Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 at 2:40 PM

Is God the author of sin?

Often when discussing the sovereignty of God, a calvinist is quick to affirm the sovereignty of God but deny that He is the "author of sin." Through this post I would like to examine the question and put forth my answer from Scripture as an unashamed "yes." Most of this is directed towards those Calvinists who already reject libertarian free will, since there's more ground cover first if you don't.

First, we need to clear some ground. The phrase "author of sin" doesn't actually show up in our Bibles, so we need a definition that people agree upon.

M-W Online dictionary defines "author" as:
1 a : one that originates or creates : SOURCE authors> authors> author of this crime> b capitalized : GOD 1

1 a sounds like it's pretty much what any person would say "author" means. Is God the "originator or creator of sin?" is thus our question. A similar question would be, "Is God the author of evil?" or "Is God the author of Satan?"

Isaiah 45:7 states (KJV):
7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
"But wait," you may say, "all the other mainstream translations (ESV, NIV, NASB) all say 'calamity' or 'disaster.' And the Amplified bible translates it "evil" but adds a footnote that says, "Moral evil proceeds from the will of men, but physical evil proceeds from the will of God!" How can we justify "evil" when so many other translators disagree?

Well, basically, I disagree with those translations, and I'd like to show why I think "evil" is proper here, or if it's not proper here, it's certainly implied by the verse.

Well, to begin with, we can note that the hebrew word being translated "evil", ra, does denotes wickedness, evil, wrong, misery, distress as well as calamity, so it certainly isn't wrong to translate the word "evil." What we actually translate the word as is actually determined by context.

So what's the context? The context of the passage is God declaring through Isaiah that he will use Cyrus as God's instrument of judgment, and proceeds to defend the usage of Cyrus (a pagan king) as such an instrument of the Lord. What's God's defense of His actions here? Isaiah 45:
5I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Notice the big emphasis upon "I am the Lord, there is no other." There is none besides Him. There is no other power. Notice God declares that he forms light and creates darkness. Most people assume that darkness exists by "necessity" because darkness is just where light is not. But here God is saying that He created both. Can we thus understand the passage in a figurative sense, that God is claiming that he creates all things? Yes, absolutely. God is saying that there is no other power in this world. Cyrus is His instrument, because everything is God's creation, everything is from God and for God.

God here presents Himself as the sole power here. He declares that there is nothing like Him. No other god. No other power. It isn't a battle between the forces of light and darkness, but it's God who reigns in all things.

So returning to our original statement. Even if the translation is not properly "evil" (and I'm unconvinced it can't be), the statement, "God created evil" is certainly implied by the passage.

From there, it is a simple matter to use the same argument that God is the sole power and thus author of all things to concluding that God is also the author of sin.

Let's propose some objections:

1) God being the author of sin is contradictory to His character.

We must be clear that being the author of sin/evil does not make God a sinner or God evil. On the contrary, God is good in all that He does, so it must be good for God to create evil, for God to create sin. To this we must confess that God's ways are higher than ours, and it is our sinful nature that prevents us from properly giving God the glory for all He does.

Nowhere in the Bible does it claim that God is not the author of sin or evil. If it did, we'd probably have a real contradiction on our hands =p. Thus it is entirely consistent with Scripture to say that God is the author of sin.

2) You're being a rationalist, prove it from Scripture.

The charge of a rationalist applies only to those who conclude that Scripture is irrational because it doesn't match up to one's picture of what reason is. To them, the cross is foolishness. For us as Christians, however, reason is one of the means by which we derive faithful interpretations from Scripture. After all, it is perfectly logical to understand that Buddhism is wrong from Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the light" without needing Jesus to also say "Buddhism is wrong. Hinduism is wrong. etc." This is why the Westminster Confession of Faith states in I.IV:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture
But even with discarding the objection, we can still go to Scripture and come up with explicit examples where God sends evil spirits:

Judges 9:23, 1 Samuel 16:13-15, 1 Kings 22:19-23,

We also have explicit examples of evil being credited to God's account:

Genesis 50:20 ("it" is in the feminine, matching only with "evil"), Job 2:10 (In crediting God with evil, Job did not sin with his lips), Acts 2:22-23

3) God doesn't create sin or evil, God permits it.

But where does evil come from? And what does it mean that God "permits" something? If we affirm that God is the principal and only power in this universe, how can God "permit" something without actively willing it? Is evil something that God "bears with" and "allows" or is it something that God is actively working to His glory?

Ephesians 1:11 states that we have been "predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." God works all things according to the counsel of His will. And nowhere in the Bible is the accusation brought before God "you've created evil! This is unfair!" and God saying, "hold on here, I didn't create evil, you're wrong. I use secondary means to do evil." No, in the case of Job, in the case of Isaiah, in the case of Paul, God says, "who are you to question me?" He doesn't back away from the issue, but He affirms it and then asks, "So what?"

4) You're undercutting the hope Christians have. How can they hope in a God that creates evil?

Isn't this the real source of our hope? Not only does God make daisies out of dung, but God is also using the dung for His glory? This is our hope, that for those who love God, "all things work together for good." Not just a "God can use this," but a "God caused this, for His glory and for your good."

The bigger our picture of God's sovereignty is, the greater the hope we have. How can we not rejoice in a good Lord that sustains all things for His glory and our good? Satan cannot even blink an eyelash without God working in Him, how can we think Satan can do anything to us?

Romans 8:
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[h] against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[i] 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Related reading:

Theocentric - Shall we attribute sin to God 1, 2, 3
Rebecca Writes - Authoring Sin
Vincent Cheung - Author of Sin
Martin Luther - Bondage of the Will
John Piper - Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained That Evil Be?, Why I Do Not Say, "God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use It for Good."

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

Hey...excellent post! I thank you for this. I linked it on my third and final post on this topic. Tell me what you think.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it scientifically accurate to say darkness or cold exist simply by the absence of light and heat?

If yes, then why not apply the same principle to evil and good?

Also, the example of Job certainly shows that God permits evil and does not cause it. God permitted Satan to cause evil. All throughout Job, Satan causes evil because God permits it, and God blesses Job once the testing is over.

-ts  

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Blogger mxu said...

ts -

I dealt with all your questions in my original post. Could you to reread it? And if you don't think the answers are already there, I'll rehash. Let me know. Check out the theocentric links too, we're posting along the same lines.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did read your post. Definitely, I would have to address Isaiah 45 to make my position teneable.

It does seem an odd verse, and apparently in contradiction with the rest of the Bible. For example, God is consistently shown throughout the Bible to be the healer, restorer, and bringer of life. Jesus says the evil one comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but He has come that we might have life, and to the full. In James 1:17, it says every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights. It doesn't say every evil and corrupted thing comes from below, from the Father of darkness!

I'm not alone in my position. Here is how Adam Clarke deals with Isaiah 45 in his commentary:
[I form the light, and create darkness] It was the great principle of the Magian religion, which prevailed in Persia in the time of Cyrus, and in which probably he was educated, that there are two supreme, co-eternal, and independent causes always acting in opposition one to the other; one the author of all good, the other of all evil. The good being they called LIGHT; the evil being, DARKNESS. That when LigHt had the ascendant, then good and happtness prevailed among men; when DARKNESS had the superiority, then evil and misery abounded. An opinion that contradicts the clearest evidence of our reason, which plainly leads us to the acknowledgment of one only Supreme Being, infinitely good as well as powerful. With reference to this absurd opinion, held by the person to whom this prophecy is addressed, God, by his prophet, in the most significant terms, asserts his omnipotence and absolute supremacy:- "I am JEHOVAH, and none else; Forming light, and creating darkness, Making peace, and creating evil: I JEHOVAH am the author of all these things." Declaring that those powers whom the Persians held to be the original authors of good and evil to mankind, representing them by light and darkness, as their proper emblems, are no other than creatures of God, the instruments which he employs in his government of the world, ordained or permitted by him in order to execute his wise and just decrees; and that there is no power, either of good or evil, independent of the one supreme God, infinite in power and in goodness.

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[I make peace, and create evil] Evil is here evidently put for war and its attendant miseries. I will procure peace for the Israelites, and destroy Babylon by war. I form light, and create darkness. Now, as darkness is only the privation of light, so the evil of war is the privation of peace.

-ts  

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Blogger mxu said...

ts -

If you delete the last sentence of Adam Clarke's statement, he's saying exactly what I'm saying here.

Notice as well that his second to last statement directly contradicts his last statement:

I form light, and create darkness. Now, as darkness is only the privation of light, so the evil of war is the privation of peace.

If God creates light and darkness, then darkness is not "only" the privation of light, but it's actively created by God, not a forced byproduct of a good thing.

In the same way, evil is actively created by God, not just a byproduct of His nature.

As a side note, if we accept privation theory, we must accept two eternal powers - Good and Evil, that's not the Christian picture of the universe.

I think I'll let you have the last word. Quoting theocentric:

What’s important to me is that, at the end of the day, we love each other, affirm Sola Scriptura, and live to glorify Him in all that we do. In particular to this discussion, we can at least agree with the following: (1) We should never blame God for evil, (2) without the existence of God, discussion of evil and good would be meaningless, and (3) Romans 8:28.  

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