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Tuesday
Jul302013

Theological Term of the Week

author of sin
A term sometimes used to describe God’s agency in regards to evil, usually used negatively (as in “God is not the author of sin”), but rarely defined; possible definitions: efficient cause of evil, tempter to sin, doer of evil.

  • From scripture:
  • This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5, ESV)

  • From the Westminster Confession of Faith:
  • Chapter III, Of God’s Eternal Decree

    I. 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.

  • From Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Book 1, Chapter 18, on one objection raised to the teaching that God “ govern [the] counsels and affections” of the wicked:
  • 4. In the same way is solved, or rather spontaneously vanishes, another objection—viz. If God not only uses the agency of the wicked, but also governs their counsels and affections, he is the author of all their sins; and, therefore, men, in executing what God has decreed, are unjustly condemned, because they are obeying his will. Here will is improperly confounded with precept, though it is obvious, from innumerable examples, that there is the greatest difference between them. When Absalom defiled his father’s bed, though God was pleased thus to avenge the adultery of David, he did not therefore enjoin an abandoned son to commit incest, unless, perhaps, in respect of David, as David himself says of Shimei’s curses. For, while he confesses that Shimei acts by the order of God, he by no means commends the obedience, as if that petulant dog had been yielding obedience to a divine command; but, recognising in his tongue the scourge of God, he submits patiently to be chastised. Thus 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.

  • From Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof, on one objection raised to the teaching that God decrees whatever happens:
  • 3. IT MAKES GOD THE AUTHOR OF SIN. This, if true, would naturally be an insuperable objection, for God cannot be the author of sin. This follows equally from Scripture, Ps. 92:15; Eccl. 7:29; Jas. 1:13; I John 1:5, from the law of God which prohibits all sin, and from the holiness of God. But the charge is not true; the decree merely makes God the author of free moral beings, who are themselves the authors of sin. God decrees to sustain their free agency, to regulate the circumstances of their life, and to permit that free agency to exert itself in a multitude of acts, of which some are sinful. For good and holy reasons He renders these sinful acts certain, but He does not decree to work evil desires or choices efficiently in man. The decree respecting sin is not an efficient but a permissive decree, or a decree to permit, in distinction from a decree to produce, sin by divine efficiency. No difficulty attaches to such a decree which does not also attach to a mere passive permission of what He could very well prevent, such as the Arminians, who generally raise this objection, assume. The problem of God’s relation to sin remains a mystery for us, which we are not able to solve. It may be said, however, that His decree to permit sin, while it renders the entrance of sin into the world certain, does not mean that He takes delight in it; but only that He deemed it wise, for the purpose of His self-revelation, to permit moral evil, however abhorrent it may be to His nature. 

Learn more:

  1. John Frame: Does God Author Sin?
  2. John Piper: Is God the Author of Sin? Jonathan Edwards’ Answer
  3. John MacArthur: Is God Responsible for Evil?
  4. Lorraine Boettner: Does the Doctrine of Predestination Make God the Author of Sin?
  5. Steve Hays: Is God the Author of Sin? Part 1, Part 2
  6. On this blog: The Authoring of Sin

Related terms:

Filed under Reformed Theology

Do you have a term you would like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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