I have formulated a theological problem, and I would like to research different answers people have for it. This process would be a lot easier if I had a solid starting point. I am wondering if there is a formalized name for this question (ex. some subcategory in theodicy), or a similar question. Or if not that, then possibly the names of some books or papers that discuss it.

Here is the problem, as I have structured it:

  • God made humans. (Genesis 1:27)
  • God knows the future. (Isaiah 46:10)
  • If we don’t follow God, we will go to hell. (Revelation 21:8)
  • Many people do not follow God. (Matthew 7:13-14)
  • It is better to have not been born than to go to hell. (Mark 14:21)
  • God is good. (Psalm 107:1)

Therefore God made humans knowing that most of them would go to hell (a place that it would be better to have not been born than to end up in).

Would it not have been better to not have been created?

Note: I have structured it like a very informal logic proof, as that is what I am most familiar with.

  • Can you try explaining exactly what the problem is a little more? Is it a problem from a human perspective or God's perspective?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 7, 2015 at 23:20
  • It is a problem for man to understand why God did what He did.
    – user20059
    Mar 7, 2015 at 23:53
  • I actually have done a decent amount of research about Theodicy, however I have not really seen much that covers the points I bring up. I am not sure Theodocy is even the right label for it, Problem of Hell seems closer to my question than Theodicy as I have seen it discussed. I was hoping to get material more closely related to my question.
    – user20059
    Mar 8, 2015 at 3:43
  • Theodicy is the general issue of defending the justice/righteousness/goodness of God. Questions like this put doubt on his goodness, and theodicy is finds ways to try to defend him.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 8, 2015 at 3:50

5 Answers 5


The problem is known as "theodicy".

Actually, this is just one portion of the problem of theodicy, but it's part of the "How can a good God permit evil?" question. "How God could create beings that will go to Hell" is subset of the problem of theodicy.

This is one of the most commonly covered questions in the field of Apologetics. A Bing/Google/(Choose your search engine) search for "Apologetic Theodicy" should get you any number of possible answers to that question. Of course, which makes sense to you, personally, is hard to predict. there are differing approaches to the issue based on your belief in things like free will, where god's sovereignty and man's ability to chose begins and ends, etc.

  • 1
    I am looking for things more specifically related to hell and God knowing the future, rather than the extremely broad topic of Thodicy. Is there a more specific label to search under, or do you have and specific article or book suggestions?
    – user20059
    Mar 8, 2015 at 3:58
  • @user20059 Maybe you could edit the question to say that you'd like a subcategory of theodicy. And I don't think this is about the existence of evil, it's another subcategory. What exactly I'm not sure.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 8, 2015 at 4:12
  • I am going to mark this as the accepted answer, as it did lead to some interesting reading that was related to what I was asking about. However I was hoping for a narrower label rather than the extremely broad "Theodicy". If anyone is interested in reading more on the topic of my question, one of the writings I found after doing some research based on the answers here is C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. I have found that C.S. Lewis has some interesting thoughts on this subject.
    – user20059
    Mar 9, 2015 at 22:11

@David Stratton♦ answer is right. But also this problem can be part of the free will study.

This problem relatas to free-will because the ultimately, the answer to this problem is free will . So if you want to look further into that, i recommend you to study the problem of free will

I'd recommend this page for you: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06259a.htm

  • The answer won't be free will if you're broadly on the Reformed Theology side of things...
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 8, 2015 at 5:49

Problem of Hell seems closer to my question than Theodicy as I have seen it discussed.

When I was a teenager (I had been raised Lutheran), I confronted my parents with a summary of how I understood Christianity as had been presented to me by the church.

  1. God created people with free will.
  2. God punishes people for making the wrong choice.
  3. The punishment lasts forever.

This summary seems to reflect God in a poor light. I was not so much condemning Christianity as I was asking for more information that would correct the thinking that brought me to such a negative view. Sadly my church and parents were unable to provide any clarity.

Over the years I came across ideas that greatly modified my original summary.

  1. There is much that we do not understand, cannot understand, and worse, understand incorrectly.
  2. The free will that God gives each of us will always result in us making the wrong choice. It is only the grace of God that brings any of us to Jesus.
  3. Punishment in hell may only be judicially appropriate as opposed to real eternity (much depends on how aion is translated).
  4. Churches, denominations, and individual preachers may not have as full a grasp of Biblical truth as they think.
  5. The universe is a reflection of the God that created it. If it is not capricious, unreliable, or spiteful it may be that its creator is not either.
  6. The law through Israel was supposed to show us how hopeless we were without Jesus. The kingdom of Jesus was supposed to show us fullness through the selflessness of love.
  7. God established a system that works on both justice and love. Any emphasis on excessive punishment may reflect an inadequate understanding of the system God put in place.

Much of the reasoning that is able to put away the arguments of God's vindictiveness does not come from a deductive study of Biblical minutia. It does not come from an intuitive assessment of the experience of God. It comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in a heart that seeks truth.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Those who would seek to understand have an open invitation from God.

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.


In the Christian theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), which is one of my primary areas of expertise, the issues raised in your question fall under the general category of divine providence.

Swedenborg defines divine providence as "the form of government exercised by the Lord's divine love and wisdom" (Divine Providence #1).

Under that overall umbrella he includes his book on the subject the topics encompassed by theodicy, the problem of evil, and the problem of hell in the face of an eternal, omnipotent, and beneficent God.

For Swedenborg's approach to these problems, I highly recommend his book Divine Providence, originally published in Latin, Amsterdam, 1764. It is available in English translation, and in many other languages. For my recommendation of the best contemporary English translation, see my brief book notice and review here: Divine Providence, by Emanuel Swedenborg.

If nothing else, this book will help to round out your researches into this fascinating and highly debated topic.

In particular, Swedenborg distinguishes between "laws of providence," which define how God acts in relation to people whose lives are focused on what is good, and "laws of permission," which define how God acts in relation to people who are focused on what is evil.

For the good, according to Swedenborg, God provides every opportunity to continue moving forward spiritually so that after death they will live in the eternal joy of heaven.

For the evil, according to Swedenborg, God makes every effort to provide opportunities to reconsider, repent, and change course; but God will not violate the free will of the person by forcing a change of heart, mind, or destination.

In Swedenborg's theology, hell exists not because it is God's will that anyone should go there, nor because God desires to punish the wicked, but because humans who choose evil over good insist upon creating and living in a hell that reflects their own evil choices. The punishments of hell are not meted out by God, but are self-inflicted by the evil spirits themselves, and by other evil spirits in hell.

As in many other theological analyses of the problem of evil, in Swedenborg's theology it hinges on human free will, which in his view is a fundamental component of our humanity. I think you will find, though, that in Divine Providence Swedenborg offers a depth of analysis that is rare in traditional Christian and philosophical treatments of the subject.


Those with a more Christian Universalistic mindset find the problem of hell is not a problem. The subtitle of Beauchemin's book "Hope Beyond Hell" - "The righteous purposes of God's judgement" - suggests there is a purpose other than retribution.

You might also search for the unwritten sermons of George Macdonald - especially one called "Justice" - which is worth reading.

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