Would God make a world where He condemns everyone?
Jackson C. from the United States writes:
Your article What about those who never heard? is incorrect for saying it’d be just for God to not give anyone a chance at salvation. All souls are created by God, and by creating souls without giving them a chance to go anywhere but Hell, God would be creating souls for the purpose of tormenting them. That’s something Satan would do if he could create souls. That is not justice. Doing what Satan would do isn’t just
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
Thanks for writing in.
I think there may be a few different issues at play, here.
First, ask the question: does God owe any sinner salvation? Of course not. Sinners deserve eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). If we extrapolate that out to a world where every moral agent is a sinner, then by implication they all deserve eternal punishment. Would that obligate God to save some? Not at all. As a matter of justice, it would be perfectly fair for God to condemn them all.
Moreover, are there beings in this world God doesn’t give a chance for salvation to? Yes. Fallen angels. They’re all destined for Hell, and there’s nothing they can do about it (Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4). Is God fair to them? Of course! He doesn’t owe them even the possibility of salvation. But that raises the question: what happens if we extrapolate this to a world where every moral agent is a sinner? Is God fair to treat them all in the same way He actually treats fallen angels, i.e. not giving them even the possibility of salvation? It would seem so.
But, as you note, this line of thinking runs into a problem: God knows all this before He creates anything. If the world were such that all were sinners and nobody got a chance at salvation, then God planned the world this way. And this doesn’t seem right. It seems wasteful and even sadistic. As the Bible says, “God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”(Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11) This doesn’t align with what we know of God’s character.
But why? Where does the line of reasoning go awry? Is it because God is unjust to send sinners to eternal punishment without giving them any chance at salvation after they sinned? I don’t think so. I think the reasoning goes awry because it’s only considering God’s justice. There’s more to God’s character than just His justice. He is also loving, compassionate, and wise. As I said in Is God ‘forced by His nature’ to be loving?:
I do think God is necessarily predisposed to be merciful toward sinners. As James declares: “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Still, God owes nothing to any individual sinner (Job 41:11, Romans 11:35). But in light of James 2:13 I think it’s reasonable to say that God wouldn’t create a world where He knew all sinners would eventually go to Hell. So, in any possible world with sinners, it seems pretty clear that He would always save some sinners, consistent with His merciful character.
So, in my response here I address the questions related to God’s ‘grand plan’ from before creation, and do what I can to tie together God’s justice and love with respect to God’s plan for a world full of sinners. But the author of the article What about those who have never heard? chooses not to address this question directly. Instead, Mrs Sanders points out that God is perfectly good, so we can trust that whatever plan He runs with will inevitably and ultimately be consistent with His character. And that is a fair response, as far as it goes. And if you accept that, the upshot is that it’s pointless to talk about the possibility of worlds where nobody gets saved. God is perfectly good, and in the world He has made God saves some sinners. But that also severely limits the scope of the question: ‘Is God unjust for not giving a chance for salvation to those who have never heard the gospel?’
The groundwork Mrs Sanders lays at the beginning of her article takes out of the equation any notion of God creating a world in which He condemns everyone. So, within that context God is not unjust for not giving people who never heard the gospel a chance at salvation. Why? They’re all sinners, and no sinner is owed a chance at salvation. For more of a redemptive-historical perspective on this more limited question, see Why did God choose just Israel?
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