I posted a link on Facebook the other day to a blog post entitled “Why Does God Create People He Knows Will Go To Hell?” In the post, the writer makes the analogy that to argue that God is not merciful because He does not save everyone is the same as arguing that Schindler was a monster because he only saved hundreds of Jews rather than finding a way to save thousands.
In the discussion following my Facebook post, a friend commented,
Except Schindler wasn’t an omnipotent being. If Schindler could have easily saved more Jews without effort but chose not to because they were defying him and needed to be taught a lesson, then yes, he would be a monster.
It seems obvious my friend is saying that if an omnipotent God (such as the God of the Bible) exists, then He is a monster because He does not save all people even though He could:
- If God is all-powerful, He can save everyone.
- God is all-powerful.
- He does not save everyone.
- Therefore, He is a monster
This, however, is not the God that the Bible presents. The Bible presents God as being infinitely perfect. This means, in part, that God is not merely all-powerful or all-loving or all-knowing; it means He is the essence of power, love, knowledge, righteousness, justice, wisdom, etc. All of these things have their origin in Him.
Now, back to my friend’s comment.
Let’s consider for a moment, “Why does God allow some to go to Hell (since that is really what we are talking about when we ask, “Why doesn’t God save everybody?”)?
If I commit an offense against another person, I should be punished with a punishment that is commensurate to the offense committed & to the dignity of the one offended. [The following examples are assuming the crimes are committed in Ohio] So if I toss litter out my car window, it’s a $100 fine. If I am cruel to my animal, I could spend up to 90 days in jail & could have to pay a fine of up to $750. And if I commit aggravated assault against another person, I could be convicted of a felony, spend 18 months to 6 years in prison, & pay up to $5000 in fines.
I point all this out to show that the greater the inherent dignity of the one offended, the greater the punishment. The punishment for assault is not greater than that for animal cruelty because it is more serious but, rather, because humans have greater inherent dignity than mere animals.
This understanding helps to explain why it is just for God to condemn us to Hell. Even the apparently smallest offense is an offense against an infinite being; because God is infinite, his dignity is infinite. If we are guilty of a crime against one of infinite dignity, our punishment should also be infinite.
[Click here and here (page 21 at the top) for some things that were helpful to me in understanding this]
So, this helps explain why it is just for God to condemn sinners to Hell, but it still doesn’t answer our question of “why doesn’t God save everybody?” However, this actually approaches things from the wrong angle. What we should be asking is “Why does God save anybody?”
There are at least a few things to consider here.
1. All have sinned (Romans 3:23). This is, I believe, self-evident. One doesn’t need the Bible to tell us that we are sinners. Look in the mirror. Reflect on your life. Even if you do not believe in the authority of the Bible, you should at least recognize that at some point(s) in your life, you have wronged another person–i.e.-you have done wrong (if you say you haven’t, you’re a liar). If there is a God and you have done wrong, then you have sinned against Him & are deserving of infinite punishment (see above). What reason does He have to save you from that?
2. Your good is not good enough to make up for any bad you have done. Whatever good you might try to do to make up for your wrongs is not good enough because you are incapable of perfection or infinite good. Once you are marred, once you are imperfect, there is nothing you can do in and of yourself that can make you perfect again (assuming you were ever perfect which, of course, you weren’t). If God is perfect (which, I think, He has to be in order to be God. If He wasn’t perfect, He couldn’t truly be God; he would have to be some kind of lesser being), He cannot allow imperfection into His presence, else He would cease to be perfect.
3. But you might say, “If God is all-powerful, he could just make everyone perfect or just erase their sins at the wave of His hand.” Well, let’s think this argument through for a moment. For God to be God, He must be all-powerful (as above, if He is not, then he must be some lesser being). And if that were all there was to it, then the argument put forth at the beginning of this post would stand, & God would be a monster–no argument; hands down, he would be a vindictive, hateful, spiteful, evil God. However, this is not all there is to it. God is not merely all-powerful. He is also merciful, loving, omniscient, & just (among other attributes). But here’s the thing about God’s attributes…they are perfect. He cannot violate one attribute to serve another attribute. So, although He has the power to erase everyone’s sins, He cannot do so without violating His perfect justice. The sins of each person must be paid for, either by that person (which, as I pointed out above, can’t be done) or by someone else. There is no other human being who can pay the price for your sins against an infinite God because every other human in the entirety of history has sinned…except one.
4. That One is the answer to “Why does God save anybody?” That One fulfilled God’s righteous law (that everyone else has broken). That One paid the price that no one else could pay because only He was sinless. That One took on the punishment for each & every person over the entire course of history who looked to God in faith and repentance & believed in Jesus (either as we now know Him or in the promises made by God that the Savior would come).
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)
[...]if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11 ESV)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21 ESV)