“To Be or Not to Be, That Is the Question”
Question: A friend who used to claim to be a Christian but now calls himself an atheist presented a problem to me that I couldn’t solve. He is willing to concede (for sake of argument, though he doesn’t believe it) that sin comes by man’s wrong use of the power of choice given to him. Even then, however, he insists that we can’t exonerate God because, knowing the evil and suffering that would follow, God nevertheless chose to create man. Even worse, God created billions of beings that He not only knew would suffer on this earth but whom He knew He would consign to suffer eternally in the lake of fire! Can you help me answer him?
Response: The implication of your friend’s thesis (which is simply another variation on an overworked theme) is chilling: It favors the nonexistence of the human race as beings capable of choice. One cannot have real human beings without the possibility of evil. So the issue is the existence or nonexistence of the human race: “To be or not to be.” The only way to have forever eliminated evil and suffering on this earth would have been not to create man at all. Though that would eliminate all suffering and sorrow, think of the beauty and joy and love it would have eliminated as well.
Let’s assume purely for illustrative purposes this impossible scene: A million years ago billions of as-yet-uncreated humans, in hypothetical precreation spirit form, parade before the throne of God demanding not to be created. “We are all going to be in hell and the lake of fire!” they scream in protest. “Therefore, we demand the right not to be created! It would be sadism of the worst sort if you bring us into existence, knowing the torment we will suffer eternally!”
God’s reply would have been something like this: “You inevitably must be the mothers and fathers, the aunts and uncles, the children and grandchildren and cousins of millions upon millions who will believe in Christ and therefore whose destiny is the eternal bliss and joy of heaven. If you do not come into existence then neither can they. I will not allow your selfish desire for nonexistence to eliminate the existence and eternal delight of billions of souls who will be redeemed by the blood of My Son and will therefore spend eternity in My presence where there is ‘fullness of joy’ and ‘pleasures for evermore’” (Psalm:16:11).
“Then you are consigning us to the torment of the lake of fire for all eternity!” they continue to protest. “Your enemies will therefore be able to say that You are not a good God of love but a fiend who creates men for hell.”
“On the contrary,” God would have replied, “the lake of fire was made ‘for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew:25:41) and if any of mankind ever enters that place of eternal torment it will be contrary to My will. My Son is going to die in payment of the penalty that My justice demands for any sin that any human being will ever commit. The provision for everyone to be in heaven, where I want all to be, will be fully made. If anyone goes to hell instead, it will be due to his willful refusal of the salvation I have provided.”
“But we’ll suffer eternally!” the protesters insist.
“If so, that will be your doing, not mine,” God would have replied. “I will not rob billions of redeemed souls of eternal joy just to cater to your obstinate rebellion.”