Is God the Author of Sin?

Forthcoming in ChristianTrends

The answer, obviously, is “No!” God is not the author of sin. However, it is not an answer as easily agreed upon as stated.

Answering the Calvinist
The extreme Calvinists that are committed to the once-saved-forever-saved doctrine of eternal security, for instance, maintain that it was God Himself who ordained the sin and fall of Adam. In his The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932), Loraine Boettner wrote: “Even the fall of Adam, and through him the fall of the race, was not by chance or accident, but was so ordained in the secret counsels of God.” And again, “we hold that God fore-planned and fore-saw the fall; that it in no sense came as a surprise to Him.” Likewise, Edwin H. Palmer, in his The Five Points of Calvinism, argued: “Even sin - the fall of the devil from heaven, the fall of Adam, and every evil thought, word, and deed in all of history, including the worst sin of all, Judas’ betrayal of Christ - is included in the eternal decree of our holy God.” This conclusion became necessary for these theologians who considered any event that violates the will of God to be a threat to the sovereignty of God. God was sovereign, so according to them, anything that happens in this world could not be against God. Also, it was insisted that if God had not ordained the fall of Adam, redemption through Christ would have not been possible. Thus, Boettner asks, “And unless the fall was in the plan of God, what becomes of our redemption through Christ? Was that only a makeshift arrangement which God resorted to in order to offset the rebellion of man?” Therefore, the reality of sin had to be explained by interpreting it as an act of God. In other words, according to Calvinism, ultimately, God is the author of sin.

Of course, Boettner doesn’t think that his view of God foreordaining Adam’s fall implies that God is the author of sin. Thus, he contends:

Yet God in no way compelled man to fall. He simply withheld that undeserved constraining grace with which Adam would infallibly not have fallen, which grace He was under no obligation to bestow. In respect to himself, Adam might have stood had he so chosen; but in respect to God it was certain that he would fall. He acted as freely as if there had been no decree, and yet as infallibly as if there had been no liberty…. God was pleased to permit our first parents to be tempted and to fall, and then to overrule their sin for His own glory. Yet this permission and overruling of sin does not make Him the author of it.

But, Boettner fails to see that this necessitating of the fall and the method of withdrawing grace only directly condemns God. It is equal to the sin of David who arranged to put Uriah in an inevitably fatal position and commanded his men to withdraw in the heat of the battle, in order to let Uriah get killed. That directly incriminated David and made him guilty of murder. The Genesis 3 episode, however, doesn’t indicate in any way that God had actually withdrawn constraining grace from Adam in order to make it inevitable for him to fall into sin. God cannot be held responsible for sin in the world. He is not the author of sin.

The rational man cannot accept God to be the author of sin. How could God, who is the embodiment of good, be the author of evil? Over 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato, in his The Republic, concluded that “the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in Him.” But, the Calvinist would object that to search for the cause of evils elsewhere is to expect that there was or were forces, other than God, in control of the universe; but, this is impossible, for God is sovereign, they would say. However, the fact that God is sovereign has nothing to do with the fact that sin is possible in a system of free creatures. The sovereignty of a nation doesn’t mean that free citizens of it will not violate its laws; however, its sovereignty does give it its authority to administer justice in the system by means of reward and punishment. Similarly, God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean that free creatures have been restricted from exercising their will in opposition to the will of God. The very exercise of this free will is what creates the possibility of a moral universe.

Answering the Non-theist
Among philosophers, it is usually held that the idea of God’s existence as a perfect being is not compatible with the fact of sin and evil in the world. The Scottish philosopher David Hume argued that it is better to theorize that this world was created by different, finite beings (let’s say, the gods of polytheism) than to believe in an imperfect world full of sin and violence having been created by a perfect God. However, such a view doesn’t answer the question of how these finite beings came into existence; for, anything finite is limited by space and time. But, if there is an infinite being, that infinite being can only be one, not many (in the same way that if there were an infinite ocean, there couldn’t be other infinite oceans). Dualists, on the other hand, think that evil is as essential to the world as is good; the world is composed of two eternally opposite forces. But, again, two eternally opposite forces that are infinite in themselves would not complement but cancel each other. For instance, infinite light, materially speaking, leaves no room for darkness.

But, then, one would ask, “If God is good, how come there is evil?” The answer is because God is not the universe (as in pantheism), but the Creator of it. If God were the universe, then the universe would be perfectly good and there wouldn’t be any room for evil, for there wouldn’t be “wills” of other beings involved. However, that is not the case. But, at the same time, it is important to state that the finitude of the universe is not what necessitates evil; for, if that was the case then God who created the finite world would also be the creator of evil, which is not so.

However, the very idea of contingency (that the finite world is dependent upon the infinite God) implies that a creation that is cut off from the Creator has lost its wholeness (well-being). Therefore, a sin-stricken and evil-stricken world only indicates a God-separated world that has gone chaotic and wild without its Driver; in which every part of the mechanism has become its own god and director, and the universe as a whole (especially, in relation to the moral universe) has both lost harmony and order. To state that God must not have permitted this to happen (since He is the perfect Driver) is to forget the fact that the problem of sin concerns a moral (not a mechanical) universe; as such, it would not have been consistent for God Himself to have created a moral universe and not have given freedom to its moral entities—the freedom to choose between good and evil.

As such, it is not God who is the author of sin, but man himself to whom the world was meant to be subject (Gen.1:28) that is responsible for the entry of sin, chaos, and disorder in the universe.

…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned- (Rom 5:12 NIV)

…the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Rom 8:20-21 NIV)

In addition, one must understand evil, not as a positive reality, but as the negation and violation of truth. One only knows evil because one sees it as the defective aspect of the good; for instance, one only knows darkness because it is seen as the absence of light. Therefore, it is important to reaffirm that it is not God who created sin, but that when man violated the command of God and negated God, this act of negation constituted sin; thus, making man guilty of sin entering the world.

Conclusion
Usually, it is misunderstandings regarding the sovereignty and the perfectness of God that raise doubts whether God is the author of sin or not. However, we have examined the main views to see if really these doubts or conclusions are true, and if their logic is valid. The sovereignty of God doesn’t imply that the universe cannot have rebellious elements; however, it does assert that these elements cannot efface the righteousness of God. Secondly, the contingency of the created world and its givenness to humans for morally right dominion implies that the world falls with the fall of man into sin. Man is not a programmed robot (for if that was so then both sin and self-reflection, as in this essay, would have been impossible). Man is a moral creature; therefore, the primary cause of sin in this world, as also stated in Romans 5:12 is disobedient man himself.

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