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This question is scoped to those who believe that:

Question: If Heaven demonstrates that it is possible to live in a world where (1) there is no sin and (2) everyone has free will, then why did God not create a world like that to begin with? The Garden of Eden was a place where Adam & Eve had free will but could sin (in fact, they did), whereas Heaven (after Jesus' second coming) will be a place where everyone will have free will and yet will never sin. Is there a fundamental difference between the nature or the setting of Adam & Eve and the nature or the setting of the saints in Heaven? If so, why?

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    "everyone will have free will and yet will never sin" Not doing something isn't the same as not being able to do something. I am not going to jump off a 30-storey building. Am I incapable of doing so? No. It fundamentally comes down to the difference between "possible" and "probable". It's possible that I will jump off a 30-storey building, but it is not probable that I will do so. It's the same with Heaven. Adam and Eve were innocent(like children), not knowing good from evil. We, when we are resurrected, will not be as such. We will be fully conformed to the image of Jesus(Romans 8:29).
    – Rajesh
    Feb 12 at 3:58
  • @Rajesh - by talking about "probable", are you suggesting that probability applies to free will? Feb 12 at 4:05
  • Well, that depends on whether or not the universe is deterministic. I personally don't believe so, though one can make a tremendous case for the positive. I don't know what your stance is on that. But if the universe isn't deterministic and free will exists, then yes, probability most certainly applies to free will. If there is a 100% chance that you'll pick something, then there's a 0% chance that you'll pick anything else, and the universe is deterministic. Hence, in a universe with free will, there must be probabilities when it comes to choosing options(which is what FW allows you to do).
    – Rajesh
    Feb 12 at 4:11
  • @Rajesh: in a universe with free will, there must be probabilities when it comes to choosing options - if that's the case, then your decisions would still be forced to follow a probability distribution. What determines that distribution? And given any distribution, why would a free agent be forced to follow it? He should be able to ignore the distribution and do whatever he wants. Feb 12 at 4:14
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    @Rajesh Probability describes things, it does not determine things. God cannot deny Himself. There is 100% chance that He will not deny Himself and 0% chance that He will. Does this probability mean that God does not have free will or that His will is perfect? Feb 12 at 13:54

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Introduction

I see your question as boiling down to the following: There is no sin in heaven, but free will continues; is it possible for God to create such a world via fiat? If yes, why did he create the garden and not heaven? I will suggest 2 possible answers consistent with versions of libertarian free will. The answers are complementary.

  1. God can create such a world by fiat, and this is it.
  2. God cannot create such a world because it would be internally inconsistent.

Answer 1: God can (and did create such a world)

Libertarian free will in its most basic sense is the ability to make real either/or choices. If, when you wake up in the morning you are genuinely free to choose to brush your teeth or not to brush your teeth, you have libertarian free will. This type of free will does not imply total freedom, since you are not free to brush an alien's teeth even if your choose to do so. We are, however, able to genuinely choose to do or not to do what is logically possible.

Furthermore, most advocates of libertarian free-will do not require all choices to be either/or, so in this sense you still may have genuine freedom not to brush your teeth, but by consistently choosing to brush your teeth every morning for 10 years, brushing your teeth ceases to be a choice and instead becomes an involuntary behavior.

To expand on this sense of "habituation" consider the process of learning to read. A young child begins by memorizing the shapes of letters, and the basic sounds that those letters symbolize. In time, children learn to put the sounds together in the same way that the letters are joined on a page in the form of words. With even more time, reading no longer consists of sounds but words and eventually phrases.

Similarly, the choices we make form habits that accumulate into character so that much of our behavior and personality is an expression of natural (virtually involuntary) impulses.

Walking, riding a bike, talking, all move from conscious, focused choices into unconscious higher-order behavior. These are still the result of genuinely libertarian choices, but they accumulate into a mature you that does not choose things that are out of character because of the accumulated free choices that they made before. In this way, advocates of libertarian free will can hold to both its reality, and to its formation of a person into something that is not arbitrary but entirely consistent with themselves.

Through this process of maturation, a person can therefore be transformed from an arbitrarily free child to an entirely consistent adult. This is the exact process that the Holy Spirit kicks off in a new believer when they are born again. Go enters the heart of a repentant sinner and restores their dead (enslaved) heart and will to live (freedom). Out of this freedom, believers are now capable of making choices that accumulate into new habits and entirely eliminating old ones (e.g., alcoholism and pornography can be eliminated from a person's life, while hospitality can be habituated to the level of a reflex).

These are examples of how God can habituate us into the type of humans who do not sin, and the connection between libertarian free will and non-sinning is the process of habituation. This process continues until death, at which point our resurrection bodies shed the last influences of the flesh and we are totally habituated to sinlessness. It is in this sense that it is possible for us to be possessors of libertarian free will, and yet never sin in heaven.

So far I have been attempting to explain how there can be both genuine libertarian free will, and yet sinlessness in heaven. Once we understand how such an outcome can be achieved, we realize that it includes the process of birth and maturation which include making choices that define us more and more. God did create such a world by his fiat, and we live in it right now. The externalities of such a world include many people whose free choices at a young age (many of them influenced by parents/society) accumulate into total resistance to God, the gospel, and sinlessness.

What I am suggesting is that to fiat heaven as you describe it, with genuine libertarian freedom, entails fiating a world that includes lifetimes of choices that constitute the history of the human race. The garden is a world with libertarian free will without the accumulation of character, whereas heaven is a place full of those who, having libertarian free will through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, have developed the character of sinlessness in imitation of Christ. In other words, the creation of heaven (as you describe it) entails the creation of the garden.

Answer 2: God cannot logically create such a heaven without such an earth

That is how I understand free will, the garden, and heaven. At this point, however, you may believe I have misunderstood your question. If you are questioning whether God could have instantaneously created heaven full of people who are both genuinely free and yet entirely sinless, then I will have to answer no, given the nature of libertarian freedom. Only libertarian freedom combined with the accumulation of choices over time is compatible with sinlessness, and such a timeline virtually necessitates some people making choices that are corrupting, not sanctifying.

For people to be both free in an undeveloped libertarian sense (which is essentially capable of choosing good or evil arbitrarily) and for all of them to never sin is not logically possible. More importantly for your question, even if they never sinned, the process of training their free will to the point where they would never sin (not could) had to occur across time.

In this sense, God could not create that kind of world by fiat. To create such a world would require a compatibilist sense of free will such as is espoused by Calvinists and is ultimately a form of determinism. My answer here gives a bit more background on the importance of responsibility in free will, and why I think God chose libertarian free will.

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    God cannot deny Himself. Does this mean that God does not have libertarian free-will or does it mean that His will is perfect? Feb 12 at 14:02
  • @MikeBorden This is a great question! I'm not entirely sure what kind of will God has? It would make a great other question, but it's beyond anything I've studied. I would lean towards the idea that his will (which is outside the process of time) is perfect so though he is technically capable of doing other than he does, he only ever does what he does. I think another factor might be his basis as the center of the moral universe, ie. everything he does is by definition good as he is himself goodness and the source of all moral goodness.
    – ninthamigo
    Feb 12 at 14:09
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A Related Question With a Common Answer

A strikingly similar question is asked of Alma in the Book of Mormon:

20 ...what is this that thou hast said, that man should rise from the dead and be changed from this mortal to an immortal state, that the soul can never die?

21 What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever.

The essence of the question is quite similar...if as a result of their exercise of free will, God actively prevented people from living forever--he deliberately took some choices off the table--are free will and living forever inherently incompatible? Why would God set things up this way if the goal was living forever, sinless, in heaven?

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A Time of Preparation

Alma's response correlates with the OP's question even more:

24 And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead. (Alma 12:24)

Adam & Eve weren't ready for eternity yet; this life is a time of development to prepare for eternity. The Fall permitted that time of preparation.

A few verses later Alma continues:

33 But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;

34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest. (Alma 12:33-34)

Repentance isn't a incidental defect that comes through working with humans; transformation of character (which often comes through repentance) was baked into the plan from the outset.

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Freedom to choose what we become

In the same chapter Alma also echoes one of the Messianic prophecies of Lehi:

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil (2 Nephi 2:26-27)

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Conclusion

The whole point of the plan was that we could go through a time of probation and learn by experience. Jesus made it possible for us to have these experiences without being condemned by them.

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The problem was as God warned in the beginning.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not stated to be in the garden. Nor did God directly create it.

It is a liability of the creation of sentient beings. A creation of intelligent beings will, of necessity, cause there to be such a knowledge.

And that knowledge is a way of death. And humanity chose it.

The creature will always choose it.

Even in the best creation that is possible, in which everything is 'good'. It will still be there. And the created creatures - the highest created spirit, the formed man and the after-formed woman : will always choose the way of nature.

It is inevitable.

And it was foreseen.

And in the counsels of Deity, determination was made 'before the foundation of the world', Ephesians 1:4, to redeem.

Despite what it would cost (to Deity) despite all that would be required in righteousness - the determination was made.

In order 'to bring many sons to glory', Hebrews 2:10.

Such is the Love of God to share his being with sons.


Yes, we have free will.

And that will was amply demonstrated by the choice that Serpent, Woman and Man made, in the beginning.

That is the will which will - always - bring down the wilful creature.

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    Reading Genesis 1:9 it is factually incorrect to say the tree of knowledge was "not stated to be in the garden". In Genesis 1:9 we read: "The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
    – ninthamigo
    Feb 12 at 13:18
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    Furthermore, I'm not sure how your answer, interesting though it is, answers the question which is about whether it is possible for God to create a world where free-will does not sin (ie. to simply create heaven with 'sanctified people'.
    – ninthamigo
    Feb 12 at 13:20

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