Who Is the Author of Sin?

AUTHORSHIP. As I sit here and write this article, I find it interesting to be writing on the topic of authorship. Having authored several books of my own, I am intimately familiar with the process of forming thoughts, putting them into words, and seeing the final outcome of being published in written form. However, this article is not about the written word but of Creation itself. Scripture attests that God created all things (Colossians 1:16), and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being (John 1:3). Yet, we also see the Bible declare that sin entered into the world through one man: Adam (Romans 5:12). Keeping all of this in mind, to whom should we attribute the authorship of sin and evil? Do we credit Adam with the creation of sin? If so, how does that mesh with God being the Creator of all things? While a quick glance might prompt more questions than anything, I hope to explain why there is a quite logical answer.

Before I go too far into answering the questions above, I would like to point out that there are many who have attempted to do so already. Some have been quite successful (Isaac Watts and James Dolezal, to only name two), while others have failed miserably (i.e. Leighton Flowers and his loyal band of merry Provisionists). On the Soteriology101 Twitter page, of predestination, Dr. Flowers recently posted the following:

In an attempt to sound wise, he completely misses the mark in that his position makes no sense from an ontological position. As I argued in my LAST ARTICLE, sin is a no-thing. Therefore, it cannot exist. This isn’t to say sinfulness is an illusion. It’s to say sin itself has no being. It is a privation, or a withholding, of righteousness. A privation is not being but a lack thereof. A hole in the center of a doughnut has no ontological existence and cannot be created. A hole in a worn out sock will never be found. It is a lack of that which should be. It is a lack of existence that defines it, and a lack of existence cannot be ontologically authored.

In 1792, Isaac Watts wrote a comprehensive work on logic and reasoning titled Logic: Or, the Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth. On pages 26-27, he makes the following case:

As being is divided into substance and mode, so we may consider not-being with regard to both these. Not-being is considered as excluding all substance, and then all modes are also necessarily excluded; and this we call pure nihility or mere nothing…Not-being, as it has relation to modes or manners of being, may be considered either as a mere negation, or as a privation…A privation is the absence of what does naturally belong to the thing we are speaking of, or which ought to be present with it; as when a man or a horse is deaf, or blind, or dead; or if a physician or a divine be unlearned, these are called privations: So the sinfulness of any human action is said to be a privation; for sin is that want of conformity to the law of God which ought to be found in every action of man…Sin, or rather the sinfulness of an action, may be properly called a not-being; for it is a want of piety and virtue. This is the most usual, and perhaps the justest way of representing these matters.

Isaac Watts (“Logic: Or, the Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth,” 1792, pp.26-27)

With just a small dose of logic, it turns Dr. Flowers’ statement clear on its head. While it may not be enough to convince one of Calvinism or how God operates through means, while never being subject to or limited by those means, it is certainly enough to demonstrate why his statement is rooted in an illogical premise. Simply put, God cannot author sin because sin cannot be authored. It is a privation of that which should be.

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence, that His determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also He most wisely and powerfully binds, and otherwise orders and governs, in a manifold dispensation to His most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceeds only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, 5.4

Each man is still held accountable for his actions. There is no free pass to be given because each man is guilty to begin with. The term used to describe man’s responsibility despite God’s sovereignty is Compatibilism. This position upholds the righteous sovereignty of God, but it also recognizes that man along is responsible for his sin. Go back just a few paragraphs, and we can now see why Scripture says sin came through man even though it is God who made all things. One person who understood this concept well is Job. Despite being faced with much turmoil and affliction in this fallen world, he did not blame God or charge Him with wrongdoing (Job 1:22).

But how can God create all things (Colossians 1:16) and cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), yet not be held responsible for the outcome? After all, if God predestined it to happen, isn’t man being forced into it? Wouldn’t this mean God has created the problem of sin, even if sin itself cannot be authored? These are all questions that you will hear from the Arminian and Provisionist camps. They think it’s the nail in the coffin that will convince the world of the ills of Calvinism. Sadly, just as with the earlier quote by Flowers, these questions rely on emotion that is void of logic. They all miss one critical piece: God works His divine decrees through quite ordinary means. This is known as the doctrine of Divine Concurrence. The 1689 Confession puts it this way:

Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without His providence; yet by the same providence He ordered them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, 5.2

God acts through second causes to accomplish His first cause. Of his own volition, man lives out his life and makes decisions. These are either in obedience to God or in rebellion. There is no gun to the head of every man, woman, and child. We are all making decisions every day, but our decisions are bound by our nature. While free to make choices, we are not free to change our nature. A change of nature can only occur by God through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) as He grants eternal life to those who believe in the Son (John 3:36). Instead of fighting against the concept of God being in control of all things (Ephesians 1:11), we should readily submit to His decrees in joyful obedience. While our acceptance or rejection of His decrees are both established from eternity, the truth of compatibilistic divine concurrence teaches that the latter will still be held accountable, for he makes his decisions as a matter of second causes. Through man’s privation of righteousness, he brings about a state of sinfulness. The being (righteousness) becomes a hole of not-being (sin). But do not think sin is merely a passive state of non-being. Just as a hole in the bottom of a sock has no existence, it actively ruins the entire sock and renders it worthless. Similarly, sin actively corrupts everyone and everything. As Francis Turretin said in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, “But this privation is not pure or simple, but corrupting; not idle, but energetic; not of pure negation, but of depraved disposition, by which not only is the due rectitude taken away, but also an undue unrectitude and a depraved quality laid down, infecting all the faculties.”

Because it would take more time and space than I can afford to dedicate to this article, I can only scratch the surface of this topic. There are many learned men who have devoted many hours to giving this topic the attention it deserves. However, despite the brevity, I hope you can now see the absurdity behind an Arminian or Provisionist saying determinism would necessitate God being the author of sin. In their haste to discredit the soverignty of God, they have first disconnected rational thought from the words that come out of their mouths or are passed on via their fingertips on the keyboard. I don’t mean to sound prideful or arrogant, but charges against the sovereignty of God must not be taken lightly. It is a topic worthy of being treated with great care. As you hear these types of claims being made in the future, may you be better equipped to see through them.

— Travis W. Rogers

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