Monday, December 22, 2008

Arminius on the Authorship of Sin

One of the common objections to Calvinist doctrine is that determinism seems to make the LORD to be the author of sin. Our Calvinist brethren strenuously object to this characterization and probably for good cause. Who would wish to attribute wickedness to God? I recall a young Calvinist telling me that this charge against Calvinism is something that came out of the Finney school of thought and is relatively new representing a desperate charge on the part of Arminians. Whether the Finney ever made such charges or even whether Finney could rightly be called Arminian are questions for another discussion but one thing is certain. The perception that Calvinistic determinism places the LORD as author of sinfulness is nothing new in this debate. It was a concern very early in the Reformation as Beza began to shape Calvinist doctrine. Supralapsarian doctrines began to gain a strong hold in the Calvinist churches and the doctrinal difficulties with this issue of authorship was a question of interest in the days of Arminius. Arminians have long held that Calvinist determinism is grounded in grievous error placing the LORD as the author of sin or wickedness. In his defense of Christian doctrine, Arminius addressed this matter in his Nine Questions, the second of which went to the issue of the authoring of sin. Those comments follow.

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.

For those pastors who face troubled questions from their flock, Arminius provides a clear and concise path to follow regarding this matter. We can with a clear conscience declare that determinism of the hard variety found among many "High Calvinists" does indeed accuse the LORD of being the author of sin and therefore a promoter of the very wickedness He finds detestable.


Jay Van Til said...

Let's get a dialogue going on this.

Of course, I am not being sneaky, I am leading you somewhere.

Do you believe that God created everyone and everything?

Yes, No, or Deliniate.


A.M. Mallett said...

I had the comments section moderated for some time when I created this post.

You asked:
Do you believe that God created everyone and everything?

I reply:
I not only believe that, I will take it further and state there is not anything, any action, any occurrence now, before or to come that has not been ordained of the LORD. Now, that does not lend my sympathies to the necessity of determinism. Instead, as with Picirilli, I make the distinction between certainty and necessity.

I'm going to place this question at the top of the blog to facilitate your reply.