10/26/2007

God and Sin: Team Truth vs. Team Lie

About a month ago, I had the misfortune of encountering something commonly referred to as "hyper-Calvinism." It was my first experience. If you are unfamiliar with it, the definition of "hyper-Calvinism" given at Monergism is the belief that:
- God is the author of sin and of evil
- men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect
- the number of the elect at any time may be known by men
- it is wrong to evangelize
- assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith
- men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do
- God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others
- the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned
- God does not command everyone to repent
- the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.
- the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church
- the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.
- no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority
- the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men
- saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination
- only Calvinists are Christians

(As an aside, as a result of the debate I had, I have a bunch of heavy duty reading to do. My Christmas list this year will have a lot of books on it. Anyway...)
The discussion in question began on a certain Facebook group. Someone asked whether or not it was possible to be a non-determinist and a Calvinist. The definition of determinism used for the discussion was rather boiled down. Essentially, we agreed that "a strict view of determinism means that there is no real concept of decision." My response to this was "...If there is no concept of a decision at all and everything is pre-determined, then God would have to be the author of sin. And we all know that's not true.
What was I thinking?
Well, I was thinking God is holy, just, true, righteous, loving and perfect.
The response I got? And I quote:
"I am a strict determinist, Ruth. I do believe there is a real concept of decision, simply not free decision. And I believe God to be the author of sin, in that he caused it. He is not sinful in creating sin. But he still is its author. He is the author of absolutely every thing that comes to pass."
My eyes nearly popped out of my head.
I responded, in true Ruth fashion "The notion that God is the author of sin is so wrong that it's barely worth debating. Do you have a Scripture to back that idea up? Because I cannot find one. While there are verses to suggest that God creates calamity or disaster (2 Samuel 12:11, Jeremiah 32:42) that is not the same as saying God is the author of sin. Sending an evil spirit (such as He did to Saul) isn't even the same thing.
--Ruth
PS: By the way, I am not interested in a philosophical reasoning on this one. Scripture only please."

Sure enough, the response I received said:
"There is no scripture that states that God is the author of sin."
So, why are you arguing it then? This speaks to my earlier point about knowing Scripture. The reply continued.
" Similarly, there is also no scripture that states that God is not the author of sin."
Wanna make a bet? In fact, I will bet you my husbands salary for ten years that I can prove from Scripture God is not the author of sin. (I advise not taking that bet, by the way).
Anyway, the poster went on to argue that God could create sin without sinning. Then came the whining.
"I resent the fact that you blindly claim that "the notion that God is the author of sin is so wrong that it's barely worth debating." Why? I understand that in the traditions of man, this has been a large claim, but why? What is your scripture?"
My response? Scripture, Scripture, Scripture.
James 1: 13-15 states
"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
Evil desires give birth to sin. This verse explicitly states that God is not the author of either our temptations nor our evil desires. By extension, He therefore is also not the author of our sins. In every single Scriptural reference to sin, it is described either as "ours" or that of a particular person or people (ie: the sin of the Israelites). This implies ownership. Furthermore, God is Holy and perfect. As I John 1: 5 clearly says "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."
All means all.
In any case, all things which are created must necessarily be IN God, as indicated in Colossians 1: "16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
If God had created sin, it would necessarily be a part of Himself. He is not the author of something but also separate from it. So, unless you are actually willing to argue that sin is a part of God (and you had better not), God cannot be the author or creator of sin...
Resent away. You are still wrong and I am not blind.
Sin is error and imperfection. It is moral evil and an absence of good. Sin was introduce to the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed. It was a disruption of perfection... "

A wise man would have chosen to stop. But then, who said this guy was wise? He went on to argue that our sinful desires come from God (did he not read the verses from James I just posted??), since God created all things He must have created sin and that all is well with the world. He even stated that "Everything created, every person, every event, every thought, every desire, every choice is created, controlled and planned by God for the purpose of His ultimate glory. Amen." That's right. This guy genuinely believes God is ultimately glorified by our sin.
I could not believe it.
He went on to argue that the verse from Colossians should actually be used to support the argument that God created sin, since all means all. Now, please note that the verse I supplied from Colossians states that all things must cohere within God. If sin finds its coherence in God, then God cannot be perfect, righteous, holy, just, or true. In any case, as I pointed out, Galatians 5:17 states that the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit. The two are in conflict. God is not some great yin-and-yang type being in the sky who supports both good and evil. There is what is of Him and what is not of Him. Sin falls into the "not" category. The debate continued for a bit, two other people joined in... on Team Lie I might add, and eventually I pointed that fact out.
"Sin is an absence of something, not a presence. It is evil, a moral vacuum. How many ways can I describe the hole that sin is? As I already said, "Sin is godlessness. So, how can God be the inventor of the lack of Himself? You can't have A and not A at the same time." It's like asking the question "Is there anything God can't do?" You are trying to change the definitions of who God is and what sin is in order to somehow tie them together. Can I be any clearer except to say that sin is where and what God is not?... Sin is that which is contrary to the will of God.
If God does anything, it is His will, and therefore not sin."

Now, before I move on to the debate that this statement sparked, I'd like to point out a pertinent question someone else asked. Someone (who was a part of Team Truth) asked whether or not those on Team Lie believed that God actively intervened to keep people in their sin, or whether He merely passed over them, not extracting them from their sinful state. The answer came that these people believed God actively intervened to keep sinners sinning.
This is not what the Bible teaches of course, but you knew that.
Back to the first debate.
Someone, who was way out of his depth, tried to enter the conversation. He commented that there was no place God could not be, since that defies the definition of omnipresence. On the face of it, this is true. However, the individual would later go on to argue that God cannot be absent from something. If that is so, why did Jesus call out "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?" The inevitable answer was that forsake doesn't actually mean forsake.
Sigh.
You can't have A and not A at the same time. Sin is a hole. The sin state is an absence of God's grace. It is a state separating us from God. It holds us captive and keeps us in bondage. The sin action is what happens in that state. The sin action is a transgression against God's Divine will, something we do against Him or someone else. It is to do evil in the sight of God. It is to do what God forbids.
A member of Team Lie then tried to argue that sin is not contrary to the will of God. If anything is contrary to God's will then it will never be. They also tried to argue that sinner's are not slaves to their sin nature and that sin preceded the fall. All of these are wrong. Sin is lawlessness, not God's will and without God we are slaves to sin, as per Romans 6. Sin did not precede the fall. The first sin was the fall, resulting in the state which was then propagated throughout mankind resulting in more sin actions.
Then came the insults. It was inevitable. Apparently, my life is sad, I must be the sort of person that pushes everyone away, clearly I have no friends and blah blah blah blah blah. What are my credentials that make me feel I am so qualified to interpret the Bible? What makes me think I am a scholar? Don't I know the Scriptures cannot actually be known? I am desperately in need of a hermenuetics course, don't I know that? I really should be more careful in my choice of words.
Blah.
Blah blah.
Blah blah blah.
Etc...
Booooooooooring.
Why does everyone reach for the nearest possible insult when they are losing an argument and can't support their position anymore? And why are insults from these sorts of people never original? And why do Christians do this? If their position is the Scriptural one, then they should be able to support it easily. Instead, the individual who was out of his depth and wanted my "credentials" argued that "if you don't know how to interpret the Bible then every one of those verses is moot. And please don't give me some hoopla about the bible speaks for itself or something. Yeah, it does, but you don't have the tools to see how it does that." Later he stated that you interpret scripture by what how you think scripture interprets scripture. 21st century Christians don't have a clue how to interpret scripture.
Scripture.
Moot.
No, I am not kidding.
That is a direct quote in response to the verses I posted about God and sin. I must have found over a hundred. Not one indicated God has anything to do with it. Similarly, there is nothing to even remotely suggest He created it. I also dug up Calvin's position on sin, as well as the position of the Westminster Confession. Not surprisingly, they agree with Team Truth.
God did not create sin.
Sin entered the world through the fall of Adam.
The original poster decided it was time to feign spirituality again and say "But I'm sure you're well aware that the main point isn't when he became the author of sin, but the fact that he is the author of sin. The point is that everything, including sin (in general, and each historical sin of our lives individually) was planned by, purposed by, caused by, desired by, and for the glory of the one and only Creator, the Lord God Almighty. Amen."
By this time I was shaking my fist at the computer screen. Blasphemy!! I think these bursts of spiritualese were what bothered me the most. Not only was this individual impugning the character of God, he was trying to make himself sound holy at the same time. He went on to argue that it pleases God to create sin. I actually left the conversation for a little while, because I began to feel that this person was being disruptive for the sake of it. He argued, and I quote, "I have no ability to not commit whatever sin I commit today, because God wants it to happen."
No, that's not a joke.
The debate spilled over into another thread. The same people tried to argue that man is not responsible for his own actions, since God plans and ordains everything. If sin is man's choice, God cannot be sovereign. They continued to argue that the origin of sin cannot be known. The debate has been going on for over 2,000 years.
At this point, I feel I need to point out that just because a debate has been going on for a long time in no way implies that the subject of the debate has not been solved. There are many, many people out there arguing about whether we can know if God exists, where evil comes from, how the universe came to be and so on. However, all of these things have answers. Just because someone ignores that answer doesn't mean it doesn't exist. People ignore right answers all the time; it's a fact of life. I pointed this out but was told by the individual who was put of his depth that I was making a false dilemma. This individual eventually presented me with a cut-and-paste list of ten things he hates about me. The last point was that I should "be ashamed of [myself] to cause a brother in Christ to be so fed up with [me] that he has to copy and paste just to avoid [me]."
The butterfly effect was also discussed. I learned that part of the reason some feel God must ordain sin is that any decision made by man would necessarily run the risk of derailing God's plan. This is a synergistic position, only applied in the reverse. Man's actions can never derail the plan of God. In fact, nothing that we do, be it sin or righteousness, affects God's Will. Job 35:6-8 speaks to this point. God's Will is so far above us. What can He possibly receive from us? How can we possibly affect Him?
The conversation finally turned when someone posted this sermon by John MacArthur. Wouldn't you know it? MacArthur agrees with Team Truth. He says, and I quote
""Let me put it to you simply: God is not responsible for evil. His creatures are. God is not responsible for evil. His creatures are. Everything -- listen to this carefully -- that God created was "very" what? "Good." Everything. This is affirmed throughout the scripture....
The source of evil, the source of sin, is outside God....
To disobey God was to initiate evil. Evil is not the presence of something. Evil is the absence of righteousness. You can't create evil, because evil doesn't exist as a created entity. It doesn't exist as a created reality. Evil is a negative. Evil is the absence of perfection. It's the absence of holiness. It's the absence of goodness. It's the absence of righteousness....
Evil is not a created thing. Evil is not a substance. Evil is not an entity. Evil is not a being. Evil is not a force. Evil is not some floating spirit. Evil is a lack of moral perfection. God created absolute perfection. Wherever a lack of that exists, sin exists. And that cannot exist in the nature of God or in anything that God makes. Evil comes into existence when God's creatures fall short of the standard of moral perfection..."

All of a sudden, the members if Team Truth came crawling out of the woodworks. Within a short amount of time there were people posting "No, God did not create sin."
Then came the worst post of all. The original poster stated "I PRAISE God for my sin and yours. You cannot understand my position until you are willing to understand this. I THANK Him for my sin." Conveniently, he later chose to edit this blasphemy. However, I quoted him and retained his statement so that no one would miss it. Yes, this person actually said he was thankful to God for His sin. He later tried to argue that he was repentant in his thanks.
In case you were wondering, I am not thankful for my sin. I hate it. I have glaring faults I wish I didn't have. This goes for most of the Christians I know. In fact, I have never met a single Christians who is happy that they sin. Most people eagerly desire change.
Anyway, he also stated, I missed it at the time, that "I am far younger than you, but have been blessed with great wisdom by God. It's one of the very few strong skills he's given me." Despite the copious amount of Scripture now provided by myself and others, he wanted an explanation why his interpretation was not a good one.
I ended up saying that it was because according to the Bible, he was wrong.
What more could I say?
He began to argue that To arrive at the best interpretation, we should explain why we interpret it the way we do. That is, you explain why you interpret it the way you do, and I explain why I interpret it the way I do. Apparently, the best explanation would win out. The problem with this is that if an explanation or philosophical position leads one to a position that is contrary to Scripture, then it cannot be right. One must start with Scripture first and then arrive at a conclusion. One cannot begin with a conclusion and twist Scripture to fit it.
More people began to argue that God did not create sin. Some explanations were simple; others quite verbose. Someone found a blog entry by Phil Johnson on the subject.
Suddenly, the argument stopped. Those arguing for the divine creation of sin disappeared. They gave up without warning. I don't know if their minds were changed. In the case of the original poster, I am certain the answer is no.
I was deeply saddened by my experience. At least some of the members of Team Lie were students. This leads me to believe that some of this teaching is happening at the seminary level. This does not bode well for the future generation of ministers.
If you ever come in contact with this belief, and the individual tells you they are a Calvinist, tell them they aren't. They aren't even a Christian. The entire line of argument is not only heresy, but blasphemy as well.
And, if you ever want that list of Scriptures, just ask. I have heaps on the subject. Incidentally, I was never provided with a verse supporting the notion that God creates sin.
Surprise, surprise.

11 comments:

Christian Conservative said...

Hyper-Calvinism is a most destructive doctrine, and always leads to conflit, not the "enlightenment" that it supposedly gives.

Just ask Dave Hunt... his valuable ministry was nearly destroyed when he came out against Calvinism.

I would consider myself to be Calvinst leaning in many ways, however, those who cling to it dogmatically invariably end up wreaking churches, friendships, and families. (I've seen the destructive results first hand... and it's not pretty)

Good job for standing up for truth.

Ruth said...

Hmm.
You moved from hyper-Calvinism to Calvinism. The two are not the same. One is right and the other is wrong.
I have never heard of Dave Hunt. I will look him up.

Ruth said...

PS: Um, Dave Hunt is totally wrong! He thinks the denial of man's free will is blasphemy. Meanwhile, Romans clearly teaches that we are slaves to sin. He also believes that God can fail to save people. Salvation is dependent solely on the will of man.
Furthermore, according to this Hunt is one of those who teach that repentance is not necessary. His argument is based on the fact that the word repent (or any variation thereof) cannot be found in the Gospel of John? He states since the Bible doesn't specify repentance as part of the gospel whereby sinners are saved, I dare not do so either. I'm not saying it might not be good to preach repentance in 'The Nonnegotiable Gospel,' but it would require considerable explanation. Might not requiring repentance cause some confusion? What exactly is meant by repentance? How thorough must repentance be? Must the person repent of every sin ever committed? Is he then under obligation to live a life above sin? Might this put a burden upon the sinner which he cannot bear, not yet realizing that Christ will give him the strength to live a new life?..."

Why are you looking up to an individual such as this? His ministry is not "valuable." He is one of those ones leading people astray, and what he teaches is not Scriptural at all. Read my post from yesterday. I think it will help you.

Christian Conservative said...

ps - yes, when I said "Calvinism", I was referring to hyper-Calvinsim, sorry.

As for Dave Hunt, make sure you're reading what he says, and in context... he's been BADLY misquoted and trashed by many hyper-Calvinists due to his expose on their teachings. (true, there were some errors and misquotes of his own in his work "What Love is This?", however, most of his main themes remain valid)

It's a shame that he was so hatefully attacked when his work was published... many cut of their funding to him, his publisher refused to print a second addition, and he received a lot of hateful mail over it... simply because he tried to point out how pervasive Calvinism (not just hyper-Calvinism) is in our North American churches today, and how dangerous those teachings can be when taken to their extreme.

Again, I've met many WONDERFUL believers who are hard-core Calvinists, and we have great fellowship together... my problem is with those who make it their be-all and end-all ideology, and brand those of us who aren't Calvinists as heretics.

Christian Conservative said...

pps - I'm also a "Plymouth Brethren", which is why I'm aware of who Dave Hunt is. (not that I know his stuff all that well, so I can't vouch for everything he says... he's still a man, just like me!)

Most in the "Plymouth Brethren" would not refer to themselves as Calvinist nor Arminian, as we find elements of both teachings throughout the Scripture.

One point I like to make to people is that the arguments on this issue are tied into our linear way of thinking... whereas God is not bound by the contraints of time, which makes many of the points in this argument moot. As one Brethren elder said at a conference this summer, "God does not think his thoughts sequentially, like we do... God thinks His thoughts simultaneously".

As such, many of the arguments we have on when and how "exactly" a man is saved are rendered meaningless... the point to recognize is that God saves us upon our confession of faith, and belief in our heart, as per Romans 10:9... how exactly He does it is His business, not ours. ;-)

Ruth said...

"What Love is This?" is about Calvinism, not hyper-Calvinism. It frequently happens that those from an Arminian background paint one as the other, sometimes deliberately, sometimes due to the fact they don't understand what they are talking about.

But, on the subject of Calvinism, I do actually plan to blog about it at some point. I also want to deal with hyper-Calvinism and the pertinent heresies.

Christian Conservative said...

Yes, my bad, I so often am not clear when it comes to this one... I see that there are "Calvinists", "extreme Calvinists", and "hyper-Calvinists"... sometimes I just say "Calvinist" when I'm referring to the extreme ones. In most conversations I've had, however, when someone identifies themselves as a "Calvinist", I often find they're extreme about their adherence to it... and I often find that any dose of extremism leads to error.

In my reading of "What Love is This", I only ever took what he was saying as referring to people who make it their "be-all and end-all" doctrine... I honestly have no problem with Calvinists, just those who make it the core issue when it comes to relating to the Body of Christ. (which, unfortunately, I've had the sad experience of dealing with... a Calvinist, not a hyper-Calvinist, who took the doctrine to the extreme won't have anything to do with my wife and I anymore, all because we're "heretics" in his eyes... really sad)

Ruth said...

How can I put this best?
How one understand salvation is a core issue. There are massive differences between Catholic, Arminian and Calvinist views on it. In truth, I don't actually know any pure Arminians. I know of no one who believes man is honestly born neutral. In fact, a lot of the people I know are more Calvinistic than they think... that is part of why I plan to blog about it.
Having said that, believing in the five points of Calvinism is not a prerequisite for salvation. Calvinism is a way of understanding how we are saved. It is not how we are saved. I can't really speak to the situation with your former friend, but his way of handling this situation is probably not the correct one. If it were me in his place, I would try to convince you with Scripture. It's very unlikely that it would end any friendship.

Shane said...

Hey Ruth! Good to see you're still in fine form! I might have to get organized and write an essay on my view of calvinism/arminianism. Heh... my pastor calls himself an arminian, but I think it's like you say, he's more calvinist than he thinks, he just believes and acts that he must call people to decide for Christ.

Myself, I call my position the "perspectivist" view - it is about the difference between how God sees things and how humanity sees things.

Ruth said...

Shane,
Genuine Arminian teaching proceeds from the position that man is born neutral. Based on what I know of you, I can almost guarantee that your minister does not believe such a thing.

Shane said...

A more accurate statement would be that he falls more on the "free will" side than on the "God's sovereignty" in terms of election. Classical arminianism you're right has a lot more to do with it.

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