“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.” -CS Lewis, The Great Divorce
So often people ask of the doctrine of predestination, “Well, if you believe that God chose those whom will be saved before time began, then doesn’t that necessarily mean that God chose everyone else to go to Hell?” My unwavering answer to that question is “No.” No, I do not believe that God “chose” those who are condemned to Hell, and the reason why is what is expressed above: the choice to go to Hell is a self-choice of the individual, one which chooses to deny service to God and thus is condemned in its own sinfulness.
This is one of the major issues which is at stake in the argument between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Without spending too much time myself in explicating my position here, I will tell you minimally where I stand and then point you to a (highly academic) source for further detail on what I fully believe.
When it comes to the issue of predestination and the condemnation of souls to Hell, I believe that we are all, from birth, totally depraved, wholly incapable of choosing God (i.e. choosing to do that which is righteous); not because God has made us this way but because we have inherited the original sin of Adam. Because of this we are all deserving of Hell. This is our own choice, at no point has God forced our hand and made us choose to sin, but instead it is ingrained in every bit of our human nature to do that which is opposed to God’s will. Moreover, the only way to avoid Hell is to be counted among the elect of God, those whom He has predestined for eternal life in Heaven. Therefore, the act of predestination is an act of God to save those whom He desires from the natural result of their sins and setting them apart to be glorified alongside Christ in Heaven. However, at no point has God played a part in the condemnation of a soul to Hell. One ends up in Hell because out of their depraved nature they chose to sin, and God’s electing grace simply passed over them.
I know this is a hard doctrine to deal with, either because it seems too complicated or just plain unloving, but I encourage you that if you seriously put the time into searching out God’s will and His character in election then you will be rewarded with a peace about what He says. As well, it is important to keep in mind this other quotation of Lewis from the same book:
“Ye cannot fully understand the relations of choice and Time till you are beyond both…. What concerns you is the nature of the choice itself: and that ye can watch them making.”
If you find all of the talk of predestination and free will to be a stumbling block just keep this quote in mind. It is wonderfully and greatly rewarding to study the deeper aspects of God’s character in theology, but remember that Christ’s call for us is to simply “go” and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) and if you are faithful to do this you will certainly not be disappointed!
Grace be with you.