Free Will in Heaven?
The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
A Christian and an atheist on an airplane
Francisco: It’s a bit more than an hour to Chicago. Would you be interested in taking a few minutes to hear how you can get to Heaven?
Gavin: I’m not really religious.
Francisco: That’s okay. I’d still like to talk to you. If you’d rather go back to your magazine though, that’s fine.
Gavin: I don’t mind talking for a bit, but you’re going to have to start out by telling me why I’d want to go to Heaven in the first place.
Francisco: Of course! The obvious reason that you’d want to go to Heaven is that the alternative is going to Hell and being punished for eternity.
Gavin: That doesn’t say much about Heaven. I can see the sales brochure now, “Go to Heaven — at least it’s not Hell!”
Francisco: Ha! Right! Fortunately, there’s more to the sales pitch than that. Heaven is paradise. I’d say it’s the most wonderful place you can imagine, but you couldn’t even imagine it. It’s an eternity of bliss in the arms of God.
Gavin: That sounds good, but tell me how it works. If I go to Heaven I’m leaving my body behind, so is it really me that goes to Heaven?
Francisco: Your body is just a vehicle that your soul occupies for its time on Earth. After death, your soul is taken to Heaven, and that’s you going to Heaven just as sure as you are the person who takes a shower even though you leave your clothes behind.
Gavin: The analogy’s a little disturbing, but I think I know what you mean. Let me ask you a question, though. If it’s me that’s going to Heaven, then am I still going to have free will when I get there? I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have free will.
Francisco: Why wouldn’t you have free will?
Gavin: Well, if I have free will, then I can make mistakes. If I can make mistakes, then I might sin. Can you sin in Heaven?
Francisco: In Heaven, all your wants and needs are completely taken care of. There’s nothing to tempt you to sin.
Gavin: Couldn’t I be tempted to look at a hot woman in Heaven?
Francisco: When you’re in Heaven, you don’t hunger or thirst or have carnal desires any more. You aren’t concerned about such things.
Gavin: What if I go to Heaven but my wife doesn’t? Won’t I be sad and maybe tempted to take a trip to Hell to see her?
Francisco: The Bible teaches us that there are no married people in Heaven.* Family and other relationships don’t mean anything when you are basking in the presence of God. You feel nothing but joy that everyone has met their just reward.
Gavin: Even if I don’t miss anyone and I’m not tempted to do anything, what if I just decide to do something bad for the heck of it? You know, just to prove to myself that I still have my free will.
Francisco: If you’re in Heaven, you’re not the kind of person who would do evil.
Gavin: So humans who sin on earth don’t go to Heaven?
Francisco: It’s not that. We’re all sinners, but Jesus Christ has paid the price for all sins. If you accept his gift, you can go to Heaven even though your sinful nature makes you unworthy.
Gavin: But if a person with a sinful nature can go to Heaven, why couldn’t he sin in Heaven?
Francisco: Your sinful nature is wiped away in the presence of God.
Gavin: Let me sum up what I’m hearing. If I go to Heaven, I won’t have any desire to do the things that I liked to do in life, I won’t be married to my wife anymore, and even though I’ll have free will, my nature will be changed so I really won’t be able to do anything with it. It sounds to me like the person who goes to Heaven doesn’t bear much resemblance to the person who was on Earth.
Francisco: That’s true. In Heaven, you’re a pure spirit, unencumbered with the burdens of the flesh.
Gavin: So what’s the fun of going to Heaven? Why would I want to do that?
Francisco: Well, consider the alternative.
Gavin: There’s the bad sales pitch again.
Francisco: Darn — you’re right! I’m not sure where to go from here. I guess I haven’t helped you much, have I?
Gavin: Well, you got me five minutes closer to Chicago. I do appreciate that.
*Mark 12:25: “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”
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