Thank you, Jim, for your helpful reply. It did help me to gain a different line of thinking that I hadn't considered before. However, would you allow me to ask you one more question, related to the same issue? (This is actually a corollary that crept into my own mind, for which I can't think of an answer that makes theological or ethical sense.)
I think we can both agree (and I'm sure my coworker would as well) that the Bible says that God is good and loving, as well as holy and just. We also would agree that He is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning, and knowing from eternity past the choice that every human being that ever lived/will live will make -- either to accept his offer of eternal life, or to reject it.
If both of these statements are true and biblical, my question is this: If God knew (even before creation) that (for example) 75% of his human creation would make the choice to reject him (and thus end up in hell by their own choice), why did He simply not create them in the first place? I know this will sound simplistic (please bear with me -- in a way I'm thinking out loud right now), but why would He create billions of people who would ultimately reject Him and end up in hell, if He KNEW that would be their eternal destination?
Thank you for your patience and understanding, in allowing me to try to figure these things out. Mike. (-:
Mike, No problem with your asking. First off, I think is perhaps in the definition of hell. Hell, I do not think is a place God made with torture racks for those who reject him. Stocked with angels that do God's work by torturing people. Rather, hell is a place God made to hold those who reject him. It is the black box of the universe where evil cannot escape to pollute the beauty of God's Creation. So, it becomes the dwelling place of not only the devil and his angels, but all those who do not want to submit themselves to the rulership of God. They wind up in hell. And when they get there they are, as the old saw goes, "having fun with all their friends." But, lo and behold, tougher guys than them exist: Satan, Hitler, Stalin, Vlad the Impaler, etc. And guess who rules in this kingdom without God? The worst and toughest of the lawbreakers. Now, if these fiends (Hilters) could manufacture the Death Camps of WWII, we can be sure they will allow their appetites to go unchecked in hell. The environment of hell is created by those who inhabit it. Again, God made man, and set before him life and death, good and evil. Some choose their appetites for pleasure, spurn the love of God, and wind up with all the scum of the universe. Then, as a final insult, they blame God! I would be remiss if I did not mention that many solid Evangelical scholars see the Second Death (hell) not as endless torture, but as final annihilation. You can be an orthodox Christian and believe that the wicked are not endlessly punished, but punished forever by dying eternally, thus giving up Eternal Life for Eternal Death. Jim