Calvinism’s heresy – that God decreed (ordained; permitted; authored; created) sin (evil).
It matters little whether you use “decreed” or any other of the list of euphemisms in place of “decreed”; the fact is that to suggest that God is responsible in any way for the sin in this world is blasphemy! Some like to say that God didn’t ordain nor decree sin; He merely permitted it. Yet, given calvinism’s quite clear teaching that man has no free will when it comes to dealing with sin, God’s permission without any option to disobey has to be the equivalent of decreed or ordained anyway. (Pink, Lutzer, and Edwards all openly support this.) Even to say as does Sproul Jr that “I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that he created sin.” (Almighty Over All, RC Sproul Jr) is sheer blasphemy. What God-fearing Christian would dare even suggest that the Almighty God of the universe created sin? Thus it is certain that any doctrine that either decrees (etc) or even suggests that God created sin is a doctrine of demons.
Some try to escape the inevitable criticism from truly Biblical Christians by claiming that man is still a free agent. However, what is a free agent? If it means in any way that man has a free will to choose or not choose the obey God, then it is clearly in conflict with calvinism’s doctrines, no matter how they try to disguise them.
The following is an example of such verbal gymnastics.
The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only. Any study of the will of man is incomplete without some explanation of the difference between free will and free agency. I am using free as meaning “independent, sovereign, autonomous,” that is, “not subject to the rule or control of another.”
An agent is “one who acts, performs an act, or has power to act—a moving force.” Man is a free moral agent, but he does not have a free will. Man is only free to act according to his nature, and he was born with a sinful nature.
Free will permits a person the freedom to choose between various options or alternatives. With free agency, God does not decree your choice but offers only one option from which to choose. As Boettner says, “His decree does not produce the event, but only renders its occurrence certain.” That is, God doesn’t decree what man may choose, yet makes it certain that man can only choose what God wants him to choose!
Then the calvinists will say that they aren’t actually calvinists but “reformed”, which, unless you are Lutheran (which is more or less Roman Catholic now), has to mean calvinist teachings anyway! And Calvin clearly taught that all things were ordained by a sovereign God, as per the following:
Let us suppose, for example, that a merchant, after entering a forest in company with trust-worthy individuals, imprudently strays from his companions and wanders bewildered till he falls into a den of robbers and is murdered. His death was not only foreseen by the eye of God, but had been fixed by his decree.
(Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin Bk 1, Ch. 16, Pt 9.)
In other words, God wrote the script for all the world for all time before time began. According to Calvin, nothing can happen unless it was scripted by God:
“all events take place by his sovereign appointment.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin Bk 3, Ch.23, Pt 6)
Calvinists who teach that the will of God is responsible for the existence of sin (evil).
(a) John MacArthur
MacArthur says that sin is something God meant to happen.
The following quotes concerning the origin of sin according to MacArthur come from his book The Vanishing Conscience (as part of a 2 in 1 book containing this title and Hard to Believe).
Another theodicy suggests that God was not able to control the entrance of evil into the world. Having created creatures who enjoyed free will, He could not control their use of their moral freedom or overrule their choices.
….The problem with that view is that it denies God’s sovereignty. Scripture clearly teaches that God is utterly sovereign over all things. Or, as the Westminster Confession says, “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy Counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”
….Ultimately, we must concede that sin is something God meant to happen. He planned for it, ordained it – or, in the words of the Westminster Confession, He decreed it. Sin is not something that sneaked in and took Him by surprise, caught Him off guard, or spoiled His plans. The reality of sin figured into His changeless purposes from eternity past. Thus evil and all its consequences were included in God’s eternal decree before the foundation of the world.
(b) A W Pink
Pink says that it was plainly God’s will that sin should enter this world.
(from The Sovereignty of God Chapter 8)
“Plainly it was God’s will that sin should enter this world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens except what God has eternally decreed. Moreover, there was more than a simple permission, for God only permits things that fulfill his purpose.”
Pink also says that it is good that evil should be (that is, exist).
(from The Total Depravity of Man)
God’s decree that sin should enter this world was a secret hid in Himself……
…. Consider the wonderful wisdom of God, for though He had predestinated the fall of our first parents, yet in no sense was He the Instigator or Approver of their sins, and their accountability was left entirely unimpaired…..
….These two things we must believe if the truth is not to be repudiated: that God has foreordained everything that comes to pass; that He is in no way blamable for any of man’s wickedness, the criminality thereof being wholly his. The decree of God in no way infringes on man’s moral agency, for it neither forces nor hinders man’s will, though it orders and bounds its actions. Both the existence and operations of sin are subservient to the counsels of God’s will, yet that does not lessen the evil of its nature or the guilt of its committers. Someone has said that though God does not esteem evil to be good, yet He accounts it good that evil should be.
(from Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, John Calvin)
Calvin argues that logically God has to be the author of all sin. However, God must therefore have two wills (which Calvin says cannot be so), so therefore when God wills the same as the criminal, it is good when God does it, yet the same act is evil when the criminal does it! Thus if God orders a man to do something evil, God is still not guilty of sin, yet the man He ordered to sin is charged with the guilt. That is, God wills the same as the criminal and the wicked but in a different way!
But the objection is not yet resolved, that if all things are done by the will of God, and men contrive nothing except by His will and ordination, then God is the author of all evils.
Must we then impute the guilt of sin to God, or invent a double will for Him so that He falls out with Himself? I have shown that He wills the same as the criminal and the wicked, but in a different way.
Calvin also said that it is good that there be not only good but also evil things.
…. how sure, immutable and efficacious is the will of God; how many things He can do but does not will to do, while willing nothing that He cannot do; and how true is what the Psalmist sings in Ps 115,3: Our God hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. This would certainly not be true if He willed some things and did not do them. Nothing therefore is done unless He omnipotently willed it should be done, either by permitting it to be done or by doing it Himself. Nor may it be doubted that God did well in permitting to be done all that is ill done. For this is not permitted except by righteous judgment. Hence, though the things that are evil, in so far as they are evil, are not good, yet it is good that there be not only good but also evil things. For unless there were this good, that evil things existed, they would by no means be permitted to exist by omnipotent goodness. For without doubt it is as easy for Him to do what He wills as to permit what He does not will. Unless we believe this, we imperil the beginning of our faith, by which we confess belief in God almighty.
(d) John Piper
(from Spectacular Sins, John Piper)
Piper in rambling fashion says that sin exists in order to glorify God’s Son, Jesus.
So when I say that everything that exists – including evil – is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly, I mean that, one way or the other, God sees to it that all things serve to glorify his Son.
James White is a Calvinist theologian and ardent promoter of Calvinism. He was in a debate/discussion with Hank Hanegraaff and George Bryson. Here is an excerpt from that debate on ‘The Bible Answer Man’:
George Bryson: Well, let me answer that with a question. Let me ask you this question – and this will put in perspective to show the difference. When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?
White: If he didn’t, then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose. What I’m trying to point out, by going to Scripture —
Hank Hanegraaff: So what is your answer there? Because I want to understand the answer to that question.
White: I’m trying to go to Scripture to answer it. The reason —
Hanegraaff: But what is the answer to the question he just asked, so that we can understand what the answer to the question is.
James White: I mentioned to him, yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless ……
(f) Vincent Cheung
(from The Author of Sin, Vincent Cheung)
When Reformed Christians are questioned on whether God is the “author of sin,” they are too quick to say, “No, God is not the author of sin.” And then they twist and turn and writhe on the floor, trying to give man some power of “self-determination,” and some kind of freedom that in their minds would render man culpable, and yet still leave God with total sovereignty.
On the other hand, when someone alleges that my view of divine sovereignty makes God the author of sin, my reaction is “So what?” Those who oppose me stupidly chant, “But he makes God the author of sin, he makes God the author of sin.” However, a description does not amount to an argument or objection, and I have never come across a decent explanation as to what is wrong with God being the author of sin in any theological or philosophical work written by anybody from any perspective.
(g) Westminster Confession
Ch.6 “Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof”
Part I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptations of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
(h) Erwin Lutzer
(from The Doctrines that Divide, Erwin Lutzer)
Lutzer maintains that even the devil in opposing God is doing what God ordains.
The devil is also a being filled with only hatred and deceit. He is a rebellious liar and malicious sadist. He desires to see humans suffer for suffering’s sake. Thus he always stands in opposition to God even when he does what God ordains.
Of God and evil, Lutzer says
Nonetheless, his permission necessarily means that he (God) bore ultimate responsibility for it (evil). After all, he could have chosen ‘not to permit it’.
(i) Loraine Boettner
(from The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Ch.17 Part 3)
- THE FALL OF ADAM WAS INCLUDED IN THE DIVINE PLAN
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. We are told that Christ was “foreknown indeed (as a sacrifice for sin) before the foundation of the world,” 1 Peter 1:20. Paul speaks of “the eternal purpose” which was purposed in Jesus Christ our Lord, Ephesians 3:l1. The writer of Hebrews refers to “the blood of an eternal covenant,”13:20. And since the plan of redemption is thus traced back into eternity, the plan to permit man to fall into the sin from which he was thus to be redeemed must also extend back into eternity; otherwise there would have been no occasion for redemption. In fact the plan for the whole course of the world’s events, including the fall, redemption, and all other events, was before God in its completeness before He ever brought the creation into existence; and He deliberately ordered it that this series of events, and not some other series, should become actual.
What this means is that God, not knowing what decision Adam with a free-will might make, had already from the beginning of time put into place the plan of redemption. But what if Adam should choose to not sin? Thus, in order to support God’s plan of redemption, Adam is to be made to sin. Because redemption was before God in all its completeness before time began, then the work of that redemption (that is, redemption from sin) had also to be in place from the start of time. Thus redemption is no longer the consequence of Adam’s sin, but instead God’s plan of redemption has become the cause of Adam’s sin! It would be greatly embarrassing for calvinist doctrine, if Adam didn’t sin, for then God would have prepared a solution to a problem that never existed!
Likewise, that other great work of God put into place before time began, that list of the saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life, instead of being the consequence or result of redemption being applied to Adam’s fallen race, would then, for the calvinist, become the cause of salvation for those on that list. That is, it is being on that list that saves you, not the cross of Jesus!! (This is their gospel, by the way!) No longer do people have to believe in order to be saved; they are saved from the beginning in order that they might believe later! (Note the quote of Boettner – A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved. “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” P 75) In fact, it is irrelevant what you believe, as long as your name is on that list of elect!
Boettner continued (Ch.17 Part 3) – 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.
So God didn’t compel man to fall? But God withheld that which could have stopped him from falling, just as effectively as if He had pushed Adam over! It’s like throwing a bird over the cliff and telling it to fly, yet refusing to give it wings!
(j) R C Sproul Jr
(from Almighty Over All as documented in “Taking Calvinism Too Far: R.C. Sproul Jr.’s Evil-Creating Deity”)
Sproul Jr., however, wants to get to the bottom of the matter and weigh in on what he takes to be the source of evil: God! Shocked? I certainly hope so. Sproul Jr. lists the range of possible “suspects” in his third chapter, entitled “Who Dunit?” He lays out and discusses the only five possible alternatives: Adam, Eve, Satan, the environment, and God. God created a good environment (“it was very good”), and Adam, Eve, and Satan were originally created good; so their strongest desire or inclination (which dictates how we will choose, Sproul Jr. claims) must also have been originally good. This, then, means that none of the first four candidates can be the source of sin. The “culprit” (Sproul Jr.’s term) is God himself, who “introduced evil into this world” (p. 51). In fact, God acted according his strongest inclination; he acted on what he most wished to come to pass—as he always does (p. 54).
The reason he wanted Adam and Eve to fall into sin was because of God’s eternal attribute of wrath—and “God is as delighted with his wrath as he is with all of his attributes” (52). So in light of this eternal attribute of wrath, God must create objects of wrath: “What I’ll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath” (pp. 52-53). Without creating human beings (and let’s include fallen angelic beings here too), he would not have had the opportunity to display his glory in this way. So Sproul Jr. affirms something rather startling: “It was [God’s] desire to make his wrath known. He needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures” (p. 57).
Anticipating a rejoinder, Sproul Jr. asks: “Isn’t it impossible for God to do evil?” He acknowledges that God can’t sin. This isn’t much of a consolation, as Sproul Jr. goes on to say: “I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that he created sin” (p. 54).
(k) Jonathan Edwards
(as documented by John Piper at https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2012/02/13/is-god-the-author-of-sin-jonathan-edwards-answer/)
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.”
God is, Edwards says, “the permitter . . . of 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 . . . will most certainly and infallibly follow.”
That is, if God permits sin, then it has become a fact; it will happen. Thus God’s permission of sin is the same as His ordaining of sin. Therefore, Edwards is effectively saying that God actually orders sin, though in other words.
Here’s a new twist on it from calvinism! If God knows I will sin but doesn’t prevent me from doing it, then He has predestined it! Of course, that assumes I have no free will to choose for myself, and that it is God’s will for me that determines whether He will allow (order) me to sin or prevent me from sinning. Otherwise, permission should allow me some sort of free will choice. If I am permitted to eat a cake, it doesn’t automatically mean I have to eat that cake; I may be permitted to eat it, yet not eat it. But if God permits me to eat, I have to eat!?
If God knows that Adam will sin—or that you and I will sin—and could keep it from happening, but does not, and God’s knowledge is infallible, then it is just as certain as if he had predestined it. In fact, it is the same as being predestined.
(m) Charles Hodge
(from Systematic Theology Part 1 (Theology Proper) Ch.9 “The Decrees of God”)
Hodge claims it is difficult if not impossible to have free acts that are at the same time decreed beforehand by God! Hodge includes sinful acts as well as holy acts to be all foreordained.
Free Acts are Foreordained.
- The Bible especially declares that the free acts of men are decreed beforehand. This is involved in the doctrine of prophecy, which assumes that events involving the free acts of a multitude of men are foreseen and foreordained. God promises to give faith, a new heart, to write his law upon the minds of his people, to work in them to will and to do, to convert the Gentiles, to fill the world with the true worshippers of Christ, to whom every knee is gladly to bow. If God has promised these things, He must of course purpose them, but they all involve the free acts of men.
- The Scriptures teach that sinful acts, as well as such as are holy, are foreordained. In Acts ii. 23, it is said, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain;” v. 27. “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” “Truly the Son of Man goeth as it was determined; but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed.” (Luke xxii. 22.) It was foreordained that He should be betrayed; but woe to him who fulfilled the decree. Here foreordination and responsibility are by our Lord Himself declared to coexist and to be consistent. In Rev. xvii. 17, it is said, “God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.” The crucifixion of Christ was beyond doubt foreordained of God. It was, however, the greatest crime ever committed. It is therefore beyond all doubt the doctrine of the Bible that sin is foreordained.
Calvin taught that all things happened by the decree of God, and that even the discussion of foreknowledge was irrelevant because He has already decreed that they should happen. This means “all events” including sin; thus if God did not decree sin’s existence, then Calvin could not have stated that “all events take place by his sovereign appointment.”
Calvin’s Institutes Book III Section 23 Part 6
If God merely foresaw human events, and did not also arrange and dispose of them at his pleasure, there might be room for agitating the question, how far his foreknowledge amounts to necessity; but since he foresees the things which are to happen, simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it is vain to debate about prescience (foreknowledge), while it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.
If God predetermines all things and everything happens by His decree, according to the Calvinist definition of the sovereignty of God, then how is it that God did not command His people to sin, nor was it part of His thinking that they should commit such sin (Jeremiah 32:35). Some might say that God knew they would sin (and that has to be true – the foreknowledge of God is total, absolute) and that this really means that God didn’t desire that they should sin, yet they still went ahead and sinned. But God didn’t command them to sin, so they are clearly disobeying God by sinning (or else they have another will that opposes God here!). However, from the calvinist point of view, for God to not have something according to His desire is opposed to His sovereignty, for that would mean that there was another will in the universe that could act independently of God’s will. Thus the calvinist doesn’t have a logical explanation of how this verse actually fits in with calvinism.
If you feel you can explain it scripturally without resorting to extra “heavies” such as favourite calvinist teachers, then please let me know!
Or else, the simpler and correct explanation – that these people had a free will to sin, something that God was opposed to, but still permitted them to do, holding them accountable for that decision in the final judgment. This in no way compromises God’s absolute sovereignty. However, to limit God to not being free to allow man a free will, simply because of His absolute sovereignty, is itself limiting the very sovereignty of God, creating in their doctrines a dictator-God instead.
Jeremiah 32:35 – And they built the high places of Baal, which [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through [the fire] unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
If you have any questions or comments about this information, please feel free to say it or give advice, by using the Contact page. Please tell us the title of the article upon which you are commenting so that we may be more effective in our reply. Genuine comments will be recorded on the Comments page.
Other documents on Exposing the Truth