Heard a Protestant preacher fielding questions on the radio the other day. He was an expert on something, though I can’t remember what. Maybe God’s justice and the reality of hell. Anyway, he’d written a book he hoped people would buy. One young man wanted advice in answering a question posed by many of his friends, among whom he counts fence-sitters, sceptics, and unbelievers. And even some Christians. The question was: why would an all-knowing, all-loving God create creatures who He knew would rebel against Him?
The preacher said that that was a really good question. (Every talk show host says that. I wonder why.) He rambled a bit, but the upshot was that the young man should tell his friends that they can rest assured that no one goes to hell who doesn’t deserve it. But this doesn’t answer the question, which by implication was casting doubt on hell’s very existence.
The question was in fact just another way of posing the so-called ‘problem of evil.’ It is one of the most, if not the most, common objections put forth by doubters, who often seem not so much in doubt about the answer as dogmatic in what it must be. Thus, it seems to be not really a question at all, but an accusation.
Frankly, I don’t know why the preacher didn’t just tell the young man to tell his friends that if they wanted a universe in which the possibility of evil did not exist, then they wanted one in which human beings didn’t either. No people, no problem.
As an aside, I think people who bring up the problem of evil as presenting an insurmountable obstacle to faith are indulging a sort of blasphemy: God-shaming. ‘If God were perfect, He wouldn’t do this. If God were all-loving He wouldn’t do that. If God were all-good he wouldn’t make people who like to do bad.’ Even though the bad is what we choose, without any help from God whatsoever. Ain’t that just like people, always trying to shift the blame? It reminds me of Adam: “The woman made me do it.” He might have said, “Yes, God, I ate the apple, with full knowledge of the consequences, because I didn’t want her to suffer alone in her alienation. She’s my wife, after all. We’re in it together, to the end.” Who knows, it might have changed the course of human history. But I doubt it.