Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Author of Sin, POE … To Be or Not to Be

Paul Copan, in writing on Parchment and Pen, recently commented on the controversial position of R.C. Sproul Jr. regarding the authorship of sin. It has made the rounds on various blogs and discussion groups, some behind closed doors, and as expected it has fueled objections and comparisons in several corners. The premise of God being the author of sin has been suggested countless times and objected to as many. Most Calvinists I have dialogued with take pains to distance themselves from the idea that God could be the author of sin. Others, whom I generally have little interaction with other than to become familiar with some of their writings have either openly embraced the idea or done so with the mask of avoidance. Vincent Cheung addresses the issue by asking an obvious question, why not? Of course asking the question in such a manner allows him to avoid in print what lays on his mind. John Frame is somewhat more direct in openly stating that God brings about sin rather than merely allowing it however even he shapes the discussion by reflecting the impetus of the inquiry choosing to qualify sin as something other than that which is authored or created in some sense. On the other hand, Sproul Jr. comes to the table with clear and unambiguous direction. God is the "culprit". God is the author of sin, I took that thought to one of the more carnal Calvinist discussion boards (one supposedly affiliated with John Frame or so that is the claim made by some). My perspective on this matter is shared by a lot of non-Calvinist observers. Sproul is merely stating openly what his supralapsarian leanings require if one is to be honest about what they believe. Lapsarian doctrines of the order of decrees regarding the fall of man provide the fodder for fueling Calvinist speculation of when God decreed the fall. Depending on how one defines decree, we end up with a disjointed presentation on the "problem of evil". Calvinists tend to view decree in absolute terms. A decree is an immovable determination , a defining of sovereign action, in many Calvinist minds. As such the question of whether God is the author of sin is inevitable.

It is not a new question nor can it be attributed to the modern Neo-Calvinism that has polluted the faith in so many quarters. We have to step back to Beza at least to understand how the idea of decrees can be carried away to making God the author of sin. Calvin was in theory a Supralapsarian theologian. Beza took it steps further and Calvinists following in their footsteps went further giving cause for Arminius, perhaps the most knowledgeable Reformed theologian of his day, to state the following regarding God and sin.

If it be said, "that God, by his eternal decree, has determined and governs all things and every thing, even the depraved wills of men, to appointed good ends," does it follow from this, that God is the author of sin?

Is "to determine or direct all things and every thing, even the depraved wills of men, to appointed good ends," the same thing as "to determine that man be made corrupt, by which a way may be opened for executing God's absolute decree concerning damning some men through wrath, and saving others through mercy?"


Sin is the transgression of the law; therefore, God will be the author of sin, if He cause any man to transgress the law. This is done by denying or taking away what is necessary for fulfilling the law, or by impelling men to sin. But if this "determination" be that of a will which is already depraved, since it does not signify the denying or the removing of grace nor a corrupt impelling to sin, it follows, that the consequence of this cannot be that God is the author of sin. But if this "determination" denote the decree of God by which He resolved that the will should become depraved, and that man should commit sin, then it follows from this that God is the author of sin.


The Seeking Disciple said...

I agree with you that most Calvinists try to distance themselves from those would claim that God is the author of sin. I did know one Calvinist in college who truly believed that God made Adam fall for His own glory. Piper comes close to this view in his book SPECTACULAR SINS. He never says that God is the author of sin but Piper does firmly believe that God has not just allowed sin but in many times He caused sinful acts to take place (Piper points to passages such as Judges 14:4 as a case in point or the sin of Judas in betraying Christ as evidence of God's purpose in sins). It is a difficult question to be sure but I think Calvinists have a much harder time answering the question than Arminians. We Arminians believe that God does foreknow what sinful acts will take place but He simply allows them to take place without any influence on His part. For instance, God allowed Samson to pursue a Philistine wife not because it was His will but because He allowed Samson to make his own free will choices. The same is true for Judas. Judas is guilty before God for betraying Christ. Judas acted out of his free will that even Jesus foreknew but did not cause.

A.M. Mallett said...

Adding to what you have stated, I would include judgement as a response by God that often appears evil but is really nothing more than reaping what men sow. The angel of the LORD slew men relentlessly until David repented and sacrificed for his sins. The carnal minded man might look upon such actions as evil perpetrated by God but in truth it was a judgment with mortal consequences for a nation.
Thanks for your thoughts!