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The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVIII- That it Discourages all motives to exertion

November 20, 2019 Leave a comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVIII

That It Discourages All Motives to Exertion

1. The Means as well as the Ends are Foreordained. 2. Practical Results.

1. The Means as well as the Ends are Foreordained

The objection that the doctrine of Predestination discourages all motives to exertion, is based on the fallacy that the ends are determined without reference to the means. It is not merely a few isolated events here and there that have been foreordained, but the whole chain of events, with all of their inter-relations and connections. All of parts form a unit in the Divine plan. If the means should fail, so would the ends. If God has purposed that a man shall reap, He has also purposed that he shall sow. If God has ordained a man to be saved, He has also ordained that he shall hear the Gospel, and that he shall believe and repent. As well might the farmer refuse to till the soil according to the laws disclosed by the light of nature and experience until he had first learned what was the secret purpose of God to be executed in His providence in regard to the fruitfulness of the coming season, as for any one to refuse to work in the moral and spiritual realms because he does not know what fruitage God may bring from his labor. We find, however, that the fruitage is commonly bestowed where the preliminary work has been faithfully performed. If we engage in the Lord’s service and make diligent use of the means which He has prescribed, we have the great encouragement of knowing that it is by these very means that He has determined to accomplish His great work.

Even those who accept the Scripture Statement that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His will,” and similar declarations to the effect that God’s providence control extends to all the events of their lives. know that this does not interfere in the slightest with their freedom. Do those who make this objection allow their belief in the Divine sovereignty to determine their conduct in temporal affairs? Do they decline food when hungry, or medicine when sick, because God has appointed the time and manner of their death? Do they neglect the recognized means of acquiring wealth or distinction because God gives riches and honor to whom He pleases? When in matters outside of religion one recognizes God’s sovereignty, yet works in the exercise of conscious freedom, is it not sinful and foolish to offer as an excuse for neglecting his spiritual and eternal welfare the contention that he is not free and responsible? Does not his conscience testify that the only reason why he is not a follower of Jesus Christ is that he has never been willing to follow Him? Suppose that when the palsied man was brought to Jesus and heard the words, “Rise up and walk,” he had merely replied, “I cannot; I am palsied!” Had he done so he would have died a paralytic. But, realizing his own helplessness and trusting the One who gave the command, he obeyed and was made whole. It is the same almighty Saviour who calls on sinners dead in sin to come to Him, and we may be sure that the one who comes will not find his efforts vain. The fact is, that unless we regard God as the sovereign Disposer of all events, who in the midst of certainty has ordained human liberty, we have but little encouragement to work. If we believed that our success and our destiny was primarily dependent on the pleasure of weak and sinful creatures, we would have but little incentive to exertion.

“On his knees, the Arminian forgets those logical puzzles which have distorted Predestination to his mind and at once thankfully acknowledges his conversion to be due to that prevenient grace of God, without which no mere will or works of his own would ever have made him a new creature. He prays for that outpouring of God’s Spirit to restrain, convince, renew, and sanctify men; for that divine direction of human events, and overturning of the counsels and frustrating of the plans of wicked men; he gives to the Lord glory and honor for what is actually done in this regard, which implies that God reigns, that He is the sovereign disposer of all events, and that all good, and all thwarting of evil are due to Him, while all evil is itself due to the creature. He recognizes the completeness of the divine foreknowledge as bound up inseparably with the wisdom of His eternal purpose. His prayers for assurance of hope, or his present fruition of it, presuppose the faith that God can and will keep his feet from falling, and heaven from revolt, and that His purpose forms such an infallible nexus between present grace and eternal glory, that nothing shall be able to separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”1

Since the future events are hidden and unknown to us we should be as industrious in our work and as earnest in the performance of our duty as if nothing had been decreed concerning it. It has often been said that we should pray as though everything depended on God, and work as though everything depended on ourselves. Luther’s observation here was: “We are commanded to work the more for this very reason, because all things future are to us uncertain; as saith Ecclesiastes, ‘In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or weather they both shall be alike good,’ Ecclesiastes 11: 6. All things future, I say are to us uncertain in knowledge, but necessary in event. The necessity strikes into us fear of God that we presume not, or become secure, while the uncertainty works in us a trusting that we sink not into despair.2

“The farmer who, after hearing a sermon on God’s decrees, took the break-neck road instead of the safe one to his home and broke his wagon in consequence, concluded before the end of the journey that he at any rate had been predestinated to be a fool, and that he had made his calling and election sure.” 3

On one occasion after Dr. Charles Hodge had finished a theological lecture he was approached by a lady who said to him, “So you believe, Dr. Hodge, that what is to be will be?” “Why, yes, lady, I do,” he replied. “Would you have me believe that what is to be won’t be?”

And we are further reminded at this point of one in Scotland accused and convicted of murder, who said to the judge “I was predestined from all eternity to do it.” To whom the judge replied, “So be it, then I was predestined from all eternity to order you to be hanged by the neck, which I now do.”

Some may be inclined to say, If nothing but the creative power of God can enable us to repent and believe, then all we can do is to wait passively until that power is exerted. Or it may be asked, If we cannot effect our salvation, why work for it? In every line of human endeavor, however, we find that the result is dependent on the co-operation of causes over which we have no control. We are simply to make use of the appropriate means and trust to the co-operation of the other agencies. We do have the express promise of God that those who seek shall find, that those who ask shall receive, and that to those who knock it shall be opened. This is more than is given to the men of the world to stimulate them in their search for wealth, knowledge, or position; and more than this cannot rationally be demanded. He who reads and meditates upon the word of God is ordinarily regenerated by the Holy Spirit, perhaps in the very act of reading. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word,” Acts 10:44. Shakespeare makes one of his characters say: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings,” (Julius Caesar, 1:2).

The sinner’s inability to save himself, therefore, should not make him less diligent in seeking his salvation in the way which God has appointed. Some leper when Christ was on earth might have reasoned that since he could not cure himself, he must simply wait for Christ to come and heal him. The natural effect, however, of a conviction of utter helplessness is to impel the person to make diligent application at the source from whence alone help can come. Man is a fallen, ruined, and helpless creature, and until he knows it he is living without hope and without God in the world.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVII- That it make God the Author of Sin

November 13, 2019 Leave a comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVII

That It Makes God the Author of Sin

10. CALVINISM OFFERS A MORE SATISFACTORY SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM OF EVIL THAN DOES ANY OTHER SYSTEM

The real difficulty which we face here, is to explain why a God of infinite holiness, power, and wisdom, would have brought into existence a creation in which moral evil was to prevail so extensively; and especially to explain why it should have been permitted to issue in the everlasting misery of so many of His creatures. This difficulty, however, bears not only against Calvinism, but against theism in general; and while other systems are found to be wholly inadequate in their explanation of sin, Calvinism can give a fairly adequate explanation in that it recognizes that God is ultimately responsible since He could have prevented it; and Calvinism further asserts that God has a definite purpose in the permission of every individual sin having ordained it “for His own glory.” As Hamilton says, “If we are to accept theism at all, the only respectable kind is Calvinism.” “Calvinism teaches that God not only knew what He was doing when He created man, but that He had a purpose even in permitting sin.” And what better explanation than this can be advanced by any one else who believes that God is the Creator and Ruler of this universe?

In regard to the first fall of man, we assert that the proximate cause was the instigation of the Devil and the impulse of his own heart; and when we have established this, we, have removed all blame from God. Paul tells us that God “dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto.” Our mental vision can no more comprehend His deep mysteries than our unaided physical eyes can endure the light of the sun. When the Apostle contemplated these things he broke forth, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past tracing out!” And since our human intellects cannot soar to such stupendous heights, it is ours to adore with reverence, fear, and trembling, but not to explain, that mystery which is too high and too deep for even the angels themselves to penetrate. Let us remember also that along with this sin, God has provided a redemption graciously wrought out by Himself; and no doubt it is due to our limitations that we do not see this to be the all-sufficient explanation. The decree of redemption is as old as the decree of apostasy; and He who ordained sin has also ordained a way of escape from it.

Since the Scriptures tell us that God is perfectly righteous, and since in all of His acts upon which we are capable of passing judgment we find that He is perfectly righteous, we trust Him in those realms which have not yet been revealed to us, believing that He has solutions for those problems which we are not able to solve. We can rest assured that the Judge of all the earth will do right, and as His plan is more fully revealed to us we learn to thank Him for that which is past and to trust him for that which is future.

It avails nothing, of course, to say that God foresaw the evil but did not include it in His plan,— for if He foresaw it and in spite of it brought the world into existence, the evil acts were certainly a part of the plan, although an undesirable part. To deny this foresight makes God blind; and He would then be conceived of as working something like the school boy who mixes chemicals in the laboratory not knowing what may happen. In fact, we could not even respect a God who worked in that manner. And furthermore, that view still leaves the ultimate responsibility for sin resting upon God, for at least he could have refrained from creating.

That the sinful acts of men have their place and a necessary place in the plan is plainly seen in the course of history. For instance, the assassination of President McKinley was a sinful act,— yet upon that act depended the role which Theodore Roosevelt was to play as President of the United States; and if that one link in the chain of events had been otherwise, the entire course of history from that time to the end of the world would have been radically different. The same is true in the case of Lincoln. If God intended that the world should reach this state in which we find ourselves today, those events were indispensable. A moment’s consideration will convince us that all of even the apparently insignificant events have their exact place, that they start rapidly growing influences which soon extend to the ends of the earth, and that if one of them had been omitted, say fifty years ago, the world today would have been far different.

A further important proof that Paul taught the doctrine which Calvinists have understood him to teach is found in the objections which he put in the mouths of his opponents,— that it represented God as unrighteous: “Is there unrighteousness with God?” Romans 9:14; and, that it destroyed man’s responsibility: “Thou wilt then say unto me, Why doth He still find fault? For who withistandeth His will?” Romans 9:19. These are the very objections which today, on first thought, spring into men’s minds, in opposition to the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination; but they have not even the least plausibility when directed against the Arminian doctrine A doctrine which does not afford the least grounds for these objections cannot have been the one that the Apostle taught.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVII- That it make God the Author of Sin

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVII

That It Makes God the Author of Sin

9. GOD’S GRACE IS MORE DEEPLY APPRECIATED AFTER THE PERSON HAS BEEN THE VICTIM OF SIN

We are often permitted to fall into sin, that, after being delivered from it, we shall appreciate our salvation all the more. In the parable of the two debtors the one owed five hundred shillings and the other fifty. When they had nothing with which to pay the lender forgave them both. Which of them, therefore, would love him most? Naturally the one to whom he forgave most. As Jesus spoke this parable they were seated at meat and the application was made to Simon the Pharisee and to the penitent woman who had anointed His feet. The latter had been forgiven much and was profoundly grateful, but the former had received no such favor and felt no gratitude. “To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little,” Luke 7:41-50.

Sometimes the person, like the prodigal son, will not appreciate the Father’s home nor respect His authority until he has experienced the ravaging effects of sin and the pangs of hunger, sorrow and disgrace. It seems that man with his freedom must, to a certain extent, learn by experience before he is fully able to appreciate the ways of righteousness and to render unquestioned obedience and honor to God. We have quoted Paul’s statement to the effect that “God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that He might have mercy on all,” Romans 11 :32, and that the sentence of death was passed within us that we should not trust in ourselves but only in God, 2 Corinthians 1: 9. The creature cannot adequately appreciate God’s mercy until he has been rescued from a state of misery. After the lame beggar had been healed by Peter and John at the door of the temple, he appreciated his health as never before, and “entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” And after being delivered from the power and guilt of sin, we appreciate God’s grace as we never could have otherwise. We read that even our Lord Jesus Christ in His human nature was made “perfect through sufferings,” although He was, of course, totally separate from all sin.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVII- That it make God the Author of Sin

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVII

That It Makes God the Author of Sin

8. COMMENTS BY SMITH AND HODGE

God’s relation to sin is admirably illustrated in the following paragraph which we shall take the liberty of quoting from W. D. Smith’s little book, What Is Calvinism? “Suppose to yourself a neighbor who keeps a distillery or dram shop, which is a nuisance to all around — neighbors collecting, drinking, and fighting on the Sabbath, with consequent misery and distress in families, etc. Suppose, further, that I am endowed with a certain foreknowledge, and can see, with absolute certainty, a chain of events, in connection with a plan of operations which I have in view, for the good of that neighborhood. I see that by preaching there, I will be made the instrument of the conversion, and consequent reformation, of the owner of the distillery, and I therefore determine to go. Now, in so doing, I positively decree the reformation of the man; that is I determine to do what renders his reformation certain and I fulfill my decree by positive agency. But, in looking a little further in the chain of events, I discover, with the same absolute certainty, that his drunken customers will be filled with wrath, and much sin will be committed, in venting their malice upon him and me. They will not only curse and blaspheme God and religion, but they will even burn his house, and attempt to burn mine. Now, you perceive that this evil, which enters into my plan, is not chargeable upon me at all, though I am the author of the plan which, in its operations, I know will produce it. Hence, it is plain, that any intelligent being may set on foot a plan, and carry it out, in which he knows, with absolute certainty, that evil will enter, and yet he is not the author of the evil, or chargeable with it in any way….In looking a little further in the chain of events, I discover, that if they be permitted they will take his life; and, I see, moreover, that if his life be spared, he will now be as notorious for good as he was for evil, and will prove a rich blessing to the neighborhood and to society….Therefore, upon the whole plan, I determine to act; and, in so doing, I positively decree the reformation of that man, and the consequent good; and I permissively decree the wicked actions of the others; yet, it is very plain, that I am not in any way, chargeable for their sins. Now, in one or the other of these ways, God ‘has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass’” (P. 33-35).

And Charles Hodge says in this connection: “A righteous judge, in pronouncing sentence on a criminal, may be sure that he will cause wicked and bitter feelings in the criminal’s mind, or in the hearts of his friends, and yet the judge be guiltless. A father, in excluding a reprobate son from his family, may see that the inevitable consequences of such exclusion will be his greater wickedness, and yet the father may do right. It is the certain consequence of God’s leaving the fallen angels and the finally impenitent to themselves, that they will continue in sin, and yet the holiness of God remain untarnished. The Bible clearly teaches that God judicially abandons men to their sins, giving them up to a reprobate mind, and He therein is most just and holy. It is not true, therefore, that an agent is responsible for all the certain consequences of his acts, It may be, and doubtless is, infinitely wise and just in God to permit the occurrence of sin, and to adopt a plan of which sin is a certain consequence or element; yet, as He neither causes sin, nor tempts men to its commission, He is neither its author nor approver.” 16

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVII- That it make God the Author of Sin

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVII

That It Makes God the Author of Sin

7. SCRIPTURE PROOF

That this is the doctrine of the Scriptures is abundantly plain. The sale of Joseph into Egypt by his brothers was a very wicked act; yet we see that it was overruled not only for Joseph’s good but also for the good of the brothers themselves. When it is traced to its source we see that God was the author. it had its exact place in the divine plan. Joseph later said to his brothers, “And now be not grieved nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life . . . So now it was not you that sent me hither but God . . . . And as for you, ye meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,’ Genesis 45:5, 8; 50:20. It is said that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, Exodus 4:21; 9:12; and the very words which God addressed to Pharaoh were, “But in every deed for this cause have I made thee to stand, to show thee my power, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth,” Exodus 9:16. And to Moses God said, “And I, behold I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians and they shall go (into the Red Sea) after them; and I will get me honor upon Pharaoh and upon all his host, and upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen,” Exodus 14:17.

Shimei cursed David, because Jehovah had said, “Curse David”; and when David knew this, he said, “Let him alone, and let him curse; for Jehovah hath bidden him,” 2 Samuel 16:10, 11. And after David had suffered the unjust violence of his enemies he recognized that “God hath done all this.” Of the Canaanites it was said, “And it was of Jehovah to harden their hearts, to come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, that they might have no favor, and that He might destroy them, as Jehovah commanded Moses,” Joshua 11:20. Hophni and Phinehas, the two evil sons of Eli, “hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because Jehovah was minded to slay them,” 1 Samuel 2:25.

Even Satan and the evil spirits are made to carry out the divine purpose. As an instrument of divine vengeance in the punishment of the wicked an evil spirit was openly given the command to go and deceive the prophets of King Ahab: “And Jehovah said, Who shall entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner; and another on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before Jehovah, and said, I will entice him. And Jehovah said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets. And He said, Thou shalt entice him, and shalt prevail; Go forth and do so. Now therefore (said Micaiah), behold, Jehovah hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and Jehovah hath spoken evil concerning thee,” 1 Kings 22:20-23. Concerning Saul it is written, “an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him,” 1 Samuel 16:14. “And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,” Judges 9:23. Hence it is from Jehovah that evil spirits proceed to trouble sinners. And it is from him that the evil impulses which arise in the hearts of sinners take this or that specific form, 2 Samuel 24:1.

In one place we are told that God , in order to punish a rebellious people. moved the heart of David to number them (2 Samuel 24:1, 10); but in another place where this same act is referred to, we are told that it was Satan who instigated David’s pride and caused him to number them (1 Chronicles 21:1). In this we see that Satan was made the rod of God’s wrath, and that God impels even the hearts of sinful men and demons whithersoever He will. While all adulterous and incestuous intercourse is abominable to God, He sometimes uses even such sins as these to punish other sins, as was the case when He used such acts in Absalom to punish the adultery of David. Before Absalom had committed his sin it was announced to David that this was the form which his punishment was to take: “Thus saith Jehovah, Behold I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house; and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of the sun,” 2 Samuel 12:11. Hence these acts were not in every way contrary to the will of God.

In 1 Chronicles 10: 4 we read that “Saul took a sword and fell upon it.” This was his own deliberate, sinful act. Yet it executed Divine justice and fulfilled a divine purpose which was revealed years before concerning David; for a little later we read, “So Saul died for his transgressions which he committed against Jehovah . . . . He inquired not of Jehovah; therefore He slew him and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse,” 1 Chronicles 10:14. There is a sense in which God is said to do what he permits or impels His creatures to do.

The evil which was threatened against Jerusalem for her apostasy is described as directly sent of God, 2 Kings 22:20. The psalmist recognized that even the hate of their enemies was stirred up by Jehovah to punish a rebellious people, Psalm 105:25. Isaiah recognized that even the apostasy and disobedience of Israel was in the divine plan: “O Jehovah, why dost thou make us to err from thy ‘ways, and hardenest our hearts from thy fear?” Isaiah 63:17. In 1 Chronicles 5:22 we read, “There fell many slain, because the war was of Jehovah.” Rehoboam’s foolish course which caused the disruption of the kingdom was “a thing brought about by Jehovah,” 1 Kings 12:15. All of these things are summed up in that passage of Isaiah, “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I am Jehovah that doeth all these things,” 45: 7 and again in Amos, “Shall evil befall a city and Jehovah hath not done it?” Amos 3:6.

When we come to the New Testament we find the same doctrine set forth. We have already shown that the crucifixion of Christ was a part of the divine plan. Though slain by the hands of lawless men who did not understand the importance of the event which they were carrying out, “The things which God foreshowed by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He thus fulfilled,” Acts 3:18. The crucifixion was the cup which the Father had given Him to drink, John 18:11. It was written, “I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad,” Matthew 26 :31. When Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, they spoke of “His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem,” Luke 9:31. Concerning His own death Jesus said, “The son of man indeed goeth, as it bath been determined; but woe unto that man through whom He is betrayed,” Luke 22: 22; again, “Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; This was from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes?” Matthew 21 :42; and never did He teach more plainly that the cross was in the divine plan than when in the garden of Gethsemane He said, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt,” Matthew 26:39. Jesus deliberately surrendered Himself to be crucified when He might have called to his defence “more than twelve legions of angels,” had He chosen to have done so, Matthew 26:53. Pilate thought that he had power to crucify Jesus or to release Him as he pleased; but Jesus told him he could have no power against Him at all except it were given him from above, John 19:10, 11.

It was in the plan of God that Christ should come into the world, that He should suffer, that He should die a violent death, and thus make atonement for His people. Hence God simply permitted sinful men to sinfully lay that burden upon Him, and overruled their acts for His own glory in the redemption of the world. Those who crucified Christ acted in perfect harmony with the freedom of their own sinful natures, and were alone responsible for their sin. On this occasion, as on many others, God has made the wrath of man to praise Him. It would be hard to frame language which would more explicitly set forth the idea that God’s plan extends to all things than is here used by the Scripture writers. Hence the crucifixion on Calvary was not a defeat, but a victory; and the cry, “It is finished,” announced the successful achievement of the work of redemption which had been committed to the Son. That which “stands written of Jesus in the Old Testament Scriptures has its certain fulfillment in Him; and that enough stands written of Him there to assure His followers that in the course of His life, and in its, to them, strange and unexpected ending, He was not the prey of chance or the victim of the hatred of men, to the marring of His work or perhaps even the defeat of His mission, but was following step by step, straight to its goal, the predestined pathway marked out for Him in the counsels of eternity, and sufficiently revealed from of old in the Scriptures to enable all who were not ‘foolish and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken,’ to perceive that the Christ must needs have lived just this life and fulfilled just this destiny.” 15

Other events recorded in the New Testament also teach the same lesson. When God cast off the Jews as a people it was not a purposeless destruction, nor in order merely that “they might fall”; “but that by their fall salvation might come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy,” so that they in turn shall also embrace Christianity, Romans 11:11. The blindness of one man is said to have been, not because of his own or his parent’s sin, but in order to give Jesus a chance to display His power and glory in restoring the sight, or, as the writer puts it, “that the works of God should be made manifest in him,” John 9:3. The Old Testament statement that the very purpose which God had in raising up Pharaoh was to show His power and to publish abroad his name is repeated in Romans 9:17. This general teaching is climaxed with Paul’s declaration that “To them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

No one can rationally deny that God foreordained sin if, as the Scriptures assert, He foreordained the crucifixion of Christ, and these other events to which we have referred. That sinful acts do have their place in the divine plan is repeatedly taught. And if any persons are inclined to take offence at this, let them consider how many times the Scriptures declare the judgments of God to be a “great deep.” Hence those who hastily charge that our doctrine makes God the author of sin, bring that charge not only against us, but against God Himself; for our doctrine is the clearly revealed doctrine of the Scriptures.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVII- That it make God the Author of Sin

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVII

That It Makes God the Author of Sin

6. SINFUL ACTS OCCUR ONLY BY DIVINE PERMISSION

The good acts of men then are rendered certain by the positive decree of God, and the sinful acts occur only by His permission. Yet it is more than a bare permission by which the sinful acts occur, for that would leave it uncertain whether or not they would be done. Concerning this subject David S. Clark says: “The most reasonable explanation is that the sinful nature will go to the boundary set by the permission of God; hence God’s bounding of sin renders certain what and how much will come to pass. Satan could go no farther with Job than God permitted; but it is certain that he would go as far as God allowed.” 11 And in accordance with this is the statement of W. D. Smith: “When it is known, certainly, that it will be done unless prevented, and there is a determination not to prevent it, it is rendered as certain as if it were decreed to be done by positive agency. In the one case, the event is rendered certain by agency put forth; and, in the other case, it is rendered equally certain by agency withheld. It is an unchangeable decree in both cases. The sins of Judas, and the crucifixion of the Saviour, were as unchangeably decreed, permissively, as the coming of the Saviour into the world was decreed positively. Prom this you can perceive the consistency of the Confession of Faith with common sense, when it says, that ‘God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably foreordain whatsoever comes to pass,’ etc. You perceive, also, that this is clearly reconcilable with the following sentiment, ‘He is not the author of sin,’ etc.” 12

Augustine expressed a similar thought when he said: “Wherefore those mighty works of God, exquisitely perfect. according to every bent of His will, are such that, in a wonderful and ineffable way, that is not done without the will of God which is even done contrary to His will, because it could not be done at all, unless He permitted it to be done; and yet, He does not permit unwillingly, but willingly. Nor, as the God of goodness, would He permit a thing to be done evilly, unless, as the God of omnipotence, He could work good even out of the evil done.” 13

Even the works of Satan are so controlled and limited that they serve God’s purposes. While Satan eagerly desires the destruction of the wicked and diligently works to bring it about, yet the destruction proceeds from God. It is, in the first place, God who decrees that the wicked shall suffer, and Satan is merely permitted to lay the punishment upon them. The motives which underlie God’s purposes and those which underlie Satan’s are, of course, infinitely different. God willed the destruction of Jerusalem; Satan also desired the same, yet for different reasons. As Augustine tells us, God wills with a good will that which Satan wills with an evil will, — as was the case in the crucifixion of Christ, which was over-ruled for the redemption of the world. Sometimes God uses the wicked wills and passions of men, rather than the good wills of His own servants, to accomplish His purposes. This truth has been very clearly expressed by Dr. Warfield in the following words: “All things find their unity in His eternal plan; and not their unity merely, but their justification as well; even the evil, though retaining its quality as evil and hateful to the holy God, and certain to be dealt with as hateful, yet does not occur apart from His provision or against His will, but appears in the world which He has made only as the instrument by means of which He works the higher good.” 14

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XVII- That it make God the Author of Sin

October 9, 2019 2 comments

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XVII

That It Makes God the Author of Sin

5. THE FORCES OF EVIL ARE UNDER GOD’S PERFECT CONTROL

We believe that God actually rules in the affairs of men, that His decrees are absolute, and that they include all events. Consequently we believe that nations and individuals are predestined to all of every kind of good and evil which befalls them. When we get the larger view we see that even the sinful acts of men have their place in the divine plan, and that it is only because of our finite and imperfect nature, which does not comprehend all the relations and connections, that these acts appear to be contrary to that plan. To illustrate this, when we see the sheet music running through the player piano we readily understand how it is used; but if we were to find the same paper apart from the piano and had never seen it used, we might readily conclude that it was only wrapping paper, and poor wrapping paper at that, for it would be full of holes. Yet when it is put in its proper place it produces the most beautiful music. Unless we do believe that God has ordained the whole course of events, and that the courses he has outlined for our individual lives are good ones, we are certain to become discouraged in times of adversity. Like Jacob of old who in the face of the apparent misfortunes immediately before meeting his favorite son, Joseph, concluded, “All these things are against me,” we may become discouraged when perhaps at that very time the Lord is preparing great things for us.

The Scripture doctrine, as stated before, is that God restrains sin within certain limits, that He brings good out of intended evil, and overrules the evil for His own glory. Since God is infinite in power and wisdom, sin could have no existence except by His permission. God was free to create, or not to create; to create this particular world-order, or one entirely different. All evil forces are under His absolute control and could be blotted out of existence in an instant if He so willed. The murderer is kept in life and is indebted to God for the strength to kill his victim, and also for the opportunity. When Jesus said, “Get thee hence, Satan,” Satan immediately went; and when Jesus commanded the evil spirits to hold their peace and come out of the possessed persons, they immediately obeyed. The psalmist expressed his confidence in God’s power to overrule sinners when contemplating their works, he wrote, “He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh; the Lord ‘will have them in derision,” 2: 4. Job said, “The deceived and the deceiver are His,” 12:16; by which he meant that both good and evil men are under God’s providential control.

Unless sin occurs according to the divine purpose and permission of God, it occurs by chance. Evil then becomes an independent and uncontrollable principle and the pagan idea of dualism is introduced into the theory of the universe. The doctrine that there are powers of sin, rebellion, and darkness in the very nature of free agency, which may prove an over-match for divine omnipotence, imperils even the eternal safety and happiness of the saints in glory.

Luther expressed his belief concerning this question in the following words: “What I assert and contend for is this: — that God, where He operates without the grace of His Spirit, works all in all, even in the ungodly; and He alone moves, acts on, and carries along by the motion of His omnipotence, all those things ‘which He alone has created, which motion those things can neither avoid nor change, but of necessity follow and obey, each one according to the measure of power given of God: —thus all things, even the ungodly co-operate with God.” 8 And Zanchius wrote, “We should, therefore, be careful not to give up the omnipotence of God under a pretense of exalting His holiness; He is infinite in both, and therefore neither should be set aside or obscured. To say that God absolutely nills the being and commission of sin, while experience convinces us that sin is acted every day, is to represent the Deity as a weak, impotent being who would fain have things go otherwise than they do, but cannot accomplish His desire.” 9

One of the best of more recent comments is that of E. W. Smith in his admirable little book, “The Creed of Presbyterians.” “Did we believe that so potent and fearful a thing as sin had broken into the original holy order of the universe in defiance of God’s purpose, and is rioting in defiance of His power, we might well surrender ourselves to terror and despair. Unspeakably comforting and strengthening is the Scriptural assurance of our Standards (V:4) that beneath all this wild tossing and lashing of evil purposes and agencies there lies, in mighty and controlling embrace, a Divine purpose that governs them all. Over sin as over all else, God reigns supreme. His sovereign Providence ‘extendeth to the first fall and all other sins of angels and men,’ so that these are as truly parts and developments of His Providence as are the movements of the stars or the activities of unfallen spirits in heaven itself. Having chosen, for reasons most wise and holy though unrevealed to us, to admit sin, He hath joined to this bare permission a ‘most wise and powerful bounding’ of all sin, so that it can never overleap the lines which He has prescribed for its imprisonment, and such an ‘ordering and governing’ of it, as will secure ‘His own holy ends,’ and manifest in the final consummation not only His ‘almighty Power,’ but His ‘unsearchable Wisdom” and His ‘infinite Goodness’” (p. 177).

And Floyd E. Hamilton has written: “God created the human being with the possibility of sinning, and He has the power to interfere at any time to prevent the evil act. Even though He has no purpose to work out in the permission of the act the very permission of the act when He has the power to interfere, places the ultimate responsibility for the act squarely upon God. Moreover, if He has no purpose to work out, then He is certainly reprehensible in not preventing the act! It is attempted to avoid this conclusion by saying that God does not interfere because to do so would be to take away manes freedom. In that case man’s freedom is regarded as of more value than his eternal salvation! But even that does not remove the ultimate responsibility for the permission of the evil act from God; God has the power to prevent the evil act, has no purpose to work out in permitting it, but nevertheless, in order to protect man’s freedom, allows man to bring eternal punishment upon himself! Assuredly that would be a poor kind of a god!” 10

Hence God Himself is ultimately responsible for sin in that He has power to prevent it but does not do so, although the immediate responsibility rests on man alone God is, of course, never the efficient cause in the production of sin. Augustine, Luther and Calvin often stressed this truth of God’s full and sovereign control when proving that the present course of the world is the one which from eternity God planned that it should follow.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination