Is God the Author of Sin?
If you haven’t checked out the previous post “Is God a Fatalist?” you should. It will give a foundation to what this post will address.
After discussing the sovereign decree of God one will undoubtedly hear something like, “God is the author of sin if he decrees everything”. This is a common assertion by the unreformed person and it is important to respond to it.
Side note: if you are not reformed in your theology this post will still come in handy because you will be able to understand what the reformed person believes instead of arguing about something they don’t. Allow me to shine some light on how the reformed person’s view of God and sin.
The problem with God’s decree is not easily explained. The reason for this is not because it is some complicated formula or a twisting of Scripture but rather because of emotion. Why do I say this?
Human emotion can get in the way of a lot of things. I know there have been times in my life where my emotions gotten the best of me and ruled over actions or thinking. The same goes with this subject. It is touchy when someone brings up painful events that we have had in our lives. This pain can cloud or view of God. People ask, “Why would God allow this to happen?” Some people even reject God because of the pain they have suffered. This pain and hurt comes from sin. For most people there is a problem when the reformed person says that God controls and decrees everything that comes to pass. What’s the problem? Well, it is that if God does, in fact, decree sinful acts along with everything else then he is must have been the author of sin. This is a very important question because it attacks the essence of who God is. Let’s go to the Scriptures starting at Numbers 23:19:
“God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
Here we see that God is separated from man. He is not man because he does not lie. He does not commit sin in the way that man does because he is utterly holy. He doesn’t need to change his mind like a man because he knows everything perfectly (sorry open theists). God makes it clear that when he speaks he is going to fulfill that promise because God is God.
Hopefully, everyone in this discussion would agree that God is not man and that God is incapable to sin. After establishing that we need to explore how God could possibly decree sinful things while being completely separated from it. I quoted from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith in the previous post and I will do so now to establish a deeper definition of what we are discussing.
Chapter 3 “Of God’s Decree” line one says: “God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.”
I quoted the italicized section in the previous post but the focus of this post is on the text in bold. Earlier I quoted out of Numbers 23 and stated that God is not like man because God does not sin. The 1689 LBC affirms this when it says that God is not “the author of sin” but even beyond that it states that God doesn’t even have “fellowship” with sin. How in the world could this be? Allow me to try and explain without damaging the mystery of this truth.
We must move into another Scripture passage that will give us insight into how God decrees sinful actions to take place yet is separated from them. In the book of Genesis we are told a story about Joseph. The story of Joseph spans many chapters so we wont go into much detail about everything that happened. I would encourage you to read it yourself to gain some context. The story goes something like this:
Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph prospered in Potipher’s (captain of Pharaoh’s guard) house then was accused, falsely, of trying to sleep with Potipher’s wife. That landed Joseph in prison. While in prison Joseph received revelation from God that famine was going to strike and he told Pharaoh to store up food for it. Afterwards, Pharaoh promoted Joseph to look over all of Egypt. This is where we see God’s involvement with the story in Genesis 50.
The brothers realize that what they did was wrong and they ask forgiveness for their betrayal. The words that come out of Joseph’s mouth are amazing! Genesis 50:18-20 says this:
“His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.’”
Here we see that in the sinful and horrific action God had a plan and a purpose in it. God was there from the beginning with a purpose. That purpose gives us all the insight that we need. Many say that God couldn’t decree things like this but if that is the case how could there be any purpose in anything? If the world is simply moving along without God’s decree then God could not have purpose within any action but only react to what we do. This contradicts what we read here because, as Joseph clearly understood, “God meant this for good”.
This post isn’t about unpacking everything so that we can understand it because we can’t. Human understanding can only take us so far when it comes to the things of God. I don’t know exactly how God is separated from sin yet decrees it to happen. All I know is that the Scriptures are clear that God has a purpose in every action. And I thank God that he has his good purposes in every evil thing that takes place in my life.