I was recently asked why I thought God created so many hellbound beings. Any answer is speculative, but here’s my conjecture:
1.Of course, the reason why God created so many hellbound beings isn’t a question distinctive to Calvinism. It isn’t generated by Calvinism.
To the contrary, supralapsarian Calvinism at least offers a partial theodicy. Even if it fails to furnish a specific answer to the question of why so many are lost, it still furnishes more of an answer than the traditional alternatives.
2.There’s also an acute irony in Christian concerns over the fate of the damned. The folks who have the most to lose aren’t the folks who worry about their eternal fate. The lost don’t worry about their eternal perdition. The folks who worry about the hellbound are the heavenbound!
Of course, if one of the damned happens to be someone close to you, then you do have a personal stake in his fate, even if you yourself are heavenbound.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the lost have a very different view of their condition. And it’s not just that they don’t believe in hell. They don’t find the idea of heaven appealing. They don’t find God appealing. They don’t find a godly life appealing.
Look at Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin or Merv Griffin or The Donald. That’s their definition of success. They’ve “made” it.
I’d find that aimless, vapid, vacuous existence unendurable. It’s like living your life on the set of a game show. Killing time with endless inanities.
Yet there are countless men and women who live for that. That’s the existence they aspire to.
If you didn’t see it, you wouldn’t believe it.
There are the handful of folks who actually live that way: who’ve “made” it. And then there are countless others who line up at the 7/11 to buy lottery tickets in the off chance that they’ll beat the odds, strike it rich, and be able to enjoy the same Tinsel Town, Vegas Strip existence.
As a Christian spectator, I find this sobering. If I thought that is all there was to life, I’d commit suicide.
(Of course, knowing what I do about the afterlife, suicide would be no escape, but you get the point.)
We tend to associate evil with paradigm examples of extreme evil. Torture, mass murder, &c.
But equally evil is the banality of evil. The way in which so many men and women trivialize the gift of life. Fritter away their time on earth.
While Christian theologians debate about whether hell is pointless, unbelievers have no problem leading pointless lives. Christian theologians are bothered on behalf of unbelievers who aren’t the least bit bothered by what bothers the anguished theologians.
I’m not saying that hell is pointless. But it is ironic that those who have the most investment in the outcome, the parties concerned, are, in fact, studiously unconcerned. And I do think this should cause us to scale back our vicarious concerns.
3.Of course, one could say the lost are nonchalant about hell in this life because they don’t believe in hell, and when they get there they will change their tune. To some degree I suppose that’s true.
But I tend to think of hell as an extension and intensification of fallen life on earth. Even though it’s an utterly miserably way to spend eternity, there are many unbelievers who make themselves miserable here and now. And even though it’s an utterly miserably way to spend eternity, that doesn’t make them long for heaven.
I think it’s a useful object lesson to see this side of evil. It’s so irrational that it would be hard to believe it unless you saw it for yourself.
Hell is just a special case of sin in general. It’s not fundamentally different than life in a fallen world. Just more of the same—minus the mitigating effects of common grace.
Common grace is necessary to make coexistence with the reprobate possible. But it can also be deceptive. It makes sin seem more virtuous than it really is.
4.As for the sheer numbers, I think the basic reason for that is due to human nature. We are creatures, created by procreation. As a result, we aren’t discrete, self-contained units. Rather, human beings come in sets, packages, chains. Parents, children, siblings, and various permutations thereof.
There are millions or billions of lost souls because they’re related to each other. In branching family trees. Forests of fallen humanity. Seeds and seedlings intertwined.
There’s something unnatural about salvation. At one level, salvation is natural. It restores our natural condition. The way we were meant to be. But short of universal salvation, saving individuals is genealogically selective. Grafting a twig here and a twig there.
In principle, God could always save more, but the cut-off point would always be arbitrary; for, at a certain level, the human race is an organic whole, like an orchard contained within an acorn.
5.I’m not very sanguine about salvation by general revelation. I think the witness of Scripture points to salvation by special revelation.
Of course, special revelation is progressive, so, to that extent, what constituted saving knowledge varied in time, if not in place. But public special revelation terminated 2000 years ago.