This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Is it fair for a loving God to allow people to reject him and spend eternity in hell? When you consider that no one has ever experienced true separation from God, since God's presence still exists even in the most evil parts of this world. Therefore, you could argue that a person who chooses to reject God does not fully understand the consequences of that decision and therefore a loving God wouldn't allow someone to make such a decision even though it violates their free will.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
Your question, Mark, is closely related to the question of Christian particularism, that is, the doctrine that only some people will be saved and inherit eternal life. I’d recommend you read what I’ve written on that question either on this site or in On Guard (chapter 10).
It’s worth noting in passing that your question presupposes that God has middle knowledge. That is to say, it presupposes that logically prior to His decree to create the world, God knew how people would freely respond to His offer of salvation and His gracious efforts to bring them to saving faith. He knew who would believe and who would not. The doctrine of middle knowledge is controversial, and I’d be surprised if very many universalists endorse it! But if God lacks middle knowledge, then He can’t be faulted for creating a world in which some people freely reject His every effort to save them. He no more saw this coming than you did!
Since I think that God has middle knowledge, your question does press upon me. I’ve argued that it’s possible that there is no feasible world of free creatures having a more optimal balance between saved and lost than this one. The idea that God would overpower people’s free will is out of the question, for love that is coerced is not love at all, and God does not treat us as mere puppets. So God cannot be faulted for not creating a world with a better balance of saved and lost; such a world was not feasible for Him.
God could have decided to forego creation altogether, so that no one would be lost. But then no one would be saved either! As my theology professor Clark Pinnock once put it, “Why should those finks who would reject God’s love and grace be allowed to prevent the blessedness of those who would freely accept it?” Good question! God wants everyone to be saved, and some of the lost may actually receive greater measures of grace than the saved! They have no one to blame but themselves for their tragic fate.
This is where your objection comes in. Your argument is, in effect, the claim that God, knowing that many would freely repudiate Him, should have desisted from creation altogether. For unbelievers have no comprehension of how terrible a fate awaits them. So God could not justly condemn them because they do not understand the consequences of their actions.
I don’t think this is a good objection. We can agree that no one truly comprehends the horror of separation from God. But we don’t have to have such a comprehension in order to know which way we ought to choose. The graphic images of eternal hell in Scripture are sufficiently horrifying to communicate to any sane person the terrors of hell. You don’t want to go there! The fact that it’s even worse than you thought is of no importance. There is no reason to think that were sinners to have a better comprehension of eternal separation from God, they would have been saved.