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Why did God create man, if only to send so many to hell?

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Why did God create man, if only to send so many to hell?
Posted on May 14, 2019  - By Dr. Barry K. Creamer

Why did God create man? There are people who will never understand God for the duration of their lifetimes. That means they will be going to hell for eternity. What was the necessity for the creation of human beings? God being omniscient, isn’t He essentially pushing a number of people to hell for not being able to understand Him — when He knows that many will live and die, having never been able to understand Him? If God wanted to be worshipped, He has legions of angels to do so. My question is: what was the necessity of creating man, if only to send so many to eternal destruction?

Thank you for an important question. Before venturing into any explanations of what I think underlies the question, let me give a too-concise answer as to why God would create man at all: because He has chosen to be the Creator, and — as seems evident in passages inviting us into joy — because He chose to share the goodness of existence with us. In other words, it wasn’t necessary. It was chosen. But that answer (or any like it) only leads to the heart of your question, which I often hear from people with two completely different perspectives:

  1.   A believer struggling to blend the omnipotent God’s mercy with the eternal judgment of most of mankind;
  2.   A sceptic discrediting God’s existence as inconsistent with judgment, pain, and suffering.

Why would God create man at all? Because He chose to share the goodness of existence with us. It wasn’t necessary — it was chosen

Not knowing which perspective you hold, I’ll give two answers. It’s worth mentioning that no answer readable on a blog is going to be sufficient to address all the nuances and complexities of the problems raised in this question. But we can address the basics, so here goes.

The believer vs God

On the one hand, let’s assume you are a follower of Jesus struggling with why so many people face judgment in light of God’s mercy to so few, including to you. There are a few layers to this answer, none of which make us feel better about those who face eternal destruction. (And I don’t think we should feel better about them.)

First, the whole point of the Christian narrative is that God created free creatures in a perfect setting (and created man to reflect Himself), that we in our freedom chose rebellion against Him, and that He in His grace has broken through our rebellion to redeem all who are willing to return to Him in repentance. The depth of that grace is evident in its cost to Him and in its effect: namely, the suffering of His Son in place of our necessary judgment, the declaration of His Lordship through the resurrection, and the completed redemption of creation (in the new heavens and earth), mankind (in the saved), Israel (in the remnant), and individuals (in their repentance).

Second, the fact that so many end up in judgment brings sadness to God just as it should to us (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). His plea is for us to repent so that we can experience the redemption He has provided.

Third, it is important to note that salvation is not as complex as we make it out to be. For believers, the depth of their theology obviously grows throughout their Christianity, but trusting Jesus as Saviour and Lord does not involve grasping all the complexities of early, middle and late Christian traditions and doctrines. Accepting Christ is about faith.

Salvation is not as complex as we make it out to be. Accepting Christ is about faith, and does not involve grasping all the complexities of Christian doctrines right from the start

Finally, the numerical aspect of the question misses — and makes — a point. It misses the point that every single human being is made in the image of God, and the loss of one is as tragic as the loss of a billion. I know that seems odd, but it is true. We are not talking about material losses that will be redeemed in eternity. These are souls lost to damnation for eternity. Therefore, even one person lost is too many! But it also makes a point: if human choices are real, then the choices made by people rebelling against God carry consequences both for the individual, and for the individuals and communities influenced by that person.

In other words, the necessity for judgment is in the uprightness of God. Even our human intuition agrees that when someone is cruel throughout their lifetime and unrepentant even in death, they ought to face judgment in the afterlife. Think about people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin. It is not just a tolerable but sad end. It is a sad but just end, meriting praise in Revelation 19:3.

But the fact that God’s judgment has to be enacted is on us. That’s why in Romans 1:17-18, the wrath of God is revealed against everyone from creation itself, while salvation is revealed through the faith of each person. The discomfort of your question is one of the reasons we ought to be motivated to contribute to evangelism and missions.

The sceptic vs God

On the other hand, let’s assume you are making the sceptic’s argument, which is: If there is a God, He ought to be just. If God creates people simply so most of them end up being condemned for no fault of their own, then the God in Whom we say we believe is not just. If there is a God, He cannot be unjust. Therefore God must not exist, and by extension, people are not here as creatures of God, but as byproducts of nature. This question deserves a book, or a full-length debate, but I will only address two quick points here, both of which I think are sufficient to give at least a different footing for future discussion.

First, the idea that people are condemned for no fault of their own is wrong. The wording in the question itself is that they are being “pushed into hell for not being able to understand Him.” That mistake is one made by many Christians and non-believers alike. We speak as if people are condemned because they reject salvation, or because they do not accept salvation. Those statements are misleading. Of course, if a person does accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord, they are not condemned. But their condemnation was present before the offer of salvation entered the picture.

We speak as if people are condemned because they reject salvation… That is a misleading statement, because our condemnation was present before the offer of salvation entered the picture

We are all condemned already because of our own personal and corporate guilt. The condemnation is both fixed and earned. We may not find that idea psychologically satisfying, but it is true nonetheless. And the only help I can offer so that it makes sense psychologically is this: we generally think it is okay that Hitler was condemned, but only because he is so much worse than we are. In reality, we are much worse compared to God than Hitler is compared to us. So, if our understanding is more conformed to reality, I think we would recognise that we actually do start out deserving condemnation. Once we acknowledge that truth, the rest of the argument changes entirely.

Second, the problem of human suffering is just as difficult for the atheist as for the theist; in fact, I would argue, more so. If there is no God who created us to share in His goodness (for no reason other than kindness), then there is no reason to find the suffering and evil of the world or of an afterlife disconcerting. Why should we be bothered about evil then? People have always suffered miserably in the world. Our sceptical logic should have made it normal for us by now. But it has not become acceptable to us because we know the world ought to be like we have never known it to be. For the believer, that incongruity is easy to explain. God created us to live in a perfect world, and has given us a conscience so that we know how the world ought to be even when it is not.

While I can rummage up many secular theories for why people might think that way without a God, none of them pass the simplest explanation test for me. So I fall back on my faith that God created us so that He could love us and we could love Him, and that He laments the loss of every soul missing that purpose, and invites us to the repair of that loss for ourselves in salvation, and for others as we share the Good News that He is still Lord and still loves them.

Dr. Barry K. Creamer

About Dr. Barry K. Creamer

Barry Creamer serves as president of Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. A trained philosopher and historian, he holds an M.Div. from Criswell College, and a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Arlington. His writing has been featured on numerous print and electronic platforms.



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