Cheung: ‘Permission’ is Nonsense; God is the Author of Sin and Evil

When Reformed Christians are questioned on whether God is the “author of sin,” they are too quick to say, “No, God is not the author of sin.”  And then they twist and turn and writhe on the floor, trying to give man some power of “self-determination,” and some kind of freedom that in their minds would render man culpable, and yet still leave God with total sovereignty.  On the other hand, when someone alleges that my view of divine sovereignty makes God the author of sin, my reaction is “So what?”  Those who oppose me stupidly chant, “But he makes God the author of sin, he makes God the author of sin.” However, a description does not amount to an argument or objection, and I have never come across a decent explanation as to what is wrong with God being the author of sin in any theological or philosophical work written by anybody from any perspective.  The truth is that, whether or not God is the author of sin, there is no biblical or rational problem with him being the author of sin. (p.4)

Although God must actively cause evil thoughts and inclinations in the creature, and then he must actively cause the corresponding evil actions, he does not create new material or substance when he does this, since he is controlling what he has already created.  It is true that a person sins according to his evil nature, but as Luther writes, it is God who “creates” this evil nature in each newly conceived person after the pattern of fallen Adam, whose fall God also caused.  And then, God must actively cause this evil nature to function and the person to act according to it.  Luther writes that God never allows this evil nature to be idle in Satan and in ungodly people, but he continuously causes it to function by his power… As for God’s purpose for sin and evil, first, as we acknowledge the biblical teaching that God is the sovereign and righteous “author of sin,” even if we cannot say why he causes sin and evil, it would not undermine what I have said.  Even if we do not know the reason, our view does not contradict Scripture or itself.  It would only be a matter of incomplete information. (p.10)

My position is a consistent application of divine sovereignty over everything.  It is a denial of any form of dualism or deism.  I affirm that God controls everything about everything that is anything, including every aspect of every detail of every human decision and action, in such a way that man has no freedom in any meaningful or relevant sense. (p.14)

Things are more determined in divine determinism than in any other scheme.  Under “fatalism,” an event is predetermined in such a way that the same outcome results “no matter what you do,” that is, regardless of means.  However, under divine determinism, although it “matters” what you do, “what you do” is also predetermined.  And it “matters” because there is a definite relationship between “what you do” and the outcome, although this relationship is also determined and controlled by God.  So I affirm divine determinism and not fatalism, but not for the reason that people often shun fatalism.  I affirm divine determinism not because things are less controlled in this scheme – they are more controlled – but I affirm it because it is the revealed and rational truth.  I cannot be charged with teaching fatalism, because the term means something different from what I teach, and also because I consider fatalism far too weak to describe God’s control. (p.25)

The Bible teaches that God’s will determines everything.  Nothing exists or happens without God, not merely permitting, but actively willing it and causing it to exist or happen… God controls not only natural events, but he also decides and causes all human affairs and decisions… If God indeed designs and causes all natural events and human affairs, then it follows that he also designs and causes evil. (pp.58-60)

God controls everything that exists and everything that happens.  There is not one thing that exists or that happens that he has not decreed and caused – not even a single thought in the mind of man.  Since this is true, it follows that God has decreed and caused the existence of evil. He has not merely permitted it, because nothing can originate or happen apart from his will and power.  Since no creature can make free or independent decisions, evil could never have started unless God decreed and caused it, and it cannot continue for one moment longer without God’s will for it to continue or without God’s power actively causing it to continue. Those who see that it is impossible to disassociate God from the origination and continuation of evil still attempt to distance God from evil by suggesting that God merely “permits” evil, and that he does not cause it.  However, since the Bible itself states that God actively decrees and causes everything, and that nothing can exist or happen apart from his will and power, it makes no sense to say that he merely permits something – nothing happens by God’s mere permission.  In fact, when it comes to ontology, “God’s permission” is an unintelligible term. (p.61)

– Vincent Cheung, The Author of Sin (2014)

 

Cheung: There is No Sincere Offer of the Gospel

“The doctrine in question has been called “the free offer,” “the well-meant offer,” and “the sincere offer” of the gospel.  It is a false teaching that makes God into a schizophrenic fool. It is unbiblical and irrational, and it must be opposed.

We do not know beforehand who are numbered among the elect and who are numbered among the non-elect, and Scripture commands us to preach to every person.  Therefore, we must not try to decide who are the elect and the non-elect, and then preach the gospel only to those whom we consider the elect.  We must preach the gospel to all men.

That said, it is wrong to preach the gospel as if there is a chance for the non-elect to obtain faith and be saved, as if God is sincerely telling them that he desires their salvation and that they could be saved (Luke 10:21; John 6:65).  We do not know the content of God’s decree in election in terms of who are the elect and who are the non-elect, and so we must not act as if we know, but it does not follow that we should speak as if he has not made such a decree when we preach the gospel.

In our preaching, we must make it clear that God commands every person, whether elect or non-elect, to believe the gospel, thus testifying to every person’s obligation to believe – those who do will be saved, and those who do not will be damned.  However, we must not present this as a “sincere offer” of salvation from God even to the non-elect.

Faith is God’s sovereign gift, and God has decided to withhold it from the non-elect, but instead he chooses to harden them; therefore, to offer salvation to the non-elect as if God desires them to be saved and as if it is possible for them to be saved would be to lie to them in God’s name. There is no offer of salvation to the non-elect, but only a command that they can never obey, and God will punish them with hellfire.

This does not prevent us from preaching the gospel to all men, since it is not our duty or right to pick out the elect and preach only to them, or to pick out the non-elect and exclude them.  The point is that we must not present the gospel as a sincere offer to all, as if God’s “desire” can differ from his decree, as if God could or would decree against his “desire,” and as if it is possible for even the non-elect to be saved.

God loves the elect and desires (and thus has decreed) their salvation; he hates the reprobates and desires (and thus has decreed) their damnation (Romans 9:13).  The preaching of the gospel must be consistent with this.  So we must present the gospel as a serious command to all, as if it is required of all to believe (Acts 17:30), and as if God intends to summon the elect and harden the non-elect by the same preaching of the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

Thus we must preach the gospel to all men for at least three reasons: 1. God commands us to preach the gospel to all people, 2. We do not know and should not consider beforehand who are the elect and who are the reprobates, and 3. The purpose of preaching the gospel is not only to summon the elect to faith, but also to harden the reprobates in their unbelief.

Although the topic might not always come up, it is not wrong to announce that God desires to save only the elect and has chosen only them for salvation, and that he will grant faith only to them, so that only they can believe.  And it is not wrong to announce that God desires to damn the reprobates and has chosen them for damnation, and that he will not only withhold faith from them, but that he will also harden their minds against the gospel, making it impossible for them to believe.

Just as we cannot determine beforehand who are the elect and who are the reprobates when we preach the gospel, our hearers must not try to determine for themselves whether they are among the elect or the reprobates, and then make that the basis as to whether they should call on God for salvation.  When one hears the gospel, he should not say, “God saves only the elect, and I am probably among the reprobates, so it is pointless for me to seek God.”  In fact, if one stubbornly thinks this way even when given a clear explanation of the gospel, this is an indication that he is indeed one of the reprobates, and God has chosen to establish this person in his damnation by means of this persistent deception.

Rather than concealing God’s decree from our hearers, we should explain the truths concerning sin and grace, and concerning election and reprobation.  More than that, we should present to them the whole system of biblical doctrines, as clearly and fully as possible (Acts 17:23-31; Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 14:27-33).  Then, we must admonish them to seek God for salvation through Jesus Christ.

Since it is impossible for people to truly seek God unless his power is already at work in their hearts, those who sincerely call out to God to save them by Jesus Christ are among the elect, and God has already started his work of conversion in them.  Those who insincerely or superficially obey, and who after a while fall away, or those who refuse to come at all, are among the non-elect, whose minds God has hardened even more by the preaching of the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Therefore, in rejecting the so-called “sincere offer” of the gospel, the preaching of the gospel is not diminished or rendered narrow and selective.  Instead, our doctrine is a consistent and necessary application of Scripture concerning the sovereignty of God, election and reprobation, and the preaching of the gospel.  It is a biblical and coherent view that values the preaching of the gospel, and indeed the propagation of the whole system of biblical doctrines, to all men everywhere.  Moreover, it acknowledges what Scripture teaches about the purpose and the effect of the preaching of the gospel, that is, to summon the elect and to harden the reprobates.

The biblical doctrine is straightforward.  There is no “sincere offer.”  God commands men everywhere to repent – the ones chosen for salvation will obey and be saved, but the ones chosen for damnation will disobey and be damned.  By God’s active decree and control, the reprobates are already sinful and prepared for hell, and their rejection of the gospel increases that guilt, and this is what God wants to happen”

– Vincent Cheung, The Author of Sin, pp. 30-32, 38

But see The Universal Call of the Gospel Requires Universal Provision/Unlimited Atonement

Cheung: Man Has No Freedom Whatsoever

“This is Calvinism – it is a consistent application of divine sovereignty over everything. It is a denial of any form of dualism or deism.  Thus I affirm that God controls everything about everything that is anything, including every aspect of every detail of every human decision and action, in such a way that man has no freedom in any meaningful or relevant sense.”

– Vincent Cheung, The Author of Sin, p. 16