Friday, July 28, 2017

Turretin on the will of God in relation to moral acts

VII. God is not under any moral duty outwardly because he is a debtor to no one, and there is no cause out of him which can place him under obligation. Yet he can be under obligation inwardly because he is a debtor to himself and cannot deny himself. As the Son, in divine thins, is obliged to work by the Father, and the Father is obliged to love the Son, so in external acts (supposing the creature to be produced), God cannot but command him and give him just and holy precepts. [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.3.XVIII.7]

God is "ex lex" (outside the law), externally. But God is not some arbitrary person, but God has/ is His own nature. Therefore, while God is externally not under obligation, yet internally He cannot but will according to His own nature.

Therefore, heretics like Vincent Cheung are in error because, in calling God the "author of sin," one of his errors is in divorcing God's will from his nature. Cheung is an extreme nominalist, and that is why his god can be the author of sin and yet totally exonerated from the guilt of sinning.

8 comments:

Unknown said...

I don't know if Cheung is nominalist or not, but I do have a question or two. Since God is omniscient, does God know, from eternity, every conceivable sin? If so does this affect in any way His "good" nature? Secondly I have a question about Daniel ch 4. When Nebuchadnezzar had his human rationality removed for a time, acting as an animal....did he sin by acting as an animal rather than a man? And if so, did God directly cause this? Thirdly, in Jeremiah 34:22,God says that He will "cause" the Babylonians to make the cities of Judah a desolation. God will judge Judah by the means of the heathen Babylonians. It seems to me that the war, by the Babylonians against the Hebrews, was an unjust war....a sinful war of aggression. But God of course using it for a just cause. Did He cause the Babylonians to sin? The scriptures seem to say as much. If God has decreed that sin should enter into His creation, why doesn't that make Him the "author of sin", not the doer of sin? Since the concept of sin had to be in God's mind from all eternity. Long before any creature existed, so that the concept did not originate in a creature. And what is the "mechanism" by which God actualizes the decree of sin into actual sin? Who actually causes anything in the creation? If Christ upholds all things by the word of His power according to Hebrews 1:3, does that include my sinful mind? Is He actually causing men's mind to exist in a sinful state from moment to moment? I hope you can help me out here.

Daniel C said...

@Unknown,

God knows every conceivable sin, but that does not affect His nature at all. You need to get some categorical clarity, otherwise you will muddle everything up. Just because Man sin does not imply anything about God. If your children (if you have any) misbehave, can I blame you? Likewise, to think that God has anything morally to do with your sin is reprehensible.

Nebuchadnezzar sinned, whether before God's temporary judgment upon him or after. The Babylonians sinned, even though they are instruments carrying out God's judgment upon Israel.

God is the ultimate cause, ontologically. But He is not the moral cause of any sin. That is the basic categorical distinction between ontology and morality that you have to grasp. Whoever sins can only blame himself or herself, for he/she choses to sin freely. God is no more responsible for it than you are to blame for Hitler's genocide of the Jews. To blame God for one's own sins, as if God is the author of one's sins, is to prove God's judgment against that sinner as a wicked person.

Next time, identify yourself. I restricted comments to registered users so that commenting is a conversation, not some place for pseudo-registered users to make statements that can be construed to be snide comments.

Josh Andersen said...

I agree with "Unknown". His questions are indeed statements but he makes a good point(s). I see what you are saying about God being the ontological cause but this definition is only used to 'smooth' or 'dodge' the criticism the sinners make about the culpability of God. Yet, as Christians we don't care what idolaters who know nothing about spiritual things think. Our theology is not determined by the likes of them. The bible seems very simple. God causes all things. That's what makes him God. I can't lift my finger apart from the power of GOD. If I can, I have no idea how my power autonomous from God works. You said "He [God] is not the moral cause of any sin." Well of course he isn't. That is an impossibility. That is as silly as saying, "Can God make a rock he cannot lift?" The question is at the start silly. What makes man morally culpable? God does. He is our creator and authority. I teach my kids the WCOF all the time. I ask them, "What is sin Julien?" He says, "Disobeying Gods commands." God has no one to disobey or hold him responsible above and or outside himself. And if you say his nature holds him to certain things I would just say that whatever God does is righteous. Thus, whatever he does defines the nature that you have only discovered and applied to him for conversations between other men. Abraham did not yell at God when told to sacrifice Isaac because even Abraham understand this. Whatever God commands is right. Thus, Abraham could do something that was "Beyond God's nature". You also, made analogies of man and Hitler. I hope you can re-read what you wrote and in the light of what I have just spoken to you, meditate on your use of the analogy. Well, I have added my two cents. Looking at your blog page it would seem you really like this guy Turretin and the Reformation. If I were you, I would take what you learned from these guys and move on. To spiritual maturity Mark 16:17-18. I love you and hope you heed my words. It was a hard pill for me to swallow but I am glad I did. The spirit will make clear what I mean. John 14:12-14
...And no, I am not the "unknown" guy who just went out and got an email to reply to you. lol That would be jacked. But I find it not so coincidental that I randomly found this blog and this exact comment with the spirit leading me to...Comment. Die to self and live for Christ brother!

Daniel C said...

Hi Josh,

"Unknown" did make some points, but I deny that they are good points. They are "good" in the sense that many people will put forward these objections when told that God is sovereign, and that is the only reason why I left the comment there, and then addressed it.

The points however are not "good" in the sense that they have already been answered many times over. Likewise with your points I do not see you apprehending the answers and the distinctions Turretin and me (among others) have made. If you cannot comprehend why the distinctions are necessary, then perhaps you should not dismiss them so lightly and settle for a one-dimensional view of causation.

I do not agree with your suggestion to "move on," because I seek after truth and the truths of Scripture are not something to be moved on from. Spiritual maturity is not about miracles, but about knowing God and obeying him. Mark 16:17-18 are not even in the original biblical manuscripts for that matter! No one living is an apostle today, so to claim to want to go back to the age of the apostles with the apostolic sign-gifts is precisely the type of immaturity that Paul exhorts us to get away from (1 Cor. 13:11), the type of immaturity moving away from the finality of Christ (Heb. 1:1-2), and the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:17).

Unknown said...

My name is Tom McClintock, and I attend a Reformed church. I didn't mean to be unknown. I just didn't post correctly. I have no problem identifying myself. I'm really having a hard time getting my name to appear at the top of my post and I don't know what I'm doing wrong. If you want more info about me ask away.
I do appreciate your time in answering me, but I don't think you really did. I asked specific questions related to specific scriptures and you told me I have made a category error. Although I agree with 99.99% of the WCF, I, at this time, have a real big problem with the idea that God "permits" evil. That teaches "ontologically" that something else causes evil. That is dualism. Even though I disagree with Cheung on just about every thing, I can at least understand what he is saying about this issue. Compatabilism on the other hand is incoherent to me. I guess my real question is.....why does God being the immediate cause of moral evil make Him somehow evil and thus constitute a heresy (I don't at this time think that God's immediate causation does make Him evil at all), but God's remote causation "not" make Him evil and is to be believed? Either way God determines that evil should come. I don't believe that God is "responsible" for moral evil since He answers to no one but Himself. And I don't believe that the Bible teaches that some sort of "freedom" in man is necessary for God to hold men responsible. That smacks of Arminianism.

Daniel C said...

Hi Tom,

thanks for identifying yourself.

The Reformers have strong words to say about God decreeing evil, so there is no issue about the real cause of evil. They however put forward the decreeing of evil as an active permission, which is to say that God actively decreed (thus ontological priority) that evil be permitted (thus He is not the Author of Sin).

As I have mentioned, ontology is not the same as morality or ethics. That is a major categorical differentiation that you need to understand. Ontology has to do with being, and thus the "cause" of something. If I plant a land mine, and a person named Bill stepped on it and was killed, I am the "cause" of his death. But I am not the author of his death since I did not directly kill him neither was it my intention to do so (assuming he was not the target of the land mine). Of course this is an imperfect analogy, but the point is that ontology and morality are different categories. Ontology has to do with being and the happening of things. Morality has to do with responsibility and choice.

Therefore, to say that God permits evil is an ethical/ moral statement. It does not therefore imply that "something else causes evil." You are mixing up ontological and moral categories here! Cheung likewise mixes up those categories, because to him morality is subsumed under ontology. Cheung ignores moral issues by making God totally untethered from any form of moral standards, and thus he is a nominalist.

You are in error in claiming that anyone is saying that God is "responsible" for moral evil. What I am saying is that Cheung makes God's nature conflict with God's will. Again, if you actually try to grasp the distinction between ontology and morality, and actually try to understand my argument, that would be very helpful.

I would perhaps recommend reading some of the classical philosophical works (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) to get some background on these distinctions, and TRY to read them to understand why they would wrestle with these questions, instead of just thinking they have nothing to teach you.

Josh Andersen said...


"I would perhaps recommend reading some of the classical philosophical works (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) to get some background on these distinctions, and TRY to read them to understand why they would wrestle with these questions, instead of just thinking they have nothing to teach you." I'm so confused. Is it possible to read these fellows and not be hindered by there paganism? I'm not saying pagans are not able to speak truth but isn't there a better way to grasp the sovereignty of God without 'having to' go to them for logical propositions to formulate truths from the bible? Is it not possible to use basic logic to exegete the scripture to formulate Doctrines? God's character and work in his creation does not seem very hard to grasp. I have never read those fellows you mentioned but is it impossible for me to come to your inference about God without them? How come you couldn't just use a couple of passages with some explaination to justify your denominations doctrine? I ask these questions because when people ask me about these topics I just show them a few passages and explain what the bible defines as God. People I know seem to grasp it fairly simple. I still submit to you Mark 16:17. And plead with you to rethink your works for God. It was never Apostles who had power. It was all those with faith. Faith works miracles, not Apostles. Cathlics worship apostles as mighty men. Apostles had to follow Christ the same way everyone does. By faith.

Daniel C said...

Hi Josh,

I was not saying that reading philosophy is necessary to understand Scripture. I was saying that reading philosophy is necessary to understand the distinctions I am making. And the point is that you ARE trying to understand deep concepts, so of course you will need to have clarity of thought, and thus you need to know philosophy IF you want to understand the deep things of Scripture. Of course, you can be like those with simple faith, but then you cannot be asking the questions you are currently asking.

If you are afraid of their "paganism," then I wonder if you have even read books by non-Christians. Are you not afraid that modern thought would contaminate you? What exactly is the difference between reading ancient "paganism" and books by Isaac Asimov for example, or JRR Tolkien, or CS Lewis, or any book by any author?

You mentioned Mk. 16:17, and I told you that it is not even in the original manuscript. Do you even understand what I have said? I said that Mk. 16:17 is not Scripture. It is not the case that I am not interested in looking at the Scriptures with you, but I hesitate if you do not even have the exegetical tools necessary to properly interpret Scripture. Anti-intellectualism is not a virtue celebrated in Scripture by God, and unless and until you see that as a problem, and seek to rectify that, I can quote all the Scriptures and exegete them for you to no avail, since you cannot follow them.