God Is Not The Author of Sin

Since the days of John Calvin (or at least just after), there has been a branch of theology called “reformed theology.” It focuses a lot on the sovereignty of God. Reformed theology has always taught that God permits sin, knows it will happen, works it into His plan for greater good, and even decrees that this will be so. Some Christians do not agree with this, but whether or not we agree, it is within the realm of orthodox Christianity.  People who teach classic reformed theology are Christians.  

It seems rather amazing, but we have Christians now days who have taken the doctrine of the sovereignty of God to an extreme that few ever dared. In an attempt to bring glory to God, and to hold His absolute sovereignty, these men have ventured too far. In attempting to give God as much credit as they can conceive, they give Him control of all things. All well and good, for scripture does tell us that “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

But these men tell us that “all things” includes sin. People are now running around the countryside telling us that God is the originator and first cause of sin. One fellow on an online message board recently wrote “When Adam contracted the arm that brought the forbidden fruit to his own mouth, God contracted that arm. God powered the biceps that brought the forbidden fruit to the mouth of Adam. When Adam bit into that fruit, God flexed the jaw muscles. . . There is no action that is not empowered by Him.”

In response, I provide the following quotes from several historical creeds. These creeds do not replace scripture, and the writers of them would quickly agree. But these explain what has been taught in Christian circles for centuries. These are all highly-regarded reformed statements of the nature of God:

The Belgic Confession (1561): “. . . nothing happens in this world without [God's] appointment; nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed.” (Article 13)

The Canons of the Synod of Dort: “The cause or guilt of this unbelief, as well as of all other sins, is nowise in God, but in man himself“(Article 5)

Westminster Confession of Faith (1647): “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” (Chapter 3)

Westminster Confession of Faith (1647): “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.” (Chapter 5)

Further, a more modern quote from John Piper, speaking of Jonathan Edwards: “Is God the Author of Sin? Edwards answers, “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.” But, he argues, willing that sin exist in the world is not the same as sinning. God does not commit sin in willing that there be sin. God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.” (see here)

Thus we must all agree in this point with Edwards, that those who make God the author of sin are a reproach and a blasphemy. They have extended beyond the bounds of Christianity to some other religion.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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9 Responses to God Is Not The Author of Sin

  1. mark says:

    You admit to the creed not being equal to scripture, yet you use them anyway. I am aware of all of these refutations, but they don’t even explain. To use the evidence that someone said, “God is not the author of sin,” to back up your belief that God is not the author of sin makes absolutely no sense. There is no response to the counterargument you provide, as far as scripture goes. If you want to believe what you believe, then say so, but don’t use Bulverism as a means of proving something wrong.

  2. mark says:

    Additionally, it is blasphemy to claim that God is not omniscient. God is in control of my life, how about yours?

  3. humblesmith says:

    The post was only responding to a certain group of extreme Calvinists who, in their zeal to glorify God, have been teaching that God is the direct, efficient cause of sin. So the post was aimed at people who already have a lot of respect for the creeds mentioned in the post. By quoting these documents, I merely meant to show that the tradition these folks come from does not support the position they are taking. The post did not attempt to prove the theological positions.

    To back up the doctrine would take verses such as “God never lies” (Titus 1:2); in God is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), and the myriad passages about His holiness and purity. Most systematic theologies would also deal with explaining the nature of God and of evil, concluding that God is incapable of evil.

  4. David Cobb says:

    @Mark, where in the world was it stated or even implied that God is not omniscient? Are we being a bit zealous?

  5. David Sanger says:

    Mark; humblesmith is absolutely correct to use the Reformed Confessions as the “official” standard for what Reformed people believe. Neither you nor me nor Calvin gets to define what “Reformed” means–that’s done by the official statements of the Reformed churches as they reflect on the Scriptures led by the Holy Spirit.

  6. mikejeshurun says:

    This is a very good and much needed post!

    To say that God makes a man to sin and then judges and punish him for that sin, is both irrational and illogical. It is to charge the Almighty with injustice. The Scripture is plain concerning the punishment meted out to the unsaved wicked, that every transgression and disobedience received A JUST recompence of reward”! [Heb 2:2] It could not be ‘JUST’ if God was the author or infuser of their sin.

    Even David confesses, “For I acknowledge MY transgressions: and MY sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are JUSTIFIED when You speak And BLAMELESS when You judge”. [Psa 51:4] How can God be JUST or BLAMELESS if HE MADE David to sin?!

    When Nathan confronted David concerning his sin, David’s confession was, “I have sinned against the Lord”. And this is something every man knows, that when he sins the onus is COMPLETELY ON HIM, i.e. that he sins of his own choice and is RESPONSIBLE for that sin!

    The Bible always speaks of the sins of both the wicked and the elect as THEIR sins, and THEIR iniquities etc. Because God is neither the author nor the infuser of them, though he be the Governor and Sovereign who decreed them!

    Incidentally even the righteous acts of the elect are spoken of in many places in scripture as THEIR righteous acts. But God is quick to remind us that, THEIR righteousness is of ME, saith the Lord”! [Isa 54:17]

    SHOW ME A SCRIPTURE WHERE GOD SAYS, “THEIR SINS ARE OF ME”!

    On the contrary Scripture affirms, “Let NO MAN SAY when he is tempted (to sin), I am tempted of God: for GOD CANNOT BE TEMPTED WITH EVIL, neither tempteth He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of HIS OWN LUST, and enticed”. [Jam 1:13,14]

    God is the creator of the wicked not their wickedness! Even of Satan, it is written – “Thou wast PERFECT in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee”. [Ezk 28:15] Note the words –“till iniquity was FOUND IN THEE”; not created in thee as some suppose!

    How God can decree and permit sin and not be the author of it is a mystery. And many sound theologians since the early Church have admitted this and have stayed within the bounds of God’s revelation in Scripture. Many who have been bold enough even to place all non-elect babies in hell have not been so presumptuous as to ascribe SIN to God!

    It is only in modern times, that wackos like Vincent Cheung are insisting that God is the originator and first cause of sin. One has to always cautious of the so called ‘new revelations’. The Bible, Historic documents from the Reformed tradition – confessions, catechisms, and canons, and sound theologians and commentators ALL DENY that God is the author of sin!

  7. Kyle says:

    The difficulty with this subject is defining the words so that we all agree on their meaning. Without doing that carefully, we are no longer debating theology but rather arguing semantics. To that end we need to say what we mean when we use words like “author” “cause” “plan” “decree” and “will”, because these words have different meanings to different people. Certainly these words have changed in meaning since the creeds were written or Jonathan Edwards preached.
    Let’s take the word “author”. It can be used in two ways; A) The author of a book is the “creator” of it, without the author the book would not exist; B) The author of a book determines the story, i.e. Old Yeller’ died because Fred Gipson planned for him to die.
    Applying both meanings to God we can clearly understand why both James (in scripture) and Jonathan Edwards say God is not the author of sin. God did not create sin in me. But we can also see clearly how God is the author of sin in that He plans (wills, decrees, foreordains, etc) for people to sin. Applying this understanding to scripture is extremely important:
    – God clearly planned for Joseph’s brothers to: hate him, be jealous, plot evil, desire to kill him, sell him into slavery and boldly lie to their father. Obviously these are huge sins. The Bible says God planned it for good, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Gen 50:20). God planned from eternity to use the brothers natural bent towards sin to accomplish His purpose. God is the AUTHOR of the events but not the CAUSE of their sinful motives.
    – Peter preached in the sermon at Pentecost “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” and then he goes on to say “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2). How can Peter say that their actions were planned by God, but then command them to repent? Because Peter knows that God is the AUTHOR of the events surrounding Jesus crucifixion, but not the CAUSE of the evil motives of their hearts.
    We need to have a clear view that all events in life, even our sin, has been planned by God. But we also need to see that God is not the cause of our sin, that frankly when we sin it’s simply because we want to more than anything else.

    • humblesmith says:

      I’ve always found the passage you quoted from Peter in Acts to be interesting. Peter tells us that Jesus’ crucifixion was planned by God, but “you crucified and killed.” The verb tenses are clear that the action taken was done by (caused by) the Jewish leaders. I take this, and other passages like it, to tell us that God works his planned providence through the free actions of His creatures. Hence Joseph’s brothers and God can have two intentions for the same act, with both parties being causal agents.

      The main thing I was trying to point out in this post is that classic reformed theology is not so fatalistic that we have God as immediate cause of all acts, including giving us a sinful nature, or flexing the muscles that take us to sin. I would submit that saying God is the immediate causal agent of sin is heresy.

      I know there are other viewpoints than Edwards’ “greatest desire” explanation, but I’ve not learned them all. I know Aquinas has a different explanation, and I know Shedd has a lengthy explanation in his Dogmatic Theology, but I’ve not spent the time to unpack it.

      • Kyle says:

        I wholeheartedly agree. Reformed theology is no so fatalistic. I’m not sure who you’ve heard saying God is the causal agent of man’s sin, but there’s always been false teachers out there. I’m glad God has given you a forum to point out error.

        God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility are both truths, like two sides of a coin, you cannot separate them or you end up with two worthless doctrines.

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