Contend Earnestly: God's Permissible Will

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

God's Permissible Will


We have gotten to a great discussion, in my opinion, on how God's sovereign will interacts with man's sin and responsibility. I am mainly going to be pulling things back out from the comments section from our debate posts because I believe that this discussion warrants some "front page news." I think by posting this, one can get a clearer understanding of where I fit into the discussion and in where historical Calvinism fits into this discussion. Of course, being a good Calvinist :) I believe that my view and the historical view are identical.

What I would like to accomplish in this post is simply how I believe God remains sovereign while man remains responsible for sin. I want to look at some passages to see how God ordains all things, but how this keeps God unstained by sin or allowing God to be the author of sin. I will use both biblical narratives and explanation of those narratives biblically and also take a look at some quotes from Turretin and Calvin to help us better understand how this all "meshes."

The first to establish is that God is completely sovereign and in control of all things. This cannot be overlooked, nor can this be taken lightly. The Arminian confirms this, but then fails to carry it out all the way to salvation. The libertarian free will thinkers just cannot allow this to be carried out in either their orthodoxy nor their orthopraxy. The reason is because the man can resist God and His call to the sinner, in the belief of all synergistic and libertarian free will thinkers. To the Calvinist this simply does not make sense.

Some of the verses that ascertain God's complete control of all things are (understand this is not exhaustive):

I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:2

The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
Isaiah 45:7

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
Daniel 4:34b-35

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.
Job 14:5

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139:16

“Alas, who can live except God has ordained it?
Numbers 24:23b

Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, How then can man understand his way?
Proverbs 20:24

We see these mentioned and our minds, at least mine does, asks, "If all is ordained and determined by God, then how can I be responsible for my sin?"

This is where we understand the permissible will of God. If there was no more understanding than these verses, it would be harder to explain. But, once you take some of the prophetical and narrative sections of Scripture and put it to the light of these passages, one can get a better handle on how God determines all things, yet still can punish those who are guilty by their own sin. Before we look at these verses, know that all good comes from God. Nothing that happens, that is good, happens apart from the direct hand of the Lord.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17

To get a better understanding of the permissible will of God, I will first give a small commentary on 3 passages and then give you some quotes from Turretin and Calvin, thanks to my friend David Ponter.

First, to look at this, we must come to one of the greatest passages dealing with this and that is Genesis 50:20

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

This actually is a great living example of the above mentioned verse, Romans 8:28.

Joseph's brothers did some very evil things in their hearts and actions against their brother. But, through Joseph's dreams and through the end result, and especially this verse, we find that the brothers meant evil, and Genesis 50:17 shows that the did actually sin in their actions, but Genesis 50:20 shows that this was all by God's hand. God's permissible will, allowed the brother's to carry out their hatred towards their brother to perfectly extend God's will to Joseph. This word, "meant" is the exact same word for "reckon" or "impute" and is used in the famous verse Genesis 15:6

Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.


This word is not used in the sense that God was hoping all this would come to pass, but it is more forceful in its use, and is also used of Joseph's brothers as they "reckoned" evil to their brother.

The second passage is in Jeremiah 25:1-17 (I will simply link so this post isn't abnormally long)

What we find here is God showing His power over, not only His own people, but even to His people's enemies. In verses 9-17, which is where God is showing that He is going to send Babylon to punish Judah, God uses the terms: I will send, I will punish, I will destroy, etc. 11 times! God is showing that He is sovereign over these men's decisions. How do we know that God is not literally causing these people to sin? How do we know that God is not tempting, which would go against James 1? Habakkuk 1 actually shows us that the Babylonians were like this. They were an utterly sinful people who loved to destroy and mock nations (Hab 1,2). So, we can see that how God used the Babylonians was to simply remove his hand of protection from Judah and allow the Babylonians to carry out the evil plans that they already had in their heart. It is the same idea that we find in Hebrews 4:7

“Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.”
Hebrews 4:7

It is the hardness of man that causes sin and destruction and ultimately death in hell, not God. This also helps one to understand the dichotomy of how Pharaoh's heart was hardened. Was it God or Pharaoh? In reality, it was both. (Ex 4:21; 7:3; 8:15; 8:32; 1 Sam 6:6; Romans 9:17,18) Both Habakkuk 1:11 and Jeremiah 25:12 which state:

‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the Lord, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation.
Jeremiah 25:12

“Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, They whose strength is their god.”
Habakkuk 1:11

We can see the hand of the Lord directing the Babylonians to defeat and punish Judah for their sin, but we also see that the Babylonians did not escape punishment for their sin, because this sin was already in their heart to destroy. What is said of Satan, as far as the reason he sinned?

But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north.
Isaiah 14:13

Lastly, we have the greatest providence of God ever predestined and set forth. Shown in Acts 2:22,23

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Acts 2:22-23

Notice that we have here that God predetermined (there is no way around this word) the cross. We actually have the same seen in Revelation 13:8

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
Revelation 13:8

Notice that the book of life and the Lamb who was slain (they must be together) were determined before the world was formed. So, these two passages show God's sovereignty, but notice also this does not release the men from their sin. At the end of Acts 2:23 we see that God, through Peter, says, "you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men..." This shows the permissible will of God allowing the men to do what they had determined in their heart to do, all while God is still completely sovereign.

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
Acts 4:27-28

One of the most simple verses that molds these all together is found in Proverbs 16:9

The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

The word, in the Hebrew, for "directs" can be also translated as "determines." This verse shows us how God is completely sovereign yet man is still culpable for his sin.

Here are some great quotes from both Turretin and Calvin on the subject:

Turretin:

In this question, which all confess to be the most intricate and difficult among those agitated concerning providence, two extremes occur which are equally dangerous and to be avoided. First in defect, wherein an otiose permission about sins is ascribed to God. The other in excess, when the causality of sin is charged upon God. The former clashes with the providence of God, but the latter with his justice and holiness. Into the former, the Pelagians, who refer the method of God’s providence about evil to a bare and idle permission, run (as if he put forth no action in reference to it, but only indifferently beheld and permitted it). On the latter, however, the Manichaeans, Simonians and Priscillianists formerly struck who made God the cause of wickedness and of sins. This sinners readily seize to excuse their crimes: as Homer’s Agamemnon, “I am not to be blamed, but Jupiter and fate”… and Lyconides in the Aulularia of Plautus, “God was the instigator, I believe the gods wished it” (The Pot of Gold [Loeb, 1:310-11]). This impiety is indulged by the Libertine of the present time.

The orthodox hold the mean between these two extremes, maintaining that the providence of God is so occupied about sin as neither to idly to permit it (as the Pelagians think) nor to efficiently to produce it (as the Libertines suppose)m but efficaciously order and direct it…

The orthodox hold the mean between these extremes, maintaining that the providence of God is so occupied about sin as neither idly to permit it (as the Pelagians think) nor efficiently to produce it (as the Libertines suppose), but efficaciously to order and direct it. However, in order that this may be readily understood, we must treat of it a little more distinctly.

Second, this permission must not be conceived negatively, as if it was a mere keeping back (anergia) or cessation of his will and providence in evil works (by which God, sitting as it were on a watchtower, should behold only the event of the permitted action and who, therefore, would be left uncertain and doubtful-as the old Pelagians thought and as their followers of the present day hold obtruding upon us the comment of an otiose and inert permission; cf. Bellarmine, “God does not hold himself towards sins positively to will or nill, but negatively not to will” (”De amissione gratiae et statu peccati,” 2.16 in Opera 4:107). But it must be conceived positively and affirmatively; not simply that God does not will to hinder sin (which is an otiose negation), but that he wills not to hinder (which is an efficacious affirmation). Thus the permission involves a positive act of the secret will by which God designedly and willingly determined not to hinder sin, although he may be said to nill it as to the revealed will of approbation. In this sense, our divines do not refuse to employ the word “permission” with the Scriptures. And if at any time they reject it (as Calvin, Beza and others), they understand it in the Pelagian sense of otiose”permission” which takes away from God his own right and sets up the idol of free will in its place. Hence Beza: “if by the word permission is meant this distinction (to wit, since God does not act in evil, but gives them up to Satan and their own lusts) that I repudiate not in the least. But if permission is opposed to will, this I reject as false and absurd; its falsity appearing from this, that if God unwillingly permits anything, he is not certainly God, i.e., Almighty; but if he is said to permit anything as not caring, how much do we differ from Epicureanism? It remains, there, fore, that he willingly permits what he permits. Will then is not opposed to permission” (A Little Book of Christian Questions and Responses, Q. 179 [trans. K.M. Summers, 1986], pp. 72-73).

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1992), 1:515, 516-517.

Calvin:

It is indeed true, that the proximate cause of reprobation is the curse we all inherit from Adam; yet, that we may learn to acquiesce in the bare and simple good pleasure of God... Calvin, Commentary Romans 9:11.

Calvin:

Here again I entreat the honesty of my readers, to compare my language, and the whole strain of my teaching, with your garbled articles. Thus, when your calumny is detected, all the odium which you labor to excite, will vanish of its own accord. Meanwhile, I do not deny, that I have taught along with Moses and Paul, that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Here you expostulate with me to the contempt of Moses, and treating his word as of no account, ask “When the same Moses declares, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, why have recourse to that violent interpretation—God hardened Pharaoh’s heart?” Now I need go no further for an explanation, than the ninth article, which while you quote, you either distort or misunderstand. For if the will of God is the highest, or remote cause of hardening, then when man hardens his own heart, he himself is the proximate cause, I everywhere distinguish between primary and remote causes, and those which are mediate and proximate; for while the sinner finds himself the root of depraved feeling, there is no reason why he should transfer his fault to God. Calvin, The Secret Providence of God. Article 8, Calvin's Reply.


Because God’s wisdom appears manifold (or “multiform” as the old translator renders it), ought we therefore, on account of the sluggishness of our understanding, to dream that there is any variation in God himself, as if he either may change his plan or disagree with himself? Rather, when we do not grasp how God wills to take place what he forbids to be done, let us recall our mental incapacity, and at the same time consider that the light in which God dwells is not without reason called unapproachable [1 Timothy 6:16], because it is overspread with darkness. Therefore all godly and modest folk readily agree with this saying of Augustine: “Sometimes with a good will a man wills something which God does not will … For example, a good son wills that his father live, whom God wills to die. Again, it can happen that the same man wills with a bad will what God wills with a good will. For example, a bad son wills that his father die; God also wills this. That is, the former wills what God does not will; but the latter wills what God also wills. And yet the filial piety of the former, even though he wills something other than God wills, is more consonant with God’s good will than the impiety of the latter, who wills the same thing as God does. There is a great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God, and to what end the will of each is directed, so that it be either approved or disapproved. For through the bad wills of evil men God fulfills what he righteously wills.” A little before he had said that by their defection the apostate angels and all the wicked, from their point of view, had done what God did not will, but from the point of view of God’s omnipotence they could in no way have done this, because while they act against God’s will, his will is done upon them. Whence he exclaims: “Great are God’s works, sought out in all his wills” Psalm 111:2; cf. Psalm 110:2, Vg.]; so that in a wonderful and ineffable manner nothing is done without God’s will, not even that which is against his will. For it would not be done if he did not permit it; yet he does not unwillingly permit it, but willingly; nor would he, being good, allow evil to be done, unless being also almighty he could make good even out of evil.” Institutes, 1.18.3.

15 comments:

Bob Hayton said...

This final bit of your quote sums it up, in my view:

"For it would not be done if he did not permit it; yet he does not unwillingly permit it, but willingly; nor would he, being good, allow evil to be done, unless being also almighty he could make good even out of evil."

I believe that is Calvin quoting Augustine.

Behind God's determinitive will which includes man's sin, behind this lies God's salvific purposes.

Also, I think it is important to recognize the Godhood of God. For instance, when the Fall happened, God decreed the devastating consequences -- the entrance of suffering and sorrow in this world. Now when a human lifts his hand to cause suffering and sorrow by killing someone, that human transgresses God's moral law. But God has decreed that such suffering happened, and when murder happens, God is the one behind that particular act (even as he was behind the murder of His own Son). But God is not morally wrong for this specific sin, since it is part of God's just judgment of sin in the first place.

Moving back now, God is ultimately the cause of all sin, because God is the ultimate cause of all. As Turretin shows God is not just passively letting sin happen, He actively works through it. God willed that sin be in order to accomplish a greater end. God wanted to display all of His glorious attributes and gloriously save a chosen people for Himself. Sin was required for this. But God did not just cause sin, He uses it and allows it for His ends.

And God can do this because He is God.

Note: I'm still thinking through everything here, and the discussions have been very helpful.

Seth McBee said...

Bob.
I know this subject is a "sticky" one so words we use might not be exactly what we were hoping to accomplish in using them. But, I need to ask you: Did you mean to say that "God willed sin..."

If this is the case how is God not the author of sin?

To say that God uses and permits sin for His higher purposes, seemingly fits better in the look at the Scriptures we took a look at in the passages mentioned in the post.

Look at how Paul prays and thanks when God's people excercise faith.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Thessalonians 1:3

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;

Colossians 1:3-4

Notice that each time here Paul says that he thanks God for their faith. Why? Because God caused their faith.

Notice the antithesis:

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

Galatians 3:1

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

Galatians 2:11

while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”

Hebrews 3:15

Notice the difference? God is praised for their faith, because God is the causation or giver of their faith. Notice who is always condemned because of sin: the sinner. Because the sinner is the cause of their sin, not God. If God was then we could curse God because of our sin.

Permitting and willing it are two separate things and is a very fine line. Is God in complete control the entire time of His permission? Of course. Does He enter in thoughts and desires into a sinful heart more sinful desires? No.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

James 1:13-14

Very key verse to this discussion. As was Isaiah 14 when speaking of Satan's sin. All sinners only sin because of their own lust to do so, not because of God causing it. Does God direct it? yes, but He does not will it nor does He make a man sin in a way where that man would not have done so anyway...

This is a tough subject, and in the end it is very much a mystery how this takes place.

Thanks for the discussion...

Bob Hayton said...

Let me try to explain myself.

Jesus' murder was part of God's definite plan and foreknowledge. God willed Jesus' death, even though that death was a sin in the making. So in a sense God willed that sin.

Perhaps it is better to speak of God willed to permit that sin. Just as God willed to permit the Fall. That is probably better. But look at it this way, God chose to create a world in which he permitted the Fall. God could have chosen to create a world without the Fall, but he didn't. So in that sense, God caused sin or willed for it to exist, but only so that God could use it and display His glory in defeating it. Still, though, God didn't actually commit sin or will for sin to be only for sinful ends.

Am I making sense? God permitting sin, when he didn't have to allow it at all, is in a sense God willing that sin exist.

Seth McBee said...

In my opinion the best way that you stated was:

God willed to permit...

Again, saying God causes sin, explicitly, you must adhere to God being the author of sin. How could you avoid that conclusion?

Again...look at my comments from my previous comments. I think Paul's praises and condemnation shows exactly what is going on. Paul praises God for our faith, because God causes our faith, where he condemns man for his sin, because man causes the sin.

James 1 is paramount to our discussion.

Bob Hayton said...

There is a bit of mystery here to all of this, Seth. I'm sure you probably have a copy of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. If you do, you'll benefit from reading his discussion of this topic. The discussion comes in chapter 16, pages 332 - 331. On pg 492 when discussing the origin of sin, he makes this summary statement:

"Therefore, even though we must never say that God himself sinned or he is to be blamed for sin, yet we must also affirm that the God who 'accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will' (Eph. 1:11), the God who 'does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him 'What are you doing?'' (Dan. 4:35) did ordain that sin would come into the world, even though he does not delight in it and even though he ordained that it would come about through the voluntary choices of moral creatures."

He then adds a footnote directing us to his lengthier discussion in Chapter 16. There he discusses many verses, and I thought some would be pertinent to bring up over here:

Isaiah 45:7 (KJV), "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do these things". (Here Grudem argues the word has the sense of evil, not just "calamity" as the ESV has it)

Proverbs 16:4 "the Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble".

2 Sam. 24:1-2a "Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, 'Go, number Israel and Judah.' So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army..."

with

1 Chron. 21:1, "Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel."

On these two verses, Grudem says "In this one incident the Bible gives us a remarkable insight into the three influences that contributed in different ways to one action: God, in order to bring about his purposes, worked through Satan to incite David to sin, but Scripture regards David as being responsible for that sin".

After looking at scores of verses on this topic, Grudem gives 5 concluding statements:

1) God uses all things to fulfill His purposes and even uses evil for His glory and for our good

2) Nevertheless, God never does evil, and is never to be blamed for evil

3) God rightfully blames and judges moral creatures for the evil they do

4) Evil is real, not an illusion, and we should never do evil, for it will always harm us and others

5) In spite of all of the foregoing statements, we have to come to the point where we confess that we do not understand how it is that God can ordain that we carry out evil deeds and yet hold us accountable for them and not be blamed himself

With respect to that mystery, Scripture doesn't tell us how this can be. Grudem earlier gave 2 lines of reasoning which could explain some of the difficulty here, however. First, in a footnote (#4 on pg. 322) he points out that there is a difficulty in understanding the relationship between an infinite God and finite creatures. There is not an exact correlation between how humans cause things and how God causes things, and we need to realize that. Secondly, he stresses that God's jugdment of sin can help us understand how God can ordain evil actions to occur, since he is using them to mete out that righteous judgment.

Anyways, its always good to read people smarter than me on this topic, and I enjoyed looking at Grudem again.

Thanks for the discussion on this, but I stand my ground at least for now. God ordained sin to be. But this was not a sinful action on God's part. Nor is it a tempting of mankind to sin. God chose to ordain that sin only come thru the very evil and morally responsible willful actions of his created creatures.

I agree this is a sticky topic. But we have to go with Scripture, and the Prov. 16 and Is. 45 passages speak loudly to me.

Even if we disagree on this particular, I know we agree that God is sinless and Good, He is also all powerful and sovereign over all things. And His word declares that God is not responsible for sin nor guilty of it at all.

Blessings from the Cross, brother,

Bob Hayton

Seth McBee said...

Bob.
Thanks again for the discussion, it is definitely one that is tough but makes us really think out what we believe and think.

It is indeed a mystery in the end.

The one verse that you brought up that one has to be careful with is Isaiah 45:7. I have done much study on this and it is clear that if you take the KJV or it's literal translation where it says that God creates evil, then we would then have to say that God authors or creates sin. As the term "ra" in the Hebrew is literally evil and is used many times in the Old Testament. There is no escaping that in my opinion.

The reason I say this is because the term "create" in this verse is the Hebrews term (bara') and is the same as the creation account in Genesis 1,2.

The reason I take how the ESV and the NASB translates this verse is because it is pitted against the term "shalom" or "well-being" or "peace." As 7a starts "light vs darkness" then we see that this should also be where we see opposites pitted against each other. So when we see the term "peace" or "shalom" we need to put that against it's opposite, which would correctly translated "calamity" and not evil. This also, when shown against Scripture, would hold up against such verses as James 1 and Isaiah 14.

I would agree with Grudem's first 4 points and then just ask Dr. Grudem his thoughts on Turretin and Calvin on this point.

When you look at God ordaining evil through the permissing of it, sovereignly, by His omnipotence and omniscience, it is better understood, than taking a stance that "...God creates evil."

thanks again for the conversation...hopefully this will continue with our future dialogue.

Soli Deo Gloria

Bob Hayton said...

Seth,

I can understand your position on Is. 45. I can see both sides of that.

Also, what do you do with Prov. 16?

Ultimately, I need to study more on this topic, I would say. I don't want to go beyond Scripture here, that's for sure.

Thanks for charitable interaction. Looking forward to the rest of "TULIP". I hope Nate, responds to my last comment on the TD Affirmed post.

I wonder if you will go on to the "U" next or go with the "I" as Piper and others like to do in a discussion of the 5 points.

Blessings,

Bob

Bnonn said...

Gentlemen, I must disagree that there is a mystery here. The problem is not with the Bible's perspicuity, but with our own difficulty in finding words which mean precisely the same thing to each of us; coupled with what ought to be a genuine fear of accusing God of sin.

So let me start off by saying that I do not accuse God of sin. If, when you read something I have written, it seems to you that I am implying that God sins, then you are misinterpreting me.

Let me then say secondly that I hope very much David will involve himself in this discussion. He left a comment for me in a previous post, to which I have not responded, but this seems the better place to continue that discussion. It is my feeling that he and I are very much talking past each other because of our different manner of describing things. I am at the disadvantage of being unfamiliar with Calvin's language in discussing God's causation of events in creation.

So thirdly, let me try to make some points as clearly as I can.

I agree with Grudem's four points which Bob listed above, but I disagree with his fifth. That is, I think that Grudem is falsely assuming that moral accountability must require freedom on the part of the person being held accountable. He has acknowledged that man has no freedom from God, in the sense that even every sin that man commits has been ordained and ultimately or remotely or proximately caused by God. (I think I am correct in using each of those words as synonyms; I hope that David will correct me if he thinks I am wrong.) But we would not convict someone of a crime that they did not freely commit; ie, if they were coerced or in some way impelled. Since we have acknowledged the true biblical teaching that man is not free from God, Grudem is having difficulty reconciling this with God holding us accountable. However, although we certainly are not free in the sense described, this does not imply that we are coerced or impelled: rather, we all know that we sin voluntarily, and as a result of having sinful natures. This is what James is talking about in the verse Seth mentions.

Therefore, I submit that God holds us accountable simply because we willingly violate his law. This is the sole, two-pronged definition of responsibility that I find in Scripture: that we are willing, and that we transgress. This definition says nothing at all about the ultimate cause of our willingness or our transgression; rather, it is focused purely on the immediate cause (us).

Now, while I'm talking about immediate and proximate causes (I hope I am not misusing the term proximate; I understand it to mean "one removed from immediate"), the point I was seeking to make to David previously was that, while sin itself is caused by us as the immediate causes, we ourselves have a cause in God. And when I say "we", I mean not just some self-existent or self-consistent beings, but rather beings which are entirely contingent: that every part of us, including every thought we have, must have its cause in God himself. It is not that God creates human minds which are capable of generating their own thoughts apart from his active power. He certainly gives them the power of generating thoughts, and they certainly do generate thoughts, but that power and generation itself is caused in its specific nature and manner by him.

This is where I think David misunderstood me before. I think he interpreted me as saying that God causes sin in an immediate way. I think that I was equally guilty of misinterpreting him when he said that God cannot "will sin directly"—by this, he seems to have meant that God cannot cause us to sin in the same sense that he causes us to do righteous deeds by the power of his Spirit working within us. I agree. There is not some kind of anti-Spirit which God has, like a fourth person of the Trinity, which directs us to evil in the same way that his Spirit, by grace, directs us to good. However, that said, when I hear that God "cannot will sin directly", warning bells immediately go off because it seems insensible to me to think of God as being indirect. In my mind, the word "directly" means something slightly different. God certainly directly willed, from the foundation of the world, that Christ would be murdered. The Bible tells us that clearly. It isn't as if God sort of pussyfooted about the issue and somehow "indirectly" or even accidentally willed it. So there is where the confusion arises, I think.

I don't want to go on at too great a length, so by closing I would like to ask everyone to define precisely what they mean by "the author of sin". I have already suggested to David that, if God is all in all, absolute and immutable in his knowledge and purpose, then certainly he willed that sin would occur from the foundation of the world. He conceived of it, he determined to implement it, he did implement it, and he will punish it. All of these things ultimately glorify him. (Again, when I say he implemented it, I don't mean that he himself sins, or that he is the immediate cause of sin; rather, that he is the ultimate cause). I don't think that we can maintain the omniscience and omnipotence of God if we say that he did not conceive of sin both logically and chronologically prior to our own committing of it. This is because to deny the logical priority is to implicitly deny the ultimate sovereignty he has in remotely causing all things; or, put another way, to imply that man, of some power apart from God, conceived of sin in his own mind, and that God only foreknew this logically consequent. I realize that maybe I am going a little off topic here by getting into supralapsarianism, but it seems directly relevant to the question of God being the "author" of evil. I don't personally have a problem saying that God is the author of evil, since if he is the author of creation, and of every event within it in the ultimate sense, then logically he must be the author of evil. However, there is a huge and uncrossable logical divide between being the author of sin, and being a sinner. He is also the author of sinners; he conceived of me and created me, for example. That doesn't make him a sinner; he is still the holy God. So, when we speak of authorship, we must be specific about context. I am an author of sin in the sense that I conceive of it, and commit it. But God is also the author of sin in the sense that he conceived of me conceiving it, and causes me to commit it (in the ultimate sense!)

I hope I have not muddied the waters too significantly. I look forward to discussing this further.

Regards in Christ,
Bnonn

Bob Hayton said...

Bnonn,

What you say here seems clear. I tend to agree with you. But I still think there is some mystery to it, because still at a gut-level somewhere claiming that God is the author of sin (even with all the careful qualifications and nuances you provide) seems to us humans as incongruous with God's judging of sinners for their sin.

I think if you read all of Grudem on this including his footnotes, he goes a bit beyond the simplistic "mystery" label, but I agree there are others to read on this issue than just Grudem.

Thanks again for the work you did in putting this comment together. That at the least sends me down the road in thinking on this issue with more clarity.

Blessings from Jesus,

Bob Hayton

Bnonn said...

Bob, I'm glad I could be of some help. If I may say, mystery is a bit of a dirty word to me, because although I understand that it is used colloquially to mean something abstruse or inexplicable, this is not the way that Scripture uses it. In the Bible, a mystery is a truth which is revealed, whereas in colloquial English it is the exact opposite: a truth which is concealed. I therefore do my best to stay well away from the colloquial usage of the word, because it changes how we read Scripture.

I will mention this in Seth's recent 'Definitions Please' entry as well; it seems pertinent.

Regards in Christ,
Bnonn

David Ponter said...

Hey Bnonn,

Bnonn says:
He has acknowledged that man has no freedom from God, in the sense that even every sin that man commits has been ordained and ultimately or remotely or proximately caused by God. (I think I am correct in using each of those words as synonyms

David: Proximate refers to locating the cause in the agent. For Calvin, proximate correspond with second causation.

How that is caused is not be direct immediate operation.


Bnonn; I hope that David will correct me if he thinks I am wrong.) But we would not convict someone of a crime that they did not freely commit; ie, if they were coerced or in some way impelled. Since we have acknowledged the true biblical teaching that man is not free from God,

David: agree. Nor would we blame someone, say who was psychologically conditioned to commit a crime. Right? If someone, say was genetically or psychological or bio-mechanically “hardwired” to do a crime, we would not just punish the agent, but the proper cause, ie the person responsible for the programming. Agreed.

Bnonn:
Grudem is having difficulty reconciling this with God holding us accountable. However, although we certainly are not free in the sense described, this does not imply that we are coerced or impelled: rather, we all know that we sin voluntarily, and as a result of having sinful natures. This is what James is talking about in the verse Seth mentions.

David: Sure, standard distinctions. The libertarian says that to be meaningfully free an agent must be free from any internal or external causation. The term equipoise is a good. There must be a liberty of indifference. However, for all determinists, all that is necessary to ground culpability are 1) knowledge of right and wrong, and 2) freedom from external coercion; that is, one acts freely if one does not act against their wills by an external force. Obviously this also presupposes personal agents.

Bnonn:
Therefore, I submit that God holds us accountable simply because we willingly violate his law. This is the sole, two-pronged definition of responsibility that I find in Scripture: that we are willing, and that we transgress. This definition says nothing at all about the ultimate cause of our willingness or our transgression; rather, it is focused purely on the immediate cause (us).

David: Sure part of that is at least true. Let me tell you a story, this may help. I once had an extended discussion with a few pastors of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC), who hold the same essential doctrines on hypercalvinism that G Clark, J Robbins and Cheung held/hold to.

For Herman Heoksema, he denied permission of sin in any sense because it entailed a paradox:: it appeared to him that there then must be something outside of God’s control. So working with that apriori I chatted with the PRC pastors. We agree on a few things. Like this: A man writes an essay. Its so good, the pen he wrote it with was awarded first prize. NO. We are able to discern between instrumental causes and personal efficient causes. And this: We are not to boast in our righteousness. Why, because faith is likewise an instrumental cause. God is the immediate efficient cause. So far so good.

But now, if the causation of sin and righteousness is symmetrical, lets flip the praise-blame relationship. If God causes sin in same way he causes faith, then by logical extension he is to be blamed. God is to blamed (the inverse of praise) for the action. But with Paul, may it never be: for God has to be the Author of the sin. I asked the pastors, why then can they logically say that God is not the author of sin? Bernie Woudenberg said to me: “I once asked Hoeksema that too, and he said it was a mystery.”

So now, what comes of that? They started down the road cos they didnt like mystery and paradox. But then they end with it. But now here, their mystery is a proper contradiction. For the causation is in the same sense. But arbitrarily, one makes God praise-worthy, but the other does not make God blame-worthy. I tried to point out they have a proper contradiction, but they would not budge. Their rationalism–apiori denial of mystery–led them to irrationalism, their affirmation of a true paradox.

Its easy to say that there bare authority of God, his raw commend is all that grounds accountability, but it has no logical basis, and entails in 1) God is ex lex, and amoral, and 2) contradiction.

Bnonn:
Now, while I'm talking about immediate and proximate causes (I hope I am not misusing the term proximate; I understand it to mean "one removed from immediate"),

David: Proximate for Calvin was the person, he himself as the proper immediate cause. Remote for him was first cause.

Bnonn: the point I was seeking to make to David previously was that, while sin itself is caused by us as the immediate causes, we ourselves have a cause in God. And when I say "we", I mean not just some self-existent or self-consistent beings, but rather beings which are entirely contingent: that every part of us, including every thought we have, must have its cause in God himself. It is not that God creates human minds which are capable of generating their own thoughts apart from his active power. He certainly gives them the power of generating thoughts, and they certainly do generate thoughts, but that power and generation itself is caused in its specific nature and manner by him.


David: sure to some extent. But the causation does not work in a neat linear way. Try this, I think it is from a’ Brakel originally. A violin has some warping in the wood. A man plays it. The crooked sound comes properly from the violin. Even tho the man is the cause of the physical playing, the cause proper of the bad sound is the instrument itself. You are confusing these levels or modal causations.

God causes the creation of man. But everything God makes is good, says Paul (1 Tim 4:4). So if sin is a direct production of God, a direct effect then by consequence sin is good. Rather God makes only that which is good, but for some other cause is operating which brings sin into that. And recall sin has no ontology, so it don’t need a physical corresponding ontological cause.

Bnonn: This is where I think David misunderstood me before. I think he interpreted me as saying that God causes sin in an immediate way. I think that I was equally guilty of misinterpreting him when he said that God cannot "will sin directly"—by this, he seems to have meant that God cannot cause us to sin in the same sense that he causes us to do righteous deeds by the power of his Spirit working within us. I agree.

David: good. When you say God thought up sin, you imply creation, at least mentally and decretively.

Bnonn: There is not some kind of anti-Spirit which God has, like a fourth person of the Trinity, which directs us to evil in the same way that his Spirit, by grace, directs us to good. However, that said, when I hear that God "cannot will sin directly", warning bells immediately go off because it seems insensible to me to think of God as being indirect.

David: Suggestion: conform sensibilities to Scripture. Rationalism wants to fill in the gaps. Traditionally theologizing was done by way of what is called via negative. What is Not. Thus, all the basic terms we use to describe God are negations. Immortality: not mortal. Immutable: not mutable. Impassible: not passible. Etc etc. The medievals scholastics were wise here, because we are not able to comprehend the positive, we can only describe God, in these regards, by way of a negative comparison to us.

Likewise, we have to bound questions. We can say what is not the case, by bounding propositions: another Medieval Scholastic wisdom. By bounding the questions we live in the in-between. We say, we cannot give a positive explicit account, but we can affirm these negations. Rationalism wants to fill in the positive as well: hence Clark and Hoeksema wanted to say God causes sin righteousness univocally. You have to watch that temptation.

So, like my window analogy, point 2, I like this analogy: we look out a window onto a scene. The window, however, has some mud on it which creates gaps in our visual field. Our visual field of the scene, therefore, is not unified or uniform. It is not to say that the scene itself has gaps, but just our visual perception of it. God’s redemptive dealings and plans contains no gaps, but our perception of it does.

It is not that actually there is something beyond God’s control, its just that our “descriptions” have to be very guarded. We have a causation that is beyond us, we can only say what is not happening.

And in this case, plenty o Scriptures show that God never immediately causes sin, but that he willingly permits it. We leave it there.

Bnonn:
In my mind, the word "directly" means something slightly different. God certainly directly willed, from the foundation of the world, that Christ would be murdered. The Bible tells us that clearly. It isn't as if God sort of pussyfooted about the issue and somehow "indirectly" or even accidentally willed it. So there is where the confusion arises, I think.

David: he directly willed them to permit it. He governed and ordained it by permission. But he did not directly will (ie desire or command) the sin.

Bnonn:
I don't want to go on at too great a length, so by closing I would like to ask everyone to define precisely what they mean by "the author of sin".

David: source, origin, immediate and efficient productive cause, the one who takes attribution, praise or blame.

Bnonn:
I have already suggested to David that, if God is all in all, absolute and immutable in his knowledge and purpose, then certainly he willed that sin would occur from the foundation of the world.

David: and thats at worst blasphemy, at best loose and sloppy language. :(


Bnonn: He conceived of it, he determined to implement it, he did implement it, and he will punish it.

David: He did not conceive it by a mental creative thought or decree. Neither did he implement it. Thats once again blasphemy. God being pure cannot will and produce or desire sin, in itself, he can only desire to use it, direct it, turn it to his own ends.


Bnnon:
All of these things ultimately glorify him.

David: Its blasphemy to say that God conceived sin so as to glorify himself in it.


Bnonn: (Again, when I say he implemented it, I don't mean that he himself sins, or that he is the immediate cause of sin; rather, that he is the ultimate cause).

David: then he did not “conceive” it, or implement it. He was cognizant of it, yes,

Bnonn:
David: I would rather have a gap in my knowledge than make God the author of sin. You seem to want to say, God can conceive sin, implement it, and yet somehow he is not tainted, he is still a perfectively good and holy being. I say, a God who himself reveals that he cannot even look upon sin, is hardly able to conceive it, to implement it, to think it up, Bnonn.

Bnonn: This is because to deny the logical priority is to implicitly deny the ultimate sovereignty he has in remotely causing all things; or, put another way, to imply that man, of some power apart from God, conceived of sin in his own mind, and that God only foreknew this logically consequent.

David: This is that rationalism again. You surely would have to extend this, Bnonn and say God made Adam sin. How could you not? Adam was sinless. God somehow made him sin. I challenge the idea that we have to discard God’s soveriegnty, I say you think that because you are already committed to a false apriori.

Bnonn:

I realize that maybe I am going a little off topic here by getting into supralapsarianism, but it seems directly relevant to the question of God being the "author" of evil. I don't personally have a problem saying that God is the author of evil, since if he is the author of creation, and of every event within it in the ultimate sense, then logically he must be the author of evil.

David: There it is again. At worst, blasphemy, at best sloppiness. If I say God authors faith, and again, God authors sin, either I am using “author” univocally, which is blasphemy, or I am using it equivocally which is both sloppy and foolish.


Bnonn: However, there is a huge and uncrossable logical divide between being the author of sin, and being a sinner. He is also the author of sinners; he conceived of me and created me, for example.

David: then sin is a created good.

Bnonn:
That doesn't make him a sinner; he is still the holy God. So, when we speak of authorship, we must be specific about context. I am an author of sin in the sense that I conceive of it, and commit it. But God is also the author of sin in the sense that he conceived of me conceiving it, and causes me to commit it (in the ultimate sense!)

David: yes, you want to say something like this: God being bare authority makes even his willing and desiring sin good. Of course, if we so will and desire sin, thats bad. But God can, because he is absolute depostes, with a bare will to power. I would rather stay with God’s own revealed character, not with certain apriories like that, which lead to contradictions. Ex 34:6 is of more comfort to me than what you describe.

On supralapsarianism, see here Turretin on Supralapsarianism

Bnonn said...

David, thank you for replying. I hope you will not take offense, but I think that you are ignoring a significant amount of scriptural support for the position I am taking. I hope you don't mind, but I'm not going to use the quote/response format here to reply to you. I would rather simply make my case—so let me get started.

Firstly, Vincent, Gordon Clark, and the likes, are not wrong to affirm the logical consistency of Scripture. They are not wrong to affirm that reason can correctly relate biblical propositions into a true theology, and that certain propositions can be derived through deductive inference and so on. "By good and necessary consequence", the Westminster and LBC call it. It is my contention that the position you are taking leads to genuine contradictions and irrationalism, while the position which Vincent, for example, propounds is logically consistent, but in contradiction to some traditional understanding of God within the church.

Secondly, I apologize for equivocating as regards the word author. It unfortunately can have both an immediate and a remote sense. I tried to qualify my use of it to indicate which I meant. Also, my apologies for misunderstanding the term proximate. I'll stay away from it so as to avoid confusion, and just use the terms remote and immediate.

Thirdly, I'd like to engage with your idea of psychological conditioning. I don't see anywhere in the Bible that God is not able to punish someone who is "conditioned" to commit a crime. You mention genetic, psychological, and bio-mechanical hardwiring, and how we would not punish such a person, but rather the one who hardwired them as such. But what about spiritual hardwiring? We are spiritually hardwired from birth to commit crimes: to violate God's commandments. From birth, we are spiritually dead; we have no faith—and you know that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Yet God punishes us. Without faith, it is impossible to please him. Surely a spiritual "hard-wired" condition like this is greater than the other conditions you have described; so would not it be possible to make an argument a fortiori against your assertion that it is wrong to punish hardwired people?

The error I see you making is in taking human laws, which God gave to man as a system of judicial commands to keep order and punish wickedness committed among metaphysically equal creatures, and assuming that these laws in some way apply to God himself. But as Bob has pointed out, God makes even the wicked for the day of trouble (Pr 16:4). He creates calamity or evil as well as light (Is 45:7)—and whichever way you translate it, an atheist would tell you that natural evil is just as problematic as personal evil. You want to say that everything God creates is good, because Paul affirms this in 1 Tim 4:4. But Paul is speaking on the context of food, and hearkening back to God's view of general creation in Genesis 1:31. It is plainly in contradiction to Scripture to suppose that God creates people good, but that they somehow become evil sinners from the womb by some external power.

I'd like to use Exodus 9-14 to illustrate my point, since it is quite perspicuous and provides us with excellent insight into God's character, motives, and views on justice. You have said that someone conditioned to sin cannot be held responsible—even by God. But in Exodus, do we not see God deliberately and repeatedly hardening Pharaoh's heart in order that he may judge Pharaoh's sin and display righteous, wrathful judgment? You say that it is "blasphemy to say that God conceived sin so as to glorify himself in it." I would say, be silent! stop presuming to tell God what he can and cannot do to glorify himself, and heed what he says: for this very purpose I raised Pharaoh up: that I might show my power. How, please tell me, can God glorify his justice, his wrath, his mercy, his righteousness, his jealousy, his superlative wisdom and love, and his utmost condescension, without sin?

In other words, God repeatedly inclines Pharaoh to sin for the express purpose of judging him. This is more than mere conditioning, surely you will agree. For who can resist God's will? I will not quote the entirety of all the relevant passages here, but I invite you to read over Exodus chapters nine to fourteen, and note how the Bible progressively emphasizes God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart, and the reason which God himself gives for this.

Now, you may say that this was a judgment on Pharaoh because of his initial hardening of his own heart. In other words, God only started to harden Pharaoh's heart after Pharaoh had already done this himself. God merely confirmed Pharaoh in his sin—he did not initially cause it. Although I disagree, let's imagine for a moment that this is the case. Then I must ask: so what? The crux of your argument is that it is unjust to judge someone for actions which God caused them to perform. But here we have in the example of Pharaoh a clear and explicit case of God metaphysically causing him to sin, specifically in order to hold him accountable. What does it matter whether this was merely a response to Pharaoh's initial rebellion, or was entirely God's doing from the beginning? The relevant issue here is not whether God merely responded to Pharaoh's own rebellion on strength of the fact that for him to start it would be unfair. The issue is that it is supposed to be unjust for God to hold man accountable for actions he himself has caused in man. Yet, here we have a clear, biblical example of him doing this.

It is no good to argue that God's doing this is actually a punishment for prior sin on Pharaoh's part. This merely constitutes a red herring. Perhaps it is punishment—but here we are not interested in the reasons for God doing it (although God states the reason, and it is to glorify himself), but in the mechanism employed. Even if it is a punishment, it is still a case of God causing Pharaoh to multiply his sin, and then holding Pharaoh accountable for that sin which God himself caused. It is extremely clear from this instance that God does not consider it unjust to judge man for sins which he himself causes inexorably to occur. Those sins may have their immediate cause in man, but the immediate cause of that immediate cause is God!

As I have said, biblical accountability is predicated upon man willingly violating God's law. The ultimate metaphysical cause of man doing this is not relevant to the issue of responsibility. The fact that God causes man to will evil, and then causes man to perform evil, does not have any bearing on the fact that man does will evil, and does perform evil—actions for which he is held responsible by God, who punishes them accordingly.

Now, let me move on to discuss this idea of causation. You have offered the analogy of the warped violin. This analogy is inaccurate and insufficient. God does not play man in some way like a man plays a violin, but then gets a different response than he expects because of something in man himself. God directs man sovereignly and perfectly. Neither can there be anything in man which God himself did not create. A man may create a violin, but he did not create the tree from which he obtained the warped wood. But the same cannot be said of God, who created everything.

It seems as if you are thinking of God's causation in the same way you think of man's. For example, if I hit a pool ball with a cue, the ball will move. We say I cause the ball to move. There is a linear causation. One chronological event leads to a consequent chronological event. But God's causation is not chronological, because God is not within time. Neither is his causation "once-off" in the sense that my hitting the ball is. After I have imparted the initial force, the ball continues of its own accord. Or, I could continue to apply force, but the ball itself still exists apart from my doing anything. But in the case of God, he upholds the entire universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3). As I knock the ball, God is causing it to exist; and, since movement is a property of that ball, he is also causing it to exist at a different point in space moment to moment, in correlation with the force I imparted—which in turn he has also caused. And of course he is causing me to exist moment to moment as well. If we were to illustrate this, we might do so as follows:


Me->Cue->Ball
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
|||||||||||||||||
GodGodGodGod


Crude, I will grant you, but it demonstrates my point well enough. You seem to be conceiving of God as somehow being an equal metaphysical cause to other things (as if he would appear to the left of me in the illustration above), and therefore you are judging his actions in the context of those things. If it is wrong to cause sin in the secondary metaphysical context (that is, in the world God has created) then it is wrong for God to cause sin. But of course, the manner of God's causation is utterly different and in a completely removed context, and so this is simply a category error.

We cannot affirm a metaphysic in which God created a universe which now, in any way, continues to exist by its own power (which would be necessary if we were to try to distance God from sin in the way you are). To affirm such a view is to abandon Scripture and adopt deism; for Scripture says not merely that the universe was created by God through Jesus, but also that it continues to exist in the same way, being upheld by the word of his power. Neither should we suppose that God is merely passive in this process, for what does it mean to passively uphold something? We ought hardly to imagine that God imparts the universe some kind of power by which it continues its operation of its own accord, for to uphold something is an active process on the part of the upholder. And if God upholds the whole universe by the word of his power, then he necessarily upholds everything within it—from the greatest laws and bodies to the most minute. And not only the laws and the bodies, but the interactions and relationships between them, must also be upheld moment to moment. Since all these are initially caused by God, and are afterward upheld by him in every moment that they exist, both their initial and their continual existence is entirely dependent upon him. Another way of putting this is to say that everything which exists is entirely caused by God: both initially, and continually; such that nothing which is not God is not also completely caused by God.

This is not simply the necessary consequence of deduction from biblical propositions, but is also the only possible metaphysic which can make rational sense. It is simply not sensible to presume that some created thing, once created, has power to continue its existence apart from God. On the contrary, it is impossible for something to cause the continuation of its own existence—whether in time or space—since it should be obvious that something cannot influence another thing with which it isn't in present proximity. A pool cue, we would say, must be in contact with the ball to cause it to move. If it is separated by either time or space then no cause can come about, and regardless of how we move it, the ball will not move as a result.

But then what of the cue and the ball both? Certainly neither, at the present moment, can cause their future existence—for by definition these present and future existences are not in proximity. They don't exist at the same time, for if they did they would both be in the present or both be in the future, and there would be no distinction between them. And, once the present moment is past, this past existence is neither also in proximity with the new present—for it is past! Therefore, the present existence of something can never be the cause of its existence a moment from now, any more than its past existence can be the cause of its existence in the present. To suppose otherwise is insensible. Thus, everything which exists needs not only a first cause which is not itself, but also a continual cause of the same external nature.

This, really, is just another facet of the fundamental problem of mutability recognized by Heraclitus centuries before the birth of Christ, and expanded by Hume millennia afterward; and it is the problem which is answered in John 1 by the logos, which is the active and immutable power underlying all of reality; the common element which ties it together into a cohesive whole. But that is getting a little off-topic.

As for God "thinking up" sin—do you truly suppose that his entire plan and purpose in creation is based upon man's invention? I'm not sure how to respond to that. I see a God who purposed to glorify himself—that is, to exercise and reveal his nature in manifold ways, such as what we call justice and mercy and righteousness and wrath. He could not accomplish this purpose without a creation through which to act, for even God cannot do the logically impossible. He cannot judge a sin which did not occur, or save a sinner who does not exist. Neither could he accomplish his glory in a creation without sin, for again, without sin there is no judgment or mercy; no plan of redemption at all. Therefore, he purposed to create a world in which man was made in his image. He purposed that man would sin, thus revealing more superlatively the necessity and goodness of God for all creation. He purposed that he would have mercy on some, to reveal his unbounded love and condescension, and that he would be made man himself to pay for their sins. He purposed that he would commit others to destruction, so as to reveal more fully the riches of his mercy and grace to those whom he has chosen for salvation; and of course to reveal his power and justice and righteous anger against those who are his enemies. All this God purposed; all this he brought about and will continue to bring about inexorably and certainly by his sovereign power.

What do you see, in your view of God, who did not conceive of sin, nor bring it about? I am honestly confused by your position; it seems to pay lip service to Calvinism, but necessarily imply in its every stance some kind of free will on the part of man, so as to create a distance between God and sin which does not exist in the Bible.

Regards,
Bnonn

Bob Hayton said...

Bnonn,

Great stuff here. Let me add another Biblical example, if I may.

Job. In the story of Job, we see Satan wanting to do bad things to Job. But Satan must get the okay from God. God ultimately is behind every bad thing that happens to Job. And in the end, God tells Job that He alone is God. Job can't tell Him what to do.

God receives much glory through all his dealings with Job. And of course God is shown to be good and just. Satan is nothing compared to God, and there is no external forces causing God to do anything. He just acts. Job even affirms that all this evil comes from God's hand, yet he doesn't charge God with sin with his lips.

So Job presents a completely sovereign God ruling over every thing that happens. Satan can't act apart from Him, and as Job says, shall we not receive evil as well as good from God's hand? Of Course in Job we also see how God takes delight in the redeemed, and works all things for their ultimate good, as well. And we see that God always triumphs over Satan's devices.

Thanks again for some good thoughts here.

Bob Hayton

Josh said...

Rom 3:5-8
But if our unrighteousness highlights God's righteousness, what are we to say? I use a human argument: Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath? 6 Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if by my lie God's truth is amplified to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, "Let us do evil so that good may come"? Their condemnation is deserved!
(from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 by Holman Bible Publishers.)

Puritan Lad said...

"Again, saying God causes sin, explicitly, you must adhere to God being the author of sin. How could you avoid that conclusion?"

Seth,

For a sovereign God to permit something is for Him to will it. There is a fine line between God sovereignly working in the sinful acts of wicked men, and being the actual author of that sin. God does not force man to sin. He doesn't have to. Man has enough sin in himself to accomplish all of the evil that God could need to will. God is said to send lying spirits to tempt man. He sends evil spirits, strong delusion, stumbling blocks, and rocks of offense that cause men to stumble. He alone has set them in slippery places so that their foot shall slide in due time.

You mention the crucifixion of Christ, in which Isaiah tells us was a direct work of God, and that it please the Lord to do this. One example I didn't see here was Absalom's incest, which God declared that He would do openly before all Israel and before the sun (2 Samuel 12:11-12).

So God does work sovereignly in the sinful acts of wicked men, without being the author of their sin.

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