The subject of human freedom was central to the debate over universalism and hell. But it also arises in connection with the doctrine of heaven. For the Christian tradition has, virtually without exception, held that the blessed in heaven are beyond temptation and beyond the possibility of falling into sin again. But does this mean that they cease to be free?
We have already seen, in the chapters on Creation and Incarnation, that freedom cannot be defined in terms of the choice between good and evil. God's freedom and Christ's freedom have to be understood as embracing the whole range of activity and creativity open to perfect goodness. It was pointed out in that connection that the blessed, in the morally frictionless environment ofheaven, will have come to share in the divine attributes, not only of immortality, but also of impeccability. Only under the conditions of our formation here on Earth, the conditions in and through which we are drawn out of nature into spirit, does our freedom entail susceptibility to temptation.
The question whether there is freedom in heaven is discussed by James Sennett in an article in Faith and Philosophy,59 which seems to get the matter partly right and partly wrong. Sennett is quite right to distinguish between freedom on earth and freedom in heaven. The former, he says, is a matter of libertarian freedom and is essential to the formation of character. But the latter, he suggests, is best understood in terms of compatibilism: in heaven, one's 'free' actions are determined by formed, or graced, character. What this account fails to make clear is, first, the fact that it is the conditions of our formation that render libertarian freedom on Earth open to temptation, and, secondly, the fact that formed, or graced, character only determines that whatever one does is good. Libertarian freedom is preserved in heaven in the sense of openness to endless good alternative possibilities. Some intimation of what this means is given in the passage by A. E. Taylor quoted in an earlier section of this chapter (p. 119).
Was this article helpful?