Determinism and the existence of sin

Arminians frequently argue that (exhaustive) determinism implies that God is the author of sin. The argument being that if God causes every event including the actions of sinful men the God is behind such actions and is culpable. Although the reasoning that the instigator of an action is responsible for such action is sound, note David murdering Uriah the Hittite; that God is the author of sin is less immediately apparent.

Moral restrictions that apply to man do not automatically apply to God. God is allowed to remove the life of men at his discretion, for man to do so is considered murder. Therefore one could argue that causing other men to sin would be sinful for man, but not for God. In fact one could argue that it is impossible for God to sin because by definition God actions are not sinful.

I agree with the proposition that everything God does is good. Not that it is good because God does it, but because it is in the nature of God to be righteous and everything he does is consistent with this nature. But I wish to approach this problem from a different perspective.

Let us accepting that God cannot sin (for whatever reason). The issue with determinism is that it makes God the cause and source of every action including those actions we term sin. But determinism also makes the intermediate agents non-culpable. Man can hardly be responsible, let alone guilty for that which he does at the exhaustive, non-resistible control of another. A gun is hardly to blame for the actions of the soldier. I don’t see how this is changes if the gun is given consciousness.

This leaves us with God being the author of all activity, man the author of none.

But the Bible states that there is such a thing as sin. It frequently warns us to reject sinful actions. That sin is real is not in doubt for those who agree with Scripture. But if God cannot sin, and determinism means that man is not culpable then we cannot resolve the dilemma.

  1. The Bible says that sin exists.
  2. God cannot sin
  3. Therefore men must sin
  4. The Bible teaches determinism
  5. But determinism implies that man is not culpable for sin

These cannot all be true. The question is which statement should we reject? Arminians would argue #4, as they do not think this is the case. Calvinists would argue #5 but this is logically and biblically untenable.

If we grant that God can and is permitted to do some things that man cannot and is not, this does not resolve the problem. Even accepting the Calvinist claim that God can cause evil and not sin still leaves the determinism problem unresolved.

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