Brian Abasciano, “True Love, Free Will, and Heaven”

, posted by SEA

Several years ago, a friend of mine asked the following question on his blog:

The argument that there must be freedom of choice in order for their to be love towards God makes total sense to me. It’s logical. I mean, if Jenny (my wife) only “loved” me because I threatened her or forced her or drugged her, that would be a “love” I wouldn’t want, and in fact wouldn’t be love at all.

So here is my problem with this argument: what about heaven? In heaven we no longer have the capacity to choose anything other than God. Does this mean there will be no love for God in heaven? Do we change from sons and daughters into robots and puppets at the final judgement? [Link to that post]

Here is the answer I gave in the comment section of his post, which he then posted on his blog as its own post [link to that post], followed by the thrust of an additional comment I made in the original  comment section:

There are different reasonable answers to these questions. One is to say that there is free will in Heaven, but that the big issue is that there will be no temptation in Heaven. It would seem that for contingent, perfect, sinless beings to sin, there needs to be significant temptation. Satan provided that in the Garden. It is perfectly reasonable and probable that had Adam and Eve never been tempted, they would never have sinned. Now that would not mean that they did not have free will. But since there natures were pure and good, their bent would be to not sin, and without significant temptation, they would not.

Alternatively, one could argue, that there is no free will in Heaven with respect to loving God, but we feely loved God first, and therefore that state of sinless perfection is itself partly a result of a free choice. It can further be argued that if God had simply created us without free will to love him or not, that our relationship with him would not be genuine (i.e., beyond a mere cause-effect robotic type of relationship). But our free love of God and the free will relationship with God developed in this life will make our relationship with him in Heaven meaningful.

Here is an exchange from a debate between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Ray Bradley in 1994: Craig was asked why God didn’t just create heaven as the world and forego the rest. Craig responded: “No, Heaven may not be a possible world when you take it in isolation by itself. It may be that the only way in which God could actualize a heaven of free creatures all worshiping Him and not falling into sin would be by having, so to speak, this run-up to it, this advance life during which there is a veil of decision-making in which some people choose for God and some people against God. Otherwise you don’t know that heaven is an actualizable world. You have no way of knowing that possibility. Dr. Bradley asked: “You’re saying, in effect, that when I characterize heaven as a possible world in which everybody freely receives Christ, I’m wrong insofar as that had to be preceded by this actual world, this world of vale of tears and woe in which people are sinful and the like. Dr. Craig: replied: I’m saying that it may not be feasible for God to actualize heaven in isolation from such an antecedent world.”

One thing I should add in relation to Dr. Craig’s comments on this world containing free will being necessary for what I would call a meaningful Heaven is that I would not hold that there would need to be people choosing for and against God, but only the possibility of both, that is, free will. God desires all to choose for him and works towards that end. But freedom involves the ability to choose against him. For me, (perhaps in distinction from Craig?) the issue would be that since free will is necessary for genuine relationship, a meaningful Heaven of free creatures all worshiping Him and not falling into sin would at least need to be based on a free will foundation as we have in this life for its antecedent.

However, I would go further and draw these various points together, some of which can separately answer your question satisfactorily in my opinion, but together provide an even stronger answer:

(1) We will be perfect and sinless and good (our sinful nature and its natural inclination toward sin will be removed);

(2) there will be no temptation;

(3) God is awesome and beautiful!

(4) God was first chosen freely and loved freely against significant temptation in this life.

God is so awesome, and in our sinless, temptation-free existence entered into by loving him freely, his greatness will be so clear and our enjoyment of him so full that we will not want to do anything but love him. So I do think that we will love God freely in Heaven, but that lack of temptation (in combination with our glorified/perfected natures) will ensure a situation in which we will never forsake love of God again. This latter situation, already a meaningful relational free will situation, is rendered all the more so by the fact that this state was in some sense chosen freely against tremendous temptation.

Perhaps it would be helpful to put it this way succinctly at the risk of greatly oversimplifying: our love for God in Heaven will be the continuation of the love we freely gave him in this life, with the removal of any temptation to abandon it.