Sometimes when trying to grasp at an understanding of Gods sovereignty, we can run into the worst possible conclusions. It is a fine line we walk, one misstep to the left causes an omnipotent God to be weak, one misstep to the right causes God to be the original author and initiator of our sin.
The bible does teach that God is sovereign over all created things and creatures.
- God controls the entire universe: Ps 103:19; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11
- God controls all of nature: Ps 135:6-7; Mt 5:45; 6:25-30; Amos 3:6
- God controls angels & Satan: Ps 103:20-21; Job 1:12
- God controls nations: Ps 47:7-9; Dan 2:20-21; 4:34-35
- God controls human beings: Pr 16:9; Pr 21:1; 1 Sam 2:6-7; Psa.105:13-14; Gen. 39:21; Isa. 40:23-24; Gen 20:6
- God controls animals: Ps 104:21-30; 1 Ki 17:4-6
- God controls “accidents”: Ex 14:24-25; Pr 16:33; Jon 1:7; Mt 10:29
- God controls free acts of men: Ex 3:21; 12:25-36; Eze 7:27; 1 Chron. 5:22
- God controls sinful acts of men and Satan: 2 Sam 24:1+1 Chr 21:1; Gen 50:20; Judges 14:4; Exodus 14:17
So then can God be considered the “originator” of sin?
GOD CAUSES GOOD THINGS
We are fine with God being “in control”. Most people agree with that statement yet they don’t recognize the weight of it; and therefore they can get very confused when they find scriptures which imply that God causes people to act a certain way. Take for example this passage from exodus:
“And I (God) will give this people (Jews) favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, (Exodus 3:41)
God attributes the reason why the Egyptians gave stuff to the Israelites, to Himself. Before anything even happened, God says that the Egyptians will give is because He first will do something, namely give Jews favor in Egyptian eyes. He compelled the Egyptians to view the Jews in a positive way. It was Gods initial spoken promise in this passage that later resulted in the Egyptians giving jewelry to the Jews as they left Egypt. It is unheard that slave-owners give away riches to their slaves after they decide to quit and leave! but that is exactly what God compelled them to do. We cannot say: God saw what they would do all by themselves, and just takes credit for it. There are plenty of passages that say “in the future Person-A will do deed-X” but this exodus passage (along with many others) says: I God will give/make/send Person-A to do deed-X and in this, it is implicit and explicit that God is the initiating cause NOT just an observator.
Lets look at another example of God compelling a man to do good:
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirredup the spirit of Cyrus kingof Persia, so thathe sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the Godof heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a housein Jerusalem, which is in Judah”. (Ezra 1:1-2)
Yet again we see God works in man to stir up his spirit to do good. God is the initial cause of good. That God causes good is self evident and found throughout the bible. Without looking at hundreds more passages we can conclude that God moves hearts/wills to do good. And that is a good thing.
We understand that the Holy Spirit causes us to do good things. An example would be: you want to curse someone who did evil to you, then the Holy Spirit convicts you, and then His presence in you, reminds you to live worthy of the calling to which God called you. The Holy Spirit was the cause that made you desire to be love instead of hating.
We recognize that God is the author of good, and that it is only through and from Him that goodness originates. Every good deed we do is from God. As James says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”
GOD CAUSES BAD THINGS
This leads us to as the question, what about the passages that attribute to God, the sovereignty over sinners. What about every instance where God sends nations to destroy other nations as judgement. What about every incident in scripture where God WILLS something sinful to happen?
Take these few examples below, how can we understand Gods sovereignty in them AND the concept of human responsibility (both of which the bible teach simultaneously) WITHOUT making God the author/initiator/active causative agent of sin?
1. “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them. (Exodus 10:1) As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army (Exodus 14:22)
2. “But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.”(Deut 2:30)
3. For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:20)
4. As Eli tried to reason with his sons they did not repent due to a particular reason. Eli said “‘If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?’ But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the LORD desired to put them to death.” (1 Sam 2:25)
5. When a man names Shimei started to sin by throwing rocks and cursing David, the Kings men wanted to kill him yet David says: “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,‘ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?'” David said to Abishai and to all his servants,”Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. (2 Sam 16:10-11)
6. Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem deal ttreacherously with Abimelech, (Judges 9:23)
7. When Samson ignored his parents and broke the law by going into a Philistine woman the bible says his parents: “did not know that it was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasionagainst the Philistines (Judges 14:4)
8. When Rehoboam foolishly broke the kingom of Israel the bible says: “So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the LORD, that He might establish His word, which the LORD spoke throughAhijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” (1 Kings 12:15)
9. Isaiah recognized Gods part in mans sinfulness “Why, O LORD, do You cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage. (Isa 63:17)
10. Peter speaking to God says “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to DO whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27-28)
11. just as it is written, “God GAVE them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day..” Romans 11:8
12. “for God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Rev 17:17)
SO DOES GOD INITIALLY AUTHOR SIN?
To consider a most Holy righteous God to be One who hates sin, yet initially authors it it, is nothing short of horrendously atrocious. To say God forced someone to sin and then judges them is vile, loathesome and vomit-inducing. It is blasphemy to even consider that God actively compelled someone to sin who did not want to sin. Furthermore the bible says God does not even Himeslf tempt people:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James1:13-14)
So how can the verses above that says God willed people to sin make sense? Here is the answer.
1. Humanity was created without sin. Adam and Eve were not Fallen. The had some kind of freedom to choose sin or obedience. (But they were not God, and only God is able to be perfect all the time)
2. Adam and Eve choose sin. Because they chose sin, they plunged the human race into the consequences, spiritual death (wages of sin is death). By willingly choosing sin, their will, drive, desire became a slave to sin unable to NOT sin. We are the same, our will is a slave to sin. If you think this is not the case find one person who can be perfect and not sin.
3. Human being always willingly choose sin, UNLESS, God restrains them.
In the Old Testament there are a few examples of God restraining individual from sinning.
Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I knowthat in the integrity of your heart you have donethis, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. (Gen 20:6)
In the OT we have the promise of the a regenerated life and the Holy Spirit which will restrain us from desiring sin. “And I (God not us) will put my Spirit within you, and CAUSEyou to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
The NT repeats this many times of believers attributing of their new life to Gods work “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Phil 1:13
4. God actively permits our sin for His purpose. Man willingly chooses sin, God sovereignly controls it for His glory. Like an author writing a story with evil charachters, God moves around charachtes who already are evil and He moves them in such a way that they end up glorigying Him. Consider this example of Joseph, I think it is the perfect illustration.
Josephs brothers sold him out of the evil of their heart. They were jealous and wanted to hurt Joe. Prior to this jealousy they were not perfect humans.Yet when Joseph is talking to his brothers about their choice, he says this:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
So which one meant it? BOTH!
Most people look at this and say, “God saw that they would do and He USED their choice,” or “He found a way to fix the situation Josephs brothers put him in” No! It cannot be! The same word, meant, is used for BOTH, the men and God. If God did not mean/want/choose/desire to do this, then Josephs brothers did not mean/want/choose/desire this. Both CHOSE to act.
Man chooses to sin. God controls man in sin. (Is throwing sinners in hell not controlling their destiny?) God in no way is the AUTHOR of sin. He did not actively force man to sin. He only permitted man to choose it (though God had the power to not allow it as well). As a judge of sin, He has power to control man ALREADY in sin and direct that man to accomplish Gods purpose, but that man is not a brainless robot but at the same time actively chooses to sin himself, this is called compatibilism.
I will attempt one crude analogy.
Imagine I was a geneticist and created a dog in the laboratry. This dog was calm when I synthesized him, yet that dog eventually became aggressive and prone to biting people. As I stand and restrainthis dog by the leash I see a serial killer about to rape, pillage, and kill a large group of children. I guide the ALREADY aggressive dog in the right direction and thereby cause the dog to stop the serial killer.
I caused the dog to bite BUT the dog wanted to bite. I gave him an opportunity. I carried out my will but did not force the dog to do anything against his will. The dog planned to bite, I directed him to do what I wanted; to stop evil. (Pr 16:9)
All the examples in above sections adhere to this pattern. God did not originaly force a perfect pharoh to have a hard heart, but God hardened an already evil heart to direct pharaohs steps for Gods plan. If God GAVE someone a hardened heart or closed eyes, it was in judgement due to that persons per-existing sin. Everything sinful is authored by the devil and willingly accepted by man, God does however actively permit and direct it for His Purpose.
Here is a quote by Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian-evangelist of the first Great Awakening, which summarises the answer to Does God author sin?
“If by the author of sin, be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin; rejecting such an imputation on the Most High, as what is infinitely to be abhorred; and deny any such thing to be the consequence of what I have laid down. But if, by the author of sin, is meant the permitter, or not a hinderer of sin, and, at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted, or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow;—I say, if this be all that is meant by being the author of sin, I do not deny that God is the author of sin, (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense), it is no reproach for the Most High to be thus the author of sin. This is not to be the actor of sin, but on the contrary, of holiness. What God doth herein is holy, and a glorious exercise of the infinite excellency of his nature” (Freedom of the Will, vol. 1 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards.)
“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”