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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blaming God for Sin

James 1:13 - And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else." (NLT)
Jeremiah 32:35 They have built the high places of Baal in the Valley of Hinnom to make their sons and daughters pass through [the fire] to Molech —something I had not commanded them. I had never entertained the thought that they do this detestable act causing Judah to sin! (HCSB)

Over the past several months I have experienced the carelessness of men and women toward their brothers and sisters in Christ on many different levels. Sometimes the carelessness or cruelty has been targeted at me and sometimes at those around me. As one might expect other brothers and sisters in Christ step in at such moments to offer their words of encouragement to the wounded and to let them know that God is with them in the midst of their loss. This is good! This is what the Church is supposed to do and who Christians are supposed to be! And, when the encouragement is offerred to me I take it as it has been intended and I am grateful for people who care enough to encourage!

Still, at times the words that are expressed by well meaning believers can communicate a view that the sin of those who have caused harm is God's. "God has a plan" is a phrase that offers hope and encouragement that God will turn the evil of man into good without making Him responsible for the activity. But more than once I heard phrases that made the sinful acts of man somehow God's doing.

Since Augustine, determinism has been a part of a Christian worldview to varying degrees. Some are full-fledged determinists who believe that God does actually cause the actions of men.

Calvin wrote: "That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture." (Institutes 1.18.1).

Few (if any) of the people I have encountered over the last few weeks would be comfortable with this quote, yet their words of what God is "doing" in the sinful actions of men reveals that they have been shaped by this sort of thought. Of course, all monotheistic religions struggle with the degree of their god's interaction with the actions of men - If the Christian's God is sovereign all things in some way fall into His purview.

But, how does Calvin's perspective square with passages that clearly state that God is not the author of sin? Herein lies the problem with systems. Once God has been categorized, identified, and defined by our theology - then ALL must fall into that system. And systems rarely seek balance between different revelations, rather it emphasizes one over the other in order to create a "logical" outcome. For the Calvinist the doctrine of God's Sovereignty, for Arminians the doctrine is God's benevolence, for those who are neither any number of doctrines can become preeminent at the expense of others.

What I want to suggest here is that a perspective or outlook on life that blames Him for the evil of man is not consistent with the total picture given in Scripture. Please note I am not saying He only gives blessings and has no role in the bad that happens to people in general, what I am saying is that as moral agents WE ALONE are responsible for the sins we commit - God does not tempt.

I will be expanding on these thoughts in the weeks ahead. But for now, choose words carefully. Every phrase we utter communicates something about what we believe.

2 comments:

Chris said...

Dr. P--So if you met Joseph in prison and you said,"hey man, God has a plan!" Would that be off? It may not be the way to minister to someone's need, but I don't think it is any less true. In my experience, when I am sinned against, what really ministers to me is when people say, "yeah that sucks!" or "yeah, I can't believe that person was so thoughtless." I know it sounds crazy but I think that when bad things happen, it is like a man who is shooting his gun at a target. We may be standing by and God either pushes us into the line of fire or "allows it" but either way, God uses it to make us more like Christ. I think this is a part of sanctification. Its painful. People are everywhere shooting guns. Occasionally, we run into the bullets. God knows people shoot guns. He knew the Pharisees would not only want to murder J but would. And He placed his Son there in their line of fire and that's our example. Sheep led to the slaughter. Tell me if I'm missing your point altogther..

Dr. Tim Pierce said...

Chris,

I personally wouldn't reply "God has a plan" I was simply trying to distinguish that from the statement that puts God as responsible.

Also, there is a difference between God using something (proactively of course) and God causing something. The issue is one of responsibility for sin. Those who argue for a deterministic view of the world ultimately make Him responsible, whether they are willing to admit it or not. I believe God's sovereignty is evocative, not coercive - He is in control, He is not surprised by anything, He is able to guide history to His ends, but in the midst of that, He also allows people REAL freedom. It paradoxical, but it is true! Scripture highlights both, not one to the expense of the other.

Tim