Some complain that while God has given people free will whether or not to believe in Him, it isn’t much of a choice. Since the only 2 options are Heaven or Hell the idea of true free will strikes some as being ridiculous and unfair.
A couple of comments first.
One- I’m struck at how when offered the opportunity to go to Heaven for eternity, the response isn’t “Yes! Thank you, Lord!”, but “No! This is unfair! This isn’t really a choice, but a sham!” but that is something for a different discussion.
Second- We need to remember that God does want all people to go to Heaven:
Ezekiel 18:23- “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
John 3:16-17- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
1 Timothy 2:3-4- God our Savior “…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
1 Peter 3:9- “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Let’s look at the different scenarios that could play out within a Christian worldview, holding to people having free will.
1. Heaven and Hell are real and people can choose to go to either place by either believing in God or rejecting God.
2. People can reject God yet still receive His blessings. This seems to be the desired answer from those who critique the biblical position.
Both options are true, yet both are not eternal.
In our lives on earth, someone can reject God, hate God with a passion, yet still receive some of God’s blessings- physical health, long life, material possessions and wealth, family, friends, talents, etc. But this is only temporary. If someone rejects/does not believe in God when they die, that decision is made permanent.
But let’s say that option #2 was eternal. One could reject God, not go to Hell, and still receive God’s blessings, without any personal relationship with Him.
This may sound ideal to some, or at least like a fairer choice, but a thorny question would be, “What about evil?”
On this world, people would still have free will to do right or to do wrong. Yet there would be no presence of God (or the church) to counter evil. Even if you don’t believe in a literal Satan and demons, there is the evil that people want and desire to do on their own.
Sooner or later this type of world, while enjoying God’s blessings, would nonetheless slip into chaos, lawlessness and overall, much more pain and suffering than is experienced even today.
A response to this may be to say, “Okay, that’s no good, but still there must be a way to have free will and God’s blessings without God.” Is there?
You can’t have Heaven without God. The best and main part of Heaven is God Himself.
The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that all good comes from God.
If you go back to the world above-no God but all of God’s blessings-one would have to get rid of evil to have peace. So this would be a strange place indeed- no God, yet no freedom of choice either. It would be a God-less Heaven, which for all intents and purposes is a contradiction in terms and so can’t exist.
God wants to have a personal relationship with all people. To want all of God’s blessings, but nothing of God Himself, is perhaps, for some at least, the very heart of the matter.
I would like to address this in the following chat between a father and his son:
Father: Son, it’s been quite a long time since we spent time together. Far too long. So let’s spend the day hanging out together. Just you and I.
Son: Thanks for the offer, dad, but is that really necessary?
See, honestly, I really don’t want a personal relationship with you dad. Not to sever ties with you completely, however. While I don’t want a personal relationship with you, I would still like to continue to receive all of the good things you provide for me.
To put it candidly, I really just want all of your stuff. You know, your house, car, access to your bank account. Just the good things.
Besides, didn’t you and mom have me just so you could give me things? You didn’t really want to give me yourself or your time, did you?
I’m glad that you love me, father, but if you want to show me your love, you can do that by buying me things and letting me do whatever I want, when I want, and how I want, without having the slightest thought of being punished or having to suffer any consequences.
No parent who truly loves their child warns him of consequences or punishes him when he does wrong.
So the way I see it, you can still give me all the goodies, without us having a personal relationship and we can both be fine with that.
Isn’t that what a true father-son relationship is all about?