Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who's an Author?

Lately there's been talk between Arminians and Calvinists over determinism and its implications on who is the author of sin. Surprisingly, there have been questions over what "author of sin" actually implies. JC Thibodaux said, "The term 'author' as employed by Arminians/Synergists in this case, is used in an originative sense to describe where the evil ultimately arose from. If we can identify, "whose idea was this?", then we’ve found the author." He further explained, "the ‘author’ of an action doesn’t necessarily describe someone directly committing that action, rather it denotes the one who came up with the action to begin with" (seen here). But some have questioned that notion, either questioning what authorship is, or saying that authorship doesn't = blameworthiness.

It's surprising that this problem exists today, since early Calvinists such as Calvin himself and the Westminster divines clearly understood what was meant by the author of sin, and made sure to make clear that their views were not to be understood to make God the author of sin. Of course it would have been nice to see an explanation of that rather than just an assertion, because it seems that the logical progression would indeed end with God as sin's author.

If someone authors a book, that person is the source of the idea and the actual words that appear in that book. That person is blameworthy for anything in that book, whether positive or negative. Likewise, when one refers to someone as the author of a sin, the sin originated in and proceeded forth from whoever carried the sin out, making that person blameworthy. If someone authors something, whatever that something is, we should give that person due credit for whatever they authored. Therefore I think we can say if person x authors action A, A originates in x and proceeds from x. x also has the ability to refrain from A-ing, since A originates in x. Therefore, if divine determinism is true, all actions A originate in God and proceed from God, either directly or through secondary causes, and God would be responsible for A.

Let's look at it this way. I think God is the author of the universe as a whole. He caused the universe to come into being. I want to ascribe responsibility of what God has done to God because He deserves the glory for what He has done. God authored the universe. But if we're okay with God as author of the universe, since the idea originated in His mind, why would we say He isn't the author of sin if all sins originated in His mind?

But still, as Paul Manata said to me, these explanations or definitions of what authorship is remain "uninteresting" to the determinist. I can't see the issue determinists have with these definitions, and why they would be uninteresting. Language is such that you can only describe what something is, its definition, in so many ways. If the other person continues to press for further elucidation, then at some point things just become less clear than they actually were. I have a suspicion this is done to simply make the issue murky, which may be an effective tactic for the determinist, but it answers nothing.

It still remains for the determinist to say how his view actually does not implicate God in the authorship of sin. Yes, you can continue to ask exactly what the words mean. Yes, you can come up with clever allegories. But in the end, how would the determiner of all events not be the author of all events?


Anonymous said...

It still remains for the determinist to say how his view actually does not implicate God in the authorship of sin. Yes, you can continue to ask exactly what the words mean. Yes, you can come up with clever allegories. But in the end, how would the determiner of all events not be the author of all events?

Of course, it is no argument against theological determinism if "authorship" applies equally to indeterministic views of providence. Maybe the Calvinist grants that God is author of sin, but thinks that the way the terms are used, they apply equally to the Arminian or the Molinist, as well. And if your definition is such that it only applies to deterministic views, it may be suspect for that reason, because there are perfectly good senses of the word that apply to indeterministic views also, as I've recently tried to argue. That is why clarity about the terms is necessary.

bossmanham said...

I gave a fairly clear definition here, I thought.

A.M. Mallett said...

I have long appreciated the manner in which Arminius defined the authorship of sin. It very much agrees with Brennon's presentation.

Sin is the transgression of the law; therefore, God will be the author of sin, if He cause any man to transgress the law. This is done by denying or taking away what is necessary for fulfilling the law, or by impelling men to sin. But if this "determination" be that of a will which is already depraved, since it does not signify the denying or the removing of grace nor a corrupt impelling to sin, it follows, that the consequence of this cannot be that God is the author of sin. But if this "determination" denote the decree of God by which He resolved that the will should become depraved, and that man should commit sin, then it follows from this that God is the author of sin.

drwayman said...

The authors of the Westminster Confession state, "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass..."

Seeing that the reasonable and logical conclusion of this statement makes God the author of sin, this statement is added, "...yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin..." Reasonable discussion concludes that an assertion does not make it so.

The onus is upon the Calvinist to Biblically define how God "ordains whatsoever comes to pass" (bad things like ordaining the abuse of a child, which Jesus said those individuals should be drowned, as well as good things) without simple assertions that it is not so that God is not implicated in these actions.

Anonymous said...

No, that's not clear. I think I am just *now* starting to understand what J.C. means when he says it--which is his own fault for choosing terrible words to describe what he means, if I got him right.

bossmanham said...

Why does it seem you're the only one who doesn't get it?

Anonymous said...

No, if my understanding of his term is right, then Paul misunderstood him as well. And if Paul misunderstood him, then he is not being as clear as he can be.

Chris said...

Good post Brennon. I have always thought the same about this part of the Westminster Confession. They really sound like politicians - "we assert our belief and dogmatically disown the implications of that belief"

"I wrote the book but am not the author of it"

"I wrote everything in this book but I'm not responsible for the mistakes".

How can we trust anyone making such a statement?