature / flesh
Right now we must crucify our flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5). But in the New Creation we will have redeemed bodies - those evil desires will no longer be there.
Romans 8:12-13,23 - Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies
Hi, @Motorwolf! Thanks so much for bringing up this most interesting question! I want to invite the @Interested_in_Philosophy group to weigh in on some points, as you’ve brought up some tricky issues, esp. re. the nature of ‘free will’.
First off, what do you mean when you use the phrase ‘free will’? To me, it sounds like you mean the freedom to choose or not to choose God. I do not see how this definition could be carried over into the new creation (i.e. heaven), as, in my mind, this choice will not remain. It’s a decision for this life so that when we enter the age-to-come, like @SeanO pointed out, our transformation will be complete. It will not be possible for us to sin, and as @mike pointed out, evil will be banished.
And to your second question:
Again this depends on your understanding of free will. For our first parents, it is my understanding that it was possible for them not to sin (turn away from God, disobey him, rebel against him… however you want to think about it); it was also possible for them to sin. When they chose to sin, their descendants (i.e. ALL of humanity) lost the first possibility. It was now not possible for anyone to not sin. So, it was at one time possible for free will and sinless-ness to co-exist, and it will be possible once more; but not right now.
As to why God didn’t create A&E like this in the first place? I have no idea! I can only surmise that it had something to do with the nature of love and how true love necessitates a choice. I have sat with a number of folks who would say that it was not loving of God to have given them the choice, and, I admit, that that objection does resonate with me a bit! But I wonder what else we would lose if we didn’t have the choice? Would it be as good as we think it would be?
At any rate, I will leave it here to see what other thoughts people have. What’s resonating with you at the moment? Any additional thoughts?
Thank you for your reply!
I understand that there will be no evil in heaven.
When I refer to ‘free will’, I’m speaking of man’s ability to choose; right from wrong, God from evil, chocolate from vanilla, etc. I understand that our ability to choose is part of our humanity, and a gift from our Creator, and I praise Him for it.
I understand that true love cannot happen apart from this free will, and that’s why we were created this way, in His image. We CHOOSE to love and serve our Savior.
My difficulty mainly centers on the idea that in the new heaven and the new earth, if we still have the ability to choose, it would logically conclude that those in His presence would still have the ability to turn against Him. While I don’t believe that this will be the case, I am confused as to WHY it cannot be.
If, in the afterlife to come, we will have the full capacity of our free will, but be UNABLE to sin or turn away, this would seem to contradict the idea of free will.
Please understand, I do not believe that anyone in heaven will turn away from God, or sin. I firmly realize that Scripture teaches that this will not happen. I’m just not sure why. If ‘seeing Him as He is’ was the reason, it would seem to me that Adam and Eve would not have sinned either.
I realize that evil, temptations, and the devil will not be in heaven. So these factors will not be working against us. But temptations and the devil don’t MAKE me sin, though they may entice me to. So I say, if it’s possible for me to not sin in heaven, it should be possible for me to not sin now, while I’m in this life. But we all know that this is not the case. Even though I seek to crucify my flesh, I still fail, I still miss the mark. What about me will be different when I go to meet my Heavenly Father?
@Motorwolf The Holy Spirit bro - New Covenant - New Creation. The world hadn’t seen anything like the resurrected Christ or the Spirit empowered man/woman. Adam and Eve did not have that - Moses did not have that - read 2 Corinthians and Hebrews and Romans 8. Every day the Spirit, if we walk in Him, makes us more like Jesus and when we see Jesus face to face, that transformation will become complete in a whole new way. Jesus started humanity 2.0 through His obedience, suffering, death and resurrection - this is a whole new ballgame.
Check out this passage from Romans - this was God’s plan all along - to conform us to the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit. Jesus was the firstborn - we are a new people - a new humanity empowered by the Holy Spirit of Jesus! This was God’s plan all along - He not only knew it, He foreknew it. To me, this is not about free will vs predestination, it is the fact that God knew when He gave His Spirit through Christ we would become a new creation - a new people - capable to freely love and enjoy and honor the true King from now into eternity.
Romans 8:28-30 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
2 Cor 3:4-6,18 - Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life…And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Romans 8:3-4 - For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Great questions! I love to see people wrestling with these things in a deep, yet God-honoring way; just like Paul, Peter, and all the saints of the church (not to mention Jacob, who literally wrestled with God!).
So, let me offer a few thoughts that might help (albeit the possible answers to these two questions in particular are manifold). I will take each question separately, since they are different:
With regard to there being free will, yet no sin in heaven, it is likely the case that we will have no desire to sin, and that for a few reasons: 1) we will be transformed in our being to the extent where sin will be so distasteful to us that although there might be a possibility to sin in principle, no redeemed human person will actually sin. In other words the potential to sin can exist without that potential ever being actualized.
An analogy might be this: think of a ball situated atop a hill. The ball has the potential to roll down the hill so long as an external force acts upon it (e.g. someone kicks it, or a gust of wind blows on it). However, that external actualizing force simply never obtains in reality, and thus the ball just never rolls down the hill. It has the potential (since balls are round, have the right kinds of properties to roll down sloped inclines, etc.), but simply never does. Obviously, this analogy breaks down since there is nothing in the ball itself that could cause it to roll apart from an external force, but, a human person could have the potential to sin, but never actually do so. Moreover, if something like this is true, we can assume that in the new creation there will literally be no external forces that would actualize our potential to sin (i.e. the devil, death, demons, and wicked souls damned to hell will not be in the new creation to tempt us in any way, and, of course, we know that God will not, nor has He ever, tempted us to sin).
Now, personally, I think we can make an even stronger claim, one that answers in part your second question about Adam, and that is 2) that we will actually be more like Christ than Adam could have been, even though Adam walked with God, etc. That would entail us having something like a more extensive kind of knowledge about God than Adam did, and a deeper relationship with God than Adam did. I think Revelation suggests that we will know God in a far more intimate and to a far greater extent than Adam and Eve did or could have. Therefore, this would militate against us being just like Adam before the Fall (able to sin, in spite of walking with God); we, in Christ, are not simply returned to an adamic, pre-Fall state, rather we exist in a fuller state of grace than Adam did, even prior to the Fall. Thus, if we enjoy a more intimate relationship to God than Adam, and also enjoy a greater knowledge of Him, we are in a far better place ontologically (in our being) and epistemologically (in our knowing) than Adam and Eve were at the beginning of human life on earth.
Now, if something like this is even approximately correct, it seems like we, in our glorified state, can be free to choose amongst a myriad, even an infinite myriad of things, actions, activities, goals, etc., none of which, however, will dishonor or break our fellowship with God. Thus, we would have all kinds of freedom, but never choose anything that we know would dishonor God. We just would not be that kind of thing anymore (so, in this sense we lose the property “being able to sin” yet, we would retain the property, “freedom to choose between alternatives”), and the set of alternatives we could choose from, while limited to only God-honoring choices, can still be potentially infinite.
Your second question is actually, I think, harder to answer. Why didn’t God just make Adam and Eve like this in the beginning?
Well, on this there is much debate, and I really haven’t looked into this that deeply. Some theologians have suggested that even if Adam hadn’t sinned, that the Logos still would have incarnated. Others, have suggested that God had to hide Himself from man to some degree, so that man could even have a free-will choice to love God. If God had fully made Himself known to Adam and Even from the start, then Adam and Eve would have been so enraptured by the vision of God’s full glory, that their wills would have literally not been able to do anything other than worship God. Thus, God must hide Himself from man, so that free love can be actualized in God’s creation. A defense that combines both of these approaches has been made by the philosopher Alvin Plantinga, where Plantinga argues that the best possible world is the world in which Christ atones for man’s sin and through this comes to know and love God.
Hope this helps; none of these defenses is without its problems, but I think we have good reasons to be confident that God’s plan is logical and coherent, even if we cannot unlock all its mysteries.
Hi Douglas, you have asked some well thought out and well articulated questions regarding the problem of evil and the free will defense. And I you’ve highlighted what I think is a fatal flaw in the free will defense.
This defense seeks to justify God with regard to evil by positing the necessity of creating man with the ability to choose evil in order for love to be genuine. However, your question demonstrates that genuine love can exist between beings who are unable to choose evil because evil, nor the possibility of it, exist in God nor in our glorified selves in heaven, yet true freedom and genuine love do.
In my view, this defeats the free will defense. And, if this is the case, then your original question still stands: Why did God do it this way? And I think the closest we might come to an answer is in Romans 9: God determined to demonstrate his nature (justice, wrath, power, mercy, grace) in this way according to his good purposes for his glory. And while this may not exhaustively satisfy all of our questions, and while God may or may not ever reveal more his mind here, we can be confident that we can trust that his reasons are good.
Great response! Can I ask a brotherly “in-house” question about your view?
However, your question demonstrates that genuine love can exist between beings who are unable to choose evil because evil, nor the possibility of it, exist in God
just on this statement itself, would not the free love that exists between divine persons be dis-analogous to the kind of free love between the Creator and a created being? The contingent nature of the created being being the property that would necessitate something like God hiding Himself; so that the contingent being could come into a free love relationship with Him?
What a great discussion thus far… I have a quick question. Doesn’t the knowledge of sin impact how we use our free-will? Adam and Eve had knowledge of good with God but not the knowledge of evil and sin apart from God before they chose to sin. In the glorified state, man would have already known sin and would also see the fullness of the beauty of God. Why would sin be attractive in heaven after experiencing sin and seeing what happens to those without God? My thinking may be very simplistic. I don’t know if there are other arguments developed along this thought.
@Lakshmismehta That is interesting - never thought of it that way. One could almost extend the argument and say that a knowledge of earthly history would show the emptiness and vanity of sin in a way that no single human experience could - the narrative of world history, if rehearsed, could renew afresh the uniqueness and glory of Christ as opposed to the monotony and tragedy of sin.
In some ways I think this sermon jam from Ravi captures the essence of the contrast between a futile history of sin and the eternal glory of Jesus Christ - he quotes Malcolm Muggeridge:
Malcolm Muggeridge Quote
We look back upon history and what do we see?
Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counterrevolutions, wealth accumulating and and then disbursed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of the “rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.”
In one lifetime I have seen my own countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that “God who’s made them mighty would make them mightier yet.”
I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last for a thousand years; an Italian clown announce he would restart the calendar to begin with his own assumption of power; a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the western world as wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Asoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius.
I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of military weaponry more powerful than all the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.
All in one little lifetime. All gone with the wind.
England now part of an island off the coast of Europe and threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy.
Hitler and Mussolini dead and remembered only in infamy.
Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped to found and dominate for some three decades.
America haunted by fears of running out of the precious fluid that keeps the motorways roaring and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam and of the great victories of the Don Quixotes of the media when they charged the windmills of Watergate. All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.
Behind the debris of these solemn supermen, and self-styled imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one, because of whom, by whom, in whom and through whom alone, mankind may still have peace: The person of Jesus Christ. I present him as the way, the truth, and the life. Ravi Zacharias
@SeanO, thanks for sharing that video which reminds of what an awesome God we serve. I am reminded of this verse, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Cor 2:9. As you discussed in your earlier post, we see in part. When we see Jesus face to face with the nail scars on His hands and understand the cost He paid, I imagine we will be able to love God more fully in heaven and feel the loss of not serving Him better in our time here on earth as believers.
Yes, I think you are definitely on to something. Knowledge plays a role here, and crucial one I think, if we are going to make a reasoned defense of why, on the one hand, God created Adam with the potential to sin (and he does sin), yet the Bible promises us there will be no sin in the new creation, even though we remain free moral agents like Adam.
I think the fact of the knowledge of sin that we possess and that Adam did not (yet) possess, is part of the reason why we will no longer sin in the new creation. Adam had no experience of ungodliness prior to the Fall, our entire existence since Adam has been predicated on living in a sinful and fallen world (we are the product of ungodliness)! To have that knowledge, not just in a proposition, but through experience, seems terribly relevant to why we would not sin in the new creation.
So, even if your thought was simple, it is by no means is simplistic! Great point.
@anthony.costello, appreciate those thoughts and encouragement. Just as in salvation, it’s a mystery how exactly our will works with God’s sovereign will to ensure no sin in heaven. We might be willing participants of heavenly principles such as ‘the first will be last’ due to our experiential knowledge of sin. More than that as discussed, we have the assurance in the perfect atonement of Christ ( Eph 5: 25-27), the seal of His Holy Spirit, the glorified bodies, a chasm between heaven and hell, a fuller revelation, all helping us to be the perfect bride of Christ. How glorious! Praise God for that hope!
Thanks for the question. I tend not to think so. If we consider that love is not a single decision made once in the past that one can point to as being sufficient for all time, but rather is an ongoing expression, I fail to see why God keeping us in perfect righteousness once we’re glorified is acceptable, but creating us in perfect righteousness is not. Put another way, if a being must have the ability to choose evil in order for love to be genuine, then this seems to render our love in heaven, where we won’t be able to choose evil because God will have made us perfectly righteous like Christ, as being no more genuine than if God had created us without the ability to choose evil.
And so, since love and the lack of ability to choose evil are compossible, I tend to see the philosophical presupposition that there is a different nature of love with regard to creatures - that is God could not have created us with genuine love without the ability to choose evil - as a speculative, logically unnecessary, and scripturally unsupported assumption.
We seem to agree that we will not sin in heaven. However we believe that becomes a reality, it seems we agree that it is a reality. And, since love is not a single decision made once in the past, but rather an ongoing expression, then in heaven our love for God will continually be expressed without the reality of not loving him. So, then the question again becomes Douglas’: Why didn’t God just do it this way in the beginning? Whatever the answer to that question is, I don’t think it is because it was necessary. Scripture seems to say that it was by choice rather than necessity - God’s free will choice to glorify himself in this way.
Thanks again, Anthony, for the discussion and I welcome any thoughts you or others have.
This discussion is so much more than I had hoped for when I first posted this question. I thank God for all of you, and your willingness to think through this with me.
All of you have given some great wisdom and insight, and I’m much better equipped to resolve this dilemma within my own heart and mind.
I have many discussions with non-believers, and often have some pretty intricate questions thrown my way. I just want to be as prepared as I can be to give a defense, and appeal to the intellectual nature of some of these contentions.
Hey Brian! So good to join in on the discussion. Just like the good old days in the core module
I have a few thoughts on what you mentioned:
What about before creation? The devil and his demons were with God in heaven, and they chose evil? Why did they have the ability to chose evil? What difference will we have between what they had?
Ah the whole free will thing comes up again. I think free will is overrated. I really don’t understand why it is so important to us. I say make me like Christ now and remove completely my sin nature, but God says my grace is sufficient for you, because in my weakness He is glorified, so alas I sin all of the time.
Consider our history.
Before the fall Adam had the ability to choose good or evil.
After the fall and before salvation we all have no ability to choose good.
After salvation our ability to choose good is restored, but we also have the ability to choose evil.
After we die our nature is conformed perfectly to the nature of Christ so we have no ability to choose evil. Now be careful - God does not coerce us into not choosing evil - he instead frees us to only choose what is good by changing our natures. This is true freedom.
With the exception of external coercion, we make all of our decisions according to our natures. We never choose against our natures. Never.
When in heaven and we are like Christ we will have no ability to sin because our nature itself will be perfected. Therefore, I reject your assumption that we will have free will in heaven as you described.
My answer to your question in the last paragraph may be a little upsetting, but God allowed or foreordained (which is a debate into itself) Adam and Even to sin because He thought it would be good for that event to happen. I say, with both fear and awe, God thought it good for that to happen. But hold on - see Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28 for Biblical support.
God does things like that. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He sees the end from the beginning. I don’t understand it, but I believe it.
The most unjust and ugliest event in human history is the death of Christ on the cross, yet it is the greatest event in all of human history at the same time.
Truly without the fall would we really know what love is? “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
And further when we ask why of God, consider the following:
Romans 9:20 “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it. ‘Why have you made me like this?’”
And let’s not forget Job’s questioning of God. God puts Job in his place.
Finally the Fall had to happen in God’s perfect plan for us. With the agony how much sweeter the ecstasy.