Why Didn’t God Just Create Heaven First?

by Max Andrews

This is a legitimate question. The claim that God could have created us in the state of heaven avoiding all this evil and suffering in the world is a nuanced version of the problem of evil.  If we are going to heaven and our telos, our purpose and end, is to worship God and enjoy him forever in heaven then why didn’t God skip this earthly step?  Surely, one may think that there’s a possible world in which we all exist in heaven.  It’s my contention that the instantiation of heaven alone is not a possible world.

Aside from other theodicies and defenses such as soul-making, perhaps the most relevant to this question, I think it’s critical to understand that heaven isn’t some lone possible state of affairs by itself.  Heaven is, necessarily, a contingent state of affairs.  It’s a consequent, if and only if, there are prior antecedent conditions or states of affairs.  Heaven is a result of our choices during this life.  In other words, this earthly life is a necessary condition for heaven to be brought about (aside from the salvific will of the Father and saving power of Christ, I’m merely stating that this life must precede heaven.

This also leads to a very important question: How does God guarantee that there will be no evil among the saved in heaven?  This is a very tough question and here are a few possible answers to consider.

A1. There is no free will in heaven.  The saved are immutably good and have no choice nor temptation to sin.

  • Objection to A1. Can a lack of free will exist with the saved’s love towards God?  How can there be love without free will?  Any use of a free will defense crumbles in the problem of evil.

A2. There is free will. In a regenerated glorified nature we would never choose evil.

  • Objection to A2. Why didn’t God create Adam with such desires?

A3. There is no free will. However, we cannot consider heaven in isolation from the earthly decision that led to the eternal life.  We had free will on earth and God made those free choices permanent (salvifically efficacious) to accept Christ.  Love still exists in heaven because God affirms the free willed decision to follow God on earth.  Perhaps it’s the case that we are sealed in the beatific vision when God’s full glory is revealed (1 Cor. 13.12).  The ultimate vision of Christ is so overwhelming the freedom to resist would be utterly removed.

  • Objection to A3. Isn’t this just a nuanced version of A1?  This just seems to push the problem back a little more.  Can it be the case that past love be efficacious in the present and future? Does love have transtemporal applicability?  If no, then the problem remains and this may be a defeater.  If yes, then why only past love, in this case, having transtemporal applicability?  Why not future love?  Couldn’t it be the case that a non-saved person, in hell, choose to love God and then have that credited to him?  Even more problematic, this person wouldn’t even have gone to hell because that future love would have been counted efficacious and ushered him into heaven even though he never loved God in this earthly life.  If that’s possible then this seems to have problems.

I honestly don’t know the answer to how we have free will, if we have free will, in heaven.  This is something I haven’t worked out yet.

One Comment to “Why Didn’t God Just Create Heaven First?”

  1. Hey Max – good stuff. While I’m not necessarily an open theologian, Greg Boyd makes the case in Four Views of Divine Providence (pages 193-194) that your A3 might be correct. Citing Hebrews 3:13-15, we are either growing in Christ-likeness or becoming increasingly hardened to God’s Spirit. He then reminds us of our own experiences in which our choices become our habits, our habits become our character, and our character becomes our destiny. So while our love for Christ is freely chosen (libertarian sense) in this life (“as long as it is called Today” verse 13), it’s not eternally chosen in this sense and actually becomes a compatibilistic freedom in the next life. So your idea that someone in hell might choose to love God would become impossible since they have lost their capacity to do so (result of being hardened).

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