Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gordon Clark on the "Author of Sin"

Summarizing the Scriptures, the [Westminster] Confession says here that God is not the author of sin; that is God does nothing sinful. Even those Christians who are not Calvinists must admit that God in some sense is the cause of sin, for he is the sole ultimate cause of everything. But God does not commit the sinful act, nor does he approve of it and reward it. Perhaps this illustration is faulty, as most illustrations are, but consider that God is the cause of my writing this book. Who would deny that God is the first or ultimate cause, since it was he who created mankind? But although God is the cause of his chapter, he is not its author. ...

The Scripture references show clearly that God controls the wills of men. ...

This does not mean that violence was done to the will of the creatures. It was not as if [in the case of Absalom and his men choosing a war plan] the men wanted to adopt Ahithophel's plan and were forced to follow Hushai against their desires. ... But it must be noted that God established psychological processes just as truly as he established physical processes.

This ties in with the next phrase, "nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

In the case of Absalom the secondary causes were the psychological proceses. The decision the men of Israel made was not made in opposition to those processes, nor even without them. God has established such processes for the purpose of accomplishing his will. He does not arrange things or control history apart from secondary causes.

To mention other examples, God decreed to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt; but they had to do the walking themselves. God decreed that Solomon should build the temple; but Solomon had to collect the materials. God dos not decree the end apart from the means. He decrees that the end shall be accomplished by means of the means. [Gordon H. Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe? (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2001), 37-8]

None of these can be affirmed by Vincent Cheung and his drones, who claim that (1) God is the Author of sin, (2) God is the primary cause of everything, (3)Second causes are mere occasions, not actually and truly real processes in which God is in control but not directly working

6 comments:

Roger Mann said...

“Summarizing the Scriptures, the Confession says here that God is not the author of sin; that is, God does nothing sinful. Even those Christians who are not Calvinists must admit that God in some sense is the cause of sin, for he is the sole ultimate cause of everything. But God does not commit the sinful act, nor does he approve of it and reward it.” (What Do Presbyterians Believe, p. 37)

Cheung wouldn’t disagree with any of that, given the way that Clark defines “author of sin” here. If “author of sin” necessarily meant “doer of sin,” then Cheung would adamantly deny that God is the author of sin. But Cheung defines “author of sin” to mean that God is the ultimate metaphysical “cause of sin” (which Clark would agree with), and that He is perfectly “righteous” in doing so in order to fulfill His overall sovereign purpose.

“The Scripture references show clearly that God controls the wills of men... It is clear then that God, in his purpose to bring evil upon Absalom, so controlled the wills of Absalom and his men that they chose Hushai's poor advice instead of Ahithopel's good advice. By controlling the wills of these evil men, God established the throne of David, from whom the Messiah descended. This does not mean that violence was done to the will of the creatures. It was not as if the men wanted to adopt Ahithopel's plan and were forced to follow Hushai against their desires. Their psychological processes issued in a desire to follow Hushai's plan. But it must be noted that God established psychological processes just as truly as he established physical processes.” (What Do Presbyterians Believe, p. 37-38)

I doubt Cheung would disagree with any of that either, given Clark's careful distinctions and his admission that our “psychological processes” are caused or established by God Himself and are not self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, or self-powered. God Himself, by His direct providential control over our thoughts and desires, “causes” us to make the choices that we do, whether good or evil.

Roger Mann said...

“This ties in with the next phrase, ‘nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.’ In the case of Absalom the secondary causes were the psychological processes [i.e., that were caused or established by God]. The decision the men of Israel made was not made in opposition to those processes, nor even without them. God has established such processes for the purpose of accomplishing his will. He does not arrange things or control history apart from secondary causes... God does not decree the end apart from the means. He decrees that the end shall be accomplished by means of the means.” (What Do Presbyterians Believe, p. 38)

If that's all that anyone meant by “secondary causes” (i.e., psychological processes that are caused or established by God as the means to accomplish His decreed end), then I doubt Cheung would object very strenuously to the term – for he agrees that God uses secondary “means” and “agents” to carry out His will. His only objection is to the false implication made by many theologians that these “secondary causes” are in some sense self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, self-powered, or independent of God's direct providential control over everything that we do. Cheung explains this here:

“So-called ‘second causes’ are considered 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. In other words, the term is misleading, and in fact nonsense. This is the only coherent and defensible position. When pressed, theological determinists who differ from this must rather quickly retreat into mystery and paradox.” (Author of Sin, p. 17-18)

As long as Clark isn’t saying that these “psychological processes” are in some sense self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, self-powered, or independent of God's direct providential control over everything that we do (and he’s not), then he and Cheung are teaching essentially the same thing, only using different terms.

PuritanReformed said...

@Roger:

that Cheung can claim to hold to the same position as Clark is not the issue. The issue is how Cheung defines "secondary causes." As you quoted Cheung,

"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"

In other words, secondary causes in Cheung's system ARE primary causes. They are only "secondary" in the sense of appearance or manner, but in substance they are primary.

That is why Cheung differs from Clark, because Clark does not have this kinds of ridiculous Occasionalistic understanding of causation. According to Cheung, he defines any type of non "immediate," or indirect, causation as being "self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, self-powered." But that is plainly ridiculous! Non-immediacy is not necessarily self-existent etc. It is a logical fallacy to assume that one must necessarily imply the other.

PuritanReformed said...

Clark affirms the reality of secondary causes. Cheung on the other hand denies their actual existence, relegating them to mere appearance and form

Gregory S. Gill said...

Everything that Gordon H. Clark, said I agree with.

All secondary causes are, they are the means God directly uses by which ends are accomplished as He decreed. Both means and ends are all directly under the all exhaustive, universal, sovereign rule, control and causation of God.

In order for "free agency and compatibilist free will" (which is just mere freewill) to exist, and be free they at least have to be "self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, self-powered." How can it be otherwise if they are to be free?

I agree with Roger Mann when he said "Cheung wouldn’t disagree with any of that, given the way that Clark defines “author of sin” here. If “author of sin” necessarily meant “doer of sin,” then Cheung would adamantly deny that God is the author of sin. But Cheung defines “author of sin” to mean that God is the ultimate metaphysical “cause of sin” (which Clark would agree with), and that He is perfectly “righteous” in doing so in order to fulfill His overall sovereign purpose."

PuritanReformed said...

@Greg:

>In order for "free agency and compatibilist free will" (which is just mere freewill) to exist, and be free they at least have to be "self-existent, self-determined, self-caused, self-powered." How can it be otherwise if they are to be free?


Not true. You want to play nominalism, two can tangle. BY DEFINTION, "free agency" and "compatibilist free will" are NOT self-existent, self-caused, self-powered and free. BY DEFINTION. Deal with it!