Friday, January 08, 2016

What practical differences does making God the "Author of Sin" have

“But you are full of the judgment on the wicked; judgment and justice seize you.
Beware lest wrath entice you into scoffing, and let not the greatness of the ransom turn you aside.
Will your cry for help avail to keep you from distress, or all the force of your strength?
Do not long for the night, when peoples vanish in their place.
Take care; do not turn to iniquity, for this you have chosen rather than affliction.
Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him?
Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, ‘You have done wrong’?
“Remember to extol his work, of which men have sung. (Job 36:17-24)

Theologically, it makes a big deal whether God is or is not the Author of Sin. Yet, even if the dust will settle on this topic and my rebuttal to Vincent Cheung's rationalistic hypercalvinism, some might not see the differences between the two views. After all, God is the ultimate cause of sin either way, so does it matter whether it is "direct" or "indirect?" For Arminians like Roger Olsen, what difference does it make whether God directly caused sin, or indirectly superintends sin?

Theology is not merely abstract. Theology of course must start with the abstract, but it continues into the practical realm, for God is always immensely true and His Word always practical. So, if it is a big deal whether God is the direct cause of sin or the indirect superintendent of sin, then what practical differences would result from the two views? I suggest that it is in how one deals with trials and tribulations in life that the differences between these two views would be manifested.

In the wisdom literature, we read in the account of Job how he struggled with his unjust suffering. Job's three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar) applied the retributive principle to Job's suffering, and inferred that Job must have sinned because he was suffering. Their dialogues are basically variants on the accusation that Job must have sinned against God and he needs to repent, while Job insisted on pleading his righteousness before God.

In contrast to Job's three friends, his fourth friend Elihu did not so rebuke Job. Rather, he rebuked Job for presuming he could demand an explanation from God, that God is answerable to him. When God finally responds out of the storm, God similarly rebukes Job for his presumption in questioning Him, exposing Job's total inadequacy in the areas of knowledge and power (Job 38-41). It is thus understandable that God did not rebuke Elihu, while Job's other three friends were rebuked (Job. 42:7-8). Elihu's rebuke of Job is fully in line with God's rebuke to Job, and thus it is to Elihu's words that we want to focus our attention here.

In Job 36:17-24, we see here that Elihu rebuked Job for letting his judgment of the wicked descend into a self-righteous exoneration of himself. In Job's bitter affliction, Job has crossed the line from pleading for justice to demanding justice. Job's affliction has turned in this sense into iniquity. Elihu's rebuke, and God's rebuke, is not because Job called for justice and pleaded his cause, but because in his vehement cry for vindication, he has elevated himself to the position of a judge instead of remaining the supplicant.

Thus, we see here that there is nothing wrong with calling for vindication before God. There is nothing wrong with facing trials and tribulations with anguish and calls for relief. All of these are not sinful unless they become demands where we become the judge demanding that God must act (or worse still, take matters into our own hands). But if everything is ordained by God, shouldn't the response to trials and tribulations be resignation and trust in God, instead of anger and anguish and cries for relief?

Here, we see one practical difference between Cheung's direct causation model of sovereignty, and the biblical Reformed model of full sovereignty through both primary and secondary means. Under Cheung's model, one should approach trials and tribulations with a certain sense of "resignation," trusting in God to bring good out of the trials and tribulations. Since everything is directly caused by God, to be angry at the means is to be angry at God, for the means are mere occasions for God to act. But in the biblical model, since the means are not directly from God, but that God superintends all things, then there is nothing wrong with being angry at the means. Anger at sin, anger towards oppression, anguish at suffering — all these are legitimate emotions to be expressed. Cries for vindication from God for what one perceives to be unjust suffering, like in the sufferings of Job, are not sinful in and of themselves. Of course, one has to have faith and trust in God that all things would work together for good (cf. Rom. 8:28), but this trust is not contradictory to having legitimate feelings of anguish and an attitude of questioning. We are after all not Stoics. In Job's case, Job's bitter anguish and suffering coexists with his own faith and trust in God as his redeemer (Job 19); the two are not mutually exclusive.

It is thus in this very practical aspect of life that the differences between Cheung's direct causation model and the biblical Reformed model can be in my opinion most clearly perceived. Cheung's model, while it might not lead to fatalism, certainly necessitates a certain soft form of resignation. After all, how can one be angry at the means if God is the one directly bringing about the means? Can one be angry at God? If I know that all things work together for good, then I would infer that persecution would work together for good, so should I be angry at the persecution of Christians around the world? Why should I if God is directly causing it for good?

Only in the biblical Reformed model that we can both trust God and yet have questions and anger at injustices. We live in a fallen world, not in the realm of God's decrees and sovereign will. Emotions of anguish and bitterness are natural. Instead of striving for artificiality in the Christian life, we should not have any issue with so-called "negative emotions," but rather cultivate faith in God as the deeper anchor for our souls in the many storms of life, so that our faith would bring us through the trials and tribulations that we face in this world.

21 comments:

Gregory S. Gill said...

In using your own logic since you believe that God directly foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused) the means of evils or sufferings, and that the evils or sufferings would not be unless God first directly foreordained and indirectly superintends them, and that they had to come about because of God directly foreordaining and indirectly superintending (that is indirectly causing) them, then how logically the same questions and issues not also applies to you (as to those who believe God directly caused them all)?

You have only move the goal posts a little further backwards but you yourself as far as what your beliefs are and where they are concerned have not escaped the same questions and issues.

Gregory S. Gill said...

When sufferings or evils come upon me (or any other Christian) I don't resort to resignation (the acceptance of something that is wrong or evil). I pray for God to take it away or fix it. But above all else I pray for God's will to be done knowing God causes everything to work for the good of His children, and recognize that God's grace is sufficient for me (and all other Christians as well). That's not in any way whatsoever logically inconsistent with the belief that God directly causes everything including evil.

PuritanReformed said...

@Greg,

did you actually read the post? This was about practical implications, not about difficulties with any positions. And I have in previous posts clearly spell out the problems with Cheung's heresy, which is not about the origin of evil but the nature of God

PuritanReformed said...

@Greg,

you just proved my point; that is a soft form of resignation. There are no sharp emotions, no real anguish over trials. It's just "pray to take it away," and that's it.

You just proved that Cheung's heretical system results in a quietist view of suffering. Thanks for making my case for me.

Gregory S. Gill said...

I read your post and my comments were on the practical implications issues for both positions which is really the same when logically thought through. Its just that one position carries the goal posts a little further backwards where the practical implications issues are concerned. That's all.

Gregory S. Gill said...

"There are no sharp emotions, no real anguish over trials. It's just "pray to take it away," and that's it." Are you really serious with that comment as you also mentioned in your article? That's not my experience nor anyone else that I know of who believe that God directly causes evil. We are very deeply moved with sharp emotions and in very deep anguish over evil, sufferings, etc. We cry, we very deeply plea to God, we fast, etc. There is no logical inconsistency there. Do you personally know of anyone who believes that God directly causes evil that such practical emotional issues are not true of? I don't.

PuritanReformed said...

@Greg,

So why are you deeply moved? God directly caused you pain, so it's foolish of you to rage against the circumstances of your trials. How can you sin against God in anguishing over what He clearly meant for good?

Remember, in trials according to your Cheungian system, God inflicts pain upon you. God deceives you, but all of these are for your good. The rape victim should be thanking God for her rape, since that rape is commanded by God to be inflicted on her for her good after all. Why are you not responding correctly to God's sovereign goodness even in his deception and inflicting of pain (gosh, this sounds like sadomasochism)?

I think your emotions are not in line with Cheungian orthodoxy. You have to repent, either of your emotions, or your Cheugnian nonsense. You choose.

Gregory S. Gill said...

The same questions and issues of the practical implications also pertains to you too since you believe God directly foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused) them all. You believe all evils and sufferings only exist because God directly foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused) them all. And that they would never ever exist if God didn't directly foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused) them all. And that they all only come to be because God directly foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused) them all. The questions and issues of the practical implications you throw at us no lesser pertain to me than to you. Based on your beliefs system you have to answer them too as they all too just as much relate to you as well. All you did is just carry the goal posts little further backwards but you are still on the same play field.

In the context of your beliefs that God foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused) everything (including all suffering and evils). That they only exist and have to be, must be, because and only because God foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused) everything (including all suffering and evils). That nothing else can be or exist except only those things God foreordained and indirectly superintends (that is indirectly caused). In that context of your own beliefs system how do you answer your own questions that you throw at us? Because they all just as much pertains to you too.

Gregory S. Gill said...

Like it or not when the issues are logically considered in depth Arminian Roger Olsen(in your article) is 100% correct, "what difference does it make whether God directly caused sin, or indirectly superintends sin?". There is no difference in the practical and logical implications.

PuritanReformed said...

@Greg,

as I have replied multiple times, since I affirm the reality of second causes, which are not mere occasions for God to act, but have actual creaturely freedom, therefore the objections do not pertain to me. You persistently fail to realize that because you persists in interpreting everything I say according to Cheungian categories.

Everytime I mention 'indirect second causes,' you think in a 1-dimensional scale that freedom is a quantity that must be distributed between God and Man. As per Cheung, to say that Man has some measure of creaturely freedom must necessarily imply a loss of freedom in God, thus the shift in the scale of the "balance" between God's and Man's freedom. But the two are not on a scale! I have written about that in my article against Cheung on metaphysical distanciation, and even show pictorially through mathematics in vector geometry how this can work. But did you even bother to understand that? Not that I can see. You persist in repeating the same old canard that I have responded to over and over again. You refuse to see that creaturely freedom does not operate on the same plane, or on the same scale, as God's free agency. To put it in geometrical terms, you see freedom as scalar, not as a vector.

So until you can show me some indication that you are even trying to understand what I have said in my main article against Cheung, I will not reckon you as being sincere in your questioning. Please stop wasting my time if you refuse to actually interact with what I have said. Reply only if you start to make the effort

PuritanReformed said...

@Greg,

that you agree with Olsen only shows you are not an orthodox Calvinist

Gregory S. Gill said...
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Gregory S. Gill said...
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PuritanReformed said...

@Greg,

see rule number 5. Another post like this, and I will ban you from commenting.

which reminds me: I need to create a ban list so I will not forget who has been banned

Gregory S. Gill said...
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Gregory S. Gill said...
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PuritanReformed said...

@Greg,

well, you persist in refusing to deal with the issues in violation of rule 5.

You're banned now. No thanks for wasting my time

Jenson Lim said...

Hi Daniel,

You do not have many people commenting on your blog, and the few that do, get banned because they disagree with you?

You might want to reflect on this especially if you are going to be a minister. You would need to prayerfully cope with those in the congregation that differ from you. Just my 2p.

PuritanReformed said...

@Jenson,

It's not because he disagrees with me. I have tolerated Greg in many many posts.

It's because Greg refuses to deal with the issue. Everything I say he refuses to listen, but just vomit the same nonsense over and over again. I don't have the time to put pearls before swine over and over again.

Greg is not in my congregation, so I don't have to deal with him pastorally. And if he were in my congregation, he would be told to not spread his views at the very least because they contradict the WCF. Failing which, it would be an issue that I would have to discuss with the rest of the leadership.

This issue is a serious one, and errors on this matter make the person unorthodox at best. To me, Greg is no different from a Roman Catholic trying to argue for salvation by faith and works. As long as he interacts with the points, he can posts, but I have no toleration for a dogmatic unorthodox person who distorts what I say and refuses to interact.

I don't care whether there are few or many commenters on my blog fyi.

PuritanReformed said...

Another thing: If I do not tolerate dissent, then why do I allow you, Jenson, to post here?

Jenson Lim said...

I'm afraid only you can answer that. But you should try and reflect on this. The congregation will look beyond your MDiv and Rev and I hope they can see a man after God's own heart.