jfahl1 asked this question on 4/3/2001:

All humans choose either salvation or damnation.

There exists humans who choose damnation.

All humans who choose damnation go to Hell.

Hell causes pain and suffering for its inhabitants, to at least some extent.

God is omniscient.

Therefore, before the creation of mankind, God knew, for each human who would ever live, which would choose salvation and which would choose damnation.

Therefore, God chose to create those humans He already knew would choose damnation.

God could have created only those humans He knew would choose salvation, by not creating any humans who would, if created, choose damnation.

Conclusion: Therefore, by creating those humans who choose damnation, God chose to cause pain and suffering which could have otherwise been avoided; He chose to cause unnecessary pain and suffering.

I would imagine that this is not an acceptable conclusion from a Christian perspective, yet it seems to follow from certain premises held by most Christians, as I've demonstrated. If the conclusion is not true, why is my argument invalid?




Throughout Christian history, the problem you present has been the crux of an endless debate. If you read some history of theology, you will find innumerable variations of your question.

Philosophically you can't really give a satisfactory answer. The combination of an absolute being (ens per se) and of a limited being (ens ab alio, contigens) drives the philosophers crazy. This metaphysical cocktail has an additional ingredient: human liberty. If you begin your syllogisms from the ens ab alio finally you can't assure the philosophical fact that God is good and wise. (See your syllogism). If you descend from God's omniscience and supreme providence, you can't explain the place of human liberty. The same problem arose between Dun Scotus' voluntarism and Ockham's nominalism, both human intent to preserve logic. Look at the concept of scientia media; it's really a ploy to explain the unexplainable.

The Scripture states facts and consequences. Look at the chapters 9-11 of Romans. It's all about a vision of the history of salvation. Saint Paul's teachings look at the plan of God regarding Israel and the pagans; a) the individual is an instrument of this providence (cf. 9:10 ss; 16ss); b) even in the time of resistance there will be a "rest saved by gracious election" (10:5); c) the Lord's proceedings (9:25) are tempered and finally conquered by His mercy (chapter 11).

So the predestination of the individual a) is not predefined. Not even Pharaoh's final destination is explained much less fixed; b) even in midst of the general resistance of Israel the individual can be saved in spite of the ambiance; c) all condemnation happens because of personal guilt (cf. 9, 22; 10, 16). However, the real predestination remains a mysterium. Not even Judas condemnation is taught because Jesus talks about his acts according to Scripture, about the horrible sin. But nowhere is he said to be condemned forever. These are the facts.

Last, not least humankind cannot understand God's plan. Everybody should submit himself in confidence to God's will (1 Thes 5:9.24; Phil 1:6) and not accuse God because logical reasoning can't explain mystery.

As you see my answer is that your syllogism is flawed because it equates the Creator and the creation. Putting them on the same level philosophically, you mistreat one of them. That's inevitable. The basic question is: Why did God create a world where there would be sin?

The Rabbis tell a midrash that God created thousand of worlds and destroyed them and finally created our world as the best of all and kept it. Do they explain at all? No. They state their faith. The fact that God created this world is a sign that it was the best otherwise He wouldn't have created it.

This is the logic of faith. You know that God is good and wise. That's a fact. Man is free and can choose condemnation. That's another fact. If you put both facts into your syllogisms, you will end up as you do: Or God is not good and wise or man is not free, and being created is an ill-fated adventure because it means that you suffer. Where is the all-encompassing love of God? Contradictions are the product of human limitations. You should read the argument Job had with God and how he covers his mouth in order to cease his arguments.

I have had these discussions especially with young people. After offering some explanation, I ask them to be sincere and look at their own personal situation. Generally, they have an experience of sin and try to evade it through speculations. It's God's fault so I don't have to worry. A high IQ doesn't prevent this kind of moral blackouts. However, once they accepted their moral responsibility and the mercy of God speculation ceased. It's much better to enjoy salvation than speculate about the logical coherence. Since when can you reduce a mysterium to a syllogism?

As an afterthought: we know that the saints are in heaven. There are people in heaven. We know that. But nobody knows if there is anybody in hell. Even Satan is an employee of God's predestination in order to tempt man and contribute to man's salvation.

Do you know the legendary story they tell about Saint Augustine? He was walking on the seashore meditating about the mysterium of the Holy Trinity. He saw a child busily slopping seawater into a hole in the sand. "What are you doing?" – "I want to put the whole sea into this hole!" – "But that is impossible!" – "It's much more impossible to understand the Holy Trinity!"















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