Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Forget who-dun-it. Who is responsible for this mess?!?

The Reformed Assertion:
"God can determine a specific outcome, a person can have no other option but to do the outcome, and that person can be held up to moral judgment while God is blameless."

Now, one objection to Calvinism that keeps coming up consistently over the years is the
objection that it makes God the author of sin. Now, when it comes right down to it, Calvinists will generally teach that God did, in fact, decree sin before ever there was sin, and makes sin happen.

Generally, however, they seem to object to the term "Author" of sin, because it implies that God would
be culpable for sin:
"The term authors is almost universally condemned in the theological literature. It is rarely defined, but it seems to mean both that God is the efficient cause of evil and that by causing evil he actually does something wrong.1 So the [Westminster Confession] says that God “neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin” (5:4). Despite this denial in a major Reformed confession, Arminians regularly charge that Reformed theology makes God the author of sin. They assume that if God brings about evil in any sense, he must therefore approve it and deserve the blame." - David Mathis
The Calvinist view is that God causally determines the desires and actions of men, but that men are held responsible for what God caused them to do.

They do teach that God decrees sin, and causally determines that it happens:

" So here I see that God's command is that the sons of Eli ought to listen to and obey their father, yet the will of God was that they would not listen so that He would put them to death." - Peter Pike
"God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass" - Westminster Confession of Faith
"Nothing has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of all things is the will of God." - Arthur Pink
"The question, though, is whether God merely permits evil, or whether in addition he actually brings evil about in some sense. I think the latter is true. Scripture often says that God brings about sinful decisions of human beings... If evil comes from some source other than God, that would be pretty scary." - Andre Rook
"That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss or deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself, and brings to pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless passages of Scripture." - John Calvin

“But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavours, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.” - John Calvin

But they all maintain that God is righteous, holy, and pure. He is not culpable for the evil
that He makes happen:
"Thus, even if God is 'the instigator of all sin' that would not necessitate that God is culpable for sin." - Peter Pike
"...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." - Westminster Confession of Faith
"And while it is not ours to explain how God in His secret counsel rules and overrules the sinful acts of men, it is ours to know that whatever God does He never deviates from His own perfect justice. In all the manifestations of His character He shows Himself pre-eminently the Holy One. These deep workings of God are mysteries which are to be adored, but not to be inquired into; and were it not for the fact that some persons persist in declaring that the doctrine of Predestination makes God the author of sin, we could let the matter rest here." - Loraine Boettner

How can this be?
To the untrained mind, it may seem patently obvious that if God causes people to sin, then He
is culpable for the sin. What is the Reformed answer to this?

1) Calvinist doctrine absolutely relies on the idea that only the direct cause is responsible
for sin. They belabor this point to no end. We cannot hold God culpable for sin because He is not the agent of sin, the actor of sin. He merely causes it. But though He causes it, He is not culpable, because the secondary causes are culpable.

2) Now, if one argues that the cause of sin, directly or indirectly, is culpable, they will
usually respond that even in Non-Calvinism, God is first cause of everything. So the other system solves it no better than theirs. But here is the difference: We admit that God is the first cause of every thing in the sense that without Him, nothing could happen. However, we do not see God as determining that we will sin in a causal way. In other words, we see that God allows sin, but they think that God causally determines sin - like pushing one domino causes, in a determining way, all the unsupported dominoes behind it to fall.

I use the phrase causally determine because if I say "cause," then they insist that God is the
first cause of everything even in our system, and if I say "determine," then they say that determine can also include allowing. Because of the slippery nature of these words, I try to clearly and habitually use the term "causally determine" which does not allow for ambiguity.

Now, Calvinists are slow to accept that idea that the cause, or the One who causally
determines sin is responsible or culpable for it. Why? Because if one could show them that the Being who causally determines something is culpable for it, then they would see that their system makes God culpable for all of sin.

3) Calvinists often argue that man is culpable for sin while God is not, because God decrees
the sin with good intentions, while man has evil motives. According to John Calvin, "we must hold that while by means of the wicked God performs what he had secretly decreed, they are not excusable as if they were obeying his precept, which of set purpose they violate according to their lust."

In this defense, they seem to imply that God decreed the action for a good reason with
righteous motives, but the secondary cause carries out the action with bad motives - and therefore it is sin for the one with the bad motives, but not sin for God.

My short answers to those propositions:

1) So, I will try to show that whoever causes sin to happen, intentional and in a determining
way, is responsible and culpable for sin, even if it was caused indirectly.

2) Again, I will be arguing not that just any cause is culpable, but that the determining
cause of sin is responsible, and if the determining cause was intentional, then that person is also culpable for it.

3) There I would remind them that their system does not only charge God with decreeing
actions, but also decreeing motives. If the motives, and not the actions are truly the sin which one can be held culpable for, then God is culpable for intentionally causing those specific evil motives in a way that determined that they would happen.

What does the Bible say about it?

Case A: Nathan confronts David

2 Samuel 12:9b
"You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites."
Now, David here, if he subscribed to theory that indirect causes were not responsible or culpable for sin, could have justly replied: "Now, now, Nathan. You forget about the liberty and contingency of secondary causes here. I was not the one to strike down Uriah. I didn't kill him. Those bloodly Ammonites did, and you know that they had bad motives!" Rather, the Bible seems to equate the culpability of doing the act of killing and causally determining that it would happen.

David here caused sin to happen, intentional and in a determining way, and is Biblically held responsible and culpable for that sin.

I could give many other examples of mob bosses causing crimes, and then washing their hands of the deed and claiming that "hey - all my money is clean. I didn't kill nobody." The intentional, but indirect, cause of sin is not innocent, but merely has others do their dirty work. Speaking of "washing hands," though, Pilate didn't kill Jesus. He merely intentionally causally determined that it would happen. He didn't
directly kill Jesus, so he's innocent, right? According to the Bible, wrong.

Anyone who causes sin to happen, intentional and in a determining way, is justly held responsible and culpable for that sin. Anyone. No special pleading.

If God caused sin to happen, intentional and in a determining way, He would justly be responsible and culpable for that sin. Why? Because it is wrong for anyone, even God, to cause someone to sin! Yes, I just said it would be wrong for God to do something. God is not above morality - He is morality. He is always true to His righteous nature, and it would be wrong of Him to deviate from it. It would be wrong of Him to lie, for example.

Case B: Causing sin to happen is wrong

Malachi 2:8
"But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts,"
See, in this verse, it seems pretty clear that causing people to sin is, in and of itself, a sin. Okay, sure, but what if you cause people to sin for a good reason? To that, I would quote this verse:
Romans 3:8
"And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just."
There is no excuse for causing evil to happen. The good omelette is not an excuse for breaking the "eggs" to achieve that result.
Leviticus 22:15-17
"They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD, and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them."
We are not just commanded not to sin ourselves, but also are commanded not to cause others to sin or to bear more iniquity and guilt. To cause others to sin is a sin. It's wrong. Period.

Case C: The cause of sin is bad

Matthew 5:29
"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell."
Matthew 5:30
"And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."
Matthew 18:8
"And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire."

Now, you'll notice that the concept about cutting off body part, if they cause you to sin, is a recurring theme here. Maybe it's important. Some think that these verses are hyperboles to make a point, and are not meant literally. I disagree. It is, indeed, better to lose a body part than to go to hell! Does Jesus want us to cut off our limbs? Of course not. Why? Well, notice the key word here: If. If your hand causes you to sin... If your foot causes you to sin... If your eye causes you to sin... The reason we do not cut off our limbs is that our body parts do not actually cause us to sin. If I were to pluck out one eye, I would sin with the other one! If I had neither eye, I would sin in my mind. The key concept here is that the cause of sin is a bad thing, and ought to be thrown away - no matter what the cost.

Wait - hold on. The cause of sin, Biblically, is a bad thing, and ought to be thrown away. If God is the ultimate intentional and determining cause of all sin... then... how exactly would that work? Would He command us to love and serve Him as Good, and then declare Himself evil and say that we should distance ourselves from Him? That would be contradictory!

i - The cause of sin is bad and we ought to get rid of it

ii - God is not bad, and we ought not to try to get rid of God
iii - Therefore, God is not the cause of sin

Case D: It would be better...

And now we come to perhaps the harshest words about how wrong it is to cause others to sin:

Matthew 18:6
"...but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
Mark 9:42
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea."
Oh snap. And, according to Calvinism, who causally determines that little ones who believe in him will sin?

God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and
unchangeably ordain that they would sin.

No sin of little kids has ever come to pass, or ever will, merely because God knew it. The cause of that sin is the will of God.

Little kids do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss or deliberate
on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself, and brings to pass by his secret direction...

According to Calvin himself,
little kids can deliberately do nothing unless God Himself inspires it.

Enough said.

Case E: A couple of interesting verses about the cause of sin

Jeremiah 32:35
"They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin."
Point being, God didn't cause that to happen.
James 4:1
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?"
Point being, we are the determining cause of our own sin, and therefore we are responsible and culpable for it.

*All verses are quoted from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Origin of Sin: Who-dun-it

So you see, I was thinking recently, about Reformed theology and all --

[Now, those of you who know me are probably snickering, and mentally commenting "Of course you were... Is there anything else you think about, Rebekah?" But yes! There is! Just today I was pondering what college to go to, if it's completely wise to take fashion advice from my 15-year-old sister, and whether someday I might not burn to death when my engine bursts into flames after running out of coolant one too many times... But back onto the topic at hand]

And I was thinking about how sin came into the world, and what Calvinism teaches about that particular subject. Now let me first start out by saying that there is a difference between an impossibility and a mystery.

A contradiction is an impossibility. It simply cannot be true. For example, to say that "two and two makes five," while still insisting on the original meanings of the words "two" and "five" is a contradiction. It suggests an impossibility. Also, to say that there is no possible way that we could have come into existence, but to still affirm that we do exist would be a contradiction.
A mystery, on the hand, is true, but it's not clear how. It is a mystery to me why every two days the coolant in my car runs out. I don't understand what happens to it!

The main difference is that a mystery has a solution, a possible solution. An impossibility is impossible, and has no possible logical explanation that would make it true. A magic trick is a mystery to the observers, for though it appears impossible, they know that it is, indeed, possible, and are curious to figure out how it was done. We run across many mysteries in real life, but we never run into real contradictions except in theory. For example, I have never met a man who didn't exist. Contradictory things like that just don't happen. However, if someone says "I do not exist," I can point out that their theory is a contradiction because they themselves must exist to make that statement. Saying "I" implies that the self exists, and then saying "do not exist" contradicts the previous implication the the self exists.

Now, if you "solve" a mystery by coming up with a contradiction, then you have not solved the mystery at all. If the mystery is "How did that man disappear from over there, and then reappear over that?" And I respond: "I know how he did it! He simply ceased to exist while he walked from the one location to the other." As you can tell, my response would be a contradiction - a man cannot walk if he does not exist - and therefore did not actually solve the mystery. If I realize that my response had been a contradiction, then though I do not know what the true answer is, I know one answer that cannot be the true answer.

In an old computer game my Dad used to play called "Sherlock," he was given clues, and given possibilities, and then using the clues, he would eliminate possibilities until he had figured out the one and only possible answer which would not contradict the clues. Now, while playing that game, you get to choose which possibilities to eliminate, and can accidentally eliminate the correct possibility by mistake... you'll just keep playing until you realize that you've eliminated ALL the possibilities. I've done that before, in that game. But did I throw up my hands and exclaim "It's a mystery!" and give up? Of course not. I went back and figured out which of the possibilities I had needlessly eliminated

Why is the distinction between a mystery and a contradiction important? It is important because many times, people who believe contradictions think that they are not impossible, but rather mysterious. The subject of my writing today is the question of what sin comes from, according to Reformed Theology. In general, Calvinists will admit that it is a mystery. I, on the other hand, see it as quite possibly as a contradiction. In my view, there are three possible ways that the first sin occurred, and the reformed view rejects the only three possibly ways sin could have happened, while maintaining that it did indeed happen. This is the same as maintaining that the Sherlock answer does exist, but also insisting that the elimination of all the possible solutions was without mistake. This is the same as saying that there is no possible way I could have come into possession of a car, and yet maintaining that I do possess a car. Reformed theology effectively claims that sin has come into existence, but rejects all possible ways that sin could have come into existence.

The Dilemma: Who causally determined the first sin? I say "causally determined" because determine can mean simply "allow," and I'm not asking who allowed it. Also, "cause" can mean merely one link in a long chain of causation, a link that didn't start the process and didn't determine the outcome. I'm not asking what all the causes were. I'm asking who is the first author of sin? Who instigated it? (By the instigator, I mean the being who first influenced self or others to sin. I say first because if one cannot sin until an outside source gives one the desire to sin, then that one did not first influence self or others to sin, but rather must have already been influenced (and therefore cannot be the first to influence.) Who made it happen? Who caused sin to happen in such as way that determined that it would happen?

As far as I can see, there are these three possibilities:
  1. God

  2. A human being

  3. A created being that is not human

Now, my main point here is that if Reformed theology teaches that none of these three was the first one to instigate sin, yet maintains that sin was instigated, it contradicts itself. If they claim that sin exists, and yet deny each of the possible ways sin could have come into existence, their theory is self-defeating. It is although the sprinklers are on outside, and I ask my brother who turned on the sprinklers. If my brother insists that neither I, nor he, nor anyone or anything else caused the sprinklers to be turned on, yet admits that they sprinklers are on, I would have to call his view a contradiction.

So, let us take a look at the Reformed answer to the question: Who is the originator and determining cause of the first sin?

Proposition one: God did it! (An uncreated Being did it)

Now perhaps, by logical extension, Reformed Theology implies that God is the author and original instigator of sin. But for now, let us just stick Reformed Teaching itself. Reformed teaching rejects this proposition that God was the author of sin, the instigator of sin, or the originator of sin. They heartily reject the idea that it was "God himself who introduced evil into this world."1

One notable Calvinist source states clearly that "James 1 doesn’t only tell us that God can’t do evil; it also tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from above; that is, God shouldn’t be accused as being the source of evil."1

Verdict: Proposition one is rejected by reformed theology.

Proposition two: Eve did it! (A created being, a human, did it)

Now, there is no doubt that a human did, in fact, sin. But did the human author evil, instigate evil for the first time, make evil happen for the first time, or causally determine self to sin? Now, if one's believes libertarian free will, which is the idea of self-determinism, then the usual answer is that while Eve was not the first one to influence self or others to sin (Satan was), Eve did causally determined that she herself would sin.

Now, Reformed theology strongly objects to the teachings of self-determinism and libertarian free will. According to reformed theology, the will of the human only acts when acted upon. The will of a human cannot come up with some sort of new desire or action, but only acts in according to their strongest desire or motive.

"And in this sense, I suppose the will is always determined by the strongest motive." - Jonathan Edwards

Where the desire leads, the will follows. What is their answer, then?

Is Eve the author of sin: No. Someone or something external to her had to incline her will to sin before she could choose to sin. That someone or something was the author, not her.

Did Eve instigate sin? No. She does not have the capable of instigating sinful desires within herself, or leading her desires. Rather, she must follow her desires. Someone or something external to her had to incline her will to sin before she could choose to sin. That someone or something was the instigator, not her.

Did Eve cause herself to sin? That is, was she the one to causally determine that she would sin? No. God foreordained that she would sin. This foreknowledge was not just in according with what He already knew would happen, but rather He actually caused it. God causally determined that Eve would sin - not Eve.

According to reformed theology, the will of the human only acts when acted upon. The will of a human cannot come up with some sort of new desire or action, but only acts in according to their strongest desire or motive. Where the desire leads, the will follows. The question then remains, where did the human get the desire to sin? In his book, "Chosen by God," RC Sproul admits that this question is unanswerable by Reformed theology.

This view of human will precludes the idea that a person could causally determine themselves to sin (self-determinism) and precludes the idea that person could instigate sin for the first time, because before that point, something external must give them that desire to sin. Besides, if a human causally determined sin, rather than God causally determining the sin, that would contradict the reformed teaching that God determined everything in such a way as causes it to happen.

Verdict: Proposition two is rejected by reformed theology.

Proposition three: Satan did it! (Or some other created being other than humans)

Given free agency, or self-determinism, or libertarian free will, Satan could have come up with the idea to rebel against God, the desire to do it, and causally determined himself to sin. He would be culpable and the first cause of the first sin (which was Satan rebelling against God) and also culpable for influencing and tempting the humans to sin as well.

However, given the Reformed belief that the will can only act according to the strongest motive, and the will can't come up with new desires and motives and causally determine to act according to those motives, then the question becomes: Who gave Satan the desire to sin? Who put that thought in his head? Who causally determined that Satan would sin?

Satan could not have causally determined that he sin, if self-determinism is rejected. Satan could not have come up with the desire to sin because his will must follow desire, rather than leading it. Besides, if Satan causally determined sin, rather than God causally determining the sin, that would contradict the reformed teaching that God determined everything in such a way as causes it to happen.

In other words, for the same reasons that a human could not have been the first author, instigator, and causal determiner of sin, Satan could not have either.

Verdict: Proposition three is rejected by reformed theology.

So, there are only three possible ways sin could have come into existence. Reformed theology rejects all three, and yet maintains that sin does exist. This is a contradiction. It is not a mystery. A mystery can be true, but it's not clear how. If there were a fourth way that we hadn't thought of, then that way could be the way it happened. However, there is no fourth way. There is God, and there are created beings. Among created beings, there are humans and non-humans. So, there is God, there are humans, and there are non-humans. There is no forth possibility. Therefore, it's not an excruciating mystery, as X claims it it. It's a contradiction. Since we know that no contradiction can be true, Reformed Theology's position on the entrance of sin into the world must be wrong.

Some will say that it is not contradictory, but simply a paradox. But a paradox is never truly contradictory. For example, the ideas that God is a trinity, or that God was always existent could be considered paradoxes. But are they contradictory? It is not contradictory to say that Someone immaterial always existed, given that material things must be brought into existence. It is also not contradictory to say that God has existed for eternity, and yet has reached this point in time, because God is beyond time and existed quite happily before time existed. It is not a contradiction to say that God is three in one, because He is three Persons, and one Spirit. It is not as though we are saying that God is Three Spirits and yet only One Spirit - that would indeed be a contradiction. My point is, paradoxes perhaps cannot be completely comprehended, but they are not contradictory. The Reformed position on the entrance of sin into the world is contradictory, and therefore is not a paradox, but rather an impossibility.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with triazzle puzzles, but they are triangle shaped puzzles with triangle pieces.2 There is only one correct solution, but there are several ways to put it together so that all but one piece fits corrects with the images on the other pieces and on the board. Now, when I've put together the whole puzzle and get to the last piece, and realize that the last piece doesn't fit no matter which way I turn it, it's not a mystery. It shows me that the way I put the rest of the puzzle together was wrong, and I have to take it apart and put it together again in a different way. Every false system makes a lot of sense, but there is always that one point of doctrine that insists on a contradiction: It insists that the last piece of the puzzle does belong on the board, but recognizes that it does not line up in any of the three possible ways. The holders of the false system will generally shrug it off as a "mystery," because after all, we can't understand everything! But there is a very serious and important difference between a solvable mystery, and a grave contradiction.

If Reformed theology misunderstands the very essence and nature of the will of man from the beginning, then they are certain to build off of that faulty foundation and come to other erroneous conclusions. This contradiction, which has to do with the very beginning of the world, the authorship of sin, and the innocent state of man's will, is a very fundamental point, and should not just be shrugged off: It brings to light the Reformed misconceptions of the nature and character of God and man.

1 -

2 -

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Hymn

Our Lord is Risen From the Dead

By Charles Wesley

Our Lord is risen from the dead!
Our Jesus is gone up on high!
The powers of hell are captive led,
Dragged to the portals of the sky.

There His triumphal chariot waits,
And angels chant the solemn lay:
Lift up your heads, you heavenly gates;
You everlasting doors, give way!

Loose all your bars of massy light,
And wide unfold the ethereal scene;
He claims these mansions as His right
Receive the King of glory in!

Who is this King of glory? Who?
The Lord that all our foes overcame;
The world, sin, death, and hell overthrew;
And Jesus is the conqueror’s Name.

Lo! His triumphal chariot waits,
And angels chant the solemn lay:
Lift up your heads, you heavenly gates;
You everlasting doors give way!

Who is the King of Glory, who?
The Lord of glorious power possessed,
The King of saints and angels, too;
God over all, forever blessed.