A Discussion on Free Will (In Heaven As It Is On Earth)

I ran across a discussion on another blog site, thanks to a link from my friend Nate at Finding Truth, which revolved around the following questions:

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?

In an attempt to answer, the writer drew heavily on a Christian apologist named Norman Geisler involving an examination of how our ‘freedom’ will be perfected in heaven and giving analogies of what it would be like to truly live in the presence of God.  It was a gallant, if insufficient, effort to answer some incredibly complex questions.  If you’d like to weigh in on the discussion, the link can be found here

Unfortunately not addressed were some fundamental concerns I had within the questions themselves.

“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?”

God made angels, and they do not sin?  Yes, yes they did.  A third of them.  Along with one in particular named Lucifer.  They ended up being kicked out of heaven.  Down here.  Among us.

“Why could it not be the case that God could have made humans that do not sin?”

Quite possibly, he did.

So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply….Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!

I do not believe sin was originally found within the hearts of the first man and woman, created “in his own image”, when God “saw that it was very good”.

Here’s the way I see it:  There is a difference between the idea of God making humans that “do not” sin and making us “incapable” of sin, or that we “can not” sin.  What is sin other than submission in temptation to do ‘evil’, ‘wrong’, or ‘harm’, either to one’s self, one’s fellow man, or one’s God.  What would happen if you were to remove the temptation?   You see, I firmly believe we can remain capable of sin yet not sin.  Maybe not in the particular world circumstances we’re presently surrounded by, but a little more on that later . . .

Was “evil and sin…the result of mankind’s free will”?

Back to Scripture!!

Genesis 3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 

Okay let’s stop right there.  What do you see?   Has man’s free will been apparent thus far?  Yes, in glorious, full-color, living display.   Yet, what do we see right here?  (And let’s move beyond the believability of a talking snake.  If you’ve already read that God created the entire universe, the world, and all living things in six days, out of nothing, then the possibility of Satan being able to take the form of a talking serpent shouldn’t be that much of a stretch.  Spoiler Alert!  Later on in scripture, there’s a talking donkey!  Moving on . . . )

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will
not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Again, let’s hold up a second.  What is the Evil One doing here (besides lying)?  What is he arousing within Eve, and how is that affecting her free will?  Well . . . .

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Moving beyond Eve, what do you see in Adam here?  Passivity? Submission?  Acceptance?  After all: He’s. Standing. Right. There!  The whole time!  It’s not Eve’s decision that causes the fall of mankind, it was Adam’s.  The passivity in not standing up; either to the Evil One, or to his wife.  The submission and resignation to their fate—choosing to fall into temptation and sin with his wife rather than abide in the word and remain in God.  After all, there was a brief moment there when Eve had fallen to sin and Adam had not.  Eve was tempted into sin.  Adam freely chose it.  Free choice.  Free will.

Was evil and sin (within man, at least) the result of mankind’s free will?  Absolutely.

Was it free will alone?  Absolutely not.

Later on in Genesis 3 you read that Eve tried to shift the blame to the snake, and Adam tried to shift the blame . . . to God!   There’s a whooooolllle bunch going on here that led mankind into evil and sin above and beyond his free will, all pointing back to one overriding factor: Evil and sin (temptation) were present long before Adam or Eve ever fell victim to them.

Did God create this evil?
Why did a third of the angels choose to follow Lucifer?  Free will?
Why did Lucifer choose to rebel?
Are we just pawns and foot-soldiers in this spiritual warfare of good and evil; ultimately played out, not for humanity’s sake, but for the sake of the angels and principalities in the heavenly realms (and below)?

These are questions best left for scholarly minds greater than mine.  And I certainly wouldn’t want to poke the bear now would I?? 😉

Personally, I think the bigger question relevant to our discussion here, and a more apt question to ask the apologetic scholar at the beginning, is, “What effect will the absence of Evil and the removal of temptation have to people’s free will in heaven?”  After all, this is the world promised to us in Revelation and elsewhere in scripture.   In other words, what would the Garden of Eden have been like for Adam, Eve, and all their descendants, without the talking snake?

Genesis 1: 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

For what is heaven but the absence of evil (including Satan and his influence)?
And, what is hell but the absence of good (including God and his influence)?

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9 thoughts on “A Discussion on Free Will (In Heaven As It Is On Earth)”

  1. Well stated Kent!
    The reality ( which still plays out today, even is the conversation) is that Man is sinful because he has free will and decides he knows better than God. In questioning why God allows us to do things that are evil, we again try to place the blame on others first, then God.
    If you had a child in your home who says to you ” She MADE me do it by doing it first” , your first response is ” If she had jumped off a bridge, would you have done that too? ” –
    Their next statement is ” Well, its YOUR fault for not ……. ”
    We’re all this way when we open up an honest assessment.
    Just children.
    God is a polite God who is long suffering. He will GIVE us what we want. If we choose to ignore him, he’ll stand aside and let us have our way. He did it with Adam and Eve. He respected their free will. They WERE sinless until they chose to sin ( thats how he created them) –
    The question shouldn’t be ” Why does God allow us to sin?”
    It should be ” Why does God put up with us Sinners and the horrible way we treat him and others, and the fact that we make idols out of everything, including our own intellect?”
    Great topic today brother- ! Cant wait to see you guys!

  2. In order to exercise free will there must be opposition—a choice between good and evil. That is the main purpose of our lives—to learn to recognize and choose good over evil.
    This was God’s plan from the beginning. Obviously, He knew exactly what Adam and Eve were going to do—and, unless any of us can claim to be sinless, we ALL would have done the same thing!!! One way or another we all would have sinned in the Garden of Eden and received the same consequences. God knew this, too, which is why he chose a Savior for us BEFORE the foundation of the world. It was never the intention of God for Adam and Eve to remain forever in the garden. They were not ready for that life just as we are not. But—they needed to find that out for themselves, just as we do. I do not believe they were guilty of gross sin. If we arrive in Heaven I don’t believe we will still have a desire to sin. We will have learned from our experiences here on earth that it only leads to misery. We will truly be new creatures in Christ through his atonement and his grace, and our bodies and spirits in the resurrection will be completely at one instead of warring against each other.

  3. It’s interesting to think about how Adam and Eve could sin prior to receiving the “knowledge of good and evil,” which is what the fruit supposedly gave them. Infants don’t have a knowledge of good or evil — when they bite someone, would we say they were being evil? Or does their innocence leave them blameless? It’s strange that it didn’t seem to work that way with Adam and Eve.

    The scriptures seem to promise that our reward for living faithfully in this life is an eternity in Heaven with God and Jesus. But if our capacity to sin remains, then just like some of the angels, some of us will likely sin in Heaven. Do you suppose we’d receive second chances, or would we be cast out just as Satan and his angels were? And if it’s the latter, how can God really promise an eternity in Heaven? Eternity is a really long time. Hard to imagine anyone as that kind of stamina… 🙂

    1. Alright Nate, my friend, here we go . . . 🙂

      It’s interesting to think about how Adam and Eve could sin prior to receiving the “knowledge of good and evil,” which is what the fruit supposedly gave them.

      It is interesting, if given that “knowledge of good and evil” was the only parameter under which sin is defined. Could sin also be defined as knowing what is the right or proper thing to do in a given situation, and choosing otherwise? Regardless of whether or not the choice itself is inherently good or evil?
      You well know that the fall of man was Adam’s doing and not Eve’s. Eve was led into temptation; Adam freely disobeyed God by following the lead of his wife. Therefore, I don’t think the choice itself was either good or evil. What the snake did was evil; what Adam did was wrong. I imagine his thought process went something like, “I’ve lost her anyway. I can’t live without her, and I can’t stand the thought of her suffering alone, I might as well do the same thing . . .” Adam chose to follow his wife, openly disobeying what God personally told him (At least Eve was like, “Well, I think this is what Adam told me that God told him . . .”) Adam’s eternal sin was committed before the bite was ever taken. It was then sealed when he tried to shift blame for his actions . . . to God himself. (“It was the woman YOU gave me.”)

      Infants don’t have a knowledge of good or evil — when they bite someone, would we say they were being evil? Or does their innocence leave them blameless? It’s strange that it didn’t seem to work that way with Adam and Eve.

      An infant biting something out of the blue like that would most likely be simply exploring their senses, hehe. 🙂 However, if someone wags their finger in the baby’s face and says, “Betcha can’t bite this! Betcha can’t bite this!”, until the little one finally chomps down . . . was that sin? Good? Evil? Or temptation?
      That was one of the points I tried to bring up within the post. To me anyway, the biting of the fruit—and the gaining of knowledge of good and evil—was almost secondary to the surrounding circumstances. Who is to say whether or not, on their own, Adam or Eve would have ever partaken of the fruit? It seems as though they were told not to and, up until the temptation of Eve, were fine with it. The action is one thing; the giving in to temptation that you know to be wrong or harmful, is quite another; and the resignation and inevitable choice of Adam (to follow his wife instead of God) is still another. Then there’s the realization of their wrong, the attempt to hide and cover, the blame shifting . . . . There’s just a lot going on within the confines of “original sin”.

      The scriptures seem to promise that our reward for living faithfully in this life is an eternity in Heaven with God and Jesus. But if our capacity to sin remains, then just like some of the angels, some of us will likely sin in Heaven. Do you suppose we’d receive second chances, or would we be cast out just as Satan and his angels were? And if it’s the latter, how can God really promise an eternity in Heaven?

      That, my friend, is a really good question, and I struggle with the resolution to that myself. To be honest, I just don’t rightly know. The scriptures say that when we accept the work of Christ on the cross, God chooses to no longer see the sins (past, present, or future) in our lives. Christ’s sacrifice paid for our sins. I don’t read where that sanctification has an expiration date. What I do read is that, once we accept the claims of Christ, the only thing we can do to lose our inheritance is:

      Mark 3: 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

      In other words, you literally have to turn your back on God. That’s what Lucifer did to lose heaven: to think he knew better than God. That’s what Adam did to lose Paradise: chose to follow the actions of his wife rather than remain in obedience. Once we have gained eternal salvation (John 3:16-17), and once the new heaven and new earth are revealed (Rev 21:1), and we are newly resurrected (2 Corinthians 5:1), and once evil and temptation are eliminated (Rev 20:10), once all that has taken place, and the faithful remain, will we want to do that? Turn our back on God? Now?? Really??
      The capacity may well remain, but will the desire?

      1. Then do you think that God wanted man to sin? We’re told that God created us with a free will so that we would love him and want to be with him. Yet he put us on a world that leaves him beyond our reach (since we can reasonably disagree about his very existence). And if his presence would help us develop the kind of relationship where we wouldn’t want to hurt him (the same kind of relationship we build with the friends and family we interact with regularly), then why not remain in our presence and avoid the whole sin and suffering thing altogether?

        It seems to me if he could have given us free will but put us in circumstances where we wouldn’t want to sin, but didn’t do that, then some part of him must have wanted evil and suffering to exist.

        And it also seems problematic to me that faith in Jesus is the only requirement to make it to Heaven. You’re a faithful Christian, but you concede that there are some difficult parts of your religion (especially the Bible) that make it difficult to believe. Yet you continue to believe. That’s steadfastness of faith. Yet it’s the same quality that keeps people in “false” religions as well, keeping them from accepting Jesus. Why would the same quality that’s admirable in Christians keep people of other faiths out of Heaven if God is truly just?

        (sorry if we’re getting way off topic here!) 🙂

        1. Ha ha! Not getting off topic here at all, Nate. I appreciate the chance to answer some of your critiques. Besides, you’re giving me a lot of good fodder for future posts!

          Then do you think that God wanted man to sin? We’re told that God created us with a free will so that we would love him and want to be with him.

          Well . . . I think it might be more accurate to say that God created us with the capacity to love him and want to be with him. There are people that reject him all the time, or who choose what they feel is another path to him. Where free will comes in is that God then honors our choices.

          Yet he put us on a world that leaves him beyond our reach (since we can reasonably disagree about his very existence). And if his presence would help us develop the kind of relationship where we wouldn’t want to hurt him (the same kind of relationship we build with the friends and family we interact with regularly), then why not remain in our presence and avoid the whole sin and suffering thing altogether?

          In fact, he did do that. Upon his death, Christ tore the barrier curtain of the Holy of Holies and allowed man to approach God on his own without need of priest or Levite. We became a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5 & 9) and we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit—one part of the trinity; God indwelling within us (Acts 2:38 and Hebrews 2:pretty much the whole thing). Granted, it is not a physical presence, as it was in the Garden of Eden, but there are times it can be felt just as tangibly.

          It seems to me if he could have given us free will but put us in circumstances where we wouldn’t want to sin, but didn’t do that, then some part of him must have wanted evil and suffering to exist.

          Here is where I totally agree with you. I do believe he may have wanted evil to manifest itself (and by doing so, also introduce pain, suffering, catastrophes, etc.) The reason I believe this is through what’s called by some “the Great Controversy”. We are in a battlefield; we are in the midst of a war. This all may well be by God’s arranging. We are in the midst of a battle between the forces of “good” and “evil”. According to the Bible, “good” will eventually triumph. In the meantime, “evil” though most likely knowing it is to be defeated, plans on taking as many casualties as it can. What really puts this far-flung reality out there is the possibility that all of this may not even be playing out for our (humankind’s) benefit; but for the intentional understanding of the angels and principalities in the heavens and below. In creating us, and giving us free will, he has allowed us to decide which ‘foe’ to fight for. And again, he then honors our decision—including, when the final resolution is reached, our ‘homecoming’ to him. How’s that for giving you a Pandora’s Box of fun to challenge!

          And it also seems problematic to me that faith in Jesus is the only requirement to make it to Heaven.

          That is odd isn’t it?!! With Christ, the “work” is already done. That’s what makes the Christian faith unique among world religions. Christ turned the entire model of religion on its head when he declared, “It is finished”, on the cross. He played the part of the ultimate sacrifice (the lamb) for our sins—once for all. What had up ‘til that time been modeled in the Jewish religion by the various sacrifices—guilt, sin, etc.—Jesus did away with by becoming the “Lamb of God”. The only “work” we need now do is accept what Christ has already done for us. For me, that’s what he meant by “the way, the truth, and the life . . . no one comes to the Father accept through me.” In essence, what he is saying is, “You need do nothing! I’ve already done it. Just believe that I am all you need.” (Man, I can’t believe the high, outside pitches I’m giving you to smash over the fences!) And, I agree, it seems too easy. And yet . . . .

          You’re a faithful Christian, but you concede that there are some difficult parts of your religion (especially the Bible) that make it difficult to believe. Yet you continue to believe. That’s steadfastness of faith.

          That’s also “walking by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7-8) I don’t claim to have it all figured out. I just rest in the assurance that God does.

          Yet it’s the same quality that keeps people in “false” religions as well, keeping them from accepting Jesus. Why would the same quality that’s admirable in Christians keep people of other faiths out of Heaven if God is truly just?

          Why don’t you ask a Muslim that same question in regards to the tenets of his faith? Or the Hindu? Or the myriad of other world religions? That’s one of the sticking points I have with the agnostic/atheistic argument on the “narrow-mindedness” of Christianity. Far be it for us to have the market cornered on that mindset—if it even is that.

          Sorry, rant over. 🙂

          1. Why don’t you ask a Muslim that same question in regards to the tenets of his faith? Or the Hindu? Or the myriad of other world religions? That’s one of the sticking points I have with the agnostic/atheistic argument on the “narrow-mindedness” of Christianity. Far be it for us to have the market cornered on that mindset—if it even is that.

            Oh, I absolutely agree with you here. Christianity is not alone in having this problem. It’s why I think if God really existed and really wanted us to know who he was, we would. I just don’t find any of the “revealed” religions believable because none of them can truly convince objective people with the quality of evidence they possess. And I’m not trying to say that you aren’t objective. It’s just that you probably won’t give Islam or Hinduism the same consideration that you’d give Christianity because of your background. I’m the same way. And Muslim and Hindu people are the same way. They won’t typically give Christianity a fair shake, because they already come to it assuming it’s wrong, just as we do with their religions.

            And really, that’s what all of this comes down to for me. I have a high regard for the idea of God. If he really existed and really wanted something from us, I think he’d have a better way of reaching us than what any religion espouses.

            Aside from all that, nice job on your responses. When I was a Christian, my favorite book was Hebrews, because I loved the way it tied the entire Bible story together — how Christ could be the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate high priest (through Melchizedek, since he wasn’t a Levite [and more specifically, not a descendant of Aaron]), and the ultimate king of Israel. It’s a brilliant book.

            Thanks for taking the time, brother! 🙂

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