“Essentially I am asking is there free will after we are raised to live with God for eternity?” – Reed Dolihite

 

 


NateThis is a good one, Reed, so thanks for the opportunity to interact! The question — Will we have free will in Heaven? — presupposes that we will be sinless in Heaven so maybe we should begin by establishing where we get this idea that we will be sinless in Heaven. There are a couple places in 1 John that support this notion:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (3:2)

“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning..” (v. 6).

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” (5:18)

 

But probably the clearest picture we get of this idea is in Revelation 21, which contrasts the sinful

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (v. 8)*

… and the sinless

“and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (v. 27)

So if we are sinless in Heaven then how is that accomplished? Another way to ask this is: Do we have the freedom to sin in Heaven or not? I think the answer has to be: No, we do not have the freedom to sin in Heaven. But we will have freedom to make decisions. Sin is a defect, a deficiency in character, that marks The Fall in the Garden. When that defect disappears in Heaven our range of choices in decision-making will become constrained in a manner that will only be commensurate with righteous decisions. But we will still have the freedom to make those decisions.

You have to understand, Reed, I am coming from a particular point of view when it comes to freedom. So what I just said makes sense to me because I’m a compatibilist. As a compatibilist I think I’m in a good position to answer this question over someone who wants to argue for libertarian freedom in Heaven. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous episode of the podcast but the compatibilist view of freedom is that we all have freedom, we all have a range of choices in our decision-making available to us but the range is limited or constrained by our character. So after the Fall, I am limited to a range of decisions that fits with the character that I have due to the Fall. That’s why Paul can say no one is righteous, no not one; we have all fallen short of the glory of God in Romans 3.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because I think a common misconception that many Christians have of folks like me who argue for God’s sovereign control in the here and now is that His control comes at a cost: human free will. But that’s just not the case. Humans have free will to make decisions but those free choices are constrained by their character. And if our decisions are constrained by our flawed character on this side of death, then on the other side of death our decisions are constrained by our righteous character, such that we will be simultaneously free and sinless.

*See also Revelation 22:15

1 COMMENT

  1. 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

    Therefore if we are like Him (Jesus) what will our character be like in Heaven?

    John 5:30 I (Jesus) can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

    These are also the things we should be striving to be obedient in now during our time in this world.
    We must abandon our own self-will which desires fleshly things and be about the Will of the Father.

    1 Peter 1:13-19 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
    And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

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