Why would an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God knowingly create a world containing the evil we see all around us? That, in a nutshell, is the well-known theological “problem of evil”.
A standard Christian response runs as follows: God, being omnipotent, certainly could have created a world without evil. However, a world without evil would be a world without free will, because free will implies the ability to choose to do evil. In a world without evil, we would effectively be robots preprogrammed to do only the good. God values free will so much that he chooses to grant it to us despite knowing that we will misuse it. In short, God chooses to create a world containing free will, at the expense of some concomitant evil, rather than creating a pristine world full of robots.
Now consider heaven, a perfect place in which there is no evil. Do believers have free will in heaven?
Suppose they do. In that case they are free to sin, but they choose not to – otherwise there would be sin in heaven. But if it’s possible for them to have free will and yet refrain from sinning, then why didn’t God create them that way in the first place? They would have had their free will and there would have been no evil in the world. God could have done this, but he chose otherwise. Thus God is responsible for the evil in the world.
Now suppose instead that there is no free will in heaven – our free wills are removed as we pass through the pearly gates, and we are thereafter unable to choose to do anything but the good. This raises an obvious question: if God is willing to deny us our free will for eternity, then why was it so important for us to have free will on earth? If God is happy to have a heaven full of robots, then what is wrong with an earth full of them?
It seems to me that Christians are stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter how they answer the question “Is there free will in heaven?”, their answer clashes with a standard response to the problem of evil.
I described this dilemma in another thread, and Vincent Torley responded. I’ll post his response, and my rebuttal, in the comments.