The 59-Second Apologist podcast on the topic “Will we have free will in heaven?” elicited the following comment from Mike D:
“If the only possible choices in a Heavenly moral dilemma are all morally perfect ones, then you’ve basically just neutered the concept of free will into meaninglessness, because all possible choices are equally valid and have equally perfect outcomes. It’s like a Jihadist getting to Paradise and being asked which 72 Stepford Wives he wants.”
Is this true?
The short answer is, no.
Should you want to be able to choose evil?
At the end of the podcast I point out that the acquired inability to choose evil is not a loss; rather, it is a liberation. This is a critical point which Mike ignored in his comments. We can illumine it with an example.
Smith currently is sexually attracted to children. In other words, he has pedophilic tendencies. Smith recognizes that it would be wrong to engage in this behavior, but given his predisposition, he could freely choose to engage in the sexual victimization of children. By contrast, Davis has no sexual attraction to children and is absolutely appalled by the notion of sexual interaction with children. While Smith has the free ability to exploit children sexually, Davis is not free to do this.
Now ask yourself this: all other things being equal, does Smith have a richer actualization of freedom than Davis because Smith is freely able to engage in an act that Davis is not free to engage in? Of course not. Indeed, the suggestion is absurd.
Once we’ve recognized that point, we can see that it is completely wrongheaded to think that the ability to choose evil is essential to a meaningful sense of freedom. This is why I noted that the acquired inability to engage in self-destructive and other-destructive evil is a liberation rather than a loss.
Can you have significant choices if you don’t have morally significant choices?
For the sake of discussion, let’s define a morally significant choice as any choice where the agent could choose to act in a way that is morally incorrect or morally suboptimal. In that sense, there are no morally significant choices in heaven because there are no agents who could make a morally incorrect or morally suboptimal choice.
But if we accept that we cannot make morally significant choices, does it follow that we cannot make any significant choices (i.e. those that are possibly incorrect or suboptimal)?
Mike seems to think so. Either he conflates morally significant with significant simpliciter or he assumes that the former entails the latter. But they are distinct concepts and the former doesn’t entail the latter. Thus, a person who is unable to make morally significant choices can still make significant choices (i.e. choices where it is possible to choose an incorrect or suboptimal course of action).
Here is a simple illustration of the point. Jones is perfectly sanctified and thus unable to make morally significant choices. He is out and about looking for his friend Jang. Jones comes to an intersection and turns left in his search. But it turns out that he should have turned right. Given that Jones’s choice was suboptimal relative to his chosen ends (i.e. finding Jang), he clearly retains the ability to make significant decisions even when he lacks the ability to make morally significant decisions.
Finding a friend on the street is relatively trivial. However, the principle can apply to all sorts of decisions. Think, for a moment, about the choices a person makes when designing a building or writing a song or engaging in some other dimension of culture building. These are all enormously significant actions, and the choices we make can have a tremendous impact on the quality of the cultural product produced. Yet, none of this need be morally significant to be significant.
To sum up, morally perfected human agents can still make significant choices. This status allows for all manner of novel discovery, surprise, delight, growth in knowledge and relationship. And it is enriched immeasurably by the inability to choose evil actions which are destructive of the self and others.