Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Snippets from Vincent Cheung

from the book, "Author of Sin"

Theological determinists hold that everything we do is caused by antecedent conditions, ultimately traceable to God.
This is true of most theological determinists, but it is also finally incoherent. I would change this to say that all conditions are "immediately traceable to God."

I affirm the meaningfulness of so-called "second causes" only in the sense that these are the means by which God executes his immutable decrees; however, these second causes are not themselves self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, or self-powered. Rather, all so-called "secondary causes" are themselves immediately caused and controlled by God, and the objects on which these secondary causes supposedly act upon react in ways that are also immediately caused and controlled by God.

We must Deny the unjustified premise, "responsibility presupposes freedom." No, responsibility presupposes God's decree that it is so...because He says so.

That is, if God directly causes you to sin, it does make him the "author" of sin (at least in the sense that people usually use the expression), but the "sinner" or "wrongdoer" is still you. Since sin is the transgression of divine law, for God to be a sinner or wrongdoer in this case, he must decree a moral law that forbids himself to be the author of sin, and then when he acts as the author of sin anyway, he becomes a sinner or wrongdoer.

But unless this happens, for God to be the author of sin does not make him a sinner or wrongdoer. The terms author, sinner, wrongdoer, and tempter are relatively precise – at least precise enough to be distinguished from one another, and for God to be the "author" of sin says nothing about whether he is also a "sinner," "wrongdoer," or a "tempter." And for one not to be a wrongdoer by definition means that he has not done wrong. Therefore, even if God is the author of sin, it does not automatically follow that there is anything wrong with it, or that he is a wrongdoer.

However, this is not to distance God from evil, for to "author" the sin implies far more control over the sinner and the sin than to merely tempt. Whereas the devil (or a person's lust) may be the tempter, and the person might be the sinner, it is God who directly and completely controls both the tempter and the sinner, and the relationship between them. And although God is not himself the tempter, he deliberately and sovereignly sends evil spirits to tempt (1 Kings 22:19–23) and to torment (1 Samuel 16:14–23, 18:10, 19:9). But in all of this, God is righteous by definition.

Contrary to the traditional explanation, God does not say, "Oh, no, I am not the author of sin. Although I am the ultimate cause of all things, I distance myself from directly causing evil by establishing secondary causes and free agents. So although I create and sustain all things, men freely sin by thinking and acting according to their own dispositions. The evil dispositions come from Adam. As for how Adam got his evil dispositions…well, it will just have to remain a mystery for you." If this is the answer, why not jump right to the mystery and save us all some time?

The Bible never responds this way to this type of questions and objections. There are many biblical passages saying that God causes all things, and the metaphysics behind it is explained by God's omnipotence – the same omnipotence that created everything. On the other hand, all the passages that people use to deny that God is the author of sin or to prove compatibilism are always just descriptions of events and motives, without dealing with the metaphysical cause of those events and motives.

And contrary to the typical response, Paul does not say, "Oh, no, you don't understand. Although God determines all things, he causes all things only by having you freely make decisions according to your own nature, which came from Adam, whose nature mysteriously turned from holy to evil, so that God is not the author of sin, but so that you are responsible for your own decisions and actions."

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