Christianity claims that God knows everything. The theological term is "omniscience." There are some implications of this doctrine that non-believers find troubling or even unacceptable to the concept of a loving God. If God knows everything, then He knows that some people whom He creates will end up in hell. Why would God create people who are destined for hell? It turns out that there are many unstated assumptions in this question, which are not valid for Christianity. A related question, "Why wouldn't God just create everyone to enjoy the glory of heaven?" will also be answered.
Destined for hell ≠ Predestined for hell
The first, and most prevalent, incorrect assumption is that a person who is destined for hell has been predestined for hell by God. This is false. People choose to go to hell rather than submit their lives to God. You have absolute free will within the confines of your personal ability. You can prove this to yourself. Determine two possible courses of action. They don't have to be big decisions, just any two possible actions. Assign each action to either "heads" or "tails." Flip the coin and do what whatever course chance decided. You can do this as many times as needed to determine that you do, indeed, have free will. Occasionally, do the opposite of what the coins tell you. Has God prevented you from doing anything? No!
God alone created you
The second incorrect assumption is that God alone has created you. You are the product of choices made by your parents. Therefore, God has not predestined you to be born at all. How can you blame Him for creating you to send you to hell?
This is not to say that God is not involved at all in the creation of life. The Bible says that once a new human life is made God creates a spirit within the fetus1 and knows us at that point, even calling some to serve Him from the womb.2
People destined for hell have no earthly purpose
The third incorrect assumption is that a person destined for hell has no purpose in this life. This is also false. All people living have a purpose. Some people destined for hell will save other's lives, either intentionally or unintentionally. Others destined for hell will be helped, encouraged, and witnessed to by others who are destined for heaven. Those who follow God's plan are provided opportunities to help others in their spiritual path. If all people were on the same spiritual path, there would be nobody for God's people to help. God says that all people are without excuse in rejecting Him, so He provides witnesses of his plan to give them a chance to change their minds.
Rewards and punishment
Another possible assumption is that the only purpose of this life is to choose to follow God or reject Him. This is also false. This life is used as a measure of reward and punishment. All who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will go to heaven, but the amount of reward in heaven will be directly related to how closely each one followed God's will in his life. Likewise, all those who reject Jesus Christ will go to hell and will be punished to the degree of how much evil they committed in their life. This is why God allows people to make their own choices.
Why wouldn't God just create everyone to enjoy the glory of heaven?
Skeptics might claim that God, in knowing all the choices a person would make, would not need to create all the people who would end up in hell. This question also has some underlying assumptions. The assumption is that since God knows all the answers, He would have no need of "running the experiment." However, the consequences would still be real, so God must choose the righteous path of allowing people to make their own choices.
Just put the good people directly into heaven?
The assumption that God could just put the good people directly into heaven seems to be valid for God, but has some problems when applied to humans. For some reason, skeptics leave themselves out of the equation. They want God to run the thought experiment and put those souls who would make the right choice (believe in Jesus Christ) directly into heaven and not even create those who would reject Him. The problem is that God would then be liable to the accusation of rewarding some people more than others, since, for those who go to heaven, rewards appropriated on the basis of good deeds done in life3 (although the good deeds do not get you into heaven). Since there was no real life, how could God hand out rewards to believers? Should He tell people what they would have done and let them be content with that? How would those souls know anything about life, goodness, and doing the right thing if they had never lived before? God could be considered to be unjust, since His actions would not be based upon choices made by real characters. Would God just put those fake memories into their heads? If He did so, God would be creating deceptions, which contradicts His perfect character.
When people think deeply about their "perfect" plan about what God "should have done," they realize that there are logical problems. What most people would create, as god, would be robots, since they would have no choice at all. Ever try loving your computer? It is not a very satisfying relationship. So it would be with the robots that skeptics would send directly into heaven.
The "problems" about the loving God of Christianity posed by the skeptics rests on invalid assumptions. Based on an invalid understanding of God's foreknowledge, they seek to avoid the consequences of their free will choice by offering a "solution" that violates the perfect character of God. Therefore, the "solution" would not be a valid solution for the God of Christianity.
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- The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (Zechariah 12:1)
- Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The
LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. (Isaiah
And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), (Isaiah 49:5)
Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalm 22:9-10)
"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb." (Luke 1:15)
But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased (Galatians 1:15)
- Although good deeds do not get you into heaven, Jesus made it very clear that people
who get into heaven would earn different rewards in
heaven on the basis of what they did with what God gave them on earth:
- "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. "Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. "In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. "But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. "Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. "The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' "Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' "And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 'And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.' "But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 'Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 'Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.' (Matthew 25:14-28)
- "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)
- "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)
- "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. (Matthew 10:41)
- And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able." He said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father." (Matthew 20:21-23)
- "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. "Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)
- Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:8-9)
- each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
- Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (Colossians 3:23-24)
- And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
- "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12)
Last Modified January 6, 2012