What do you think about a god who would send children to hell? Let’s finish our critique of an article by William Lane Craig (WLC) in which he defends God’s honor (part 1).
On to the philosophical question
Remember that WLC said that the first question, the psychological one, was a red herring. Having stumbled through that response, he moves on to the question he says is significant, the philosophical one. Since philosophy is his discipline, you’d expect an intellectual tsunami. You’d be disappointed.
As for the philosophical question, “How can you think that is a fair and reasonable thing for anyone or anything to do?”, I’ve already alluded to the answer, and I’d refer you to my debate with Prof. Ray Bradley on this topic.
He’s spent 90 percent of his article discussing what he says is a red herring, but for the question that he admits deserves an answer, you must sit through a 75-minute debate. Maybe it’d just be easier to take his word for it.
Fortunately, I’ve already responded to his argument from that 1994 debate. If WLC won’t summarize it, I will.
WLC admitted in the debate that “God is all-loving and yet some people go to hell” sounds bad. He tried to turn the tables and argued that the atheist must show two things.
- If God is all powerful, then God could create a world in which everyone freely lives their life in such a way that they merit getting into heaven.
- If God is all loving, then he would want such a world.
He insisted that, “Both of these assumptions have to be necessarily true, in order to prove that God and hell are logically inconsistent with each other. So as long as there’s even a possibility that one of these assumptions is false, it’s possible that God is all-loving and yet some people go to hell.”
Step back and admire that message: it’s possible that God is all-loving and yet some people go to hell. Said another way, God does look like an immoral tyrant, but you can’t prove it. Yeah, that sounds like a compelling message.
Let’s return to his two points and play the game as he defined it. Christian doctrine seems to accept point 2—an all-loving God would want a world in which everyone merited heaven. In fact, WLC himself said in this article, “God’s heart breaks for the lost far more than mine does!”
So we’ll focus on point 1: could an all-powerful God create a world in which everyone freely lives such that they merit heaven? Surprisingly, God has apparently already created such a world: that world is heaven itself.
Consider two properties that heaven must have. First, people in heaven must have free will, given how vital Christians say it is. For example, Christian apologists say that God won’t step on people’s free will, and that’s why there’s so much evil in the world. They also inform us that God is a gentleman who won’t force people to love him—that would make them zombies. (For more on the bizarre uses apologists make of God’s love, go here.)
Given that Christians insist that our love of God be freely given, we can assume that free will is also mandatory in heaven. But heaven must be a lot better than just a continuation of life on earth. The secret ingredient that makes heaven work must be wisdom. Free will is a clumsy tool in the hands of imperfect humans on earth, but add perfect wisdom, and all the sinful uses of free will (robbery, rape, murder, and so on) vanish. The perfectly wise inhabitants of heaven would have the free will to commit a sin, but they’d have the wisdom to know that that would be foolish.
Conclusion: God could’ve made heaven on earth by giving us the wisdom to use free will properly. That meets the two criteria WLC set out. Therefore, “God is all loving” is indeed in conflict with “Some people go to hell.” Therefore (returning to the subject of this post series), God is indeed not benevolent when he sends your children to hell.
WLC attempts a final defense of hell
This is his conclusion.
There are no good defeaters of this doctrine [of hell], given such facts as (i) the universal reality of human evil and our profound need of forgiveness and moral cleansing, (ii) God’s holiness and justice, (iii) God’s will for universal human salvation and efforts to draw everyone freely to a saving knowledge of Himself, and (iii) human freedom.
No good defeaters? I think we’ve just seen one. But let’s look at his points.
- The universal reality of human evil and our profound need of forgiveness and moral cleansing. Our “need for forgiveness” and a fallen world is a Christian invention. That’s not an objective fact of our world.
- God’s holiness and justice. God is just pretend, and God is a Bronze Age dictator. Show us that he exists and that biblical morality rises above being merely an anthropological curiosity.
- God’s will for universal human salvation and efforts to draw everyone freely to a saving knowledge of Himself. Salvation is a solution to a problem (hell) that Christianity invented. I don’t need either, thanks. As for universal human salvation, remember that Yahweh was initially just the god of the Chosen People, not a source of universal salvation.
- Human freedom. Yes, humans like freedom. No, God is no champion of free will.
God’s one-size-fits-all hell, completely at odds with modern Western ideas of proportionate justice, is ridiculously immoral. Justifying it is a desperate attempt to justify one’s belief in the unbelievable.
More posts on hell:
- 9 Responses to Christian Hell
- William Lane Craig Wrong About Morality Again as He Justifies Hell
- What Christians Won’t Do to Defend God’s Marvelous Plan®
I still don’t know how he did it.
— commenter Greg G.
Image from Marco Verch, CC license