The origin of evil and the decrees of God

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Skandelon, Jul 17, 2011.

  1. Skandelon

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    I, as a non-Calvinist, affirm that God has permissively decreed the origin of evil. By this I mean, as Edwards states, that "God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God's permission, but not by his 'positive agency.'"

    This means there are two separate and distinct decrees of God.

    1. Permissive Decrees: those things which come to pass apart from God's positive agency or direct involvement (such as the sin of man). These are things He foreknows will certainly come to pass, but is not the one who brings them to pass by His effort, involvement, intervention or agency. He may not find pleasure in these things, but, nonetheless, allows them for a greater purpose.

    2. Decretive Decrees: those things which come to pass as a direct result of God's positive agency or direct involvement (such as the incarnation of Jesus). These are things He foreknows will certainly come to pass, but not simply because he KNOWS of it beforehand, but instead because He has determined to bring it to pass by His effort, intervention and direct involvement.

    Nothing can thwart a decree of God, whether permissive or decretive, because both are based in the certainty of God's omniscience. Thus, the affirmation of God decreeing all things to come to pass mustn't be understood as meaning that evil exists "because of God's decree." Instead, we must understand which decree is meant. This is why CLARITY on this subject is so vitally important.

    Too often on this BB clarity is sacrificed for the sake of winning a point or sticking it to the opponent, but to what end? Is impugning the holiness of God, even unintentionally, in the effort to win a debate justified? Can we simply be clear with our use of terms when discussing such serious matters as God's holiness? Can we all agree to refrain from saying anything that could possibly be misinterpreted as blaming God for the sin and evil in this world?

    Is that really too much to ask? Is that even a dividing point between Calvinistic and non-Calvinistis Baptists? I don't think so. I think is should be something on which we all agree, if we put down our axes and reason together as brethren.
     
  2. jbh28

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    I don't believe I have any problem with that. I've been mocked by some non-Calvinist for stating something very similar. Everything is predestined of God. Sin, while predestined, is not authored by God. And good quote by Edwards.
     
  3. Skandelon

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    Here is a good example of the need for clarity. When you say things like sin is predestined by God you SEEM to be saying that God has "Decretively Decreed" sin, because the term "predestined" in the Calvinistic system is typically used to connote the idea of God's active and direct involvement in the salvation of an individual, right?

    Wouldn't it be more clear to say something like, God has permissively decreed sin, rather than he has predestined it? Do you understand what I'm asking?
     
    #3 Skandelon, Jul 18, 2011
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  4. jbh28

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    If I understand predestined correctly, it means to decree or determine before hand. So they basically mean the same, depending on how they are used. So God, determined beforehand that Sin A would occur. This doesn't mean that God was the author of the sin, but that he determined beforehand that the sin would happen.
     
  5. Skandelon

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    Ok, but you don't believe that decree (determination) is WHY sin would happen, do you?

    Let me approach it this way. Of the two types of decrees defined in the OP, would you agree that sin falls under God's permissive decree? If so, why not just use that terminology and avoid the misunderstanding?
     
  6. jbh28

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    Same reason that others have it the other way around. I've heard some say decrees vs permissive will. They wouldn't put decree with "permissive will." Predetermination is the same as decree. They are synonymous.
     
  7. Skandelon

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    Which decree? The first or second? See my point? By not defining which decree you mean you leave ambiguity as to your intent regarding the origin of sin. I'm simply asking you to affirm that sin falls under the permissive decree of God and to use terminology which would clearly indicate that.
     
  8. Iconoclast

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    http://www.puritansermons.com/willard/willard1.htm

    Did God's Decree Bring About the Fall?


    In the past week I have had several people ask me how Adam's original sin come about since he did not have a fallen nature to contend with. Thus it's not that Adam and Eve were originally prevented from obeying God due to a sinful nature, as we are now. Also since God is NOT the author of evil, didn't make Adam sin, nor did HE put the sinful desire within them, so the question is really how (or why) did Adam originally sin? This is really an attempt to understand the relationship between God's sovereignty and freewill in the beginning, prior to the fall.


    By confession we believe that God created human beings "with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change." (WSF IV.2) This is to say that man was created in such a way where he was not yet sealed in righteousness as he will be in glory, but created with a an inclination toward good. Why evil temptation was able to overcome that inclination, the Scripture does not reveal, so any dogmatic response would be speculative. So while there are indeed mysteries that are not fully revealed to us in Scripture ... on the other hand, there are some things revealed that we do know and from these we can draw some conclusions.

    Did God's Decree Bring About the Fall?

    It is important that we first consider the alternative to God ordaining the fall event to show that it is really quite and untenable and unsustainable position. The truth of God's word is honored not in holding exclusively to one truth to the exclusion of another truth, but in believing the whole counsel of God. The Bible plainly teaches that man is responsible for the sin he commits and it also teaches that God is sovereign. You would be correct theologically to say that God is not the author of evil and that man alone is culpable for the sin he commits. You must also consider, however, that God is sovereign and has thus left nothing up to chance. That word "nothing" is a universal negative. For if chance were to exist then, of course, God would not be sovereign and thus, God would not be God.

    God did not coerce Adam to commit sin and fall, but he certainly ordained it. Even an Arminian who thinks that God merely allowed the fall, must admit that before God created the world he already knew what the future would be, and so it was within his Providence for such events to take place, for he could just have easily decided to prevent the fall...but He didn't. But we believe that while God did not make man sin coersively he certainly ordained such events to occur. Consider that if God did not decree the fall then evil is something completely outside His sovereign control ... If evil came into the universe by surprise for God, totally apart from His providence, then there are some things He does not know or things He is powerless over and therefore God would, by definition, lack omniscience and omnipotence. And then how do we know whether He will be able to defeat evil in the future if evil is outside God's control even though the Scripture plainly says that God ordains all events that come to pass (Eph 1:11).

    As for how it could be that God decreed the fall. Obviously it is ultimately for His glory. In it He showed to the angels and all creation His manifest wisdom, justice and mercy and all of His perfections. He does not operate people like puppets. Adam freely chose to rebel ... God did not coerce him... and now fallen men freely choose to reject Christ, apart from grace. You ask, how could God ordain evil? Well, let me give you a clear biblical example which shows that he does, so you don't think I am just blowing smoke.

    Consider that Christ's crucifixion was a certainty which God planed in eternity and prophesied would come to pass in the Old Testament. But also consider that men would freely choose to crucify the Son of God. See Acts 2:23 which brings the two together -- "this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." This concurrent series of events taking place simultaneously is called compatibilism, which is how the Scriptures really answer this question.

    So God foreordained the most evil event in history, the crucifixion, yet He lays blame for it completely on the choice of godless men, according to this passage. You must embrace the teaching in the Scriptures that God ordained an innocent man's death at the hands of sinners, yet they freely did so because they wanted to. You may not understand how God works in such a way without coercion, but you must submit to the fact the the Holy Scripture, through and through, teaches this quite matter-of-factly. Why does God do this? Well, for one, after the crucifixion event we now begin to understand that Christ did this for the good of His people, though we may not have seen it at the time. Prior to His execution, the disciples were told by Jesus, "you do not now understand what I am doing" and even Peter tried to dissuade Him. However, God used evil for good and did so blamelessly.

    There is a similar idea in Acts 4:27-28 "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."

    These Scriptures texts must be accepted as authoritative. Someone might argue that they were an exception ... but there is no biblical rationale for believing that. It must be admitted that the Scripture plainly teaches that God ordains evil events and remains blameless, events which include the self-determined choices of man.

    God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).

    This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28). (Piper)

    In conclusion, when determining the truth of a matter we must never simply use naked unaided human logic, but always let our logic be ruled by the highest presupposition which is the Holy Scriptures. We may not like the result but what God has revealed, this we must embrace and teach. Otherwise we make God in our own image, and present to others a God other than the one who reveals Himself in Scripture.

    -----------------

    For more on compatibilism I highly recommed D.A. Carson's Book, How Long O Lord: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
     
  9. Iconoclast

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    Here is more reading
    The Scriptural authority for the doctrine of decrees will appear from the following statements and references, gathered with slight modifications from Hodge's Outlines, pp., 205-213:

    1. God's decrees are eternal. Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:4; 3:11; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Cor. 2:7.

    2. They are immutable. Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:9.

    3. They comprehend all events.

    (1.) The Scriptures assert this of the whole system in general embraced in the divine decrees. Dan. 4:34, 35; Acts 17:26; Eph. 1:11.

    (2.) They affirm the same of fortuitous events. Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:29, 30.

    (3.) Also of the free actions of men. Eph. 2:10, 11; Phil. 2:13.

    (4.) Even the wicked actions of men. Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 13:29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; Rev. 17:17. As to the history of Joseph, compare Gen. 37:28, with Gen. 45:7, 8, and Gen. 50:20. See also Ps. 17:13, 14; Isa. 10:5, 15.

    4. The decrees of God are not conditional. Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14:24, 27 ; 46:10; Rom. 9:11.

    5. They are sovereign. Isa. 40:13, 14; Dan. 4:35; Matt. 11:25, 26; Rom. 9:11, 15-18; Eph. 1:5, 11.

    6. They include the means. Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2.

    7. They determine the free actions of men. Acts 4:27, 28 ; Eph. 2:10.

    8. God himself works in his people that faith and obedience which are called the conditions of salvation. Eph. 2:8; Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25.

    9. The decree renders the event certain. Matt. 16:21; Luke 18:31-33; 24:46; Acts 2:23; 13:29; 1 Cor. 11:19.

    10. While God has decreed the free acts of men, the actors have been none the less responsible. Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27, 28.


    http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Attributes/attrib_02.htm

    http://www.frontlinemin.org/objdec.asp
     
    #9 Iconoclast, Jul 18, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2011
  10. Skandelon

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    I just read through this and it appears that Willards understanding of God's decree is not in agreement with that of Jonathan Edwards. Would you agree? If not, where is the acknowledgement or teaching of the permissive aspects of God's decrees/will? Thanks
     
  11. J.D.

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    Arrogant, mean-spirited answer:
    I don't see a lack of clarity but a lack of understanding. If I say that God predestined sin but didn't cause it and therefore is not the author of it, that's pretty clear to me. I'm saying He decreed to permit it. I know some people get hung up on the word "predestined" and equate it to direct causation, but I think they're forcing a definition on the word that is not there.

    Both supralapsarians and sublapsarians believe that God decreed to permit sin. However, there is a tiny minority of superlapsarians that believe in active reprobation, in other words, that believe God actually caused (authored) sin.

    But the rest of us are apparently guilty by association.

    This is what makes discussing these matters on BB so difficult. We are constantly confronted with strawman arguments, accused of things we don't believe, and challenged to defend viewpoints only a small number of us hold.

    I only know of one person on this board that believes that God directly causes sin, and yet the rest of us can't open our mouths without being accused of holding or having to answer for his views.
     
    #11 J.D., Jul 18, 2011
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  12. jbh28

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    Agree...


    This was my point earlier. I've heard people think that "decree" isn't clear. Decree and predestined and preordained all mean the same thing.

    Predestine: "to destine in advance; foreordain; predetermine" "to destine, decree, determine, appoint, or settle beforehand"

    so me using the word "predestined" instead of "decree" makes absolutely no difference.
     
  13. preacher4truth

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    Agreed. Most of this goes back to the real definitions of "predestine" or "decree," which somehow seem to be purposely missed in order to argue. Real definitions need to be laid out, not the inflamed presuppositions of some as to what they think these terms mean, and presupposing what we are then "saying."

    It usually ends with "So what you are saying is...!!!!" "What you have said is...?!!" and on and on it goes.

    You've made a clear statement, so have others, others should accept the clear things presented instead of going to the above phrases and becoming incendiary over it.

    Good points bro.

    - Peace
     
  14. Skandelon

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    Ok, I can accept that point. But, just look at this from a non-Calvinists perspective. Calvinists talk about God predestining certain individuals to become believers, right? Now, when you use that same terminology to describe the way in which God predestines a person to sin, it gets a bit confusing. It's almost as if you are saying that God is as actively involved in your becoming a believer as he is in that person sinning. I'm only asking for clarity by drawing the distinction, as you have by stating, "He decreed to permit it." I think that is a great way to put it.

    I agree, but there a some (one in particular) on this BB who would deny that he believes this while continually making arguments which seemingly support it.

    No, for me the distinction is pretty clear between those who are careful with their use of terms and those who are not. From my recollection, you have been one of the clearer ones in regard to this distinction, as has JBH.

    I think that is a problem for both sides. Each person must be dealt with on an individual basis.

    If I've been guilty of that please call me on it. I think you have every right to distinguish yourself from him and his views. In fact, I wish more of the Reformed persuasion would call him out. He might actually hear you.
     
  15. Skandelon

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    I agree. This is why you can go back throughout my interactions and count the numerous times I have provided a definition of the word "decree" such as the one in the OP. You will also see my continual insistence on my opponent to define their term so as to draw this distinction.
     
  16. J.D.

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    It might be beneficial to all of us to speak in terms of causation, if that is what we're speaking of. The order of decrees can be highly technical and can cause confusion. Especially the technicalities between super and sub lapsarianism.
     
  17. Earth Wind and Fire

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    By chance have you read Edwards on this? And who else ventures an opinion....like does Owen?
     
  18. Earth Wind and Fire

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    & you guys just make me nuts with all this because bottom line, your not sure of anything. I like the KISS answers instead of endless jargon & speculation etc otherwise its just opinion. JD, I think ole Al Martin would take you in the back & have some serial conversation with you for using lapsarianism.:eek: Are we really going to say that God planned for you to get bit by a mosquito last Thursday night after the softball game? Really!?!
     
  19. Skandelon

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    He seems to affirm the concept of the permissive will of God in regard to moral evil:

    "God was please to permit the entrance of sin, both in heaven above and in earth beneath, whereby this whole order and harmony was disturbed.” - John Owen
     
  20. Skandelon

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    I see your point brother, but are you suggesting the mosquito can act apart from God's decree, whether permissive or decretive?

    I know it may seem insignificant, and frankly a mosquito is, but the concept of nothing happening apart from God's divine oversight (decree), is not. That is the very heart of true Sovereignty after all.
     

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