Will There Be Free Will in the Afterlife?

Q: How will we have free will in the next life if we won’t be able to choose to do evil? And if we can choose evil, how do we know we will not Fall again?

A: We will still be free to choose to do any good thing; we simply will not be able to choose to do evil things.

Consider an analogy: The way we are now, as creatures with legs, we can choose to walk different places. If we wish, we can choose to walk one way, and if we choose, we can walk another. However, we cannot choose to fly. We do not have wings. Suppose our nature was modified so that we had aerodynamically sound wings. We could then choose to either walk or fly where we wanted. Now suppose our nature was modified again so that we no longer had legs. We could then choose to fly where we wanted — to fly one way or the other — but we could no longer choose to walk.

This is a good analog for the functioning of our wills. As we were when we were born, before God’s grace came into our souls, we could choose to do all kinds of things — supernaturally evil things, naturally evil things, and even naturally good things, but we could not choose to do supernaturally good things (that is, things done for the unselfish love of God). We could choose to do any kind of individual thing we wanted, but it had to be in one of the first three classes.

Then, when God’s grace came into our souls, we began to be able to do supernaturally good things also. We can still do supernaturally evil things, naturally evil things, and naturally good things, but we now have the ability to do supernaturally good ones as well.

At the end of this life, the saved will change again such that they can no longer do evil things, either natural or supernatural. At that point we will still be able to choose to do whatever things we want; they will simply all be good things. We will still have the free will to do what we want, but we will no more be able to choose to do evil than a legless creature could choose to walk or a wingless creature could choose to fly.

One note: All historic Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, Thomist or Molinist, Calvinist or Arminian, acknowledge the existence of some kind of free will, they simply disagree on the nature of its freedom. The above answer is not affected by the different theories of how free will works but holds true regardless of the theory of free will one believes, whether it is Thomist or Molinist, Calvinist or Arminian. Indeed, many who have the narrowest views of the will’s freedom (Thomists and Calvinists) use the exact same argument presented above.

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