by Wes Moore
After my article on hell a few days ago, someone sent me this question: “Why would God create people he knows aren’t going to choose him, and therefore he knows before they are even born that they are going to hell?”
Great question. Let me try to address it.
The Underlying Issue
At its core this question is about self-righteousness. I don’t mean to imply that these questions aren’t genuine, but when you peel below the surface, self-righteousness is at the heart of the issue.
Questions like these are an attempt to make God’s morality subject to ours. We know what righteousness really is (or so we think) and therefore we are qualified to sit in judgment over our Creator. If he fits our definition of “good,” we’ll let him be God for a while. If he doesn’t, we simply won’t believe in him.
In Romans 9, Paul is faced with the charge that God is unrighteous for choosing to have mercy on some and not others. In response to a hypothetical—though real—fairness objection, Paul responds: “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’”
You might not like to hear this, but you need to—God is God and you are not. In the end, you are subject to him (as is your righteousness) and not the other way around.
Is God a barbarian?
So, does God make people just to throw them into hell? Does he take some kind of sick pleasure in condemning people? Of course he doesn’t.
God does not desire anyone to suffer hell (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:30-32). The passage in Peter teaches that Christ’s Second Coming is actually being delayed so God can give mankind ample opportunity to be saved.
As an illustration of this character trait of God, remember the judgment upon the nations of Canaan (Gen. 15:16). God says he will not give Abraham the land until the sin of the Amorites reaches its “full measure.” In other words, God was not going to punish them until their sins were so great that the punishment he had in mind (being destroyed from the land) would be justified.
The Point: God is not rushing to hand out capital punishment. He doesn’t enjoy sentencing people to hell. But he will because, in the end, it is a just punishment for the crimes we have committed.
As a final thought, remember that God sends his Word out to all nations so that no one will suffer hell (Matt. 28:18-20). Countless thousands have lost their lives to take the message of forgiveness to all corners of the globe.
A Layer Deeper
Now, let me take you a layer deeper.
First, yes, we know God is omniscient, and, therefore, he knows everything about the future, even those who will be saved and those who will not. So, why not just create those who will be saved and not create those who won’t?
If your purpose was only to give human beings a life of ultimate pleasure, then you wouldn’t. You’d probably just create the ones you knew would receive that pleasure and leave off the rest.
But what if that wasn’t your ultimate purpose in creating?
God’s Ultimate Purpose in Creating
What is God’s ultimate purpose in creating? Does the Bible say anywhere that it is, in the first place, to give human beings ultimate pleasure? No.
God’s purpose in creating is to glorify his complete nature and character. Glorify means “to show forth the excellencies thereof.” At the heart of glorifying God is showing how excellent he is, how he excels, in every sense, all of creation.
God created the world—and human beings in particular—to show how his every attribute excels that of anything in creation. He is glorious, he shines, he transcends creation in every way.
Parts of God’s character are the attributes of justice, wrath, mercy, grace, patience, and righteousness. So, here’s the $100k question: How could God glorify all these attributes without allowing sin, rebellion, and, ultimately, the judgement of hell?
Take mercy for example. Mercy by its definition requires a crime to have been committed. Mercy is when you do not receive a punishment you are rightfully due. What about grace? Grace is unmerited favor. If a person never sins, he can never receive grace because he has actually earned favor.
God has allowed sin, rebellion, and hell in order to demonstrate the glory of his character in the aforementioned ways.
Is this line of reasoning in the Bible?
Read Romans 9:19-24. As I stated earlier, Paul is talking about how God can have mercy on some and not others. I’ve already mentioned the first part of Paul’s reply: Who are you to argue with your Creator?
Now for the second part. Let me quote verses 22-23:
“What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, who he prepared in advance for glory…?”
In this passage, God is demonstrating his glory in both the saved and the damned. To the saved, he glorifies his mercy; to the damned, his great wrath and power.
It’s important to note here that the wrath the damned receive is the wrath of their own choosing. God does not make them not believe; he does not make them sin. They reject him of their own free will and with full awareness of their actions.
The Ultimate Answer
The ultimate answer to this question is that God chose to create anyway because his ultimate goal was not the cushy pillow life for every person, but to glorify his every attribute, even those attributes we would consider severe (like his justice and wrath).
Life, in spite of what we Americans think, is not about us. It is about God.
We who receive mercy certainly receive the great benefits of God’s nature—heaven, life without sickness or death, fellowship with the source of live, eternal happiness, and many others. But that is not the end game in and of itself. The Creator’s glory is.
God does not desire anyone to experience hell. To demonstrate this, he has sacrificed his own Son and sent the gospel all over the world.
However, at a deeper level, his ultimate purpose is not pleasure for humanity; it is his own glory demonstrated by allowing sin to exist in the world, and ultimately punishing some for that sin and having mercy on others.
Wes Moore is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and the founder of Evidence America, an apologetics and evangelism training ministry. Wes is the author of Forcefully Advancing: The Last Hope for America and American Christianity, a book designed to equip the average Christian to engage the lost; The Maker, a futuristic apologetics novel; and The Spiritual Top 50, a non-fiction apologetics book designed to help Christians answer the questions their lost friends are asking. You can learn more about him at www.wesmoorenow.com.
The Spiritual Top 50
by Wes Moore
Is God a she? Why does God let us suffer? Was the Jesus story borrowed from other cultures? The questions about spiritual things abound in our skeptical age. Can we really trust the Bible as the true word of God? How can we answer those who have been raised to doubt the faith we hold dear?
The Spiritual Top 50 provides short, easy to understand answers to fifty of the most common questions asked in the culture about God, Jesus, the Bible, truth, science, and the church. Not only will these questions help the believer be sure Christianity is true, but they are written so they can easily be shared with a non-Christian.
Not only does The Spiritual Top 50 give answers to common faith questions, it also provides contemporary evangelism strategies based on Wes Moore’s popular book, Forcefully Advancing. These strategies will teach you how to befriend the lost, understand their issues and objections over time, give them answers to their questions, and present the gospel to them.
And if that’s not enough, The Spiritual Top 50 will give you Wes’ “7 Laws of Apologetics” and “7 Laws of Evangelism,” two lists of foundational principles to guide you as you engage the lost and overcome their barriers to faith.
Why wait? Make The Spiritual Top 50 part of your outreach toolbox today!