Friday, October 13, 2017

Taboo Calvinism

Most Calvinists I have ever read or heard or spoken to will insist that God is not the author of sin and evil. But can they, real Calvinists, say that with logic on their side? Or, when they say that, from within their own theological system, are they simply sacrificing logic entirely?

Calvin, Edwards, Sproul and Piper, just to name a few leading Calvinist theologians, affirmed that God foreordained the fall of Adam and Eve and thereby all of its consequences. According to one of them, put very bluntly but helpfully, God “designed, ordained, and governs” everything that happens without exception—including sin and its consequences (evil decisions and actions by fallen people).

The question that should automatically arise, then, is how does this avoid making God the author of sin and evil? I don’t think it can—from within the common Calvinist system of God’s sovereignty, providence and predestination of all things.

When asked to explain, to relieve the apparent contradiction, most Calvinists appeal to “secondary causes.” God renders sin and evil certain only through secondary causes. Two come to mind: Satan and fallen human beings. But we cannot avoid going “back” in our thoughts to how Satan came to be evil and how Adam and Eve fell into sin when they had fellowship with God—given that God “designed, ordained, and governed” (and rendered certain) even their evil decisions and deeds.

If Satan (Lucifer) and Adam and Eve fell into sin and evil because God foreordained it and rendered it certain, how is it possible to “get God off the hook?” It isn’t. In every intelligible sense, this view of God and evil traces evil back to God’s intentions.

Ah! Some Calvinists will say: God is not guilty because his intentions in foreordaining and rendering sin and evil and all their consequences certain are good. Satan’s and Adam’s and Eve’s (and ours) are not good. But that’s not the point here. (I could argue that one into the ground also, but I’ll leave that for another time.) Back to the point: It is simply illogical to say that God is not the author of evil insofar as one also believes God “designed, ordained” and rendered it certain—even if through secondary causes and with good intentions.

Two points here. First, in my experience, most young, impressionable evangelical Calvinists have not thought this through. As soon as it is pointed out to them (viz., that logically Calvinism makes God the author of sin and evil no matter what their favorite Calvinist pastor or theologian says) they either say 1) Oh, I hadn’t thought that, or 2) Whatever God does is good just because God does it. The latter is what their Calvinist mentors should say, but usually don’t because it doesn’t answer how God is not the author of sin and evil and it makes God morally ambiguous.

Occasionally a Calvinist theologian, pastor, teacher, writer, will bite the bullet and admit that, from within the Calvinist system, as explicated by Calvin, Edwards, Sproul, and Piper, God is the author of sin and evil. Then, suddenly, he is harshly criticized for falling into heresy.

Logic matters—in every theological system and even in the pulpits. If Calvinists want to avoid logical contradiction they need to “back up” and re-think their whole explanation of God’s meticulous sovereignty in which God designs, ordains and renders certain everything that happens without exception or else admit that they do believe (whether consciously or hidden even from themselves) that God is the author of sin and evil.

(Footnote: I do not consider anyone a consistent, true Calvinist who does not believe God foreordained the fall of humanity and rendered it certain. Here, in this essay, I am addressing only those true, consistent Calvinists who, together with Calvin, believe God foreordained the fall of humanity and everything else and rendered everything certain according to a divine plan. There are all kinds of people who call themselves “Calvinists” who I do not consider “real Calvinists” and there are all kinds of people who call themselves “Arminians” who I do not consider “real Arminians.”)

1. Not surprisingly, his article was mechanically plugged by SEA. It's striking how many freewill theists are absolutely obsessed with this formulation. The question represents a taboo. An irrational, superstitious line in the sand. It serves the same polemical function as liberal questions like: do you believe in "marriage equality", global warming, transgenderism, evolution? The purpose of these questions is to pigeon-hole people. These are litmus test questions. If they give the "wrong" answer, then the questioner feels justified in dismissing their viewpoint without argument. Their denial is treated as beyond the pale. It is unacceptable to even debate that question. The position is summarily classified as out of bounds.

2. Why do freewill theists act as if casting the issue in terms of a particular metaphor ("authorship") is a good way to frame the question? Why has that formulation acquired canonical status in freewill theism?

3. An obvious problem with a metaphorical question is that the scope of the metaphor needs to be defined. What do they mean by "author" of sin and evil? Can they offer a literal synonym or explanation? 

For instance, freewill theists act as if it's duplicitous for Calvin, the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Confession to deny that God is the "author" of sin. But in my experience, they never bother to investigate what that phrase meant in historical theological usage. It doesn't even occur to them to ask whether their 21C definition corresponds to 16-17C usage. 

4. I have a policy of not answering ambush questions. There's no right answer to the wrong question. I reserve the right to reformulate trick questions, loaded questions.

5. When pressed, they sometimes define authorship of sin in terms of causing sin, determining sin, or causally determining sin. In my experience, "causal determination" has become another stock phrase in freewill theist polemics. But what's the difference between causing x, determining x, and causally determining x? Have they bothered to distinguish those concepts, or is "causal determinism" just another reflexive rote formula? 

6. Here's one way to field the question: if Calvinism makes God the author of sin, then so does Thomism, Arminianism, Molinism, Lutheranism, open theism, Deism, &c. What theistic position doesn't make God the author of sin?

Here's a standard philosophical definition, by David Lewis: 

We think of a cause as something that makes a difference, and the difference it makes must be a difference from what would have happened without it. Had it been absent, its effects — some of them, at least, and usually all — would have been absent as well.

On that definition of "authorship," freewill theism makes God the author of sin and evil. 

7. What about "determinism? Here's one definition:

Determinism is the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs.

Is Calvinism deterministic in that sense? That's still ambiguous:

i) If by "antecedent states" is meant a casual chain of events, then Calvinism does not entail determinism. For instance, God has predestined every miracle, but a miracle, in the classical sense (in distinction to a coincidence miracle) is not the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states. Indeed, miracles, in the classical sense, are causally discontinuous with the past. Miracles are the effect of a cause that falls outside the ordinary course of nature. Indeed, the same reference work goes on to say:

More strictly, determinism should be distinguished from pre-determinism, the idea that the entire past (as well as the future) was determined at the origin of the universe.

Nor should determinism be confused with determination, the idea that events (including human actions) can be adequately determined by immediately prior events (such as an agent's reasons, motives, desires), without being pre-determined back to before the agent's birth or even back to the origin of the universe.

Yet Calvinism is about predeterminism (i.e. predestination, foreordination, election, reprobation) rather than determinism, per se. In principle, an outcome can be determinate without being predeterminate. An agent may effect an outcome without any premeditation or forethought. An unplanned event can still be determinate. 

ii) If by "antecedent states" is meant the decree, then it's true that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of the decree.

iii) That, however, doesn't mean the decree is necessary. If by "antecedent state" is mean God's prevolitional contemplation, then the decree is a contingent rather than necessary truth. God's nature is logically or conceptually independent of the decree inasmuch as God was at liberty to decree a different outcome, had he so desired. Although the decree necessitates subsequent states, no antecedent state necessitates the decree. 

iv) Conversely, the God of freewill theism determines the future. There are different ways that can be the case. If God instantiates a possible world, then he thereby determines that particular world history. That's what possible worlds are: alternate world histories. Once God instantiates a possible world, everything falls like dominoes according to the history of that particular world.

If God foreknew the historical consequences of making our world, yet he goes right ahead and does it, then the outcome must exactly match the foreseen consequences of his creative fiat. 

Likewise, an agent can ensure an outcome through inaction. Take the case of a baby carriage rolling down a hill unless I intervene to stop it. If I refrain from preventing that outcome, my nonintervention renders the outcome certain. In that sense, doing nothing can be deterministic. Just let nature take its course. 

8. Olson seems to implicitly define "authorship" of sin and evil to mean God "designed, ordained and rendered it certain". But how does that stand in contrast to freewill theism?

i) How does Olson distinguish "ordain" from "render certain"? And I've already explained how an agent can render an outcome certain through nonintervention. But does that ipso facto exonerate an agent? If I simply let a baby carriage, with the baby inside, roll down the hill into a busy intersection, does that "let me off the hook"? My refusal to get involved ensured the tragic outcome.

ii) But suppose it wasn't a sure thing that the baby would die at the bottom of the hill, when his carriage was run over by a car. Suppose it was only probable. Does that let the bystander off the hook, for refusing to get involved? 

iii) What does Olson mean by "designed"? It's true that according to Calvinism, every event happens by design. But how does that stand in contrast to freewill theism? If God knows the future, if God knows the historical consequences of making the world, then didn't God intend the consequences of his own creative fiat? If God saw it coming, if he made the world, then those can't be unplanned events. In every intelligible sense, this view of God and evil (e.g. Molinism; simple foreknowledge) traces evil back to God’s intentions.

iv) Even in open theism, God knows that he may be risking the well-being of his rational creatures. God knows that he may well be putting them in harm's way. We generally consider it culpable to endanger the mental health, physical health, or lives of human beings. So even if the open theist God didn't plan it, that is not ipso facto exculpatory. 

9. If freewill theists can define "authorship" of sin and evil, why are they so fanatically attached to that particular formulation? Why not use synonyms that are less opaque?

i) Typically, freewill theists define causation or determinism in a way that automatically includes Calvinism while automatically excluding their brand of freewill theism. But that's a textbook example of a tendentious definition. A stipulative definition that's custom-made to preemptively exempt your own position from what you find objectionable in the opposing position. Classic special pleading. The game is rigged for the Calvinist to lose.  

ii) If a polemicist for freewill theism were to stop hiding behind "author of sin" and reformulate the question is more prosaic, explicit terms, like "Does Calvinism make God cause or determine sin and evil in a way that freewill theism doesn't make God cause or determine sin?", then the question would lose most of its sting. It would reduce to the tautology that in Calvinism, God has a different relationship to sin and evil than in varieties of freewill theism. But it goes without saying that Calvinism is different than freewill theism. So that observation is rather insipid. 

iii) Moreover, to say that Calvinism makes God cause or determine sin and evil in a way that freewill theism does not isn't equivalent to saying freewill theism does make God cause or determine sin and evil. Just that in freewill theism, God causes or determines sin and evil in a different way than Calvinism. But once we drop the polemical slogans and begin to explicate the underlying concepts, that greatly complicates the comparison. The facile rhetorical advantage that freewill theism enjoys is suddenly exposed as verbal sleight-of-hand. 

10. Furthermore, the question is an exercise in misdirection. The reason Calvinists believe that God predestined sin and evil is, in the first instance, because they believe that's a revealed truth, and they believe divine revelation (i.e. Scripture). A more honest question would be whether the Bible makes God the "author" of sin and evil. You can't just discredit Calvinism by attacking the perceived consequences of Calvinism. For that's secondary to the primary question of whether Calvinism mirrors God's self-revelation in Scripture. The deeper question is whether you can discredit Calvinism without discrediting biblical theism–if both positions have the same ("unacceptable") consequences. 

11. And that isn't just hypothetical. Olson has an aversion to OT theism. There's a contradiction in his own position. He wants to say that Jesus is his standard of comparison, but the very same Jesus reportedly venerates OT theism. Yet Olson refuses to affirm that God issued the "abhorrent commands" in the "texts of terror". For Olson, logic only matters when attacking Calvinism. When defending freewill theism, he takes refuge in obfuscation.

Another example is natural evil. He's outraged when Calvinists like Piper attribute natural disasters to God, yet Olson fails to explain how the God of freewill theism can avoid complicity in natural evil. Olson can't honestly appeal to the buffer of second causes to insulate God from natural evil, in part because he's contemptuous of that appeal when Calvin invokes it, and in part because God is the ultimate cause of most natural evils, even in freewill theism. Most natural disasters are the result of physical determinism. God created the natural processes that inevitably produce natural disasters, barring divine intervention. We can't avoid going "back" in our thoughts to how God set up the initial conditions. 

12. Notice that Olson cites Calvin, Edwards, Sproul and Piper. But Sproul and Piper are popularizers, while Edwards was an 18C theologian and Calvin was a 16C theologian. If you're going to raise philosophical objections to Calvinism–and theodicy is an issue in philosophical theology–you should have the integrity to target the most astute and advanced representatives of the opposing position. Olson, like Walls, has a really bad habit of attacking soft targets rather than engaging the best contemporary Reformed philosophers. 


  1. "3. An obvious problem with a metaphorical question is that the scope of the metaphor needs to be defined. What do they mean by "author" of sin and evil? Can they offer a literal synonym or explanation?"

    At men's study tomorrow morning we will be dealving into James 1:13,14 (God doesn't tempt...)

    I don't use handouts but tomorrow I'm passing out this as a theological context. Note Calvin in particular. He uses "author" but clearly with a different intention.

    God is often pleased to lead his people into temptation:
    The Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What does such a petition presuppose? It presupposes “that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations.” (Westminster Larger Catechism: answer 195)

    God tempts no man:
    Certainly the Catechism does not contradict Scripture where it states: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:13, 14

    The biblical balance:
    We must do justice to both truths. Although God is not a tempter, he nonetheless, according to the counsel of his own will, sovereignly upholds, directs and disposes all creatures, actions and things, to the end that even his people may be assaulted, foiled and even led captive by temptations, precisely as God has determined, for his own glory and our profit. Matthew 4:1 couldn't be more explicit: "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."

    Does God merely "permit" sin?
    "[Permits] is the preferred term in Arminian theology, in which it amounts to a denial that God causes sin. For the Arminian, God does not cause sin; he only permits it. Reformed theologians have also used the term, but they have insisted that God permission of sin is no less efficacious than his ordination of good." John Frame (p. 177 The Doctrine of God)

    "But it is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them." John Calvin (p. 176 Concerning the Eternal Predestination)

    “By calling it permissive… we mean that they are such acts as He efficiently brings about by simply leaving the spontaneity of other free agents, as upheld by His providence, to work of itself under incitements, occasions, bounds and limitations, which His wisdom and power throw around.” R.L. Dabney (p. 214 Systematic Theology)

    John Frame dissents from the Arminian view, which is that God does not cause sin and that he only permits it. Rather, Frame acknowledges that God’s ordination of sin is as equally efficacious as his ordination of good. As for Dabney, he is pleased to acknowledge that the incitements of sin (which are no less than the provocations or urgings) come from God’s providential wisdom and power, which he is pleased to “throw around.”

    Did not the Divines have to in some measure deviate from biblical language in order to exegete biblical meaning? To merely parrot the same words as what is contained in a passage or doctrinal statement conveys no understanding of the meaning of what is under consideration. If I want someone to explain to me the book of Job, the last thing I want is only to be read the book of Job.

    “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.’” Job 2:6

    1. In terms of historical theology, I've discussed what it might have meant to deny that God is the "author of sin":

    2. In fact, that linked post will be read to the men in the morning. Very useful.

  2. Steve, you're a resource beyond measure. I often just google triablogue x-topic and a string of useful posts come up. I marvel at God's graces bestowed upon you. :)

  3. Crib link: "If actor was a synonym for auctor, then to deny that God is the "author" of sin means that God is not the agent, viz, God is not the doer or performer of sin. Rather, it's the human agent (or demonic agent) who commits sin."

    I never knew the Latin to English parallel but that has always been my take.

    I think there are muddled Calvinists who are a slave to the words "not the author of sin," even so much as to deny that God *is* the author of sin in the sense that he has authored all of history, including sin. I think we should stick with confessional language as much as we can, but a working theology should be able to trade things up a bit in order better define and explain the theology behind the words.

  4. Thank you to all the contributors for this blog and this article; it's a blessing from God. I just wanted to say that it frustrates me when Olsen states the following, "Logic matters—in every theological system and even in the pulpits." It's not that I disagree, but it feels somewhat arrogant of him to state this when he doesn't apply it to his own theological system (and gets angry with others who do wish to apply it to Arminianism). He needs to keep his end of the bargain as well! Thank you Steve for your insights and for doing the logical analysis which Dr Olsen should be doing :)

  5. What is the difference between a "real theologian" like Calvin and Edwards vs. "popularizers" like Sproul and Piper?

    Without Sproul and Piper, I would have never been able to grasp Calvin and Edwards.
    I consider them top notch theologians of today that have helped many (like me) grasp the older and harder to understand material like Calvin and Edwards.

    1. "what is SEA ?"

      I didn't say Piper and Sproul weren't real theologians. I just said they were popularizers.

      They're not high-level thinkers like Cunningham, Warfield, John Frame, Greg Welty, James Anderson, Paul Manata, Paul Helm, &c.

      That's not a criticism. Popularizers are useful and necessary. If, however, someone tries to disprove a theological tradition, he needs to target the most sophisticated exponents of that position.

    2. Thanks, good clarification.

  6. I don't see a contradiction between Calvinism and God "allowing sin to happen" - ordaining with respect to sin means God decided that sin was going to enter the world, at the same time not doing the sin because God is pure and holy and cannot sin. (God cannot lie - Titus 1:2 and God cannot sin (1 John 1:5; James 1:13-14; God cannot look upon sin with approval - Hab. 1:13)

    God "ordaining sin" means God decided to allow sin to happen.

    The angel who became Satan had free will - Ezekiel 28:13-17 (the spirit behind the king of Tyre)
    "you were in Eden, the garden of God"
    "until unrighteousness was found in you"
    "o covering cherub" (v. 16)
    "your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
    You corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor"

    Adam and Eve sinned - I like Augustine's comment:
    "By the evil use of free will, Adam destroyed his own free will"
    Enchiridion 30

    The term "allowing" can be used as a cop out, and frequently is used that, by Arminians.

    But there is a proper use of "allowing", "permitting" from a Calvinist perspective.

    Louis Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine, page 46:
    "His decree with respect to sin is a permissive decree." 

    Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 103:
    "There are other things, however, which God included in His decree and thereby rendered certain, but which He did not decide to effectuate Himself, as the sinful acts of His rational creatures. The decree, in so far as it pertains to these acts [of sin] is generally called God's permissive decree. This name does not imply that the fruition of these acts is not certain to God, but simply that He permits them to come to pass by the free agency of His rational creatures. God assumes no responsibility for these sinful acts whatsoever." 

    1. There's a sense in which the Calvinist God can "allow" sin to happen. He permits it by not preventing it.

      It's a cop-out if that's all a Calvinist says, but by the same token, it's a cop-out if that's all a freewill theist says.

    2. One distinction that I think can pave the way for "permits" in the hands of Calvinist is that God may ordain righteousness for righteousness sake. Yet he never ordains sin just for the sake of sin. That distinction might afford reason to use differing terms, permits or allows as opposed to terms like effects. Just as long as we agree, both are equally efficacious.

  7. Tom here. After reading Olson's article, some of the comments, and the comments here, I as a Calvinist (might be called something else in a minute) see and have seen his point. Most if not all Calvinists I have read are, IMO, incoherent on this subject. It always seems to end in "it's a mystery". Compatibilism seems very weak and really doesn't explain the relationship God has to evil. As much as I don't agree with Vincent Cheung on a whole host of subjects, I think I agree with him on this. Simply put I think God has decreed evil, along with everything else, and immediately causes it. I agree with Cheung that the Bible explicitly teaches this. Metaphysical causation isn't the same as "doing" evil. The idea that God "permits" things to happen eventually leads to "powers" other than God......pagan dualism. To my mind God metaphysically causing evil no more makes Him evil, or a narcissist, than Him knowing every conceivable evil from all eternity through His omniscience make Him evil. Does anyone actually believe that evil originated in "something" outside of God's mind? The Armininian is in even worse shape, with his free-will explanation......God the incompetent. Besides I don't consider free-will to be a category taught anywhere in the Bible. I mean after all, didn't God create the wicked for the day of evil?

    1. If God is the "immediate cause" of everything, including evil, then God is the agent performing evil acts. Given occasionalism, God is the only cause of whatever happens.

      You might try to say it's not evil for God to do it, but occasionalism undoubtedly makes God the one who does it.

    2. Tom here. Then dualism is true, God isn't actually sovereign. Things actually happen that God doesn't actually control. There are powers (Satan, evil persons) that exercise power apart from God's power. And Christ doesn't uphold "all" things by the word of His power....for example a man's evil mind. I disagree that metaphysical causation is actually doing evil, and I haven't seen a coherent argument that shows they are. When you get down to it there is no connection between God actually decreeing a thing and how that thing comes's just a mystery. No wonder guys like Olson write what they write, and the Calvinists answer with compatibilism and second causes and permission. basically non answers to me.

    3. If you say God is the direct cause of every event, then it automatically follows that God is the sole performer. If you reject second causes, then God is the one who commits every evil act.

      You may say it isn't necessarily evil to commit evil, but that's a different issue.

    4. BTW, it's counterintuitive to say God condemns people not for anything they did, but for what he alone did.

  8. "Simply put I think God has decreed evil, along with everything else, and immediately causes it."


    1. It's intersting that guys like Cheung won't admit they deny the Confession.

    2. Temptation is an effect that has an immediate cause (or immediate causes). If God tempts no man, then how is God the an *immediate* cause of temptation?

    "I agree with Cheung that the Bible explicitly teaches this"

    "Explicitly?" You mean you don't think this is a good an necessary inference? Even better. Please produce the explicit teaching. Please tell me you're not going to hang this notion on Is. 45:7.

  9. Tom here. I don't know if Cheung has or hasn't explicitly denied the confession, I haven't read every single thing he's written. I know he attacks it and the Reform often. I did say there is very little, other than this, that I agree with Cheung.

    Tempting someone to sin is an actual "doing" of sin. In this regard God tempts no one, since it's people, Satan or demons that do the tempting. I think Cheung would say (I would say) that His creatures have no power in and of themselves to cause them to do anything....they can't take their next breath, think a thought, sin or do righteously unless God immediately causes that thought, word or action. If God were to cease to exist right now, would His creation also cease to exist? Is the creation somehow self existent? I don't think so. Why is it that God decreeing evil doesn't make Him evil, but God immediately causing evil does make Him evil? It's not as if anyone can ultimately resist His decree. I don't agree with Steve that metaphysical causation is equal to actually doing evil...that just sounds like a bare assertion.

    I shouldn't have used the term "explicit", as in some verse of scripture says "God immediately causes evil". But since you brought up Is 45:7, I do have a real problem with the interpretation that it only refers to "natural" evils..earthquakes, storms etc. This interpretation seems very off to me, it seems to me to have been interpreted in light of a philosophical assumption that God can't be too closely connected to evil, rather than let the chip fall where they may.

    As for an example....Dan Ch4. Nebuchadnezzar was judged by God for his pride. The king had his so-called free will removed along with his rationality. Is it sinful for a man to stop acting as a man and now take on the persona of an animal (not some play acting), but really and truly acting and living like a cow? And if it is sinful, who immediately caused it? I might also appeal to Jer 34:18-22, especially verse 22. Was God acting directly on the king and his do evil.....but God meaning it for good?

    Listen, I want to understand, and try to accept the standard Reformed understanding on these things. I'm not trying to put it to you guys and show you what a smarty pants I am. I'm not beholden to Cheung, it just's that his view seems clear to my mind and compatibilism seems very unclear. And I don't think AT ALL that because God is the immediate cause that that makes Him evil, anymore than because I believe He decreed evil that makes Him evil.

    1. Compare two statements back to back:

      "God immediately causes evil"

      "In this regard God tempts no one, since it's people, Satan or demons that do the tempting."

      If God immediately causes everything, then Satan or demons tempt no one. That would only be possible if you grant second causes, which you deny. If God immediately causes everything, then God is the only agent of temptation.

      To say God immediately causes everything by definition eliminates intermediate creaturely agency. This isn't a subtle point.

      "I don't agree with Steve that metaphysical causation is equal to actually doing evil...that just sounds like a bare assertion."

      You seem to have difficulty following the implications of your own claim that God immediately causes evil. In this context, "immediate" is a synonym for "direct". The outcome is not facilitated by any intermediaries. You've eliminated creaturely agency. In that event, creatures do nothing and God does everything.

      "And I don't think AT ALL that because God is the immediate cause that that makes Him evil"

      That's a separate, but related issue. For now I'm making the point that if you rule out secondary agents, then it's God himself who commits evil deeds.

    2. BTW, do you think Scripture teaches occasionalism? Does Scripture deny that rain comes from rainclouds, that trees come from seeds, &c.?

      Do you deny that the heart is a blood pump? Do you deny that lungs oxygenate blood? Do you deny that the stomach digests food? Are these just stage props? Why have a body at all?

      If occasionalism is true, what purpose do the five senses serve? Why have sensory organs at all? Occasionalism is a makeshift position. Why not go all the way and say God bypasses the senses feeds information directly into our minds? But then, why have eyes and ears and fingers?

  10. "Simply put I think God has decreed evil, along with everything else, and immediately causes it..."

    Temptation is an effect that has an immediate cause (or immediate causes). If God tempts no man, then how is God the an *immediate* cause of temptation?

  11. "Tempting someone to sin is an actual "doing" of sin. In this regard God tempts no one, since it's people, Satan or demons that do the tempting."

    Then agents other than God are the immediate cause. But that's the very thing you've denied elsewhere.

    "If God were to cease to exist right now, would His creation also cease to exist?"

    Your hypothetical only is useful as an illustration of God being the ultimate cause of all things. It doesn't imply God is the immediate cause of all things.

    Your conundrum is resolved in the doctrine of providence, which established secondary causes.