Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Does "Calvinism" teach that God is the author of sin?

Recently a friend of mine promoted an article titled "Refuting What Calvinists Believe with What Calvinists Know" by Dr. Patrick Johnston. Referring to the article, my friend declared, "This is one of the best explanations of calvinism I have seen." I objected to my friend's characterization of this article, pointing out that it is flawed on several levels. Primarily: Dr. Johnston misdefines his subject. In his explanation of "Calvinism," Dr. Johnston's first point is, "Calvinism teaches that God is the author and Creator of sin." Dr. Johnston cites no source for this statement, but he is certainly wrong. The Westminster and 1689 Baptist Confessions (documents that systematically state what "Calvinism" teaches) plainly assert, "God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin."

Defending the article, my friend first charged the Reformed Confessions with self-contradiction (since they say that God decrees everything that happens), then he brought forth the following quotes from John Calvin's Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God:

Certain shameless and illiberal people charge us with calumny by maintaining that God is made the author of sin, if His will is made first cause of all that happens. For what man wickedly perpetrates, incited by ambition or avarice or lust or some other depraved motive, since God does it by his hand with a righteous through perhaps hidden purpose--this cannot be equated with the term sin.

Must we then impute the guilt of sin to God, or invent a double will for Him so that He falls out with Himself? I have shown that He wills the same as the criminal and the wicked, but in a different way. So now it is to be maintained that there is diversity of kinds while He wills in the same way, so that out of the variety which perplexes us a harmony may be beautifully contrived.

While Reformed Baptists certainly do not feel obligated to agree with everything written by John Calvin (objecting to Calvin's doctrine of baptism, ecclesiology, and his view on church/state relations), Calvin's teachings on subjects such as predestination have certainly been influential among Reformed Baptists, so quotes from him on this subject are clearly relevant.

But notice what Calvin says (and what he does NOT say) in these quotes. In the first sentence quoted, Calvin is denying, not affirming, that God is "the author of sin." His opponents charged that the outcome of his exegesis was that God would necessarily be seen as the "author of sin," but Calvin denies that this is an implication of his teaching. In the second sentence quoted, Calvin denies that God contains a "double will" of such a nature that "He falls out with Himself;" this is the main point that Calvin is defending in the passage cited: that God is NOT like the "double minded man" of Jas 1:8. There is "diversity of kinds" regarding the way in which God- who is in control of all things, never out of control- wills what comes to pass. This "variety... perplexes us," but everything finds "harmony" in God, who works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

In these passages and others, Calvin is affirming the same doctrine found in the Westminster and London Baptist Confessions, mentioned above: that God is NOT the author or approver of sin AND that God's will is the "first cause of all that happens."

This doctrine MUST be maintained in light of passages such as Gen 5:20 in which Joseph tells his brothers, "[Y]ou meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Joseph does NOT say, 'You meant evil against me, but God didn't mean for that to happen.' Instead- in regard to the very same activity- there were two kinds of intentions at work: the brothers' intentions, which were truly evil, and God's sovereign intention, which was truly good. Other passages could be mentioned in this regard. For example, in Isaiah 10:5-7; 12, God calls Assyria "the rod of My anger" and foretells that He will use this "rod" to punish Jerusalem, yet He also says that He will punish Assyria because while God's sovereign intention in the matter is entirely righteous, the king of Assyria is characterized by "pomp" and "haughtiness." Finally and chiefly we look to the Cross. NO aspect of Christ's suffering was a surprise to God or outside of God's control. God's hand and His purpose predestined everything that occurred on that glorious and awful day (Acts 4:28). Yet "Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel" (Acts 4:27) perpetrated great wickedness against Jesus. This wickedness was according to God's decree, but God committed no act of wickedness in it: the fault was all on the part of the sinners.

When we sin we can blame no-one but ourselves: we can never claim "God made me do this."

When we are saved we can give credit to no-one but God Himself: we can never claim "I contributed to this."

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