“Do people in Heaven still have free will?”
Our conversation started with evolution and gradually meandered to angels, free will, and humanity. I told them that angels had free will and they asked if angels could still rebel. Explaining that angels will their decision to follow or not follow God with their entire beings, they then asked if people in Heaven could sin. When I said they wouldn’t, they wondered how free will could be found in a place where there was no sin.
“It seems like free will would just be an illusion,” they said, when I told them that in Heaven we would be purified and would always choose to follow God, even while exercising our free will.
I needed to make a correlation that they would understand. One student compared it to pizza. If he said he would eat pizza for the rest of his life, he wouldn’t be free to eat anything other than pizza. That wasn’t quite the comparison I was looking for in order to explain the situation to them.
I’m not always very quick on my feet. Sometimes, I want to beg them for more time and to consider than I am a slow thinker, a muller of thoughts and ideas. Instead, I tried to think of something tangible that they could understand. How could one make a particular choice that was forever and yet still exercise their free will?
Now that I consider it, I could have referenced Jesus or Mary. Instead, I used vocations.
“Priests, religious, and married persons make vows that they intend to follow forever and yet they freely choose to will those decisions daily. Our free will in Heaven is kind of like that, but we are able to perfectly will it always.”
A couple committed to marriage make vows to love the other in a free, total, faithful, and fruitful way. They still have a free will, but they have publicly voiced their desire to always will the good of the other. This doesn’t make them less free. Instead, their commitment allows them to experience the freedom of total gift of self to another. Yes, they could choose to cheat or leave or lie. But if they follow the vows, they will freely choose to not do those things.
In a similar way, in Heaven our wills will be formed in such a way that we will only will to love and follow God. Deep in relationship with Him, purified from all sin and tendency to sin, we won’t desire to turn against God or to will something apart from His will for us. This doesn’t make us slaves or cause us to lose our freedom. Instead, we are more free, since we are able to fully and completely live as we were created to live–in intimate union with the Lover of our souls.
Only later did I consider the truth that in Heaven we will be fully human, in a way that we struggle to experience here on earth. Made in the image and likeness of God, we will have intellects and wills that seek the highest Good, Truth, and Beauty. Never choosing to err will make us free from the slavery of sin. Too often we believe that it is evil and sin that proves our free will. They are caused by free will, to be sure, but they are not necessary realities.
As a good and faithful marriage wills to follow vows years after they made, freely and faithfully, so in Heaven we will live vows that are ever-ancient and ever-new. We will be present at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and the feast, beautifully and unimaginably, will never end. Our wills, perfectly in line with God’s will, enable us to live the fullness of humanity that God always desired for us.
Will we have free will in Heaven? Of course! Why would the good and gracious Father give us free will in our times of trial only to revoke it once we return to His House?