Is God the Author of Sin?

stormIs God the author of sin?

This question has been asked often in the history of Christian doctrine. Some theologians, ostensibly embarrassed by God’s absolute sovereignty and what that means for sin deny his total control of the universe.  For instance, open theist Gregory Boyd writes,

Jesus nor his disciples seemed to understand God’s absolute power as absolute control. They prayed for God’s will to be done on earth, but this assumes that they understand that God’s will was not yet being done on earth (Mt. 6:10). Hence neither Jesus nor his disciples assumed that there had to be a divine purpose behind all events in history. Rather, they understood the cosmos to be populated by a myriad of free agents, some human, some angelic, and many of them evil. The manner in which events unfold in history was understood to be as much a factor of what these agents individually and collectively will as it was a matter of what God himself willed. (God at War:The Bible and Spiritual Conflict53)

By contrast, others like Augustine of Hippo (5th C.), John Calvin of Geneva (16th C.), and Jonathan Edwards of New England (18th C.) have affirmed that God who never does evil still permits, decrees, and even employs evil so that his larger purposes of grace and glory might be accomplished.  On this Edwards says in his treatise on The Freedom of the Will,

If by Author of Sin, be meant the Sinner, the Agent, or the Actor of Sin, or the Doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin. . . . But if, by Author of Sin, is meant the permitter, or not a hinder to Sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I say, if this be all that is ment, by being the Author of Sin, I do not deny that God is the Author Sin, (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense) it is not reproach for the Most High to be thus the Author of Sin.” (p. 246).

Rightly, God is not evil and thus in his creative agency cannot do evil. Yet, in his divine sovereignty over time and space, he can “permit,” “ordain,” and even “author” sin in a way analogous to the way Shakespeare blamelessly authored the death of Macbeth. An author is not morally culpable for writing into their script the acts of evil men—whether fictitious (as in the case of Shakespeare) or real (as in the case of our Triune God). Therefore, since God did declare the end from the beginning (Isa 46:9–10), he wrote into the Script—what theologians call “his will of decree”—a world created inestimably good, ruined by sin, restored by his Son. Continue reading

Life is Good? How God’s Goodness Redefines the Good Life

good life“And as he was setting our on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'” And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
— Mark 10:17-18 —

Knowing the difference between good and evil is fundamental to being made in the image of God. When God created Adam and Eve, he put them in a garden filled with delights and with a solitary tree that would instruct them how to know good and evil (Genesis 2:17).  Likewise, knowing the difference between good and evil is essential to maturation and becoming a responsible adult.  Isaiah 7:15, uses the idea to describe the difference between young children who do not know the difference between good and evil, and then those children who mature and begin to understand that difference.

Sadly, it is possible that many Christians fail to know what “the good” is.   Continue reading

Suffering: Playing Your Part With Passion

Recently, archaeologists discovered what they think is a missing section of 1 Samuel. It is a section of the book which describes what Saul did after he chased David out of his courtroom. You might remember, David was ‘hired’ by Saul to play his harp in order to sooth Saul’s soul when evil spirits tormented him (1 Sam 16:14-23).

The recent discovery tells of how after David departed, Saul was left with no choice but to call on Israel’s philosophers to come and comfort him. And apparently, it did not go well. Instead, of refreshing his soul, these debaters of the age reasoned why bad things happened to good people and why men like Saul suffered as they did. The missing section claims that these foolish lovers of wisdom only exacerbated the problem and that Saul actually pinned a couple of them to the wall with his spear.

Apparently, they were not as agile as David. Nor were they as existential as David, either—meaning, they did not exist.

In truth, there is no such archaeological account and there were no such philosophers. But you already knew that because surely no king would hire philosophers for solace and comfort. Philosophers do well to afflict the comfortable, but they are less skilled at comforting the afflicted. Continue reading