Thursday, June 06, 2013

Vincent Cheung and the Author of Sin

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!

39 comments:

Charlie J. Ray said...

Forgive me for being blunt here but Vincent Cheung is an idiot. The late Dr. Gordon H. Clark never once said that God is the "author" of sin. In fact, Clark said the opposite. Clark said God is the ultimate "cause" of sin but that moral agents are the authors of their own sins. God decrees all that comes to pass but without violating the wills of moral agents. Instead He works through secondary causes and contingencies, even directing the way men will choose (Proverbs 21:1).

I could pull many quotes from Clark's works to support this view. Vincent Cheung is an Anabaptist and a Charismatic and his use of logic is contradictory at best.

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

"One is permitted to ask, however, whether the phrase “cause of sin” is the equivalent of the phrase “author of sin.” Is the latter phrase used to deny God’s universal causality? Obviously not, for the same people who affirm causality deny the authorship. They must have intended a difference. An illustration is close at hand. God is not the author of this book, as the Arminians would be the first to admit; but he is its ultimate cause as the Bible teaches. Yet I am the author. Authorship, therefore, is one kind of cause, but there are other kinds. The author of a book is its immediate cause; God is its ultimate cause. This distinction between first and secondary causation – explicitly maintained in the Westminster Confession – has not always been appreciated, even by those who are in general agreement. John Gill, for example, who is so excellent on so much, failed to grasp the distinction between the immediate author and the ultimate cause. For this reason there are some faulty passages in his otherwise fine work. Such is the difficulty of the problem and so confused are the discussions from the time of the patristics to the present day, that some of the best Calvinists have not extricated themselves completely from Scholastic errors. Not only Berkouwer, but even Jonathan Edwards, in spite of Calvin, still spoke about God’s permission of sin. When, accordingly, the discussion comes to God’s being the author of sin, one must understand the question to be, Is God the immediate cause of sin? Or, more clearly, Does God commit sin? This is a question concerning God’s holiness. Now, it should be evident that God no more commits sin than he is writing these words. Although the betrayal of Christ was foreordained from eternity as a means of effecting the atonement, it was Judas, not God, who betrayed Christ. The secondary causes in history are not eliminated by divine causality, but rather they are made certain. And the acts of these secondary causes, whether they be righteous acts or sinful acts, are to be immediately referred to the agents; and it is these agents who are responsible. God is neither responsible nor sinful, even though he is the only ultimate cause of everything. He is not sinful because in the first place whatever God does is just and right. It is just and right simply in virtue of the fact that he does it. Justice or righteousness is not a standard external to God to which God is obligated to submit. Righteousness is what God does. Since God caused Judas to betray Christ, this causal act is righteous and not sinful. By definition God cannot sin. At this point it must be particularly pointed out that God’s causing a man to sin is not sin. There is no law, superior to God, which forbids him to decree sinful acts. Sin presupposes a law, for sin is lawlessness. Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God. But God is “Ex-lex.”

Gordon H. Clark. Religion, Reason and Revelation (Kindle Locations 5311-5336). The Trinity Foundation.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Gary Crampton has an excellent article on this subject here: A Biblical Theodicy

PuritanReformed said...

@Charlie:

I wouldn't say Cheung is an idiot, just a rationalist who reads his philosophy as an a priori into the text.

As for the idea that God is ex lex, I think that solves the problem at the epistemic level but does not solve the problem at the ontological level. That is how I see GH Clark's proposed solution to the problem of evil. It solves it at one level, but leaves the deeper level unresolved.

Charlie J. Ray said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie J. Ray said...

Clark contends that since God is immutable it follows that this universe is the only one that God could have created. God's eternal decrees express God's unchangeable nature. Thus, your contention that evil is an ontological problem denies the sovereignty of God over even evil. The Bible clearly says that God is the ultimate cause of evil without being the "author" of sin: Proverbs 16:4; Romans 9:18-22; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Psalm 115:3; Ephesians 1:11. et. al.

PuritanReformed said...

@Charlie,

sin is an ethical problem. But ethical problems can have epistemic and ontological aspects as well

PuritanReformed said...

I distinctly remember you were banned the last time around. I decided to allow these this time around, so don't push your welcome

Brandon said...

Thanks Daniel.

Have you considered John Piper's "The Justification of God" as a helpful companion to Clark?

http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2009/09/john-pipers-exegesis-of-romans-9.html

PuritanReformed said...

@Brandon:

Piper's book approaches Rom.9 exegetically. That is different from how to philosophically answer the question

kimeradrummer said...

With the phrase 'Author of sin' Cheung refers to God as the metaphysical direct and active cause of sin, and not the ethical cause of sin, wich is directly related with the Law of God, acording to Cheung.

Cheung says, too, that God works through means, but insist that these means and their effects aren't metaphyscaly independent of God's Sovereign and causative Omnipotence. Therefore, acording to Cheung, to metaphsycaly distance God from evil via secondary causes and contingencies is tantamount to say that these secondary causes and contingencies are 'causes in themselves', this is, they can cause effects APART FROM GOD'S DIRECTING METAPHYSICAL OMNIPOTENCE and, therefore, by this the absolute Sovereingty of God is denied. To better understand Cheung's metaphysical position I recomend his article 'God, the Author'.

Cheung position didn't divorce the will and the nature of God at all. He says that sin is defined by the Law. Therefore, for God to do evil He must judge certain work or willing for Himself to be sin or, in more simple words, God must put a law for Himself. In this sense, because God didn't put a Law over Himself that prevents Him to directly and actively cause evil, then God commits no evil when He directly and actively cause sin. And it can be the other way unless there are other metaphysical cause or effect that independent of God can cause evil or through them evil can be caused without God working actively and directly over the cause and the effect. Therefore, His doing is in harmony with His good nature.

To answer the questions you posit, I first ask the following: what does it mean to 'operat[e] through contingencies'? What is the metaphysical relation of God with the effects caused through this contingencies?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Cheung is confused. Clark defines a person as the propositions he thinks. Since human persons think sinful propositions of their own will, they are the author of their own sins. God is not. Scripture specifically denies that God is the author of sin. God decrees whatsoever comes to pass but He does so without violating the wills of moral agents. God is the cause of sin but not the author of sin. If God permits sin, then God must have predetermined to permit it and that would imply that God foreknew and planned for things to happen just as they do.

Clark is a far superior theologian and philosopher. Cheung does not even compare.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:13-17 KJV)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Even a plow boy can read Romans 9 and understand the plain meaning. Clark is not interpreting Scripture through philosophy but through the plain logic of what the text says clearly. It's called the "perspicuity" of Scripture. When the text says that God hated Esau before his birth and before he did good and evil, it means exactly that. Proverbs 16:4 is clear enough. God makes the wicked for the day of doom.

Supralapsarianism can be proved from Scripture.

Furthermore, Piper has dirty hands. He associates with Federal Visionists like Doug Wilson. And Piper was influenced by Daniel Fuller in seminary. Fuller was a proponent of the New Perspective on Paul. "Future vindication" is nothing more than "future justification" in disguise.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Clark's view, btw, is that language must have definite and logical meaning. Otherwise, communication is impossible. A cat is not a dog or an elephant.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The proposition that "sin is an ethical problem" is true insofar as it goes. But sin is much more than that. It is rebellion against God and it is the lack of conformity to God's moral law. The Wesleyan definition is that sin is the violation of a known moral law. The Reformed view is that sin done or not done out of ignorance is still sin.

The proposition also ignores the systematic teaching of the Westminster standards here. Stating that sin is x or y does not explain how God is sovereign over the ontological existence of evil in the created universe. Obviously sin is not God's equal. That would imply that sin exists because God decreed it to be so. Nothing God does is wrong.

PuritanReformed said...

@kim:

who says anything about "metaphysically distancing"? Upon what basis can you claim that effects caused "apart from God's metaphysical omnipotence" are "causes in themselves"? Why must directness be necessary for things not to be "causes in themselves"?

When you claim that God "God commits no evil when He directly and actively cause sin," that as I have mentioned shifts the question back to the nature of God. Good, you solved theodicy, but you are now left with the problem of the relation of the nature of God to the will of God. According to you, God can do something (i.e. directly and actively cause sin) that is either contrary to His nature, or that His nature is evil. So you still haven't answer the question. Shouting God is ex lex over and over again isn't going to get you anywhere.

As for contingencies, I think you can get the philosophical definition for yourself. The metaphysical relation God has with effects caused through contingencies is that everything is under His control. Your problem is that you can't see that indirect relation is just as under the sovereignty of God as direct causation.

Cheung is not Reformed at all. He violates WCF 3.1, which states the following:

God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeable ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3.1)

PuritanReformed said...

@charlie:

Just because Piper has errant views on a certain area, and compromises the faith in other areas, does not mean that everything he writes is de factor wrong

PuritanReformed said...

@charlie:

have you ever heard about moral epistemology and moral ontology? Just because sin is primarily ethical does not mean it does not have epistemic and ontological aspects to it.

kimeradrummer said...

@Puritan:

- 'who says anything about "metaphysically distancing"?'

First, my intention his to show how Cheung understand the use of this contingencies and secondary causes in relation to God and evil in the WCF and the common Reformed position. If God doesn't cause evil directly and actively (this is, if the effecs of this contingencies and secondary causes aren't too caused directly by God), then, in order to exonerate God from being the 'author of sin' the WCF proceeds distance metaphysicaly God from evil. God didn't 'directly' cause evil; the contingencies and secondary causes cause evil.

Second, this is what you when you say that 'The problem with the denial of contingency and secondary causes is that it makes God out to be a monster', for example.

- 'Upon what basis can you claim that effects caused "apart from God's metaphysical omnipotence" are "causes in themselves"?'

I didn't say that. What I say is that the causes of that effects are 'cause in themselves' in they can cause effects apart from God's directing metaphysical Omnipotence. On the other hand, is important to answer the question about the effects, this is, does God metaphysicaly causes direcly the effects of this contingencies and secondary causes? Does the fire burn by itself or the burning effect is caused direcly by God too (Exodus 3:2; Daniel 3:19-26)?

- 'Why must directness be necessary for things not to be "causes in themselves"?'

Because 'contingencies and secondary causes' doesn't have metaphysical power in themselves, but God must direcly act in them in order for them to cause anything.

With respect to your answer about God's will and nature, I already answer that in my response. Is true that the Law of God is related to His nature, but that doesn't mean that God is UNDER His Law. Therefore, the relation between God's Law and God's nature (because the will of God must be distinguished between His comands and decrees and power) must be clearly defined before any conclution. On the other hand, you asume that for God to cause evil is contrary to His nature...but by what standard? Are you clearly distinguish between God's own work and the effects of His work? Is contrary to the nature of God, for example, to turn the heart of the kings even to do what is contrary to His Laws (Proverbs 21:1)? Or is contrary to God's nature to put in the hearts of the horns to give the kingdom to the beast (Revelation 17:17)? Or to harden Pharaoh's heart? My answer isn't a merely ex lex answer. On the other hand, your answer asume many things that at least I don't know how you justify them, for example, that for God to direcly and actively cause sin is contrary to His nature.

Yes, God is under control of everything. I understand too that your position affirm this; so do mine. But that's not the question. The question is in what sense God is under control of everything. More particularly, in what sense God is under control of some thing, for example the effects of this secondary causes and contingencies wich cause sin and evilness. Does the effects flow by itself through the cause or the effect itself is caused by God to flow from the cause? And what is the cause of this secondary causes and contingencies?

PuritanReformed said...

@kim:

>If God doesn't cause evil directly and actively (this is, if the effecs of this contingencies and secondary causes aren't too caused directly by God), then, in order to exonerate God from being the 'author of sin' the WCF proceeds distance metaphysicaly God from evil.

That is the problem. You assume that indirect causes imply distancing. You think that to God things are like as to Man, such that distancing for Man is distancing for God. You think God operates on the basis of a 2-dimensional scale, so that indirect cause interject an additional y to distance x to form (x + y). Whereas, God is imminant in this world and thus analogously indirect causes are more like vector x.y rather than the scaler (x+y).

>On the other hand, is important to answer the question about the effects, this is, does God metaphysicaly causes direcly the effects of this contingencies and secondary causes?

I reject occasionalism, so no.

>Does the fire burn by itself or the burning effect is caused direcly by God too (Exodus 3:2; Daniel 3:19-26)?

Just because miracles are directly caused by God does not mean ALL things are directly caused by God.

>-'Why must directness be necessary for things not to be "causes in themselves"?'
>Because 'contingencies and secondary causes' doesn't have metaphysical power in themselves, but God must direcly act in them in order for them to cause anything.


That is just begging the question. Why can "contingencies and secondary causes" not have metaphysical power from God but now operating by themselves under His guidance?

>Is true that the Law of God is related to His nature, but that doesn't mean that God is UNDER His Law

If God's nature determine His Law, then why isn't God's nature manifested in His Law, and thus God is in some sense "under" His Law?


>On the other hand, you asume that for God to cause evil is contrary to His nature...but by what standard?

Scripture and plain common sense theological reflection that even a child can do. And by that you should say "directly cause," since the issue is not ultimate causation, but direct causation.


>Are you clearly distinguish between God's own work and the effects of His work?

If God directly does something, then there is no difference between His work and the effects of His work, unless you want to claim that God has no control over the effects of His work.

PuritanReformed said...

@kim: [cont]

>Is contrary to the nature of God, for example, to turn the heart of the kings even to do what is contrary to His Laws (Proverbs 21:1)?

Did God turn the heart of the kings directly, or indirectly? You are reading into the text!

>Or is contrary to God's nature to put in the hearts of the horns to give the kingdom to the beast (Revelation 17:17)?

First, the context is judicial punishment. Second, there is no mention HOW the process is done, whether directly or indirectly.

>Or to harden Pharaoh's heart?

Again, context is judicial punishment, and no mention of HOW the process is done


>On the other hand, your answer asume many things that at least I don't know how you justify them, for example, that for God to direcly and actively cause sin is contrary to His nature.

For all the reasons mentioned above. There is no difference between the work of God and the effects of that work, all controlled by a sovereign God, if that work is done directly.

>Does the effects flow by itself through the cause or the effect itself is caused by God to flow from the cause?

False dichotomy. Once again, you assume that effects that flow from the cause itself necessarily mean that God is not in the picture.

>And what is the cause of this secondary causes and contingencies?

God. But that's not the issue. No one is debating whether God is the ultimate cause of anything, but your blasphemous claim that God is the direct cause and author of sin

Charlie J. Ray said...

Just for the record, occasionalism is Scriptural. God is in absolute control of evil God ordains even moral evil. There are many examples of that in Scripture. Paul says that we live and move and have our being in God. Suppose a man is set to murder someone else. He's got the gun and he is on the way to do the deed. A car runs over the man and kills him before he can do the deed. God prevented a murder. That is true because "whatsoever comes to pass" is ordained of God.

Occasionalism is also a solid defense of creation by divine fiat and ex nihilo. To deny occasionalism opens the door for those who try to say that the universe can into being out of chaos or the big bang and we know that because of the alleged age of the universe. But how does anyone observe the age of the universe directly? God could have created the universe 5 minutes ago and you would not know the difference.

Does God cause men to sin? Absolutely. The hardening of Pharaoh's heart is not judicial. It is a sovereign act of God. We know that because God says twice beforehand that He would harden Pharaoh's heart and that prophecy is told before Moses and Aaron ever go to speak with Pharaoh:

And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. (Exodus 4:21 KJV)
And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 7:3 KJV)
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses. (Exodus 9:12 KJV)

The idea that Pharaoh hardened his own heart without any causation on God's part is unbiblical. Pharaoh is fully accountable for hardening his own heart because inability to obey is no excuse for disobedience. Augustine said, "Lord, command what you will and grant what you command." God is under no obligation to grant anyone the ability to obey His precepts.

Not only this, but Paul tells us that God raised up Pharaoh for the express purpose of displaying God's power and authority over evil rulers. That would imply that God intended from the beginning to harden Pharaoh and destroy him in the Red Sea:

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (Romans 9:16-17 KJV)
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: (Romans 9:21-22 KJV)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Evil exists because God decreed it to be so. That is taught many times over in the Scriptures:

The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4 KJV)
And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. (Exodus 9:16 KJV)
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11 KJV)
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? (Amos 3:6 KJV)
The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: (Isaiah 14:24 KJV)
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isaiah 46:10 KJV)

I should also add that Romans 9:11-13 teaches that before Jacob and Esau were ever born and prior to their doing either good or evil, God had already predetermined to love Jacob and hate Esau. In fact, the text goes even further. It says prior to their birth, God already loved Jacob and hated Esau. Now the only way to avoid this is to take the rationalist exit provided by the Arminians and say that this is merely an allegorical use of the names of individuals and this allegory represents nations.

This rationalist escape does not work, though. Anyone looking at modern nations can see that entire nations are for the most part lost. Islamic fundamentalist nations like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran come to mind here. So allegorizing the text does nothing to soften the implication that God foreordains that some men will be lost and that decree takes place not on the basis of foreseeing their rebellion but on the basis of God's sovereign decree prior to creation. That is true of both the infralapsarian view and the supralapsarian view.

God is the cause of evil. Nothing God does is wrong. We answer to God. He does not answer to atheists, Arminians, papists, muslims, Pelagians or Van Tilians.

So much for the creature/Creator distinction! I heard a PCA pastor recently say that God hardened Pharaoh's heart for punishment. This isn't judicial punishment. It is God's sovereign will brought to pass in real time. We know this because prior to Pharaoh's hardening his own heart God had already determined to harden Pharaoh's heart. To say this is "judicial" punishment is to imply the Arminian position that God "foresaw" Pharaoh's disobedience and predetermined to harden him on the basis of foreknowledge. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

I will concede that I may have judged prematurely on the "judicial" punishment aspect. Since all have sinned in Adam no one is punished as a sinner who does not deserve to be punished. Also notice that Clark affirms the doctrine of "equal ultimacy":

"creation, with its implication that there is no power independent of God, does not deny but rather establishes the existence of secondary causes. To suppose otherwise is unscriptural, and to avoid the notion of causality is illogical. Berkouwer’s contention that an original, all inclusive, universal decree of causation removes other distinctions is also untenable. He is afraid that the principle of causality would conflict with the very Scriptural position that guilt is the judicial ground of condemnation. Now, this is an important factor, a most important factor for pastoral caution. The majority of people, both inside and outside the church, are immersed in practical details, and their vision seldom rises to more general theological principles. They need the point emphasized that God condemns people for their sins. In particular, evangelistic endeavor cannot omit the fact of sin. But Calvinism does not make any such omission. Nor is there any inconsistency. The doctrines of election and reprobation do not conflict with the fact that God’s punishment is visited on no one who is not a sinner. The sinner deserves his punishment because he is evil and has done evil. No innocent person suffers. To be sure, Calvinism also insists that there are no innocent persons, except Christ of course. All are dead in sin. Salvation is a free, unmerited gift. Sin alone has merited wages, and those wages are death. All this, Calvinism proclaims without compromise. There is nothing in the divine decree that is inconsistent with acknowledging sin as the judicial ground of punishment. Berkouwer’s claim that the concept of cause removes particularities from the divine decree is therefore untenable. There are admittedly other details whose discussion might obviate various misunderstandings. To consider them all, even if they were not repetitious, would require a length and minuteness incompatible with the present plan. There is, however, one extremely important topic that cannot be omitted. Does the view here defended make God the cause and author of sin? Berkouwer asks this question also, and so has everyone else. Let it be unequivocally said that this view certainly makes God the cause of sin. God is the sole ultimate cause of everything. There is absolutely nothing independent of him. He alone is the eternal being. He alone is omnipotent. He alone is sovereign. Not only is Satan his creature, but every detail of history was eternally in his plan before the world began; and he willed that it should all come to pass. The men and angels predestined to eternal life and those foreordained to everlasting death are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished. Election and reprobation are equally ultimate. God determined that Christ should die; he determined as well that Judas should betray him. There was never the remotest possibility that something different could have happened."

Gordon H. Clark. Religion, Reason and Revelation (Kindle Locations 5271-5296). The Trinity Foundation.

Charlie J. Ray said...

And here is another example of why Cheung is not a Scripturalist:

"It is human nature, depraved human nature, to attempt to avoid responsibility for wrongdoing. In seeking to excuse himself for an evil act, a man may assign the blame to his tempter, as Adam and Eve did, or to compelling and extenuating circumstances, or to something else more remote and ultimate. The insincerity of this procedure becomes apparent when we notice that men do not try to avoid praise and honor by referring their good acts to ultimate causes. They wish to escape blame, but they are willing, only too willing, to accept compliments. The Christian view, however, is clearly expressed in David’s great confession. David did not complain, I have sinned a great sin, but alas, I was born sinful and could not help it; so, do not blame me too much. On the contrary, David said, I have sinned a great sin; and what makes it all the worse is that I was born that way; I could not help it, for I myself am evil. Repentant David placed the blame, not on his mother, nor on Adam, nor on God, even though all of these are causes in the chain of causation leading to his sin. Repentant David placed the blame on the immediate cause of his act – himself. The doctrine of creation, with its implication that there is no power independent of God, does not deny but rather establishes the existence of secondary causes. To suppose otherwise is unscriptural, and to avoid the notion of causality is illogical."

Gordon H. Clark. Religion, Reason and Revelation (Kindle Locations 5263-5273). The Trinity Foundation.

Obviously Clark affirmed secondary causes. That's because Clark regarded the Westminster Confession of Faith as the best systematic exposition of the propositions of Scripture ever produced to this point in time.

Charlie

PuritanReformed said...

@charlie:

just because God is in absolute control does not mean that occasionalism is right. Do you even know what occasionalism is?

As for equal ultimacy, do you know what the phrase means theologically?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Equal ultimacy refers to double predestination.

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Romans 9:11-13 KJV)
And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (1 Peter 2:8 KJV)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Occasionalism is the opposite of Deism. Unless you are asserting that God does not sustain creation?

Does the universe somehow sustain itself from one moment to the next? If so, that would imply Deism, not the view of biblical Christianity:

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17 KJV)
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (Ephesians 1:11 KJV)
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11 KJV)

"for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said,`For we are also His offspring.' (Acts 17:28 NKJ)
"You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created." (Revelation 4:11 NKJ)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Occasionalism and absolute predestination are implications that are inescapable.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The fall of Judas was predicted in the OT:

"For it is written in the book of Psalms:`Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it'; and,`Let another take his office.' (Acts 1:20 NKJ)

Let their dwelling place be desolate; Let no one live in their tents. (Psalm 69:25 NKJ)

"Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; (Acts 2:23 NKJ)
"For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. (Acts 4:27-28 NKJ)

There was never any doubt that Judas Iscariot would betray Christ and that Herod and Pilate would be part of his trial and crucifixion. It was by the set plan and foreknowledge of God. There are no contingencies in God's mind:

"Sect. 9.—THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, "Free-will" is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert "Free-will," must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them. But, however, before I establish this point by any arguments of my own, and by the authority of Scripture, I will first set it forth in your words.

Are you not then the person, friend Erasmus, who just now asserted, that God is by nature just, and by nature most merciful? If this be true, does it not follow that He is immutably just and merciful? That, as His nature is not changed to all eternity, so neither His justice nor His mercy? And what is said concerning His justice and His mercy, must be said also concerning His knowledge, His wisdom, His goodness, His will, and His other Attributes. If therefore these things are asserted religiously, piously, and wholesomely concerning God, as you say yourself, what has come to you, that, contrary to your own self, you now assert, that it is irreligious, curious, and vain, to say, that God foreknows of necessity? You openly declare that the immutable will of God is to be known, but you forbid the knowledge of His immutable prescience. Do you believe that He foreknows against His will, or that He wills in ignorance? If then, He foreknows, willing, His will is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so: and, if He wills, foreknowing, His knowledge is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so. " Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will: The Sovereignty of God.

PuritanReformed said...

@charlie:

Not true. You don't have the right to make up your own definitions.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/occasionalism/

Occasionalism is ONE way of trying to describe how God upholds the world. The opposite of deism is theism. The opposite of occasonalism can be anything from concurrentism to naturalism.

Do you hold that God directly create each moment of time all the time? So there is essentially no qualitative difference in creation ex nihilo and preservation a nihilo. That is occasionalism in a nutshell.


Equal ultimacy DOES NOT refer to double predestination. It refers to the fact that God makes people sin in the same manner He makes people righteous.

Charlie J. Ray said...

So you are asserting that once God created that universe sustains itself from one moment to the next. Deism is deism.

Secondly, if you say that God does not foreordain evil and that God does not cause the fall and all other evil acts, then you are essentially arguing for Armianism and Pelagianism. Either God causes evil or He does not. There really is no in between. Since the text says that God is sovereign, to say that evil is some ontological something that exists apart from God's sovereign decrees and His sovereign control is really nothing more than dualism. Evil has some sort of existence apart from God's will? I think not.

I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.' (Isaiah 45:7 NKJ)

And before you resort to your propaganda techniques, let me ask you to defend your position rationally, logically, and biblically without resorting to ad hominem and presupposed assertions without justification. Your rejection of Calvin's theology as "hyper-Calvinism" is simply to say that your loyalties lie with neo-Calvinism and Van Tilian paradox rather that Scripture.

It is not that you don't understand equal ultimacy but that you understand it and reject it out of a refusal to assent that this doctrine is taught both in the Westminster Standards and in the Bible.

That is a telling indictment of your equivocation and dissimulation, Mr. Chew.

You can't be both Arminan and Calvinist. You'll have to choose between the two views.

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

"1. From other passages, in which God is said to draw or bend Satan himself, and all the reprobate, to his will, a more difficult question arises. For the carnal mind can scarcely comprehend how, when acting by their means, he contracts no taint from their impurity, nay, how, in a common operation, he is exempt from all guilt, and can justly condemn his own ministers. Hence a distinction has been invented between [doing] and [permitting] because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that he directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and employs their iniquities to execute his Judgments. The modesty of those who are thus alarmed at the appearance of absurdity might perhaps be excused, did they not endeavour to vindicate the justice of God from every semblance of stigma by defending an untruth. It seems absurd that man should be blinded by the will and command of God, and yet be forthwith punished for his blindness. Hence, recourse is had to the evasion that this is done only by the permission, and not also by the will of God. He himself, however, openly declaring that he [does] this, repudiates the evasion. That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture. What we formerly quoted from the Psalms, to the effect that he does whatever pleases him, certainly extends to all the actions of men. If God is the arbiter of peace and war, as is there said, and that without any exception, who will venture to say that men are borne along at random with a blind impulse, while He is unconscious or quiescent? But the matter will be made clearer by special examples. From the first chapter of Job we learn that Satan appears in the presence of God to receive his orders, just as do the angels who obey spontaneously. The manner and the end are different, but still the fact is, that he cannot attempt anything without the will of God. But though afterwards his power to afflict the saint seems to be only a bare permission, yet as the sentiment is true, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so it has been done,” we infer that God was the author of that trial of which Satan and wicked robbers were merely the instruments. Satan’s aim is to drive the saint to madness by despair." Institutes: Book 1, ch. 18, section 6

Charlie J. Ray said...

Part 2: "The Sabeans cruelly and wickedly make a sudden incursion to rob another of his goods. Job acknowledges that he was deprived of all his property, and brought to poverty, because such was the pleasure of God. Therefore, whatever men or Satan himself devise, God holds the helm, and makes all their efforts contribute to the execution of his Judgments. God wills that the perfidious Ahab should be deceived; the devil offers his agency for that purpose, and is sent with a definite command to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets ( [2 Kings 22:20] ). If the blinding and infatuation of Ahab is a Judgment from God, the fiction of bare permission is at an end; for it would be ridiculous for a judge only to permit, and not also to decree, what he wishes to be done at the very time that he commits the execution of it to his ministers. The Jews purposed to destroy Christ. Pilate and the soldiers indulged them in their fury; yet the disciples confess in solemn prayer that all the wicked did nothing but what the hand and counsel of God had decreed ( [Acts 4:28] ), just as Peter had previously said in his discourse, that Christ was delivered to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God ( [Acts 2:23] ); in other words, that God, to whom all things are known from the beginning, had determined what the Jews had executed. He repeats the same thing elsewhere, “Those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he has so fulfilled,” ( [Acts 4:18] ). Absalom incestuously defiling his father’s bed, perpetrates a detestable crime. God, however, declares that it was his work; for the words are, “Thou midst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”14 [41 141 2 Sam. 12:12; Jer. 1:25; Is. 5:26; 10:5; 19:25; 2 Sam. 16:10; 1 Kings 11:31; 1 Sam. 2:34.]" Institutes: Book 1, Ch. 18. Sect. 1.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I am quite happy to be a "hyper-Calvinist" along with Luther and Calvin together. As Luther said, nothing changes with God. If God foreknows the future it is set in concrete and nothing can possibly change. It is set in concrete. I know you understand that concept. The trouble is not that you don't understand. The problem is you find the sovereignty of God offensive and you refuse to believe it.

Nothing God does is wrong because God is God. If you're going to accuse God of wrong doing, take your place alongside the atheists, the Pelagians, and the Arminians.

Total inability, by the way, does not remove moral accountability or responsibility. (Romans 3:10-23) God's law commands obedience and even this is foreordained so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-32).

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

Determinism and Responsibility, by Gordon H. Clark. Trinity Review.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Calvin the "rationalist" and Luther the "rationalist" are both condemned by your seminary.

I guess we are obligated to believe the inspired "story" and not the logical propositions of Scripture, Luther, or Calvin. Those darned "rationalists."

PuritanReformed said...

@Charlie:

Enough! The amount of strawmen set on fire by your incessant and ignorant babbling has grown to incredible proportions.

1) You blatantly REFUSED to acknowledge there are other ways to conceive of God's sovereignty than occasionalism. You REFUSED to even interact with concurrentism, and like Cheung, cast anyone who disagrees with you as holding to the opposite extreme.

2) You refuse to acknowledge that you have midsunderstood what "equal ultimacy" means. You refuse to acknowledge that you are defining it in ways the Reformed tradition has not.

3) You slander me with your nonsense babbling about "paradox" and "dissimulation." You lied and misrepresent me, just as you do my school and my profs.

4) You misrepresent Luther and Calvin as "rationalists." You misread what they say about God's sovereignty to mean God's direct causation of all things.


Your ban is reinstated, and I will seriously consider making it permanant.