William Lane Craig gives the reason why he believes an all good God can be compatible with a Hell:
I recently was confronted with an objection to the existence of God that I hadn’t really heard of before. It’s taken me some time to put my thoughts together in a way that I feel like asses the objection well, but I think I’ve come up with a reasonable solution.
To the best of my ability this was basically the argument: God, if he exists would want to find the most efficient way in which to reveal himself to us. Unfortunately, the evidence seems to point that God is not being efficient in revealing himself. This can be seen by two factors. First, some people go throughout their entire lives and never hear the name of Jesus. Second, there is suffering and hardship in this world which has not been alleviated by Christianity. Because, God has therefore not been efficient in revealing himself to mankind then he must not exist.
So what is the solution?
I’ve recently been in conversations with Jehovah Witnesses on a number of subjects. If you don’t know much about JW’s you probably still aren’t surprised to know that using the name ‘Jehovah’ for God is something that they find of great importance. So, I thought I would give a little background about the name to explore JW’s claim that we should only call God Jehovah.
This last weekend I was at an open house at the local Mosque here in Fort Collins. I was encouraged to see that there were many visitors who, like myself, clearly weren’t part of the Mosque ourselves. I think it is important that we are able to dialogue, communicate and fellowship with those who don’t believe in the same things that we do.
As the open house winded down I found that I was in a minority even among the visitors that day. They had a panel answering questions and dialoguing about interfaith relations when the Jewish leader that was a part of the panel dropped this bomb: “to say there is only one way to God is limiting to God.”
I was a little surprised by the comment. Not so much by the comment as much as I didn’t expect it to come from the Rabbi in the group. I more expected that the Universalist reverend on the panel to say a statement like that rather than the Rabbi. But it still had me thinking ‘Am I limiting God when I say that there is only one way to God?”
In short my answer to this as I think about is ‘no’. The fundamental thing that I think a statement like this is misunderstanding is that we decide the ways to God. When I say that I believe that there is only one way to God it isn’t because I’ve made it that way, it’s because God made it that way. I don’t say there is only one way to God because I want to limit God or that I believe God could only make one way, I say it because my understanding is that God has only made it that way.
When Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” it seems pretty clear that there is only one way. So am I limiting God? No. I am saying simply what God has said.
Could God have made it another way? My understanding of theology seems to say no, which is another subject entirely, but for the sake of argument let’s just say that God could have allowed more than one way to Him. If God could have made another way and yet as He says in John 14:6, he has only made one way to him, am I limiting God? No, I am not. God is limiting God. There is only one way to God. He has made that clear. It wasn’t my choice. I would even like to say that there is more than one way to God, but if that isn’t true I am not going to say it to make others feel better.
I often think that someone who says ‘we are limiting God by saying there is only one way to him’ are saying it because it doesn’t feel good. And they are right. I wish it was another way. But if a friend of mine wants to cross the highway where it isn’t safe and there is only one safe place to cross the highway do I let him cross where he wants to because he will feel good about it? Absolutely not! I could care less what makes him feel good, I would rather have him alive than happy and then dead, because I didn’t speak the truth because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
So this is the third blog I’ve written on things that Christians need to stop saying. The first I wrote was about Christians telling people, ‘you just have to have faith‘, and after that it came to my attention that there are a whole slew of things that Christians say with the best of intentions that actually cause more harm than good. My last blog in this series was about saying, ‘it’s all part of God’s plan‘. If you have other ideas of what you think fits in with this please send them my way, or put them in the comments!
‘Just pray harder’. I’ve heard it. I’ve said it. I’ve thought it. I’ve also had times were this was the least helpful thing that I could hear or think during my Christian walk.
Like so many of the other ‘pithy’ sayings that we make as Christians, we say this with the best of intent. We see someone struggling and know that God can help them in their situation, or know that praying would be a bit of psychological unloading that is sometimes necessary in a hard time. So, we just encourage them to step towards God in the time and pray about it.
Here is the problem. They probably already have. If something is weighing on a person hard, chances are, especially if they believe in God, they’ve been praying about it already. Perhaps a lot! And even those who don’t believe in God, in a hard time, are known to throw out the prayer of, ‘God if you are there, which I don’t believe you are, now would be a good time to show yourself’. So telling someone to pray probably isn’t helpful. In fact it might even be a bit offensive.
If the person knows the Lord, they can feel that your questioning if they really are a believer. If the person doesn’t believe in God my guess is telling them to pray about it sounds a lot like this: ‘Hey, I know that you don’t believe in God, and that this is an even harder time to believe in God, since he doesn’t seem to be doing anything, but have you thought about praying to that God who clearly seems to not exist right now?”
For the Christians reading this I am sure you’re a little worried with where I am going here. Don’t be. I just want us to think about how our words may come across to non-believers.
Here are the facts. We live in a fallen world where crappy stuff happens. Some of that isn’t easy to just rub some dirt on and move on. Some of it takes time and pressing into the Lord. Sometimes during those times we press into God it doesn’t even seem like he is there. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know personally that the times you grow most in your relationship with the Lord is in the hard times. So yes, we need to pray harder. But telling someone they need to pray harder probably isn’t much help.
So here is my thought. Instead of telling them to pray, why don’t you pray? Ask them if you can pray for them. And I am not saying praying later that week or when you think of it in a passing thought. Right there, right then. Pray. Pray with them.
Even Atheists I think can appreciate this. Because although they don’t believe in God it still shows them that you care, and that’s comforting in hard times. If God exists, it could be all the help in the world. If he doesn’t exist. . . well, it still won’t hurt.
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? -James 2:15-16
Christians, ‘pray harder’ are we really helping. I mean, thinking about it extremely critically, how does this help? Essentially, I feel that when we tell someone to pray harder we are telling them to ‘do better’. Not really much help. So lets take a note from this passage in James, and help someone physically how we can, and then also pray with them, rather than just telling them to ‘do better’.