Why does God make people He knows are going to reject Him?

My conception of God is that He is not only all-powerful, but also all-loving and all-knowing.  That’s why my “free will” to accept Him or refuse Him confuses me.

I like to do magic tricks with cards.  I ask someone to “freely” pick a card.  I have ways of either knowing which card they’ll pick, or easily finding out shortly afterwards which card was selected. 

If God knows which option I’ll take, then we really don’t have a free choice that isn’t influenced by our “predetermined destiny.”  In that case, why would an all-loving God allow those He knows won’t choose Him even to be born?

On the other hand, if He doesn’t know whether we will choose to serve and love Him, how can He be all-knowing?

I believe that human beings are created with genuine moral freedom.  Their freedom is not an illusion, as in a card trick.  That being the case, whether they will ultimately accept or reject God cannot be known in advance, by anyone.

In this earlier post I’ve suggested that it’s not a failure in omniscience not to know what cannot be known.  So human moral freedom does not present a problem, as I see it, with God being all-knowing.

But we may still genuinely wonder about God being all-loving if he creates a world full of people knowing in advance that many of them will reject Him–even if it can’t be known which particular ones that will be.

But I think we can helpfully frame the question this way:  Which is better, to deny a person existence on the grounds that they might reject God, or to give a person existence in the hopes that they will embrace God?

Every time two people decide whether to become parents, they’re facing this same choice.  For all they know, their child could grow up to be a serial killer or the next Adolf Hitler.  On the other hand, their child might grow up and literally change the world for the better some day.  There’s no way to know in advance.  But the uncertainty shouldn’t make them shut down the possibilities.  There are great risks, but there could be great rewards.

Perhaps we need to acknowledge one more attribute in God:  He’s all-courageous, willing to take risks that might break His own heart, but which might also heal His broken world.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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