Evil and Free Will in Heaven

*Posted by Barry Creamer

I participated in a debate hosted by a secular student organization at Collin College’s Plano campus recently. The topics selected for the two-part debate were the existence of God and same-sex marriage. In response to one of my statements during the debate, an astute listener named Mandie asked a question worth at least the response I share here.

Mandie said:

“I have a question for Mr. Creamer regarding his interpretation of free will (referencing his comment in the first video sometime before 0:57; that’s where the video is paused atm). He said that evil exists because of free will and that it is better to exist in a world where there is both free will and evil than it is to live in a world with neither. Does that mean there can be no free will in heaven because there would be evil? If that’s the case; wouldn’t it make heaven less desirable than life? Or is it that somehow heaven still has free will but does not have evil. In which case; if it is possible for there to be freewill without evil; why is there evil?”

My response:

Thanks very much for the insightful question, Mandie. First, I’m not sure how I made it sound in the debate, but I do not actually agree that the only options for the world are either to have both free will and evil or to have neither free will nor evil. I was only repeating a point which has been made from Augustine to Leibniz, and saying that the dilemma might make sense of why evil exists. It is a good answer, just not mine.

I do not believe God is bound by some limitation which makes it impossible for a free will to exist without evil also existing. When I speak of free will, I am speaking of something radical (speaking technically, not in Snowboardese). I believe a free will can act creatively in the world, not just as a product of prior sufficient causes. So my view is that God created humanity with a legitimately free will, and that humanity introduced evil into the picture by acting creatively against God’s will. They didn’t have to. They just did. They did it freely.

Interestingly, though, and very importantly for your point, it is God who has chosen to give humanity the means with which to act freely.

Now your point, as I understand it, is about whether free will could exist in heaven or not. It’s a good point since it appears from my original comments that if it does exist in heaven, then evil is possible there (which seems contradictory with our claims about heaven’s perfection), and if it doesn’t exist in heaven, then heaven wouldn’t be as good as the earth where free will exists even though it brings evil. I have heard your case disputed among Christian theologians as well.

My answer to you is the same as it is to them. Free will, even radical free will, does not imply the ability to do everything. My will is free, but my choices are inherently limited by the finiteness of my being. I may have the freedom to express my will carte blanche within a given circumstance, but I only have the power to express it among genuine options in that circumstance. I have the option to stand on the roof. I have the option to step off the roof. But I do not have the option to step off the roof and not fall. Even a radically free will is bound (in terms of power) by the options presented to it. I simply believe that in heaven evil will not be one of the options presented to believers. And whatever options are there won’t fail to indicate significance and value simply because they don’t include evil. In heaven, the expression regarding evil might be something like, “been there; done that,” but I’m confident it won’t be “here we go again.”

I hope that explanation at least clarifies a bit of my understanding about the relationship between free will, evil, and eternity. I’m certain it introduces a host of other problems with which we may want to deal another time.

_________

You can watch the entirety of Dr. Creamer and David Smalley’s debate here.

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