I have a question about God's omniscience versus the existence of hell. I know the Bible says (and I believe it) that God is good and loving, as well as holy and just. It also says that He is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning, and knowing from eternity-past the choice that every human being that ever lived/will live will make -- either to accept His offer of eternal life, or to reject it.
If both of these statements are true and biblical, my question is this: If God knew (even before creation) that millions of people would make the choice to reject Him (and thus end up in hell by their own choice), why did He simply not create them in the first place? I know this might sound simplistic, but why would He create all of those people who would ultimately reject Him and end up in hell, if He KNEW that would be their final and eternal destination? (A non-Christian friend of mine calls it "a cruel joke.")
This is a tough question. I was tempted to write back and say, "We just don't know," and ultimately that's probably true. "Why" questions are about motives, and unless someone tells us, it's awfully hard to read another person's mind. . . especially God's! But as I thought more about it, I realized that I COULD pass on the observation that our choice is a precious thing to God because choice is the foundation for true love. If God didn't create the people who wouldn't choose Him, then that would be the equivalent of removing the choice.
At any rate, He did, and He knows what He's doing, and I guess we just need to trust Him.
I think we need to see the Lord as reluctantly letting people choose hell instead of gleefully sending them there. He doesn't want ANYONE to perish, but some insist on it. That's not cruel on His part, it's a way of supporting our choices.
Nonetheless, the bottom line is that it's a mystery. Non-believers aren't going to trust His heart when they don't trust anything about Him in the first place, are they?
Thank you, Sue, for your helpful answer. My coworker first asked me the question about 3 months ago, and I've never been able to come up with a satisfactory response. Instead, the question has festered in my own mind so much that it was really beginning to bother me.
However, your comments (specifically, "If God didn't create the people who wouldn't choose Him, then that would be the equivalent of removing the choice") helped me to realize a bit that a God who would only create people who would choose to worship Him isn't exactly a loving God after all, but would seem more like a brain-washing self-deifying dictator (looking at it from the point of view if it were a man who did it).
I also appreciate the fact that you didn't fill the bulk of your response with comments that really didn't address the question (as were some of the responses that I've gotten from other people). The issue really isn't about whether the atonement was limited or universal, or whether the lake of fire means total annihilation or not, but it's about the very character of God Himself, and ultimately (it seems to me, anyway) whether He is truly worthy of our worship and love or not. I guess my thinking is that if we have the mindset that God created some people just to destroy them (which reminds me of the naughty neighbor kid in "Toy Story," who wanted more toys just so he could tear them apart and blow them up), then we will never consider Him to be worthy of our trust or our devotion.
I thank God that He has proven Himself over and over again (and continues to do so every moment of every day) to be the same God that we read about in the Bible that He inspired!