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Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?

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Will we have free will in heaven?

If so, does that mean we might sin and fall again?

If not, what kind of free will would we have there?

And if God can harmonize our free will and sinlessness in heaven, why doesn't he do so in this life?

Here are some thoughts . . .

 

A Robot "Loves" Me. Big Deal.

NOTE: This is part of a series on the problem of evil. Click here to read the previous posts in the series.

In a previous post, we looked at a common answer to the problem of evil--that God allows sin and the suffering it causes to exist because the only way to eliminate them would be to eliminate free will.

Without free will, according to this view, something important would be lost.

If we didn't freely choose good--to freely love God and love our fellow human beings--then these actions would lose something very important.

It would be like being "loved" by a robot--a being programmed to do nothing else.

The Love of the Saints

What about the saints in heaven? They don't sin. Does that make their love less valuable?

It would go against the grain of the Christian worldview to say that the saints in heaven love God in an inferior way compared to the way we are able to love him in this life.

Sainthood--understood as being with God for all eternity--is the goal of the Christian life, the fulfillment of the Christian life, not something inferior to it.

So what's the answer?

 

The Timelessness Solution

One solution might be based on the popular idea that when we die, we leave time and enter the timeless realm of eternity.

On this view, the final moment of our earthly life is the final moment of our existence in time.

Whatever our choice regarding God is in this final moment, it carries over into eternity.

Our wills regarding the choice to love God, therefore, would not change, because we would be in eternity and not have the capacity to change.

How successful is this answer?

 

And Yet . . . It Moves

The problem with the answer is that we do continue to move (change) after our deaths.

While God may be completely outside of time, we aren't, even in the afterlife. This is something that you can explore here.

We certainly continue to experience change in the afterlife:

  • We can be purified of the consequences of our sins in purgatory.
  • We can enter the full glory of heaven upon leaving purgatory.
  • We will be reunited with our bodies at the General Resurrection.

We can definitely experience change after our deaths.

Even if this change takes place through something other than time as we experience it in this life, it still happens.

And if we can experience changes in the state of our souls like those described above, why can't our wills change?

It would seem that there are two possibilities:

  1. The nature of our will is altered so that it can't change, or
  2. We enter a condition where the fundamental orientation of the will does not change.

What do these options mean?

 

Option #1

God might change the nature of the will so that a person can only choose good. He removes its ability to choose evil.

This does not mean removing all free will.

One might, for example, be able to choose among different good options, but not any evil ones.

This would be free will; it would simply be a different kind of free will than we experience in this life--a freedom to choose only among different goods.

 

Option #2

On the other hand, God might not change the will's fundamental capacity to choose either good or evil. Instead, he might place us in a condition where--although we could still theoretically choose both--we in fact never end up choosing evil.

Why might this happen?

A common suggestion is that when we have the Beatific Vision--when we have full awareness of God's goodness--the vision of good will be so compelling that we never choose evil.

 

Impeccability

In either case, the blessed in heaven would be impeccable--that is, not able to sin--either because of a change in the nature of the will or a change in the circumstances in which the will operates (or both).

Precisely how this works is an open question. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

Whilst the impeccability of the blessed appears to be unanimously held by theologians, there is a diversity of opinion as to its cause [s.v. "Heaven"].

 

The Problem

Whatever the reason for the saints' impeccability, it raises a question for the problem of evil: If God can make our final state one of impeccability, why didn't he make our initial state one of impeccability?

It would seem that doing so would be within the realm of God's omnipotence. That is, he has the ability to create beings that are confirmed in the state of good from the first moment of their existence.

There doesn't seem to be a logical contradiction in the idea of God simply creating new saints in heaven who never lived on earth, and anything that doesn't involve a contradiction is something God can do.

So why doesn't he?

 

The "No Obligation" Answer

One answer would be that, even though God could create beings already confirmed in good, he is under no obligation to do so.

Creating beings with free will of the type we experience in this life--the type that can be misused--is a legitimate move.

If some of those beings end up misusing their free will, that's not God's fault--precisely because their wills are free. They are the ones that choose evil, not God.

While this answer is possible, it will strike many as unsatisfying.

One reason is that it cuts against the free will defense we have considered previously--that God finds something valuable in the exercise of free will of the type we have in this life.

Is there a way to reconcile the value he sets on it in this life with the fact that we will not be able to choose evil in heaven?

I think there is . . .

 

Choosing to Commit

Of the two types of rational created beings we know about--angels and humans--God has given both a chance to choose for or against him.

The angels had this experience in the past and then either became good or evil, depending on their choice.

Humans have the chance to choose over the course of our earthly lives, at the end of which our wills become fixed on either good or evil.

In both cases, God gives to his creatures a choice to commit one way or the other.

It is not an endless series of choices, where our wills can fluctuate back and forth forever. Sooner or later, we must commit.

It's not the ability to switch back and forth between good and evil forever that God values. It's the free choice of an ultimate commitment.

God wants us to freely choose to commit to him--or not.

Is it reasonable to value this type of commitment?

I think it is. We place a similar value on freely made commitments in this life.

 

A Marriage Analogy

While there are many situations in this life in which we freely make commitments to each other, a particularly striking one is the case of a marriage.

We would not value the love of a robot. Stepford wives are just creepy.

And we would not want to impose marriage on someone against their will. That would involve the abomination of rape, among other things.

We want our mates to freely choose us. This is true even in societies that have arranged marriages. There must be a fundamental, free consent on the part of both spouses or the marriage will not be valid. (Not from the Catholic Church's point of view, anyway.)

But marriage isn't a momentary choice that involves no commitment. It's a life-long commitment.

What we value, then, is a free choice that leads to a permanent commitment.

And that is what we have here.

 

The Divine Marriage

The Bible is full of marriage imagery applied to God and man. It occurs in the Old Testament, between God and his people Israel. And it occurs in the New Testament, between Jesus and his Church.

Through the centuries, Christians have elaborated this theme further.

It is thus possible to see this life as the time of courtship between God and the individual soul--when a free choice for or against God must be made--and heaven as the marriage--the time of freely chosen commitment--which follows.

Unless God is jilted at the altar.

What Now?

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Jimmy Akin

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Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

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  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    Of course, at the moment God makes us, he does so with perfect awareness of which path we will choose. He knows which people will make choices that will send them to an eternity -- an eternity -- of torment. And he makes those people anyway.

    This is why many atheists consider such a god to be a moral monstrosity.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Fiction writers, as I understand it, will often say that their characters "take on a life of their own". They evolve according to a logic that the author has given them, in a context that the author created, but in ways that even the author cannot predict. When we speak of God knowing all things, that represents a view of God in which he stands beyond time, like an author who has finished his novel. We inevitably end up saying ridiculous things (or, to say it more charitably, we end up saying "mysterious" things) when we toggle between this view of God standing beyond time and another view in which He is acting in history. Insofar as we are talking about God acting in history, or "still writing the book", I think we would have to say the He does not know which paths we humans will choose. Perhaps (I think this) God IN history does not even know the paths that will be chosen by inanimate matter, and plants, and animals. In any event, he seems to have developed us humans as such complex and freely acting characters that we are actually able to write ourselves out of the book, if we want to.

      It makes me think it would be interesting to hear both Catholic and atheist novelists speak about the ways the characters in their stories take on lives of their own.

      • josh

        "Fiction writers, as I understand it, will often say that their characters "take on a life of their own"."

        Just imagine the guy who dreamed up the Genesis myth, or the writers of the New Testament if they could see what their creations have gotten up to in the years since.

    • Raphael

      Where do you believe you will go when you die?

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Don't know. Why do you ask?

        • Raphael

          Curious to see what atheists believe. If you had to choose between Heaven and Hell, what would you choose?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Heaven.

      • Ben Posin

        I don't think there will be a "me" to go anywhere. I won't exist anymore. Them's the breaks.

        • Raphael

          Suppose the "me" is your soul and it continues to exist. What would you choose, Heaven or Hell?

          • Ben Posin

            Why did you ask me what I believed if what you want me to do is pretend to believe what you believe? I'm not going to act as if the discussion I've seen here of heaven and hell are coherent, but sure, given a choice between going to "happy place" and "sad place that is possibly on fire" I guess I'd rather be in "happy place." If going to happy place depends on me believing that God exists and is super awesome, then I'm probably going to sad place--which wouldn't be a testament to God actually being super awesome.

            Is that enough to get us past a few tedious rounds of socratic dialogue? Why not just tell me what your message is?

          • Raphael

            No message. I just asked a simple question. Why the rhetoric?

          • Ben Posin

            I don't think you're being honest right now, and it's a little disappointing.

          • Raphael

            Have I said any lies?

          • MichaelNewsham

            The great Buddhist scholar DT Suzuki, when asked the same question, assuming Christianity is true, said he would have to choose Hell, in order to try and bring relief from suffering to the souls of the damned.

          • Raphael

            For DT Suzuki it would have been futile for in Hell "the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."

          • MichaelNewsham

            The futility would not matter to him. What matters is the efforts of the reliever- after all, Mother Teresa didn't end the suffering of the poor in India.

            A bodhisatva is one who could have attained Nirvana,but has turned back to the world and vowed not to accept Buddhahod until all sentient beings have been released from suffering.

          • Raphael

            What kind of relief would DT Suzuki bring to the damned in hell?

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Hey Rob - This is a very Calvinistic view of God, one that makes very little (if any) room for free will. I wouldn't have too much trouble finding such a god monstrous either, and agree with Peter Kreeft when he writes:

      God is not pre or post anything. He is present to everything. God does not look down rows of dominoes or into crystal balls. He does not have to wait for anything. Nor does he wonder what will happen. Nothing is uncertain to him, as the future is uncertain to us. There is not predestination but destination, not predestiny but destiny. This follows from divine omniscience and eternity. But our free will follows from the divine love. To love someone is to make them free. To enslave them is always a defect of love. Now since divine love is God's very essence, while omniscience and omnipotence are only attributes of that essence, therefore if one of these two truths had to come first—in the sense of being more primordial and non-negotiable than the other—it would have to be freedom.

      The whole article is worth reading:
      http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/freewill-predestination.htm

      • David Nickol

        God is not pre or post anything.

        It seems to me that when God is depicted (as in the Bible) or talked about, it is always as a being within time . . . except when the topic is free will.

        Now since divine love is God's very essence, while omniscience and omnipotence are only attributes of that essence, therefore if one of these two truths had to come first—in the sense of being more primordial and non-negotiable than the other—it would have to be freedom.

        This strikes me more as playing with words than reasoning. How can God be divided up as essence and attributes? And how can attributes be secondary to some particular essence?

        To love someone is to make them free. To enslave them is always a defect of love.

        There is an enormous gap between freedom and enslavement. What loving parent would not intervene, even at the expense of depriving a child of a certain amount of freedom, if the child (even an adult child) were about to commit suicide? And of course suicide is trivial compared to choosing hell.

        Also, allowing a person freedom is not the same as remaining silent and doing absolutely nothing. If I know someone I care about is on the verge of making a disastrous choice, even if I totally respect that person's freedom, autonomy, and right to make all decisions for himself or herself, if I possess important information about the likely consequences of that choice, I am going to make sure I impart that information before the person I care about commits to that choice.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        First, God's omnipotence and human free will have always struck me as logically contradictory.

        Second -- why have Hell at all?

        • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

          First, God's omnipotence and human free will have always struck me as logically contradictory.

          Why? Do you mean omniscience - God's foreknowledge of our actions? In the Catechism (600) it says that "to God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy," and the word "predestination" appears in quotation marks. So insofar as omniscience is shorthand for God's temporal foreknowledge, I would deny that God is omniscient in that sense. He sees all things as present, and isn't "pre" or "post" anything. It's only when we anthropomorphize God that this problem tends to crop up - not to mention a whole host of others.

          Second -- why have Hell at all?

          It seems that hell follows from two premises mentioned in Kreeft's article: God is love, and we are free. The possibility of the free and final refusal of love logically follows - and I can think of no better definition of hell. As Dostoevsky put it, hell is "the suffering of being unable to love."

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Matthew, if God is omnipotent and the creator of a
            person – if He invented the man, crafted his psychology, built the world he lives in, is the all-knowing creator of everything he ever encounters, and made
            every one of His creative choices knowing exactly how it would play out (or is playing out, if He sees all things as present) -- then yes we can say that He does control the man, that the man has no free will, that he is God's pawn.

            Second. why not allow people accept God's love after death? Why does God set up a system that says, "Too late, Hell for you!" Also, why can't Hell be a lovely place, a place of maximum natural happiness, as some have conceived limbo.

            Also, what does "being unable to love" have to do the many ways the Catholic Church says you can end up in Hell?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            A theological quibble, maybe, but worth clarifying for clarity's sake. Whether or not you meant omniscience, that is where the contradiction with free will seemingly occurs - and believe me, I don't belabor the point for my own sake.

            In your reply you enumerated God's powers as "all-knowing creator," concluding with the image of God sitting there, "knowing exactly how it would play out." The emphasis is clearly on the "knowing" (omniscience), not on the "making" (omnipotence). An omnipotent God, whether he is all-knowing or not, is powerful enough to do anything, including create creatures endowed with freedom. There's no logical contradiction there whatsoever, unless you believe that man is solely composed of matter, which is patently un-free. (But if we're allowing the existence of a Creator hypothetically, we're hardly restricted to metaphysical materialism in the same hypothetical.)

            The logical contradiction only seems to arise when we think of God knowing in advance everything we're going to do, then declaring simultaneously that we are free to do it.

            But again, I would argue that you're boxing yourself into that corner unnecessarily. You're thinking of God as standing before the beginning of the universe 14 billion years ago, and pushing a giant domino row. But if God is outside of time and present to all things in their immediacy, there is no contradiction, but a cooperative synergy between God's will and our will.

            To answer your other comment: No. 1 Timothy 2:4, "God wills everyone to be saved." In the Kreeft quote I would've highlighted the last sentence, which is the entire point of the essay. The sentence you bolded is only frightening if you apply it to human beings in equal measure and skip over the last sentence.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Matthew, I have to tell you I don't buy your temporality argument. Whether God stands outside of time or not, he knows which of his creators freely choose Hell and he makes them anyway.

            As for the question of free will, I'll amend my argument taking out omniscience:

            If God is omnipotent and the creator of a
            person – if He invented the man, designed of the man's nature, crafted his psychology, built the world he lives in, and is the Creator of everything he ever encounters -- then yes we can say that His choices control the man.

            Put more simply: If one Being is omnipotent, if one Being has all the power, then no other Being can have any. Saying that an all-powerful God is powerful enough to create creatures with free will, then you're getting into "Can God make a stone so heavy He can't lift it" territory.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            That's the Church's understanding, at any rate. But notice: you re-stated the same notion of a predestining God, just in a more benign fashion - which is not the Church's understanding. ("He knows which of his creators freely chooses Hell and he makes them anyway.") This is foreknowledge, again - the Calvinist God.

            Saying that an all-powerful God is powerful enough to create creatures with free will, then you're getting into "Can God make a stone so heavy He can't lift it" territory.

            Again, there's no logical contradiction between being all-powerful and creating a free creature. A logical contradiction proffers x and non-x simultaneously. But a universe with free, ensouled creatures (creatures who can choose to act or not to act this way or that way, regardless of their impulses or environment) is a possible world, just as a universe with un-free creatures, or a universe with no creatures at all, or simply no universe at all. All of these are within the power of an all-powerful Creator, and without contradiction to that omnipotence. The question surrounding free will since Augustine has been in relation to God's omniscience, not omnipotence - the case against God is stronger there because there is an apparent logical contradiction.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Yes, exactly! I've "re-stated the same notion of a predestining God, just in a more benign fashion." That's my point. Here's that Kreeft quote again:

            Not only is everything done that God wills to be done, but it is also done in the way he wants it to be done. It happens without freedom in the case of natural things like falling rain and freely in the case of human choices. A power a little less than total may get what it wants without getting it in the way that it wants it. But omnipotence gets both. And the way omnipotence wants human acts done is freely.

            First, I don't see how that last sentence gets you out of the notion that God wills some people into Hell (a clear and obvious conclusion of the first sentence).

            Secondly, though, this highlights the contradiction: Apparently God wills everything that is done but working through our free will? If God is willing my free will to achieve what He wills, how can my will be free?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Rob - Sorry, had a dentist check-up. Found out I need a root canal (second in a year), so I'm mostly contemplating the problem of suffering right about now, but let me try to transition back to the matter at hand. Great discussion by the way! Really got me thinking.

            You seem to be saying (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Catholic notion of God is indistinguishable from (or reducible to) the Calvinist notion of God. My worry was that you were ascribing the Calvinist view to Catholicism without a full consideration of Catholic teaching. But here you've raised a few interesting questions as to what actually distinguishes the two.

            First, read Kreeft's entire article if you haven't - it's a better statement on the subject than I could hope to give.

            Second, I do see your point about the first sentence. Good point. Let me say first that whether we can reasonably hope that everyone is eventually saved is an open question theologically. In fact, a huge debate about this keeps popping up in the Catholic blogosphere. Brandon Vogt's new boss Fr. Barron was a vocal participant, and came down very clearly on one side. So we need to keep that in mind in this discussion.

            Third, if people are in hell, it's because of their free choice, not God's will for them. The doors of hell are locked from the inside. In that sense - assuming masses of people are in fact in hell - Kreeft misspoke in letting the first sentence apply to the last. "God wills everyone to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4), and I believe that with my whole heart. I suspect he has ways to draw us in beyond all reckoning - even at the moment of death. As Greene put it in "Brighton Rock," we can't fathom the "appalling strangeness of the mercy of God."

            But at the end of the day, we are free and responsible for our freedom, and that freedom is key. To love someone is to let them be free, and love is what God is - omniscience is simply an attribute. Lovers don't constrain or boss around their loved one like a puppet - they appreciate, assist, adore the other. So if one "side of the coin" takes primacy, it's God's love (meaning our freedom).

            This is related to your second point: how can our will be free if God wills it? I would say that the two things aren't always the same. God wills us to agape love - insofar as we do that, we are fully alive, and cooperating with God's will. "The glory of God is a man fully alive." Insofar as we don't do that...well, you know the rest.

          • josh

            "That's the Church's understanding, at any rate."

            Matthew, that's a dodge. Rob isn't describing the Calvinist God as distinct from yours. He is pointing out a contradiction that arises from the Catholic notions of God. Calvinists have embraced one horn of the dilemma, but it's no defense to say that 'the Church doesn't understand the dilemma', which is essentially what you are saying. You may not want to accept the Calvinist conclusion, but that doesn't free you from the dilemma.

            "Again, there's no logical contradiction between being all-powerful and creating a free creature."

            This isn't at all a given. Free will itself remains an incoherent idea, but a created free creature is an even more pressing contradiction. The immediate conflict is not between 'all-powerful' and 'free', it is between 'created' (in the religious sense of owing all aspects to) and 'free'. A 'universe of free creatures' isn't a 'possible world', particularly if you want to assign moral responsibility for those 'free' actions.

          • Geena Safire

            ...then yes we can say that He does control the man, that the man has no free will, that he is God's pawn...

            In addition, he can't get off the hook for creating the situation where so many would suffer so much, including millions of innocents.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think it is true that God "can't get off the hook for creating the situation where so many would suffer so much". All of Creation, to the extent that it is conscious of itself through us, is separated from God, and all separation from God is suffering, and that separation wouldn't have occurred in the first place if God hadn't willed it.

            The question is how we respond to that suffering. One naturally and rightly reacts against glib proposals about how others should respond to their suffering. I think it is best for each one of us to begin with how we can respond to the suffering in our own lives.

            People who have suffered far more than I ever have have told me that their suffering was a gift from God, because their suffering was an invitation to actively and consciously and willfully grow closer to God. I don't tell anyone that they *should* see it that way, but it is just a fact that many who suffer greatly *do* see it that way. I try to learn from them.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            By the way Matthew, I definitely meant omnipotence. My reasoning has nothing to do with the naive question of "How can we have free will is God knows what we're going to do?"

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Matthew, so God wants some people to go to hell? From the Kreeft article you sent me to:

        But this from Kreeft scared me:

        Aquinas reconciles freedom with predestination by saying that God's love is so powerful that he not only gets what he wants but he also gets it in the way that he wants. Not only is everything done that God wills to be done, but it is also done in the way he wants it to be done. It happens without freedom in the case of natural things like falling rain and freely in the case of human choices. A power a little less than total may get what it wants without getting it in the way that it wants it. But omnipotence gets both. And the way omnipotence wants human acts done is freely.

        Emphasis added.

    • Dave

      That doesn't sound like Catholic teaching to me. You sound like a Calvinist who believe that God created us to either go to heaven or hell, which by the way is contrary to Catholic teaching and has for the last 500 years been condemned by the Catholic Church as heresy. I think you should go back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and study what the Church actually teaches before you comment any further here.
      Just got done reading other posts and I am sorry you don't believe God. So how again to you plan on getting to heaven if you don't believe in Him or His Church?

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        I understand that's not Catholic teaching. Rather, it's the logical consequence of an omnipotent, omniscient God.

  • Ben Posin

    For those keeping score: the previous article in this series utterly failed to address that "free will" does nothing to justify "natural" evil we see in this world. Furthermore, it failed to address the ways in which an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God could reduce 'human" evil while not impacting free will any more than civil government does, and possibly quite less. This article seems to acknowledge that the first article's argument was unsound, and instead solves the problem of evil by saying God may just be a jerk (see the "no obligation" section above).

    I can't wait to see what comes next!

  • Steven Carr

    'It would be like being "loved" by a robot--a being programmed to do nothing else.'

    Does your dog love you?

    Why do people care that their dog loves them?

    Do they think that their god gave their pet free will?

    Does Jesus love you? Could he do anything else?

    So what if Jesus loves you? He is still going to watch you burn in Hell.

  • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

    Any discussion of human free will should acknowledge the fact that one cannot choose any end as evil, but only under some aspect of its being good.

  • David Nickol

    I think this piece does more harm than good to the case Akin is trying to make. His explanation of the problem is much better than any of his proposed solutions.

    The problem with the marriage/commitment analogy is that people don't lose their free will when they get married. I think any married couple, and especially any couple who has been married and divorced, can tell you that making the initial commitment is not the difficult part of marriage. Keeping the commitment is, and keeping a commitment is a matter of will. Keeping the commitment is also something that, here in the United States, people who make that commitment to marry for life fail to do half the time. One very important function of the institution of marriage is to create pressure on the two parties who marry to stay together. Until quite recently, society could criminally punish adultery. Marriage also places numerous other legal obligations and restrictions on both parties and may step in when one partner does not abide by the marriage contract.

    If indeed someone is "locked in" to loving God by making a commitment, from the moment that person is locked in, he or she does not have free will and becomes a "robot" who made a free choice once but cannot act freely any more.

    Furthermore, if the moment of commitment is the moment of death, for most people it comes arbitrarily. People who were once sincere believers and do not die as believers, but subsequently lose their faith and die as unbelievers would seem to be likely candidates for hell. On the other hand, people who are unbelievers and do not die as unbelievers, but convert to being believers and then die, are candidates for heaven. I think according to the beliefs of most Christians, it is in God's hands whether or not a person dies at a specific time. Consequently, it is within God's power to save some people's lives when they are in danger of dying and being damned, and to decline to interfere in other cases. Unless a person has never wavered between doubt and faith or commitment to God and lack of commitment, God can choose whether a person will be saved or not by deciding for the person to die (as Catholics would put it) in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin.

    • Geena Safire

      People who were once sincere believers and do not die as believers, but
      subsequently lose their faith and die as unbelievers would seem to be
      likely candidates for hell.

      Especially since apostasy is the one unforgivable sin.

      “I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be
      forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak
      against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be
      held against you forever.” — Mark 3:28-29 (CEV)

      • Lionel Nunez

        That passage doesn't refer to apostasy; it refers to the fact that anyone who attributes God's divine power to evil forces (i.e seeing a miracle done by God and believing it to be the work of the devil) is practically hopeless.

        • vito

          But how are you supposed which miracles are "correct"? Chesterton once said he admits Muslims also have miracles, but there's are from the devil, while "ours" are from God. And even within the same religion, even within the same denomination, disagreements are abundant. Take Mejugorie for instance: some say it's God, others say its the devil. Absent a definitive decision by the Catholic Church, all you can do is "believe" one way or another. What if you are wrong?

      • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

        I've usually seen that passage as being interpreted to mean "reject" the Holy Spirit, which would mean either despair (thinking you can't be/aren't worth saving so God won't) or pride (thinking you don't need to be saved).

        So basically, the one unforgivable sin is "not looking for forgiveness."

        • Steven Carr

          That is not what the passage says.

          Forgiven for what? I haven't even done anything that has brought me to the attention of the police, let alone your imaginary god.

          Have I killed anybody? No.

          Has your god? Yes.

          Who should ask for forgiveness? Me, or somebody your book claims kills people for touching his stuff.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            If you can't make an attempt to be respectful...

  • Steven Dillon

    They say you take the first bite with your eyes, and unfortunately, Mr. Akin's piece is written as if Catholicism is a fait accompli. But, getting to the core of it, his position seems to be this:

    God would give us the ability to choose evil in this life, but not in Heaven because he wants us to commit to him.

    But, why would he want us to commit to him in this life and not the next? That is, if genuine commitment to God requires in us the ability to choose evil, then it requires in us the ability to choose evil whether on Earth or in Heaven.

    • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

      Great point! It's as if he didn't want us to be Stepford wives for our short tenure on Earth, but afterward and for all eternity? Well, sure!

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      I think his point was that the commitment is made in the transition from this life to the next. By the time we get to the next life, we've already committed.

      • Steven Carr

        All those babies who die in infancy have already committed,,,,

      • Steven Dillon

        Either those in Heaven are committed to God, or they are not. If they are, then genuine commitment to God doesn't require the ability to sin. If they are not, then the commitment to God made on Earth expires at death. So, either genuine commitment to God doesn't require the ability to sin, or any commitment to God that we make on Earth expires at our death. It seems to me Akin's theodicy impales the theist on one or other horn of this dilemma.

      • josh

        So if someone 'commits' to atheism after some period on earth, it is better in God's eyes that they keep that commitment than be allowed to change it?

        This whole commitment angle that Akin is pushing doesn't resolve any of the fundamental problems. Why do people in heaven remain committed to God? Because of the Beatific Vision. But then God could have made people who immediately had said vision and 'freely' chose to commit to him at the instant of their creation.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          People become committed to God (I'm part inferring and part patching in other doctrines) because of the outpouring of God's love into the soul. At death, at the committal point, they say yes to grace (we all get grace, some people say yes knowingly, some unknowingly, some say no), and they get HUGE grace points, which allows them to live in love with God. Since we are rejoined with our bodies in an unfallen state, the body is no longer a source of temptation. Since we are outside the world (also fallen) that is no source of temptation, and since the Devil isn't in Heaven, that's no more a source of temptation. So, no sources of tempting us away from God, no sin!

          That's probably how I would've framed the argument, were I Jimmy.

          • josh

            But do you see how that doesn't address the problem? Why not give us all 'unfallen bodies' now? Why make physical death the committal point? Why not give everybody big grace points at the moment of their creation? Why not pour out love into everyone's soul? Why not give those who say no an eternity of happiness anyways, in which perhaps to change their minds?

            And lest we forget the elephant always in your room, why think any of this is even approximately true in the first place?

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        We can think and guess all we want. Maybe the real God is a step up from Yaweh. What if über-god gave Yaweh and other gods the free will to create universes to test Yaweh's goodness. What if Yaweh's test was to create us in such a way that sin didn't enter the world and we always half free will. But Yaweh is evil or weak. And so on.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Can you clarify this? Why is there a distinction between "real God" and Yahweh?

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            The real god created Yaweh and is more powerful than him.the real God desired to have beings in his own image. Beings that, like him could create universes and othe sentient beings.

            Or it could be aliens. The point is, that when we don't know, we do not know.

  • David Nickol

    Will we have free will in heaven?

    Do we have it on earth?

    • Raphael

      Yes

      • David Nickol

        Yes

        What will there be to do in heaven that can't be done without free will?

      • David Nickol

        Do our choices reveal who we are, or do our choices determine who we are?

        If our choices reveal who we are, then they are determined by who we are. But if our choices determine who we are, by whom are they determined?

        • Raphael

          More importantly, our choices determine what we do or don't do. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

      • josh

        No.

  • Danny Getchell

    As regards the marriage analogy:

    It is important to me that I am loved by my wife. If she were to cease loving me, I would be devastated.

    Is God devastated because I do not love him??

    • Geena Safire

      Apparently he is, because he will punish me eternally for not loving him, or even believing in his existence.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        In that case Geena, perhaps atheism is the philosophical equivalent of a restraining order.

        • Geena Safire
          • Kevin Aldrich

            These statements put together form a totally warped view of God, which is rightly condemned.

          • Geena Safire

            Yet I could provide multiple Bible verses in support of each one.

            Granted, I could provide multiple Bible verses in opposition to each one. Darn, I hate multiple-choice tests.

            Sincerely, though, Kevin, thank you for your gentle, loving words, as always. I hope your God is as good as you envision him to be, and nothing like the one in the Bible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Most of these statements could be given a true and non-abusive interpretation.

            Isn't it possible that abusers mimic the truth to get away with their abuse? "This is for your own good" could be the truth coming from a phlebotomist or a lie coming from an abuser.

          • Geena Safire

            So how do you know that the God character in Genesis is not the bad guy and the serpent is not the good guy? God told Adam he would die that day if he ate it, and he didn't. But what the serpent told them was true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Christians from the very beginning have seen Gen 3:15 ("I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel") as the protoevangelium or first announcement of the Gospel.

          • David Nickol

            protoevangelium or first announcement of the Gospel

            This is a classic case of Christians claiming to find a reference to Jesus in Hebrew Scripture that isn't there. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary says the following:

            The snake is cursed, condemned to crawl on its belly, eat dirt, and be forever the enemy of the woman he deceived and of her offspring. he shall strike at your head: "He" refers to offspring, which is masc. in Hebrew. Christian tradition has sometimes referred it to Christ, but the literal reference is to the human descendants of Eve, who will regard snakes as enemies.

            E. A. Speiser, in the Anchor Bible volume Genesis says in a footnote to verse 15

            offspring. Heb. literally "seed," used normally in the collective sense of progeny. The passage does not justify eschatological connotations. A Dr. put it, "We must not read into the words more than they contain."[The abbreviation "Dr." is a reference to S. R. Driver, The Book of Genesis. 12th ed., 1926, reprinted 1954.]

            I don't think I am going out on a limb to assert that no pre-Christian reference can be (or ever will be) found that interprets those verses as a promise of a redeemer, a messiah, or anything of the kind.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic "answer" to your objection is here:

            http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19861217en.html

            As St. Augustine put it, "In the Old Testament the New lies hidden, and in the New the Old lies open."

          • David Nickol

            Even if what St. Augustine said is correct, that doesn't mean that this particular passage has the New Testament "hidden" in it. And clearly the passage would not have been interpreted as some kind of promise of a savior or redeemer until Christianity was established. It is difficult to see the point in making a "prophecy" that can only be identified as a prophecy after it is fulfilled.

            I can't understand why anyone would accept as a matter of faith that a particular text says something because some of the Fathers of the Church claimed to find it there. And certainly this kind of biblical interpretation is not going to be in any way convincing to nonbelievers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is difficult to see the point in making a "prophecy" that can only be identified as a prophecy after it is fulfilled.

            Why can't a prophecy be for the benefit of those who come after rather than only before?

            Catholics accept that that verse in Genesis 3 is the first announcement of the Redeemer because it is a Church teaching. There are plenty of other Old Testament prophecies of a messiah that Jews find and nonbelievers can scrutinize if they wish.

          • David Nickol

            There are plenty of other Old Testament prophecies of a messiah that Jews find and nonbelievers can scrutinize if they wish.

            There are no prophecies of a Messiah in the Old Testament. Messiah is a concept that developed after the last of the Old Testament documents were written.

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Messiah would be born of a woman.

            They're really going out on a limb there, aren't they.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha!

            But seriously folks, back in the day, some people denied that God would never go through that "indignity" but would just pop into existence on earth.

            So the point that he would be born of a woman is not trivial.

          • David Nickol

            But seriously folks, back in the day, some people denied that God would never go through that "indignity" but would just pop into existence on earth.

            Prior to Christianity, there was never an idea in Judaism that a savior or redeemer who was God himself would in any way be born as a human being. Within early Christianity, there were those who claimed Jesus was not really a man, but God assuming a human body. But to the best of my knowledge, they never denied that Jesus was born. They just denied he had two natures (human and divine).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Docetism claimed that matter was corrupt, so Jesus could not have a human body. Somebody else died on the cross in his stead, they thought.

          • David Nickol

            So the point that he would be born of a woman is not trivial.

            I would say it is trivial. Any human being that is born is born of a woman. It would have been a startling prediction that God would experience a human birth. But unless you assume that someone will be born, it is trivial to predict that he or she will be born of a woman.

            It strikes me as ironic that Christians claim the Old Testament is full of prophecies about Jesus coming as the Messiah (which I do not think is true) and then claim that Jesus was rejected because he was not what the Jews expected. The idea of a Messiah developed after the Old Testament was completed, and there is no Old Testament mention of the word Messiah as an anticipated figure. However, the idea that did develop within Judaism of what the Messiah would be was not compatible with the figure of Jesus. So Christianity has to say that Jesus was the Messiah, but everyone was wrong about what the Messiah would be like.

            It seems to me that the only reasonable conclusion is that the Jews' messianic hopes were for a figure very different from Jesus, and consequently, Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah. Jesus did not fit the description of the Messiah, so Christianity redefined what a Messiah was so that the concept fit Jesus.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            DN
            Any human being that is born is born of a woman.

            KA
            The Docetists claimed Christ was a phantom and somebody else took his place on the Cross.

            DN
            The idea of a Messiah developed after the Old Testament was completed, and there is no Old Testament mention of the word Messiah as an anticipated figure.

            KA
            Why would that rule out the OT containing prophesies of a Messiah?

            DN
            There is no OT mention the word Messiah as an anticipated figure.

            KA
            Jesus Christ said this about himself, quoting Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." (Lk 4:18-19, quoting Is 61:1). Messiah means the anointed one.

            DN
            It strikes me as ironic that Christians claim the Old Testament is full of prophecies about Jesus coming as the Messiah (which I do not think is true) and then claim that Jesus was rejected because he was not what the Jews expected.

            KA
            Some Jews rejected him and some did not. Certainly, Jesus was not the warrior-king-prophet-priest that was expected. Who would have guessed that he would redeem by being the suffering servant Isaiah foresaw?

          • w w

            How do you figure they are going out on a limb?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            That was a little sarcasm. It seemed pretty silly to claim significance for such a basic "prophecy."

          • w w

            Yet this is very significant, born of a women would indicate the Virgin Birth, born of a women would also indicate that the coming messiah would be of earthly origin as apposed to possible angelic or something spiritual.

            Born of a women would refer back to Genesis 3:15
            And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Born of a woman does not indicate a virgin birth (which isn't even a correct translation of the noun, anyway). Ever commenter here was born of a woman, along with with every person who ever lived.

          • w w

            yes it very much does indicate that.
            almah (Hebrew word translated "virgin") It can mean a young women, but her characteristics would of been that of a virgin.
            But i noticed you missed the other things i posted as well
            Her seed will bruise satans head. Very significant.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I think you're missing the point. "Born of a woman" applies to everyone you know. Everyone. So it's hardly mindboggling that this one applies to Jesus. It applies to me, too, and to you as well. Prophecying that the messiah will be born of a woman is a bit like prophecying that he will breathe oxygen. It's not so much as prophecy fulfilled as a "Well, duh!"

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            "Her seed will bruise satans head. Very significant."

            Um, no. It says the descendents of Eve will hurt snakes. Satan isn't even mentioned. And even if you think he is, this is another example of a prophecy that would then apply to every human ever born. So it doesn't exactly single out Jesus.

          • David Nickol

            The so-called protoevangelium is either one of my blind spots, or else an example of how religious interpreters can find just about anything they want in just about any text.

            There is no hint whatsoever in the text that the serpent is anything but a serpent. If the serpent is actually Satan, why do all serpents get cursed? Also, the OT figure of "satan" is "the adversary," a figure in the heavenly court, not a fallen angel who resides in hell.

            The meaning of the passage (Genesis 3:15) is clearly that there will be hatred between Eve and the snake and between Eve's descendents and the snakes descendents. This is indeed the case, since in every (or almost every) culture known, humans have an (almost) innate fear of snakes, as do other nonhuman primates. Genesis gets one thing right that I have never seen a religious person crow about, and that is that the evolutionary ancestors of snakes had legs. So as a "just so" story, the story of Adam and Eve does explain why men have to work hard to provide, why women suffer in childbirth, why people have an aversion to snakes, and why snakes crawl on the ground.

          • w w

            Satan is called the serpent and if you understood Scripture, The serpent in the book of Revelation is Satan.
            Her seed is Jesus Christ, born of what? A women? no way, ahh but yes way.
            Nice try though!!

          • MichaelNewsham

            And then along came Joseph Smith and brought the final explanation.

          • Geena Safire

            Or maybe it was just their explanation of why humans (and chimpanzees) are innately fearful of snakes and snake-shaped things.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can't a statement have many interrelated meanings?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The passage does not say they will die "that day"; it says they will "surely" die. The serpent lied in that he said they would be "as gods" but they already were--Adam was "son of God" (Lk 3:38).

          • David Nickol

            The passage does not say they will die "that day"; it says they will "surely" die. The serpent lied in that he said they would be "as gods". . .

            But God confirms what the serpent says in the serpent's very words!

            Genesis 3:5 [The serpent says] God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.

            Genesis 3:22 Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?

            Here are a few different translations of 2:17:

            But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (KJV)

            . . . but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die. (NIV)

            . . . except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. (NAB)

            . . . but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die. (RSV)

            But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death. (Douay-Rheims)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Without me interpreting the text for you, how do you account for the fact that the writer or writers of Genesis saw that very seeming contradiction and left it in?

          • David Nickol

            A footnote in the NAB says the following:

            You shall die: since they do not die as soon as they eat from the forbidden tree, the meaning seems to be that human beings have become mortal, destined to die by virtue of being human.

            This is an honest approach to the issue. A dishonest approach would be to say, "The Hebrew says 'you will die', but since they don't die, it must mean something else, so we will translate it differently."

            . . . . how do you account for the fact that the writer or writers of Genesis saw that very seeming contradiction and left it in?

            It is not necessary (or possible) for me to come up with an explanation of what was in the heads of all the people who were in some way instrumental in forming the story or putting it into writing. John L. McKenzie says in Dictionary of the Bible:

            It may be concluded from this that the story of the fall of man existed in several variant forms in Hb tradition, of which only two have been preserved in the text of the OT. It is furthermore easily assumed that the stories circulated in oral tradition before they were fixed in writing. The presence of these external descriptive and symbolic features [discussed earlier] makes it difficult to accept the hypotheses that the Hebrews enjoyed a divine revelation of the fall of man, since it is unlikely that these somewhat common mythological traits would be contained in a direct divine revelation. . . . Hence modern scholars prefer to treat the account as a story through which the Hebrews enunciated their belief that man fell from his primitive harmonious relationship with God. The story was constructed by the use of elements drawn from the beliefs and traditions of the ancient Near Eastern world, but it was governed by the unique Hebrew conception of God which made it impossible for them to accept the beliefs concerning the origin of man found in ancient Near Eastern myths.

            As with any legend or myth that formed in this way, it is impossible to treat it as the work of a single author who had a single idea in mind. That is one reason why it is so fascinating. For example, I recently read a post over on first things, and the author pointed out this sentence: "So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." Are we to assume Adam stood silently by as the serpent tempted Eve? The thought had never occurred to me. I had always pictured Eve alone with the serpent, but I don't think there is any way to tell from the text. Whe God questions Adam about eating the fruit, Adam says, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” Now, of course, Adam is trying to make excuses for his behavior, but I have always assumed he was telling the truth. But if he was right there with Eve, heard her conversation with the serpent, and ate the fruit when she handed it to him, it puts his already feeble excuse in an even harsher light. But my point is that the text really doesn't answer these questions for us. We can only speculate.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If McKenzie means it is unlikely that the story of the fall is a direct divine revelation, like the ones Mohammad supposedly received, or that it is unlikely it was a tradition faithfully passed down from Adam and Eve through Noah to Abraham and then to Moses, etc., I could agree.

            If he means that Genesis 3 is not what God and the human authors intended, I'd have to disagree.

          • David Nickol

            If he means that Genesis 3 is not what God and the human authors intended, I'd have to disagree.

            Certainly McKenzie, whose Dictionary of the Bible has an Imprimi Potest, and Imprimatur, and a Nihil Obstat, is not denying the meaning conveyed by Genisis 3 is not inspired by God. He is saying that the authors and editors of Genesis, through a long and complex process, took existing elements of creation accounts and adapted them to tell a religious truth about God and man unique to the Hebrew point of view.

          • Raphael

            There is no contradiction in Genesis 2:17 in the original Hebrew. Search the internet for "dying you shall die" and you will find several commentaries.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for pointing this out.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks for pointing this out.

            Yes! "Look it up on the Internet" is very helpful advice! ;)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, since I had referred you to an internet link, I couldn't fault Raphael for doing the same.

            The point is that "surely you will die" or "you will die today" is a translation from the Hebrew of a phrase that is rendered literally as "dying you shall die" and is used numerous times in the OT. "Dying" is an intensifier. So the phrase means "You will really die."

          • David Nickol

            I googled "dying you shall die," and found a variety of answers. But I would have to say that the most persuasive answer I have found so far is from The New Jerome Biblical Commentary:

            you shall die: "To die" here means to be cut off, excluded from community with God, as in Ezek 18 and other P texts; the man and the woman will be driven from the garden of God, not killed. A different anthropology in early Judaism and Christianity insisted that God made humans incorruptible (Wis 2:23; Rom 5:12), and from this arose the Christian theological tradition that death is a result of sin. In the ancient Near East, not to die would mean that one would have to become a god, since only gods were immortal.

            Here is a very condensed excerpt from Ezekiel 18:

            If a man is virtuous--if he does what is right and just . . . he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD. . . . But if he begets a son who is a thief, a murderer, or who does any of these things . . . this son certainly shall not live. Because he practiced all these abominations, he shall surely die; his death shall be his own fault. . . . But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced. . . . Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord GOD. Return and live!

            It seems to me a persuasive case can be made here that P (the source for the passage just quoted and the part of the story of Adam and Eve we are discussing) is not talking about physical death in Ezekiel, otherwise he would be promising immortality to the people who he says will live. So a case can be made based on the text that when God says "you will surely die," he does not mean "you will drop dead."

            The fact that God says "you will surely die" and yet they don't die is not sufficient (in my opinion) to use as a justification for claiming "you will surely die" means something other than "you will surely die." However, it is sufficient reason to question the meaning of the passage and see if, based on the text, "you will surely die" means "you will drop dead on the spot" or has some other meaning. Finding what seems a quite probably meaning of "you will surely die" elsewhere in material from P that does not seem to mean "you will drop dead on the spot" allows a plausible case to be made that words in Ezekiel and the words used in Genesis can be interpreted the same way, for example, "you shall be cut off." I can accept that. But just based on the text of Genesis itself, I cannot accept an explanation that, since Adam and Eve didn't die, the words attributed to God mean "you shall die a spiritual death" or "you shall die eventually when otherwise you would have been immortal."

          • Geena Safire

            .

          • Geena Safire

            The passage does not say they will die
            "that day"; it says they will "surely" die.

            It depends on the translation of Genesis 2:17. Most are like Young's Literal Translation: "and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it, for in the day of thine eating of it -- dying thou dost die."

            The popular NIV has: "but you must not eat from the
            tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

            New American Standard Bible
            but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you
            shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

            King James Bible
            But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou
            shalt not eat of it:
            for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

            Holman Christian Standard Bible
            but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die."

            International Standard Version
            but you are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of
            good and evil, because you will certainly die during the day that you eat from it."

            The serpent lied in that he said they
            would be "as gods" but they already were--Adam was "son of God" (Lk 3:38).

            Do you even check these things before you answer? Try
            Genesis 3:22:

            New International Version
            And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

            New Living Translation
            Then the LORD God said, "Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and
            evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!"

            English Standard Version
            Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”

            New American Standard Bible
            Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become
            like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand,and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever "

            King James Bible
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

            Holman Christian Standard Bible
            The LORD God said, "Since man has become like one of
            Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever."

            International Standard Version
            Later, the LORD God said, "Look! The man has become
            like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, so he won't reach out, also take from the tree of life, eat, and then live forever—"

            NET Bible
            And the LORD God said, "Now that the man has become
            like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

            GOD'S WORD® Translation
            Then the LORD God said, "The man has become like one of us, since he knows good and evil. He
            must not reach out and take the fruit from the tree of life and eat. Then he would live forever."

            Jubilee Bible 2000
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live for ever,

            King James 2000 Bible
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:

            American King James Version
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

            American Standard Version
            And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can see your point, Geena. Can you see mine?

          • David Nickol

            My mother's favorite example of biblical interpretation:

            "He [Judas] went away and hanged himself" (Matt 27:5). "Jesus said, 'Go and do likewise'” (Luke 10:37).

          • Raphael

            Unrelated, out of context.

      • Mary B Moritz

        Geena, yes, he is, but for the reason that He knows that His loves befits us most and our love to Him too. In case, someone comes to eternal punishment - and I say: in case (!) - it is not that He punishes someone, but the person rejects the Love, and He respects our freedom, and does not force himself upon anyone.

        • Steven Carr

          I see.

          So your god respects the freedom of Muslims to pray to him 5 times a day, but will send them to Hell anyway because they reject him.

          Didn't your (imaginary) god blind Paul? How is that not forcing himself upon anyone?

          Revelation 2

          I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

          I guess striking people dead doesn't count as forcing your love on to people.

          God certainly doesn't want people to be forced to love him by the act of being lovable.

          He lets people die of cancer and be crippled for life by cystic fibrosis rather than force his love upon them.

          • Jim (hillclimber)
          • Steven Carr

            That was no answer.

            Are Muslims saved if they reject Jesus, sincerely believe he was never crucified, and pray to God 5 times a day?

            RATZINGER
            'We are no longer ready and able to think that our neighbor, who is a decent and respectable man and in many ways better than we are, should be eternally damned simply because he is not a Catholic.'

            CARR
            What does your god say about Ratzinger's ideas?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I guess I don't know for sure what God says about Ratzinger's ideas. But I think I stand on safe ground when I say that the Catholic Church, in electing Ratzinger as our previous pope, exhibited a very high opinion of his ideas.

          • Steven Carr

            Yes, the Church realised they could no longer sell the idea that Muslims went to Hell.

            Because people weren't buying it.

            So they stopped trying to sell that idea.

            So why be a Christian? When your god is going to allow in atheists like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "So, why be a Christian?"

            Ratzinger's sermon addresses exactly that point, and I don't think I can express it any better. But, lest I be accused of dodging, let me try to put it in my own words.

            The Christian path is about THIS life. Belief in heaven is meant to liberate you to live THIS life the way it was meant to be lived. It is meant to enable you to bear your crosses in this life, i.e. doing the right thing even when it sucks, even when there is no earthly reward. It is absolutely possible (and very common) for non-Christians to do the right thing even when there is no earthly reward. They will know the same heavenly reward that a good Catholic will.

            All of the differences relate to how we live this life. I won't attempt to speak to the Islamic perspective, but I will say that my own pre-Christian approach of doing the right thing "just because" tended toward a very joyless forbearance of the real heavy-duty trials of life. The Christian path offers a way to meet the heavy-duty trials of THIS life with joy. I am a Christian because it liberates me to live this difficult life with joy.

          • Steven Carr

            I agree that Christians can be just as moral as atheists.

            Do you think a sincere Muslims who sincerely believes that Christians are going to Hell for worshipping Jesus, will he get to go to Heaven, if he prays 5 times a day and does his charity work?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If that sincere Muslim does those things with a pure heart, then yes, he will get to heaven. Jesus said it himself in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". There is no requirement that one has perfect, or even moderately correct, understanding. Pure heart gets you there, period.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Mandela was a Methodist.

          • Mary B Moritz

            Steven, sometimes, it is strange how misunderstandings happen so easily - and I do not think it is just because of my having a different mother tongue. Anyway!

            Did I ever say that I believe Muslims going to Hell? Maybe studying a little bit more what the Catholic Church says would be of some benefit. First, live a morally integer live (10 commandments are written in our hearts, if we keep them ready and open and sincere), and then, if you know the Christian faith you should follow it, but if you don't know it? Then your non-knowledge may be of culpable or non-culpable,.... Please study this a little bit more in detail.

            And yes, God uses people as instruments, if you wish to say so, if they let Him into their lives. Paul persecuted the young Church but he was a fervent and faithful jewisch scholar, with an open heart for God. And Mother Teresa of Calcutta asked God to use her to show His love to the poorest of the poor, and she said not only to her sisters, but to everyone who was listening: "Let God use you. Give permission!"

      • Kevin Aldrich

        How do you know you don't believe in and love God? Maybe you are just rightly rejecting something that you are convinced is false and ugly.

    • Lionel Nunez

      Yes, he is.

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    Two suggestions for future articles:

    Why does our window of opportunity to accept God and Jesus end with our death? Why can't we accept him after death? After all, this is the religion of the prodigal son.

    Second: why does Hell have to be so awful? If God loves us, then why can't "Hell" be a secular paradise with no suffering -- a state of maximum natural happiness, like Limbo?

    • MichaelNewsham

      I think the current Christian answer to the second, since the idea of a jealous angry God is no longer fashionable, is that God is the cause of everything good- he's the reason water quenches thirst and food quells hunger- and when you reject him you reject everything that has goodness in it.

    • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

      1. God does not want to keep bugging people forever. There is a time for a lover to pursue the beloved and a time or the lover to accept rejection. 2. Hell is awful because we remain made for God. We can try and satisfy ourselves with human pleasures but they ultimately become empty. Then God contines to love those in hell. He can't do anything else. God is love. Yet love is like a torture to those in hell.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        God does not want to keep bugging people forever. There is a time for a lover to pursue the beloved and a time or the lover to accept rejection.

        Why does God not allow us further time after death to accept Him?

        Yet His love is like a torture to those in hell. It s a constant reminder that they are not what they should be.

        Here you contradict yourself. Previously you said people in Hell don't want God's love and wouldn't want it forced on them. But now it's clear you think at least some of the people in Hell do now want God's love.

        • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

          Further time? So when should the further time end? Never? That means eternally being bugged by God to repent? That is precisely what sinners don't want.

          I don't think there is a contradiction. People can have an internal longing for something yet never have the ability to do what needs to be done to get there. They want to be self-centered yet they are never at peace as self-centered beings. I think many people are living that today. They are living a contradiction of sorts. It is just not the sort of contradiction that is impossible.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I didn't say never. I didn't say eternity. I said a little more time. How about getting a couple days after seeing God to accept Him?

            As for the whole self-centeredness argument, that's an insulting straw man characterization of atheists, many of whom do seek God and truth, many of whom search for something greater than themselves to center their lives on.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            I didn't say all atheists are self-centered. I said all people in hell are. Even that requires a bit of explanation. People can want God but not bad enough to give up this or that thing for Him. God takes that as not wanting Him. Remember that heaven is an intimate and complete surrender to God's grace. So being willing to meet God half way is just not enough. It is still leaving yourself as the center. You set the terms and conditions. God wants you to drop all terms and conditions and let Him be your God. If your life shows you are not interested in that then He will accept that.

          • David Nickol

            Remember that heaven is an intimate and complete surrender to God's grace. So being willing to meet God half way is just not enough.

            How does this square with the Catholic doctrine that a person may be absolved in confession of mortal sin with "imperfect contrition." It seems to me that Catholicism teaches that you do not need to love God to be saved. You just need to be frightened enough of hell not to commit mortal sins, or if you do commit them, you must be frightened enough to go to confession and get absolution.

            1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

            1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.

            If I murder someone, and I am not sorry that I took another human life, but I am "sorry" because I know I can go to hell for it, I can obtain "forgiveness" by confessing the sin, prompted not by love of God, but by fear of the punishment he will mete out to me if I don't go to confession.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            Imperfect contrition is on the road to God. You are not there yet but you are at least trying to go on the right direction. You say out loud to a priest that you did this and it was sin. That is something. It is not enough but God is willing to accept it as a starting point.

            God is likely to lead him into greater and greater holiness. If he really does not want to go there he will balk at some point. God's plan might not be clear in that confessional but it will become clear eventually and he can vote with his feet.

          • David Nickol

            Imperfect contrition is on the road to God.

            But you said:

            Remember that heaven is an intimate and complete surrender to God's grace. So being willing to meet God half way is just not enough. It is still leaving yourself as the center. . . . God wants you to drop all terms and conditions and let Him be your God. If your life shows you are not interested in that then He will accept that.

            However, if I am a wicked, wicked person on my deathbed, suddenly become terrified of going to hell, summon a priest and confess all my sins with imperfect contrition, and drop dead with fear of God but not love of God, the Catholic Church would say I have attained salvation. According to Jimmy Akin, I would be locked in at the moment of death, and I would have made a commitment to God. That is not me dropping all my terms and conditions and surrendering completely, except in the sense that I believe God is powerful enough to subject me to eternal torment if I don't recognize his authority and power and go to confession.

            One might say that gives God a toehold and conjecture that the wicked person must spend a long, long time in purgatory being purified. But it seems to me if we are locked in to our fundamental choices at the moment of death, the wicked man who confesses on his deathbed with imperfect contrition is someone who fears, but does not love, God. And that is apparently all the Catholic Church requires.

            I appreciate all of the attempts to "humanize" God, with arguments that he doesn't send people to hell, but beneficently grants them the right to choose eternal torment for themselves. But who would choose eternal torment over eternal bliss if they were making an informed choice? The Catechism says:

            1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a stateof mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            So hell is punishment with eternal fire, and although I believe the nature of the eternal fire is not defined, surely it is not pleasant!

            The paragraph goes on to say the following:

            The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            It seems to me that getting what you chose and what you wanted—separation from God—is not a punishment unless it turns out to be not what you expected or what you really wanted. But if it is not what you expected or really wanted, you chose it in error, in which case it was not benevolent of God to give it to you.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            The deathbed confession thing can be confusing. You need imperfect contrition. That is not just wanting to avoid hell. It is being sorry you committed the sins. One question to ask, if you were not on your death bed would your desire to repent go away? If so then you are not really sorry you sinned. You are just playing games with God. That is why you can't plan to have a deathbed conversion. Nobody can plan to have real contrition, even imperfect contrition.

            If you are truly sorry then you will be forgiven. I am not sure what your problem is. Not wanting hell and wanting heaven are the same thing.

            People are given information. The process of rejecting sin and growing in holiness is informing us about heaven. The process of continuing in sin and refusing to repent is informing us about hell.

          • David Nickol

            If you are truly sorry then you will be forgiven. I am not sure what your problem is.

            The problem is that being "truly sorry" in the case of imperfect contrition is being sorry because you regret having done something that is going to get you punished. You and others try to make salvation seem like it is all about love, but (from my point of view), what the Church teaches is that if love isn't there, fear will suffice.

            I acknowledge that the use of imperfect contrition (aka attrition) cannot be used opportunistically. The bar is not set so low that someone can plan a life of wickedness and escape hell by including a confession with attrition as close to death as possible. However, the Church teaches that fear is an appropriate response to God, and sorrow for since because of fear of hell is enough to obtain absolution (but only in the confessional).

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            Salvation is about love but it can start with fear. God takes us where we are at. We can't all honestly say we love God. We can all honestly say we have sinned and fear coming before a God who is pure love and justice. Eventually perfect love casts out fear but it can take time.

            Think of the prodigal son. Why does he come back to his father? To eat. He didn't return because he loved his father. He returned because he loved food and he was starving where he was at. So he asked if he could not be a son but a slave. The father made him a son anyway. If we come to God to be His slave He will make us His son.

          • Argon

            Actually, David, your comments about the timing of contrition brings to mind the final scenes of "The Rapture" where conditions lead the devout head character to choose purgatory while a lifelong atheist goes to heaven.

            Another link to a review here.

          • MichaelNewsham

            IIRC, the 'devout' head character rejects God because of his injustice in allowing her husband to be murdered. Since she refuses to love God, she is in Hell, not Purgatory- she acknowledges to her daughter, who does make the cut, that in rejecting God she is sentencing herself forever.

            Actually, given the Fundamentalist backdrop of the film, I doubt that Purgatory was even in consideration

          • David Nickol

            I didn't say all atheists are self-centered. I said all people in hell are.

            Do you know any personally, or can you cite any studies? :)

          • Argon

            Understandably, a person would probably find it hard thinking of anyone but themselves while submerged in the Phlegethon, a lake of boiling blood located in the seventh circle of Hell (ref. Dante).

          • josh

            It's the sort of contradiction that only a wholly cruel God could create.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Hell is awful because we remain made for God.

        So Limbo is just as bad as Hell?

        • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

          I would not say just as bad because you are not under the power of sin the same way you are in hell. Still you are lacking the beatific vision. It is a serious lacking. It is very reasonable to question whether God allows this to continue indefinitely or not.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        But apparently god needs 100 years to "bug" some people, but 1 minute for others?

    • Argon

      That's an interesting topic of at least a couple scifi books which posit that there is a polishing off period in the afterlife...
      Philip José Farmer: To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld series)
      Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: Inferno

      • Octavo

        I loved "To Your Scattered Bodies Go."

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    How can Heaven be bliss? If you know your some of your loved ones are suffering eternal torment with no hope of escape, how can you be happy? And how could you not feel a growing bitterness for the Being who decided that the mistakes of these good-hearted people deserved a literally infinite punishment?

    And with all eternity for this bitterness to grow, how could there not eventually be another rebellion and war in heaven?

    • Ben Posin

      I could actually use a refresher on what the current Catholic claims regarding Hell are, with a minimum amount of metaphor. Is it still a place of physical torment? Or do we now talk about "permanent separation from God"--without clarification as to whether this involves an eternity of waterslides vs. being lit on fire?

      • Lionel Nunez

        Hell is...(basic definition incoming)

        a place where you are completed separated from all good things (since God is the source of all good things) for all eternity(i.e forever) by virtue of your personal choice. You have no body but that doesn't matter since you would have nothing to interact with (nothing in the strictest sense). The only thing you would have left would, presumably, be your thoughts since you are not obliterated.

        • Steven Carr

          Well, that's just something people made up.

          How can you have thoughts without a body?

          Oh I forgot, Christians don't use their brain to think with.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Deleted for not moving the conversation along.

        • Steven Carr

          Well, people in Hell certainly don't need a brain to think with.

        • josh

          Since all bad things are an absence or lack of good things on Catholic doctrine, a complete separation from all good things would simply be non-existence. You would have to be obliterated to make this consistent.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            This is a valid theological point. To be completely separated from God would mean non-existence, because God sustains our existence. So you can't be completely separated, metaphysically.

            Instead you have completely closed yourself off to God's love, and since all love finds its root in God's love, you are shut off from all love. I think this is a more nuanced interpretation of Hell.

          • Lionel Nunez

            That's only really true if you have a sort of "pre-destined" mindset about this (i.e God makes you go to Hell as opposed to you choosing to go by virtue of your choices). A better understanding of this would be to say that when you die; God invites you to be with him for all eternity, but after spending a lifetime avoiding him, you refuse to be with him or accept anything he offers. You reject having a body and you reject having things with substance. This view is more consistent with still having a mind (since in the bible Jesus makes it clear those in hell are not obliterated but rather suffering) since it's quite impossible for anyone to truly reject the sheer act of existing.

            EDIT: I'm aware of biblical passages referring to God as a judge and people being "cast into darkness" but the bible also makes it clear that people choose their end in life so you would have to discuss this particular issue with someone who has a more enhanced understanding of the bible than me.

        • Ben Posin

          Glad I asked, wouldn't have guessed that this is the official Catholic position. I'm at loss though as how to respond further without hitting too high a score on the snark meter. Put me down in the this-is-a-strange-and-unreasonable-thing-to-believe columnb (possibly stranger than the classic Hell where everyone's on fire, as at least that has a purpose in a sort of narrative).

      • vito

        Unless the Church-approved apparitions of St. Faustina and Fatima children, to name but the most prominent, have been somehow cancelled, it think it still stands that it is a place of terrible torment (does it really matter if its physical or spiritual or both? I consider it a technicality). I had a discussion with Fr Barron (or someone else named 'wordonfire' on youtube, where he had a video on hell), where he tried to water it down merely a place "without God", but when I mentioned the said apparitions, I never got a response, although just before that we had had a very lengthy exchange. I also asked him if he knew any approved apparitions that would speak against actual torment of souls in hell, and no response there either.

        • Geena Safire

          (does it really matter if its physical or spiritual or both? I consider it a technicality)

          I agree with you. Six times infinity of one, a half dozen times infinity of the other.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Go the the Catechism 1033-1037. Here is the link:

        http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm

        Just type 1033 in the search box.

    • MichaelNewsham

      Uh-oh- you've left an opening here: "We can't say if God actually condemns any particular person, so maybe your particular loved ones aren't suffering in Hell for the sin of not believing in God, so that makes it okay that all those other people are".

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      If your loved ones love you, then whether they know it or not, whether they would call it this or not, they do love God. If they idolize you AS God, that is a problem, but if they express their love of God through love of you, then I think you are all going to have a good time in heaven.

    • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

      People choose what they choose. When we are in heaven we will know better than ever that the people who are excluded are excluded for good and just reasons. People who never showed an interest in being close to God on earth would not want intimacy with God being forced on them in heaven. If that is true about your loved ones then you would know that. It does cause pain yet you know that heaven requires the exclusion of those who are unwilling to be made pure. It is like being sad because a woman does not want to marry you. It is sad but her unwillingness is a show-stopper so you get over it.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Hi Randy:

        1. What makes you think I'm talking about "People who never showed an interest in being close to God on earth"?

        2. Why is the only option "intimacy with God being forced on them in heaven"? Why can't we accept intimacy with God after death?

        3. If "heaven requires the exclusion of those who are unwilling to be made pure" then why can't people be made pure after death?

        4. "It is like being sad because a woman does not want to marry you." Why can't we change our minds after death?

        And finally, why does hell have to be so awful? Why can't it be a place of maximum natural happiness, the way some people think of Limbo?

        Rob

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Rob, I think your basic question is a good one. However, the Catholic teaching is that nobody enters the condition of hell due to a mistake and nobody is in that condition against their will. I can't see how a good-hearted person could not be in heaven.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        That's a lovely thought. I'm not sure the Magisterium agrees, but I hope so.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The Magisterium does agree. Or rather, I agree with the Magisterium.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yes.

          • MichaelNewsham

            Well, from both personal experience and historical examples there doesn't seem to be any evidence that Christians are more good-hearted than other people, so we might have a Christian-minority Heaven?

            A separate question- is it possible for a Catholic to be a universalist in terms of the exclusivist, inclusivist,and universalist positions on salvation?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            If by universalist we mean all people will be saved, then no. The Church will not say that any one person is definitively in Hell, which I think is telling. However, its more like an assumption that somewhere in the history of the world, someone probably died, and upon dying, rejected God. The odds are good that in the history of human beings, some people went to Hell, probably.

            If you mean all people can be saved, then yes. Anyone who upon dying accepts God would be saved. There's no rigorous checklist for who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.

          • MichaelNewsham

            I was more thinking on the lines of George MacDonald, who held that all those in Hell, and even eventually Satan, will repent and be forgiven.

  • Steven Carr

    What Heaven?

    There is not the slightest piece of evidence that Heaven exists.

    It is something that is just made up.

    You may as well ask 'Will we have free will in Narnia?'

    • Lionel Nunez

      These types of posts are the reason Catholics who read the comments don't like to respond; they offend reasonable intellectual discourse.

      • Steven Carr

        Is it supposed to be a secret that Heaven is something that was made up by people?

        Are we not allowed to spill the beans?

        • Lionel Nunez

          If you figure out why any Christian, who knows anything, would have a problem with the statement you made; then you'll know why only 4% of the population is atheist. I'll give you a hint too; it doesn't have to do with fact you're sure heaven is a myth; just about everyone is emotionally indifferent to it.

          • Steven Carr

            So your inability to produce any evidence for Heaven, even when it is pointed out that your beliefs are made up, simply provides more evidence that Heaven and Hell are made up.

            Only 4% of the population is atheist? No wonder the world is full of evil.....

            It's the vast majority that are spoiling it for us tiny minority.

  • Slocum Moe

    This is stupid. Nobody knows what happens after we die. Whether or not there is a heaven and hell and what the nature of our being might be after we die and what the actual mechanics and rules of any afterlife might be.

    An afterlife is something persons should only concern themselves with if they have died and find themselves in it. Otherwise it is not a valid concern nor is it a functional part of the before death Christian experience. Live in faith, love, hope and charity.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "This is stupid" is not a legitimate SN reply.

      • David Nickol

        "This is stupid" is not a legitimate SN reply.

        Kevin,

        I agree that there is a more civil way to make the point, but it seems to me that what we read in Akin's post is largely conjecture on his part. The question of whether or not we will have free will in heaven is a good one, provided you believe all the things that Akin presupposes (Catholic teaching), but I don't believe Akin's answer to the question is anything more than his own personal conjecture. He says,

        Is there a way to reconcile the value he sets on it in this life with the fact that we will not be able to choose evil in heaven?

        I think there is . . .

        So far as I know, when Akin says, "I think there is . . . ." he is speaking solely for himself. He doesn't cite any Church documents or any theologians. I don't claim to know everything the Catholic Church teaches, but I don't think the Church teaches that going to heaven (or hell) is like committing to a marriage, and once done, you have definitively exercised your free will and it is no longer an issue.

        So, as with many posts on Strange Notions, I don't know what this one has to do with dialogue between Catholics and atheists. It is a conjecture that is based solidly on assumptions and Catholic teachings that atheists can't possibly accept, and the conjecture itself isn't really Catholic teaching. It may be compatible with Catholic teaching, but it is not itself Catholic teaching.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That's stupid, David. (Just kidding!)

          Actually it is very hard not to write stupid things, since thinking and writing are so hard. And some things seem stupid that are not, because the reader falls short.

  • David Nickol

    Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?

    I just said this in a very long message, and now I'll try to say it in a short one.

    First, this is a question that cannot possibly be of any interest to atheists. Second, Jimmy Akin's answer is his own personal conjecture which, while it may be compatible with Catholic teaching, is not actually something that the Church teaches (as far as I know).

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      More than conjecture. But less than doctrine. It's inference from the given principles, but there's no Nihil Obstat on it (literally or figuratively). Not to detract from Jimmy's project, he writes a lot of great stuff, but he isn't the Magesterium.

      • David Nickol

        I occasionally read Jimmy Akin on his own site, and he can be interesting. But it seems to me his intent is usually to make Catholic thought plausible to people who are already Catholics and might be doubtful or confused.

        I suppose it would be more than conjecture if I wrote an article titled "Will Jimmy Durante Have a Big Nose After the Resurrection of the Dead?" Our bodily imperfections will not persist in glorified bodies, which is a belief well grounded in Catholic thought. But is Jimmy Durante's big nose an imperfection, or an essential quality? That is only partly facetious. I once read a very thoughtful comment by a man whose young son had Down syndrome. He said, on the one hand, that if all that was disabling about Down syndrome were to miraculously disappear in his son, he guessed he would be pleased. But on the other hand, would it still be the same boy he knew and loved? Many of the claims of religion raise at least as many questions as they purport to answer.

        • Geena Safire

          I wonder if that man has read "Flowers for Algernon"?

      • Geena Safire

        Magesterium

        Magisterium

        there's no Nihil Obstat on it

        Nihil Obstat (nothing stands in the way) is a message of approval, not of disallowance.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Thank you, and yes, I was saying no Magisterial approval has been given. Also, no disapproval has been shown. For what that's worth.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    A: if god has the power to prevent evil, and wants to prevent it, he would. Since evil occurs, god must not exist, not want to eliminate evil, or be incapable.

    T: actually he is able, and willing to prevent evil, but not at the cost of violating our free will. Eliminating the possibility of evil would destroy free will.

    A: what about heaven, the saints, the angels, there is free will there but no possibility of evil.

    T: yes, of course God is capable of maintaining our free will but eliminating evil

    A: then why doesn't he always do this?

    Your move T.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      A: If god has the power to prevent evil, and wants to prevent it, he
      would.

      KA: One way God shows his total goodness is by giving maximal importance to persons (angels and men), so that what they do can be really good or really evil. God honors this gift by never taking it away. If he would prevent them from doing evil, or even not create them because of the evil things he knew they would perform, then instead of love being the major principle of God's action, prevention of evil would be. Evil would have triumphed over good before creation even got set in motion.

      • Geena Safire

        However, Kevin, when people do evil, they do take away the free will of the people they impact by death, dismemberment, brain injury, brain damage due to starvation, etc. If God allows that, knowing it will happen, it is God's responsibility -- every bit of suffering is on him.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You are assuming there is no victory over evil.

          Moral evil (on the part of angels and men) results in suffering. God redeems through suffering out of love. God associates all suffering with his redemptive suffering. So the thing which caused the suffering is overcome by its effect.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        So before man and angels were created, God's love was less than it is now? So he allows some children to be raped to death because it allows him to love maximally?

        If taking away the possibility of evil is something God would never do, why does he allow this state of affairs in heaven? People commit to God all the time on earth, yet this by no means immunizes them from evil. However, if killed by a freak accident just after this, they are immunized.

        It doesn't hold up. If god really was interested in our well being he would act like it.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          BGA
          So before man and angels were created, God's love was less than it is now?

          KA
          I don't understand the question. God does not change. His love is the same before creation and after.

          BGA
          So he allows some children to be raped to death because it allows him to love maximally?

          KA
          God gives human beings real power, which is one of the things that makes this life both terribly and beautifully real.

          BGA
          If taking away the possibility of evil is something God would never do, why does he allow this state of affairs in heaven?

          KA
          In heaven, evil is not prevented, it is overcome.

          BGA
          People commit to God all the time on earth, yet this by no means immunizes them from evil.

          KA
          Yes for the reason given above. God gives human beings real power, including the tyranny of the strong over the weak.

          BGA
          However, if killed by a freak accident just after this, they are
          immunized.

          KA
          In heaven, evil persons have no power to harm anyone.

          BGA
          If god really was interested in our well being he would act like it.

          KA
          He did by redeeming the world. The victory over permitted evil has been won through love alone.

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            You said above that a prevention of evil is tantamount to a reduction in gods love. Accordingly before the creation of agents whose actions can allow evil to exit, all evil was prevented. Is this tantamount to a reduction in Gods love or not?

            God gives us power, but has limited our ability to cause evil. One human cannot kill a thousand with a thought. God could have given us that power which would have enhanced our choices to be good. But limiting our capacity to cause harm, is his love reduced? If not, why not limit it further? Create us in a way that allows us to reproduce, but not be raped?

            If evil is overcome in heaven, why keep creating billions out souls that risk a fate other than heaven? God now has all the angels saints etc for heaven. Does he need more?

            Victory over evil? There surely was never a chance God would lose? And this idea of permitted evil goes to the heart of it. God creates humans and permits evil to overcome some of us, subject millions of us to devastating suffering. All so there will be a select place for some of us eternally and either annihilation or eternal conscious torture for the rest? This does not sound like a good and moral plan to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your comment was hard for me to understand but here's an attempt to respond.

            BGA
            Before the creation of agents whose actions can allow evil to exit, all evil was prevented. Is this tantamount to a reduction in Gods love or not?

            KA
            Do you mean did God love less before he created? No. God did not love more or less before he created than after he created, since he is all love, all of the time.

            BGA
            God gives us power, but has limited our ability to cause
            evil. One human cannot kill a thousand with a thought. But limiting our capacity to cause harm, is his love reduced? If not, why not limit it further?

            KA
            I think you are just saying, God should have created a world in which no one could harm anyone else. The point I am trying to make is that you are making “prevention of evil” the organizing principle of the universe, whereas to God the organizing principle is love.

            BGA
            Why didn’t God give us that power which would have enhanced our choices to be good?

            KA
            He could have: “With infinite power God could always create something better” (CCC 310), but why would this be required?

            BGA
            If evil is overcome in heaven, why keep creating billions
            out souls that risk a fate other than heaven? God now has all the angels, saints, for heaven. Does he need more?

            KA
            God doesn't need anything. He is doing this for us: “This one, true God, of his own goodness and “almighty power,” not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through
            the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel “and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal....” (CCC 293)

            BGA
            There surely was never a chance God would lose?

            KA
            I don’t understand what you mean.

            BGA
            God creates humans and permits evil to overcome some of us.

            KA
            No one can be overcome by evil if does not want to be and
            God wants to forgive any evil we do.

            BGA
            God subjects millions of us to devastating suffering.

            KA
            If you mean on earth, God does not subject anyone to suffering. God is completely opposed to suffering. If you mean in hell, no one has to undergo that condition.

            BGA
            All so there will be a select place for some of us eternally
            and either annihilation or eternal conscious torture for the rest?

            KA
            The idea of the redemption you reject seems to be Calvinistic.

            BGA
            This does not sound like a good and moral plan to me.

            KA
            I agree. Your view of the Redemption is rightly to be rejected.

  • Ben Posin

    While we are on the topic of free will, I submit the following:
    Catholic doctrine (to the extent this series reflects it) has things exactly backwards on the subject of free will and God's existence. God is denying us the ability to exercise our free will by giving us insufficient evidence of his existence.

    A meaningful exercise of free will requires an actor to be informed. We don't hold people fully responsible for their actions when they were not aware of the consequences. A person cannot be free to love or hate God, "accept" or "reject" God, when he has not been provided sufficient evidence to even believe God exists. How could it be otherwise?

    Ultimately, the existence of God is a question of fact, it's a descriptive statement about the nature of the universe that has a right and a wrong answer. I'm not aware of any other context where people suggest that having a better knowledge of the facts diminishes one's free will. The effect of knowledge is to provide one with a better understanding of the consequence of a given choice, but doesn't remove the ability to make a choice. Only with regard to God do some say this. And this is clearly wrong, and should be rejected as the non sequitur it is, a meaningless bit of noise meant to stop one from reaching the natural conclusions on issues like the problem of evil.
    We are giving this wrong, false idea too much respect in our arguments here, and should just reject the premise from the start.
    Are we so resolved?

  • picklefactory

    In fact, the very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is information about what Pope Benedict said about the book of Revelation.

    What on earth is *this* about?

    • Geena Safire

      Marketing. Self-promotion. An advertisement, if you will, which he may consider as part of his compensation from Strange Notions.

      • picklefactory

        How secret can this info be if he'll email it to you just for signing up?

        • Geena Safire

          'Secret' is a marketing word, like 'new' and 'improved' and 'expert' and 'refreshing.'

    • Danny Getchell

      "Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine"

  • Abe Rosenzweig

    I read the title of this as "Will We Have Free Food In Heaven?"

    Dissapoint.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    Is it reasonable to value this type of commitment? I think it is. We place a similar value on freely made commitments in this life.

    I don't think the marriage analogy is especially helpful. Yes, Catholics require marriage to last until death. But we all know that in many cultures, including modern pluralist society and also pre-Christian Judaism, divorce is/was considered permissible under certain circumstances.

    To me as a secular humanist, commitment isn't intrinsically valuable unless we're talking specifically about commitment to something we agree is good. Commitment is great when it helps us attain good things and avoid bad things, which it often does. And if my lover freely commits to me, that's a great and wonderful thing. But essential to that is that my lover's commitment must stay free. Freely entering into slavery, so to speak, is still slavery. It would be much nobler to have a commitment to each other that can be broken but that my lover and I continually choose not to break.

    Do Catholics really value unbreakability in commitments? Why? Would you really rather that your spouse could never remarry even if they became deeply unhappy with you, or doesn't your love for them include, as with children, the ability to let them go when necessary?

    How much more then, when people make a decision with terrible consequences, the loving thing to do is to always allow and encourage them to change their decision. Commitment to a bad thing is just bad and isn't worth honoring at all. Women (or men) whose marriages turn abusive should get out of that bad relationship.

    If the Christian god were real and good, wouldn't it be better if he let the people he sent to Hell change their minds, since their decisions turned out to be terrible ones?

    If that's somehow not possible with Hell and people's free will set up the way god supposedly chose to set them up, wouldn't it be better if he just changed how Hell works or how people's free will works in Hell?

    Whatever y'all think makes the best sense, it's profitable to contrast it with some alternatives. Universalist theists cut through all the "mystery"/doubletalk and say that a loving omnipotent god just sets things up in such a way that everyone actually ends up in heaven; they don't need a free will defense for hell or its attendant contradictions. And for atheists there's no problematic Hell or God stories to reconcile in the first place. We aren't omnipotent and can't always undo the consequences of our actions, but part of what it means to be human is that we can always, anywhere change our minds. To know and love a human is to be ready to accept and work with that.

  • Kathleen S.

    This reminds me of St. Augustine's distinction between those on earth and those already in heaven: the former is posse non mori and the latter is non posse mori. Able not to die and not able to die.... Yet he considers the saints to have greater freedom than those on earth because of this "disability". The same goes if you swap "mori" with "peccati". Those in heaven are not able to sin, yet are greater and freer than those on earth, who are only posse non peccati. The saints, being deified, are more free because they are like God in His disabilities. God Himself cannot sin, cannot diminish His infinite being, yet He is considered to be ultimately free and omnipotent.