There are billions of people in the world, and the vast majority of people are unbelievers; they’ve either never heard about Jesus or have rejected the Gospel, either in apathy or open hostility. Why would God create so many people who don’t believe in Jesus and will eventually be condemned to Hell? Why does God create unbelievers?
The short answer is: He doesn’t.
Let me explain.
Man’s Existence is Natural
The term “create” is a very specific and important one, especially when we are considering the first two chapters of Genesis. God is described as “making man” on the sixth day (Gen 1:26), and Genesis 2:7, 21-22 describe an amazing account of Adam and Eve’s creation:
then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Gen 2:7).
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man (Gen 2:21–22).
The way in which God formed, fashioned, and created our first parents was unique. God’s hands (to speak anthropomorphically) were directly involved in the creation of Adam and Eve. We could appropriately describe this as “creation;” this is a supernatural account of Adam and Eve’s coming into existence.
However, when we ask the question, “Why does God create unbelievers?” we have to realize that God doesn’t “create” anyone after Adam and Eve, at least not in the same way that we read about in Genesis 1-2. God does ordain and decree the existence of unbelievers, but He does not directly create them.
All human beings after Adam and Eve are the result of natural reproduction and birth, not the result of a supernatural creation from dust or a rib. While this might seem like semantics, it actually has a very significant impact on how we understand the question of the existence of unbelievers in the world, especially when we consider the goodness of God’s original creation.
God Created All Things Good
In the opening pages of Scripture, the creation of all things (including Adam and Eve) is described first as “good” and then as “very good” (Get 1:31). All that God creates is inherently good. God did not create the world or our first human parents in a state of sin or unbelief. Both the 1689 and the Westminster Confession describe the created state of Adam and Eve as one of “original righteousness,” in which they were without any corruption (though with the possibility of sin, posse peccare).
So when we consider that which God directly created through primary causes, only that which can be properly described as “good” can fit into this category. Can unbelief (which, biblically speaking, is not the ignorance of God, but the rejection of Him, Rom 1:18ff) really be categorized as something which the good God would create? Of course not.
The presence of unbelief in human beings is not the result of God’s creation, nor is it the result of man’s free will (a direction that some take to answer this question), but rather the result of the fall of man in the disobedience of Adam. Again, the Confessions help summarize the biblical teaching:
They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation…From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions (2LBCF 6.3 & 4).
The sin of Adam and Eve resulted not only in guilt being passed down to their offspring, but more relevant to our discussion, a corrupt nature being passed down as well. This corrupt nature is the fountain of rebellious unbelief, and this corrupt nature is passed down through “ordinary generation;” through the natural means of conception and birth.
Born That Way
So does God directly create unbelievers? No. God can only create what is good. The existence of unbelievers in the world is not outside God’s sovereign decree, but this is a different category than God’s direct creation.
The reality is that all human beings begin this life as unbelievers. The apostle Paul describes our natural state from birth in no uncertain terms:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph 2:1–3).
Unbelief is essentially rebellion, and Paul describes the natural condition of all people quite clearly. People are not born with faith; they are not born with a desire to serve God, but rather an innate desire to rebel against Him. Everyone begins this life in a state of unbelief as we all inherit the corrupt and spiritually dead nature passed down to us from Adam and Eve (Rom 5:12-21). God does not create us in this state; He could not, as He is holy, righteous, and good.
God’s New Creation
However, there is a direct creative work that God continues to do today in the heart of man. It is not a creation of unbelief but rather the spiritual creation of regeneration. God does not create unbelief, but only He can create belief in sinful people. Paul’s letter to Titus describes this act of new creation in the soul of man beautifully from beginning to end:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Tit 3:3–7).
God only creates what is good, and how kind of Him to take unbelievers and create in them justifying faith as a result of regeneration. Instead of meriting eternal death through our unbelief and rebellion, we might receive the hope of eternal life through the divine gift of justifying faith and the righteousness of Christ that we receive through it. Instead of attempting to blame God for unbelief in humanity, Scripture calls us to praise Him for the gracious gift of faith that He mercifully gives to His people so that we might be called “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17).
Daniel Ruben (MDiv, Midwestern Baptist; working on MA in Biblical Counseling) is a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Carson City, NV. He is husband to Shaelby and father of two.
Note: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors on this site.