Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Does God Tempt Elect Believers or Reprobate Unbelievers?

"But notwithstanding this, God may when he sees fit deliver us to Satan, abandon us to a reprobate mind and lustful concupiscence, and in this manner ‘lead us into temptation’ by a righteous judgment as a punishment of our sinful self-indulgence . . ."  W. G. T. Shedd

"But though I should confess a hundred times that God is the author of it—which is very true—yet they do not promptly cleanse away the guilt that, engraved upon their consciences, repeatedly meets their eyes."  John Calvin

". . . so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation."  Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.  39 Articles of Religion:  Article 17:  Of Predestination and Election.

2 Thessalonians 2:11–12 (NKJV)
11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

I am the first to admit that I have often erred in my past theological views and my understanding of the Bible.  I was an Arminian for many years.  On my blog I have tried not to delete past articles where I have erred or made erroneous statements.  Instead I have posted addendums with dates to show that I have corrected my errors.  Understanding the system of propositional revelation in the Bible can be difficult when we neglect to compare Scripture with Scripture and to think systematically.  It is to be noted that all the parts, all the verses of Scripture fit together into a system of theologically consistent truth.  None of the verses of Scripture can be isolated into stand alone aggregates or pebbles of truth.  All Scripture is inspired of God and all the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16).  Furthermore, the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35).

Having said that, it is often stated that God is not the author of man's sins.  This is in fact what the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly states:

Chapter V.  Of Providence

4.      The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; (Rom. 11:32–34, 2 Sam. 24:1, 1 Chron. 21:1, 1 Kings 22:22–23, 1 Chron. 10:4, 13–14, 2 Sam. 16:10, Acts 2:23) and that not by a bare permission, (Acts 14:16) but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, (Ps. 76:10, 2 Kings 19:28) and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; (Gen. 50:20, Isa. 10:6–7, 12) yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. (James 1:13–14, 17, 1 John 2:16, Ps. 50:21)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

But notice that not only does the WCF say that God is not the author or approver of sins but that "providence extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men."  In short, the idea that God loves the reprobate is absolutely refuted by the Westminster Confession.  The neo-Calvinist doctrines of common grace, the well meant offer of salvation, and the free offer of the Gospel are refuted by the system of truth revealed in Scripture and summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  God so orders and governs all things such that all things work for the damnation of the reprobate.  This is clear because  providence works to the destruction of the reprobate.  We can deduce this from the fact that providence extendeth itself to all sins of men.    That would include the sin of unbelief and refusing to obey the Gospel, which inevitably results in eternal condemnation and eternal judgment (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17; 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 2:8; Isaiah 66:15; Matthew 25:41).

It should not be a strange thing to understand that it is our own depravity that causes us to sin.  Both the elect and the reprobate do sin.  Even after regeneration and conversion elect believers will sin, though not habitually.  Our habits are changed.  When we do sin, we are completely and entirely responsible and accountable to God for our sins and we are the direct cause of our own sins.  However, that does not mean that God is not the ultimate cause of all things, including all the sins of angels and men.  That's because God has only one eternally unchanging will.  His eternal decrees are secret to us until they are brought to pass in real time (Deuteronomy 29:29).  But we are not excused from obeying God's revealed precepts in the moral law and the Holy Scriptures simply because we do not know what God has purposed from all eternity in His divine decree.  God knows the end from the beginning and has ordained all things that come to pass (Isaiah 46:9-11; Ephesians 1:11).

Some will accuse me of hyper-Calvinism because of what I have said here.  But if so, then I am in good company with a host of Reformed theologians, including W. G. T. Shedd who said:

“The temptations of God are widely different from those of Satan. Satan tempts to overthrow, condemn, confound, and destroy. But God that, by proving his people, he may make a trial of their sincerity, to confirm their strength by exercising it, to mortify, purify, and refine their flesh, which without such restraints would run into the greatest excesses. [sic]. Besides, Satan attacks persons unarmed and unprepared, to overwhelm the unwary. ‘God, with the temptation, always makes a way to escape, that they may be able to bear’ whatever he brings upon them (1 Cor. 10:13). To some there appears a difficulty in our petition to God that he will not lead us into temptation, whereas, according to James, it is contrary to his nature for him to tempt us (James 1:13-14). But this objection has already been partly answered, because our own lust is properly the cause of all the temptations that seduce and overcome us. Nor does James intend any other than to assert the injustice of transferring to God the tempting concupiscence which we are bound to impute to ourselves because we are conscious of being guilty of it. But notwithstanding this, God may when he sees fit deliver us to Satan, abandon us to a reprobate mind and lustful concupiscence, and in this manner ‘lead us into temptation’ by a righteous judgment as a punishment of our sinful self-indulgence (Rom. 1:24,26, 28).”

Shedd, William G. (2011-07-19). Dogmatic Theology (Kindle Locations 21270-21279). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

  Dr. Gordon H. Clark in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:13 says the following:

Some people wish to say that God does not "make" or send the temptation; He only "permits" it:  what He "makes" is the way to escape.  The motivation in distinguishing permission from making is to avoid compromising God's holiness.  Somehow the idea of God's permitting evil without decreeing it seems to absolve God from the charge that He is the "author" of sin, but one must be careful, both with respect to the logic of the argument and to the full scriptural data.  God "permitted" Satan to afllict Job; but since Satan could not have done so without God's approval, the idea of permission hardly exonerates God.  Is perfect holiness any more compatible with approving and permitting Satanic evil?  If God could have prevented, not only Job's trials, but all the other sins and temptations to which mankind is subject--is He less reprehensible than if He positively decreed them?  If a man could save a baby from a burning house, but decided to "permit" the baby to burn, who would dare say that he was morally perfect in so deciding?  Furthermore, the present verse says, "God will make with the temptation also the way of escape."  It is clear therefore that God makes both.  The term "permission" is nothing more than a literary device for describing God's use of created agents.  Otherwise, there is no difference between a permit and a decree. 

Gordon H. Clark,  First Corinthinans:  A Contemporary Commentary.  1975.  Second Edition.  (Jefferson:  Trinity Foundation, 1991).  Pp. 156-157.

God is not the direct author of sin just as He is not the author of what I am writing here in this blog.  I am its author and I am writing this.  But ultimately it is God who is the author of all things, including my existence, my thoughts, and my words.  I am not here claiming that what I write is divinely inspired or that I am infallible.  I am not a robot since I am not a biological machine or puppet.  I am a body and a spirit that together constitutes a soul.  And since God is the cause of all things, whatever I have said or done in my life is ultimately caused by God by His divine decree.  We are all capable of genuine choices because we have the natural ability through the intellect and the will to think and decide to do nor not do certain things.  God holds us accountable for our sins and for our obedience.  We do cooperate with God's grace in sanctification but even this is caused by God (Philippians 2:11-12).

Now, permission may distinguish an indirect causation from a direct causation, but permission as a substitute for decree does not solve the problem of maintaining God's holiness.  Calvin's Institutes III xxiii 8 is far more satisfactory.  Calvin preserves the idea of God's sovereignty.  He makes it clear that God is the Creator and therefore the first cause of all things that exist, that He governs all His creatures and all their actions.  Calvin repudiates the permissive theologians' idea of a finite deity.  Thus, if God is infinite, any decree He makes is holy for the simple reason that He, the sovereign, makes it. 

Gordon H. Clark, Ibid.  P. 158.

God is not a man.  He is the Creator.  Whatever God does is right for the simple reason that He is an infinitely holy God.  Therefore, even when God ordains the fall and all other sins that proceed from the fall, He remains a holy God.  To accuse God of wrong doing is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  To say that God could do nothing about the sins of angels and men is to make God a finite being and by definition not the God revealed in Holy Scripture.  [See also Calvin's Institutes III xxiii 3].

It is difficult to see how the purveyors of paradox and apparent contradictions can fail to understand that Calvin advocates a logically consistent system of theology and that the Westminster divines were equally consistent:

Calvin's Institutes:  Book III xxiii 8

8. No distinction between God’s will and God’s permission!

Here they have recourse to the distinction between will and permission. By this they would maintain that the wicked perish because God permits it, not because he so wills. But why shall we say “permission” unless it is because God so wills? Still, it is not in itself likely that man brought destruction upon himself through himself, by God’s mere permission and without any ordaining. As if God did not establish the condition in which he wills the chief of his creatures to be! I shall not hesitate, then, simply to confess with Augustine that “the will of God is the necessity of things,” and that what he has willed will of necessity come to pass, as those things which he has foreseen will truly come to pass. Now if either the Pelagians, or Manichees, or Anabaptists, or Epicureans (for on this issue we have to deal with these four sects) in excuse for themselves and for the wicked, raise by way of objection the necessity by which they are constrained because of divine predestination, they advance no argument applicable to the cause. For if predestination is nothing but the meting out of divine justice—secret, indeed, but blameless—because it is certain that they were not unworthy to be predestined to this condition, it is equally certain that the destruction they undergo by predestination is also most just. Besides, their perdition depends upon the predestination of God in such a way that the cause and occasion of it are found in themselves. For the first man fell because the Lord had judged it to be expedient; why he so judged is hidden from us. Yet it is certain that he so judged because he saw that thereby the glory of his name is duly revealed.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 956–957.

It should be further noted that Calvin does say that God is the "author" of sin because God is the ultimate cause of the fall of angels and man and all sins that proceed from the fall:

Calvin's Institutes III xxiii 3

Let all the sons of Adam come forward; let them quarrel and argue with their Creator that they were by his eternal providence bound over before their begetting to everlasting calamity. What clamor can they raise against this defense when God, on the contrary, will call them to their account before him? If all are drawn from a corrupt mass, no wonder they are subject to condemnation! Let them not accuse God of injustice if they are destined by his eternal judgment to death, to which they feel—whether they will or not—that they are led by their own nature of itself. How perverse is their disposition to protest is apparent from the fact that they deliberately suppress the cause of condemnation, which they are compelled to recognize in themselves, in order to free themselves by blaming God. But though I should confess a hundred times that God is the author of it—which is very true—yet they do not promptly cleanse away the guilt that, engraved upon their consciences, repeatedly meets their eyes.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 950–951.


Brandon R. Burdette said...

This was thought-provoking. Thanks for notifying me of it. I agreed strongly with certain things I read. I just recently laid out an argument at a group-setting of men, that God created His Commandments for men, but is not subject to them Himself. God, being eternal / omnitemporal (literally: timeless), causes temporal agents (in this context: human beings) to sin, and does author their sins, like with the angels, as aforementioned.

And Matthew 4:1 says that it was the "Spirit" which led Christ into everything that follows to verse 11.

Again, thought-provoking.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I agree but we have to be careful to distinguish between direct cause and indirect cause. God is the ultimate or indirect cause of men's sins. Men are the direct cause of their own sins.

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