Part of our theodicy for the problem of evil includes the point that it was logically impossible for God to create a world in which humans enjoyed free will (a good thing), and yet were unable to use that freedom to choose evil as well as the good. I accept that as true, and yet Christianity proclaims there is coming a day in which there will be a world consisting of humans with libertarian free-will, who will never choose evil: heaven. The future hope of Christians seems to undermine one of the central premises in our theodicy. Can this be reconciled?

Some have suggested that we will not sin in heaven because we’ll be in the beatific presence of God. Presumably, the angels exist in the beatific presence of God, and yet many of the angels chose to rebel against God in that state. This alone, then, cannot explain why humans won’t sin in heaven.

Others have suggested that we will not sin in heaven because God will glorify our humanity. But this is not a solution; it is an admission of the problem. Glorification is being put forward, not to show that such a world cannot exist, but rather to explain how it will become a reality. If in the future God is able—through glorification—to make human beings such that they have free will, and yet will not choose evil, then it falsifies the claim that God cannot create a world in which humans enjoy libertarian free will, and yet never choose evil. Indeed, He will do so in the future. In light of such, we might ask why God did not do this from the onset. Why didn’t He create humans in a glorified state to begin with, if glorified humans can exercise free will and yet not choose evil?

This is a difficult question, but here is my current thinking on it.  Could it be that the presence of sin—and our subsequent struggle against it—are necessary to create the kind of free creatures who will not exercise their free will to choose evil? Is God using evil as an immunization of sorts, in which our experience with it actually creates in us a hatred for it, to the extent that if our fallen nature were removed, we would always choose the good in the future—a choice we would not be able to make without first experiencing evil (a la Adam)? In this schema, the future world of freedom without evil is only possible because it was first preceded by world of freedom that included evil.  Evil is used as a divine teaching tool in this world to create in us the ability to always and freely choose the good in the next world.  Our present problem consists of our inability to actually perform what we presently will to perform because of our fallen nature. But in the end, God will restore humanity to its original state—removing from us our natural propensity toward evil—so that we can truly perform what we have learned to will in this life: the good.

On this proposal, evil is necessary to exercise our moral being to the point of maturity, so that in the next life we will only choose the good, and will do so freely. The purpose of glorification is not to remove the possibility of choosing evil, but to remove the barrier that is currently preventing us from choosing what we want to choose: the good.

William Lane Craig has echoed similar thoughts.  In a debate with Ray Bradley, Craig said, “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. … [I]t may not be feasible for God to actualize heaven in isolation from such an antecedent world.”[1]

While it is theoretically possible for those in heaven to sin, no one will ever choose it.  J. P. Moreland illustrates this concept in a crude but powerful way.  He notes that while he currently possesses the freedom to eat his dog’s poop, he will never choose to do so no matter how long he lives.  Why?  Because it is disgusting!  Our experience of sin in this life will create in us such a hatred for sin in the next life that the likelihood of us choosing sin will be even less than the likelihood of us choosing to eat dog poop in this life.

Clay Jones makes a similar argument using a comparable illustration.[2]  He notes that while he has the freedom to jab a pencil into his eye, he will never choose to do so because such an act “would be stupid.”  Knowing the consequences of such an act, no one would willingly choose to do it.  And so it will be in heaven.  We will be too smart to use our freedom to sin.

Those who populate heaven will be limited to those who have demonstrated their willingness to submit to God and their desire for goodness in this life.  While they still sin, their sin is a result of their fallen condition.  Once their condition is rectified through glorification, they will always choose the good in the life to come.

One might object to this proposal citing the example of babies. Presuming that babies who die before they are morally accountable go to heaven, we would have a fairly significant population in heaven who have never experienced the horrors of sin, and who have not been “inoculated” against it.  What would prevent them from sinning in heaven?  If we say they will still not choose evil in the heavenly state because they will be glorified and in the beatific presence of God, then isn’t that an admission that 1) this earthly state was not necessary to ensure that people wouldn’t choose evil in a heavenly state or 2) that God could have ensured we would not have chosen evil simply by creating us in a heavenly state in which we were glorified and in his beatific presence?

Perhaps the answer to this objection is the Great White Throne Judgment.  These babies would be consciously aware of God’s severe judgment on those who used their freedom to rebel against God, and such an example would be enough to motivate them to choose the good.  In contrast to these babies, Adam had no example of judgment to consider before choosing to sin.  Perhaps if Adam had witnessed the judgment of Satan or foresaw the kind of judgment sinners would receive, he would not have chosen to sin.

What are your thoughts?

Debate transcript available from Reasonable Faith:; Internet; accessed 06 January 2017. The 1994 debate audio is available from

[2]Clay Jones, “Ehrman’s Problem 4: Why Won’t We Abuse Free Will in Heaven?”; available from; Internet; accessed 06 January 2017.