Quote of the Day: If Christians Have Free Will on Earth, Will There be Free Will in Heaven?

bart ehrman

Most people who believe in God-given free will also believe in an afterlife. Presumably, people in the afterlife will still have free will (they won’t be robots then either, will they?). And yet there won’t be suffering (allegedly) then. Why will people know how to exercise free will in heaven if they can’t know how to exercise it on earth?

— Dr. Bart Ehrman, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

In other words, Dr. Ehrman is asking, will there be sin in Heaven? If Christians in Heaven have free will, there exists, then, the possibility that they will sin. And if Christians won’t have free will in Heaven due to some sort of divine action, why can’t  God do the same now on Earth?  If you want to read an unsatisfying “the Bible says” response to this conundrum, please read this post by  former atheist Erik Manning.

Books by Dr. Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

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3 Comments

  1. ObstacleChick

    What I took away from my evangelical days was that in the afterlife we would be completely overhauled and would be living in a place where sin would no longer exist. The implication I understood was that we would be incapable of sin because it would no linger exist. By default there would be no free will, though I never heard the idea of free will in the afterlife discussed.

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  2. Troy

    Such imaginings of the afterlife remind me of a blurb in the Dungeons and Dragons book Deities & Demigods. The book is a cyclopedia of deities so characters in the game can better employ the divine in their campaigns. There is a section that imagines nonhuman deities that posits that spirit goblins and spirit orcs in the Nine Hells engage in an eternal war. Since there is no death in Hell, the spirits merely reform and fight another each other another day. Perhaps this is one way to imagine “sin” in Heaven. When spirits engage in sin, they face the immediate tumult of death, but are reborn again. This also is reminiscent of the Philip Jose Farmer Riverworld books, where the dead are revived on the edge of a great river. Death there is similar, you are just reborn again and again.

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  3. Dave

    Back in my Christian days I used the free will argument all of the time to get God off the hook. God couldn’t be blamed for anything because he gave us free will blah blah blah. This only held up so long and as I started my deconversion process I came to the same realization that Ehrman discusses here. If free will is so important that God allows unspeakable suffering to occur to maintain it then what makes it so unimportant in heaven? This is just one piece of the line of B.S. I had to unload before I could admit there was no reason to believe in a god

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