I recently received a good question.
My initial answer was brief. I said, "Because it gives him pleasure. "for thy pleasure they are and were created." (Rev 4:11) He created the world to enjoy what He created, and for His creation to enjoy him." This, as often is the case, didn't quite get at the heart of what this reader asked. They responded with this follow up question:
QUESTION: So, it gives Him pleasure to know that some of His creation will end up in Hell?? I mean, He knew that Adam and Eve would sin and this world and its people would be the mess that they are and so many would end up in Hell..... yet He created it and it makes Him happy?? I'm really not trying to be difficult or a smart aleck. This is truly the one thing I have difficulty with.
No, I don't believe that when people choose to remain separated from God, that makes him happy. You asked why He created. He created because it gave Him pleasure to do so. What's more, those who believe in Him and come into an eternal relationship with Him through Jesus will bring Him joy eternally. It seems to me that the cost is entirely outweighed by the benefit.
Here is an example of what I mean. The world is better because of dynamite. It's been used to do some amazing things. We've reshaped the world, built incredible structures, and made the world a better place. It's also been used to destroy life. Many people have been killed in wars as a result of explosives.
If you could go back in time and decide whether or not dynamite should ever be invented/discovered it would be a difficult choice. It's made the world such a better place to be able to reshape the earth with that amazing stuff. It also has killed a lot of people. Not everyone would choose the same way I would, but if it were me, I'd choose to have dynamite in the world. Even though there is a cost to pay, the benefit seems to outweigh the consequence.
I wonder if this might be how God looks at it. (I don't know if it is, but it makes sense to me). Maybe... He could see the terrible cost of giving sentient beings free will, many would choose to refuse Him. However, in that, it seems that maybe He saw something that was demonstrably more valuable to Him. Eternal sentient beings who choose to be with Him forever in an amazing relationship, that a prize worth creating for.
HIS PRIZED POSSESSION
God highly values those whom He's saved. In fact, there is something so valuable about the redeemed people that He was willing to go through with creation as we know it. James tells us this:
James 1:18 says, "He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession."
This seems to be at the center of what you're asking. God wanted us (believers). He wanted us so bad He was willing to take a cosmic risk. He prizes those who He's redeemed so highly that He was willing to allow this tremendous cost. It sounds like a harsh reality, but it seems to be the case.
If we could go back in time before the moment of creation and decide whether it was all worth it. If we were given the choice to call off the creation or let it go forward what would we choose? It might be a hard decision for some to make considering how many people would ultimately reject God. However, if it were me, I wouldn't stop it. I'd make the choice to go forward with creation, even though there would be a cost to pay.
Some will respond with, "Well, couldn't He have created the world a different way?" Obviously, He could but He could not create it a different way and get the same outcome. It's kind of like saying, "Couldn't we just use a different formula for dynamite so that no one could ever die from it?" Obviously, we could but we can't change the formula for dynamite and get the same outcome. Dynamite is both awesome and awful precisely for the same reason, it blows up. What if Creation is so amazing and gut-wrenching for the same reason because the stakes are so high?
The way I see it, God put together a formula in creation that would allow Him to get the outcome He wanted. Clearly, He knew that there would be a cost involved, but changing the formula would eliminate certain aspects of the outcome that He apparently wanted. I'm convinced that outcome which He was willing to gamble for is a massive number of sentient free-willed people who have chosen to be with Him forever in an intimate relationship. It makes me wonder, what price is too high to pay for that?