IF GOD IS GOOD, WHY IS THERE EVIL? IF GOD IS ALL-POWERFUL, WHY DOESN’T HE HEAL THE WORLD IN AN INSTANT? DOES GOD’S ABILITY BUT UNWILLINGNESS TO HEAL IMPLIES HE IS THE AUTHOR OF SIN?
he existence of evil has troubled minds and souls for ages. What to make of evil is not merely an intellectual question; it disturbs our emotions and shakes our whole being. When our soul experiences dark nights, and God seems powerful enough to deliver but unwilling, it is natural to think of God as the root of all sin. But could God be the author of sin? The answer, obviously, is “No!” God is not the author of sin. However, it is not an answer as easily agreed upon.
ANSWERING THE CALVINIST
The extreme Calvinists that are committed to the once-saved-forever-saved doctrine of eternal security, for instance, maintain that it was God Himself who ordained the sin and fall of Adam. In his The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932), Loraine Boettner wrote: “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.” And again, “we hold that God fore-planned and fore-saw the fall; that it in no sense came as a surprise to Him.” Likewise, Edwin H. Palmer, in his The Five Points of Calvinism, argued: “Even sin - the fall of the devil from heaven, the fall of Adam, and every evil thought, word, and deed in all of history, including the worst sin of all, Judas’ betrayal of Christ – is included in the eternal decree of our holy God.” This conclusion became necessary for these theologians who considered any event that violates the will of God to be a threat to the sovereignty of God. God was sovereign, so according to them, anything that happens in this world could not be against God. Also, it was insisted that if God had not ordained the fall of Adam, redemption through Christ would have not been possible. Thus, Boettner asks, “And unless the fall was in the plan of God, what becomes of our redemption through Christ? Was that only a makeshift arrangement which God resorted to in order to offset the rebellion of man?” Therefore, the reality of sin had to be explained by interpreting it as an act of God. In other words, according to Calvinism, ultimately, God is the author of sin.
Of course, Boettner doesn’t think that his view of God foreordaining Adam’s fall implies that God is the author of sin. Thus, he contends:
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…. God was pleased to permit our first parents to be tempted and to fall, and then to overrule their sin for His own glory. Yet this permission and overruling of sin does not make Him the author of it.
But, Boettner fails to see that this necessitating of the fall and the method of withdrawing grace only directly condemns God. It is equal to the sin of David who arranged to put Uriah in an inevitably fatal position and commanded his men to withdraw in the heat of the battle, in order to let Uriah get killed. That directly incriminated David and made him guilty of murder. The Genesis 3 episode, however, doesn’t indicate in any way that God had actually withdrawn constraining grace from Adam in order to make it inevitable for him to fall into sin. God cannot be held responsible for sin in the world. He is not the author of sin.
The rational man cannot accept God to be the author of sin. How could God, who is the embodiment of good, be the author of evil? Over 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato, in his The Republic, concluded, “the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in Him.” But, the Calvinist would object that to search for the cause of evils elsewhere is to expect that there was or were forces, other than God, in control of the universe; but, this is impossible, for God is sovereign, they would say. However, the fact that God is sovereign has nothing to do with the fact that sin is possible in a system of free creatures. The sovereignty of a nation doesn’t mean that free citizens of it will not violate its laws; however, its sovereignty does give it its authority to administer justice in the system by means of reward and punishment. Similarly, God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean that free creatures have been restricted from exercising their will in opposition to the will of God. The very exercise of this free will is what creates the possibility of a moral universe.
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