Predestination (Part 2)
Is it necessary for God to foreordain every thing? Yes, it is. If anything happens outside the foreordination of God, then something/someone other than God must have made it happen. But this would mean that God is not sovereign over that something/someone. One who believes in the sovereignty of God must mean that He is sovereign over every thing. A logical consequence of the sovereignty of God is that He must have foreordained every thing without exception. However, this is not a truth that many people find easy to accept. Many object to the statement that God foreordained everything. One of the common objections is on the matter of sin.
If God foreordained everything, did God foreordain man to sin? Yes. Does not God’s foreordination entail man sinning not due to his own will? No. As Westminster Catechism puts it, God’s foreordination does not rob man’s liberty. But then, does not God’s foreordination entail that God is the author of sin? First, we must note that our mind is limited. God’s ways are beyond our ways. Even if we cannot comprehend it, God must have an explanation to it. However, in the explanation that follows, which I borrow from a mailing list (I leave most of the wordings as it is, with only minor changes), we will find that it is not unreasonable to believe both “God foreordained sin” and “God is not the author of sin”. Here it goes.
Suppose S tells a lie, e.g. Jesus is not God. If God foreordained everything, then God knew and foreordained that S would tell that lie. When God thinks P1: “S will tell a lie about that (i.e. Jesus is not God)”, it is not sin for God to think this, but it is sin for S to lie. Why is this so?
A problem for some people here arises from what just exactly “this” points to. The reason why it is not a sin for God to think P1, is because God thinks the truth, P1: “S will tell a lie about that”; God thinks P1 and so S will think or believe, etc. the lie, P2: “Jesus is not God”, as being true. Indeed, God’s P1 is not “missing the mark” or sin. However, what S thinks or believes or speaks (i.e. Jesus is not God) is a lie.
It should be clear that P1 and P2 do not point to the same propositions. One proposition, P1: “John will tell a lie (i.e. P2)” is true; the other proposition, P2: “Jesus is not God” is not true, i.e. P2 is indeed a lie. To think or believe P2 is to sin.
God always only thinks and ever can only think propositions in the form of P1 and never in the form of P2, where the proposition would assert a falsehood; that is, God does not and cannot (because of His nature) think a lie, like “Jesus is not God”. Were it possible for God to think “Jesus is not God”, then that state of affairs would be the case, and so it would be true that “Jesus is not God”, and therefore the claim that “Jesus is God” would be a lie.
Now, one may say that it is S who lies (and thus sins) but it is God who made S do it. Here again, this is quite correct, but again a problem arises for many people from what just exactly “made S do it” means, what is it that is the sin and for whom is it a sin. What God does, and what the agent being caused to do does, are not one and the same act, just as in the above, P1 and P2 do not refer to the same proposition.
Also, one can be “made to do something” in several senses. Most people mean here really, “God made one to do something against his will”! For example, King David actually and personally did not want to commit adultery with Bathsheba, but God forced him to do it against David’s will.
Now, this may not necessarily be the case. Things and men can be “made to do something”, without in any way violating their will simply because they can be made to have the nature they have (i.e. if they have a will—e.g. rock does not by nature have a will, and will “fall down” because that is its nature in the ordinary scheme of things as God created them). In the case of King David, to commit adultery is precisely what David wanted to do in David’s fallen nature as a sinner, and not because God was forcing David to do it against David’s will. David and all men in their fallen state, love their sin: in fact, fallen men have to be “forced” against their will not to sin, to repent and to hate sin. Actually, “forced” is not a very accurate description, as God in fact does the “forcing” by changing the nature of fallen man, by regenerating him or her. In this sense, there is no “forcing” or compulsion, as it is a “creative” act; the sinner’s heart of stone is replaced by a new, living heart.
So, does all this make God the “author” of sin? In a sense, yes. The Bible in fact repeatedly teaches directly and by implication that God is the Ultimate Author of all things, including of men sinning, and so God indeed is the “Author of sin” in this sense. Yet, this does not in any way make God the “author of sin”; that is, where He Himself is the actual agent who ever sins or “forces” other creatures to sin against their will. Here the word “author”, just like “made me do it” has at least two senses. Similarly with words like “cause” and so on. Unfortunately, many people do not make a very clear distinction between the different senses. This results in great confusion and unnecessary disputes.
(to be continued …)
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- February 6, 2006 / 05:53