Can God Be Benevolent if He Sends Your Children to Hell?

Can God Be Benevolent if He Sends Your Children to Hell? November 19, 2019

Why does God do the crazy stuff that he does—demand genocide, support slavery, flood the world? He’s the one with the perfect morals, and yet his actions and rules don’t even meet the moral standards we have set for ourselves today. In particular, how can he be “benevolent” if he sends children to hell?

Is it reasonable to criticize God?

Since we’re asking why God would send children to hell, let’s critique “Asking Why God Would Do X Is Crazy.”

Sometimes you’ve just got to admire the audacity of some Christian authors. The article begins by assuming God and then browbeating any reader who would question God.

What [God’s critic] sees the world to be like, he finds inconsistent with how he believes God should have done things, and he believes that since God has failed at doing things the way he would have done them, that therefore He does not exist.

What does not exist is the Christian God as an all-good being. You need only read the Bible to see that the tyrant described there isn’t all-good. (Or you can redefine “good,” which seems to be a popular fallback.)

One aspect of the article’s argument is pointing out that the critic is a mere human. How can humans judge God? But of course they don’t judge God; they judge claims about God. Sure, we’re imperfect, but we’re all we’ve got. We evaluate claims to the best of our ability. Christianity can ask nothing more of us.

Moving on, the article jumps the shark with its God assumption, all backed with no evidence:

The audacity to think that God’s ordering of reality based on His omnipotence is faulty compared to the way we would order reality given our limited knowledge.

At the heart of the question is the implicit belief that the person asking knows more than God.

[The critic thinks] that he himself has the more rational view of how, if he were God, would have dealt with the world.

Are the atheists good and chastised?

No, the error is not critiquing God claims but assuming God into existence. Starting by assuming God is the Hypothetical God Fallacy. As for the challenge about the critic having the more rational view, no it’s not arrogant to think that the modern-day critic is more rational than the 10th-century BCE tribesmen who began documenting the mythology that became our Bible.

The author concludes with roughly the response that God gave when Job questioned God’s cruel actions.

God’s purposes are God’s business. If He had intended for us to know something, the answer would be available. Things He did not intend for us to know, we may merely speculate about.

So STFU, stop complaining, and accept that God exists and has good reasons whether you understand or not.

Contestant #2

Let’s move on to another response, this one from William Lane Craig (WLC). Will he bring a higher caliber argument?

His article is, “Worshiping a God Who Might Damn Your Children,” in which WLC responds to a question from Dale:

How can you worship a God who might send your children to Hell?

Would you send your child to an eternity of suffering, simply because of thoughts in their heads? If your children lead wonderful lives, but don’t believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins, would you send them to hell? What if they just can’t wrap their heads around the concept? . . . How can you love and worship a God who you believe would do that to your children?

WLC begins with a point of order.

There are actually two different questions here which are being run together, the first a psychological question (“How can you love and worship a God who you believe would do that to your children?”) and the second a philosophical question (“How can you think that is a fair and reasonable thing for anyone or anything to do?”).

Okay, let’s go with that. WLC then dismisses the “psychological question” as a red herring.

It is [just] a request for an autobiographical report about one’s subjective condition. As such, its answer will be person-relative and have nothing to do with objective truth.

Objective truth? Does such a thing exist for morality? You’ve certainly never given a reasonable defense of objective morality that I’ve ever seen (more here, here). Don’t base your argument on objective morality without first showing it exists.

A Word to the Wise: Whenever people pose questions beginning “Would you . . .” or “If you were . . .,” then you know immediately that it is a question designed merely to put you in an awkward position, not to get at truth.

A word to the wise: whenever you read an apologetic article, make sure the Christian actually answers the question. Don’t be swayed with bluster and confidence so that you overlook them running from the question.

The kind of question he’s trying to avoid here is one that taps into our shared moral values. For example, “If you think that X is bad, what does it mean when God does it?” is a valid question. If humans are created in God’s image, we share a moral sense, and indeed the Bible confirms that. That God’s morality is so incompatible with ours argues that God’s moral actions are, not divine, but simply a reflection of the primitive culture from which he came.

No, this isn’t a rhetorical trick to put Christians in an awkward position. That the question might make them uncomfortable isn’t the issue. They want to get the challenge dismissed on a technicality so they don’t have to answer it. Don’t let them.

The critique of WLC’s response continues in part 2.

If your choice of religion is subjective
so are your morals.
— commenter Otto


Image from Andrae Ricketts, CC license

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