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

What is Good About Good Friday?

[This article was originally featured in our hometown newspaper, The Seymour Tribune].

What makes Good Friday good?

What is good about illegal arrests, puppet trials, executing the innocent, and setting free the guilty?  Nothing.  And everything.   For centuries, Christians have deemed the Friday of Jesus’ death “Good Friday.”  But why?  How?  When the day centers on death and defeat, what makes it good?

How we answer that question says so much about what we believe about God, the gospel, and our own lives.  In a word, the event that makes Good Friday “good” is what happened on three days later.

When the sun went down on that fateful Friday, the disciples hid themselves from the world.  On the Sabbath (Saturday), they did not move.  But on the first day of the week, they awoke before dawn, walked to the place where Jesus was.  And what happened next changed everything!  The tomb was empty.  The Lord was risen.  His promises were true, and what the disciples would discover is that the worst day in history has now become the best day in history.

This historical reality has and will changed the world, and has the power to change every person who believes in it.  Consider: Paul says that in comparison to the eternal weight of glory, today’s sufferings are light and momentary.  While the pangs of death do not feel light and momentary, the power of the resurrection reinterprets our current pain, loss, and heartache, even as it reinterpreted Christ’s cruciform execution.

Even better, the resurrection is not just a palliative for temporary relief.  It is not a best-selling strategy to make you feel better about yourself.  No, the resurrection goes deeper.  It tells us that life exists on the other side of death. Our best life is not now.  It is later.

This is the gospel message: Jesus died on a rugged cross so that from the grave, he could raise the dead.  Jesus does not help us find a way in the wilderness of life.  Resurrection is not just a spiritual experience; it is a reviving flesh and blood.  The broken bodies of believers buried in the ground will be raised to new life on the last day, and the goodness of Good Friday will be experienced for eternity. This is what makes Good Friday good.

This week as you prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, remember that the resurrection of Christ has the power to overturn the horrors and heartbreaks of life.  Even more, the cross and resurrection of Christ secure the promise of abundant life.  For all who call on the Lord will find the goodness of Good Friday to overwhelm the badness of any other day.  Resurrection life is what Christ offers, and that is what is makes Good Friday good.