WCF: Of God’s Eternal Decree (III.1)

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” III.1).

In order to prove that God is not the “author of sin” the WCF men use as a proof text, James 1:13, 17 and 1 John 1:5. Since they used the King James version of the bible I will quote from that:

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man…Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:13, 17).

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

From the texts that they cite, we can see that by “author of sin” they mean the actual doer, perpetrator, or tempter of the sin. Thus, for the WCF men, for God to “author” the sin is to commit the sin or to tempt someone to sin. Regarding the committal of the sin, it is clear that the men at Westminster were not pantheists, so how could this be an objection to the fact that God ordains evil or sin? The framers of the Confession obviously wanted to head off the objection that if God ordains that a person sin a particular sin, then the implication is that God–and not that person apparently–is the one who has sinned that particular sin. It is true that to actively cause the sin is NOT to commit the sin

“There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:19-20).

In this passage found in Joshua, we read that God hardened the hearts of those who came against Israel in battle. And since God is sovereign and in complete control of His creation, this hardening by the Lord is obviously an active hardening. They were actively hardened by God to come against Israel in battle. Obviously the Lord God Almighty did not tempt them with the evil of coming against Israel in battle. Nor did God Himself commit the sin of coming against Israel in battle. And no perfect gifts are given here, for they would have no favor since God would destroy them. Therefore God destroyed the wicked by actively causing them to come against Israel precisely because He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

Acts 2:23, Acts 4:27-28, Matthew 17:12, John 19:12, and Proverbs 16:33 are used to demonstrate that “violence is not offered to the will of the creatures” nor is their liberty taken away but rather established. In the aforementioned proof texts put forth by the WCF men, there are instances recorded that show us that a man is not forced to do something against his will, and that when a man sins he has this freedom (or liberty) to do whatever he wishes. But this liberty to do whatever they wish does not imply that God is not actively causing and controlling their wishes. When God actively causes a man to wish to sin, He does not offer violence to a man’s will if by “violence” it is meant constrained, forced, or compelled against their will or desire. But if by “violence” one means that God is doing Omnipotent violence to a man’s will when He actively causes them to sin, then certainly God does violence. But “violence” is infinitely too weak a term to describe the active and unconditional hardening of God.

“But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day” (Deuteronomy 2:30).

Is the king of Heshbon being forced against his will? Is God offering violence to Sihon’s will? No. God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate. Once again, words like “forced” and “violence” don’t even come close. God demonstrated His omnipotent power by actively hardening Sihon’s heart. Obviously Sihon’s liberty from God’s active control certainly was taken away, while God’s liberty was established. For God is sovereign and Sihon is not free. Was Sihon’s liberty from the control of God taken away? It most certainly was. The King of Heshbon did have liberty from the control of inanimate natural forces, but he did not have any liberty from the active causative omnipotent power of God. Sihon, the king of Heshbon–like all other human beings created in the image of God–has absolutely no freedom from God’s active decree. The unbelieving are enslaved to sin and free from righteousness (Romans 6:20), but they are not free to choose which sin they will commit. They are not “left to themselves,” for God will actively cause them to transgress His law in order to fulfill a specific purpose of His–just like He did with Sihon.