Vincent Cheung is a hot-headed polemicist who does post lots of provocative thoughts. As a interlocutor, his writings are challenging to interact with, if one can see past the slurs, ridicule and insults. However, the problem with Cheung is that people actually think he is right, and tragically such a following does harm to the Body of Christ. Just because evangelicalism is wrong on many issues does not mean that the opposite extreme on any one issue is right, and the positing of such sharp dichotomies by Cheung makes his position seem reasonable, since it is painted as the consistent opposite of the error that Evangelicalism holds to.
Cheung's book on theodicy, The Author of Sin, is a case in point. The book has tremendous shock value, and is most certain to repulse most Christians. Yet the book raises legitimate questions, which most people wouldn't think about as they are repulsed by its errant conclusions. So on the one hand, we have Christians who legitimately reject what Cheung is saying, yet they miss out on the legitimate questions Cheung raises out of revulsion at what Cheung is promoting. On the other hand, we have those who are more rational who see the legitimate questions Cheung raises, and because they are more philosophically inclined (and also without adequate discernment I may add), they accept Cheung's conclusions. In the storm of dissension, clarity on the subject is surely missing.
Without interacting with the entirety of Cheung's book, I would like to address his blog post dealing with the subject, entitled WCF, secondary causes, etc.. In this blog post, the crux of Cheung's issue with the phrase "author of sin" is expressed. The question Cheung raised is a good one: "What is wrong with saying that God is the "author of sin"? In Cheung's argument, since God is the ultimate cause of all things, and in colloquial speech, an "author" is someone who orchestrates all things to come about, God is certainly the "author of sin," because God as sovereign brings about all things including sin. God "metaphysically cause(d) evil" but does not "morally commit evil," and thus the language of the WCF (Westminster Confession of Faith) is said to be confusing and in error.
As mentioned, the question Cheung raises is a legitimate one. Surely, the Scriptures does portray God to be totally sovereign. Surely, the ultimate cause of sin in this sense must be God. Doesn't this therefore mean that God is the "author of sin"? The answer however is NO, as I will show why.
Now, it must be admitted that one can posit that God can cause evil without being culpable for evil, since God does not actually do evil. Cheung raises a valid point here against those who try to soften God's sovereignty by distancing Him from evil. Yet the problem with Cheung's solution is that it raises an insurmountable problem in theology proper. While formally resolving the problem of theodicy, it raises questions regarding the nature of God. Is God actually good? Does God actually act according to His nature? Phrased another way, is God's will independent of His nature?
The problem with the denial of contingency and secondary causes is that it makes God out to be a monster. Yes, one exonerates God of moral evil in creation and providence, but that only comes at the expense of either divorcing God's will from God's nature, or making God evil. Either option makes God to be something other than who He has revealed Himself to be. To the former, if God's will is divorced from his nature, if extreme nominalism hold true, then how can one trusts such a capricious God? To the latter, there is no difference here between God and the Devil.
Cheung is seriously in error, even heretical, in his portrayal of God as the "author of sin." According to Cheung, "to say that God is not the author of sin necessarily means that his sovereignty cannot be direct and exhaustive." In reply, I would counter that "to say that God is not sovereign if He operates through contingencies and secondary causes is fallacious." Why does the usage of contingencies and secondary causes necessarily imply that God is not absolutely sovereign? Why is such a usage considered "distant"? Upon what basis can Cheung make such a claim? Such philosophical claims cannot be found in Scripture! Since Cheung claims to be following Sola Scriptura, why has he imported philosophical concepts not taught in Scripture into the teachings of Scripture?
My challenge to Cheung and his followers stands here: Prove from Scripture where it is stated that (1) God is not sovereign if He operates through contingencies; (2) Operating through contingencies means that God is not directly sovereign over the process, (3) God can will and do anything contrary to His nature. Let's see if any of them dares to take up the challenge!