Edwards: Part 5 – Is God the Author of Sin?

John Taylor (remember him? See Part 3) objected to the Doctrine of Original Sin as being “unreasonable” because if true it would make God the author of sin. Edwards responded in his book “Original Sin” by explaining how God PERMITS sin without being the AUTHOR of sin.

Adam and Eve originally possessed two natures: a lower “natural” principle of mere human nature (including self-love, natural appetites and passions) and a higher “supernatural” principle that was “spiritual, holy and divine, summarily comprehended in divine love”. As long as the higher nature of love towards God reigned, it controlled the lower nature. They were perfectly happy, yet they had the ability to choose evil. When they did so, spurning God’s love by means of their disobedience, God withdrew the higher principle, or nature, leaving them with only the lower one.

The lower nature had not been evil as long as it had been tempered by the higher nature. But now the restraint of that nature had been removed. God, by withdrawing the higher spiritual nature, thus permitted mankind to naturally choose evil. Once the higher nature was removed, Adam and Eve had only the lower nature to naturally pass on to their posterity. Acorns will always produce oaks, Edwards illustrated. Righteousness cannot be inherited or naturally acquired. It must come to an individual according to a much higher spiritual principle – by God’s grace being grafted into the tree of which Christ is the root.

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6 comments on “Edwards: Part 5 – Is God the Author of Sin?

  1. Doug Wilcox says:

    Fine, fine! I finally make it past Edwards Part 2, and you spring another topic on us!

    “Righteousness cannot be inherited or naturally acquired,” especially the latter part, is one of the key tenets of election. Apart from God’s reaching out to him, the “natural man” will never choose the righteousness of God.

    I was reading Romans 8-10, a few nights ago, and wondering, “How can anyone possibly read these chapters and not believe in Election?”

  2. Beth'sMomToo says:

    By George, I think you’ve got it!! 😉

    As for people’s blindness…Edwards would say it has a lot to do with people wanting to place themselves in the place of Sovereignty (Arminianism), rather than yielding to the truth that God is Sovereign. The better you know your Bible, the more that truth pops out at you in EVERY book of the NT! When we’re just starting out as believers, when we don’t know the Bible well, we don’t have an accurate picture of who God is and who we are. I have to admit that it is difficult for me to sometimes understand how people grapple so with this, but I have to remember how much better I understand and trust who God is than I did when I first started reading His Word.

  3. Ian says:

    I have been struggling with this issue for a while now. God controls sin, yet he did not create it. He uses it to bring about His will, yet he did not create it. The Scriptures say that God saw His creation and declared it good, yet Adam sinned. Adam had the ability to do evil and choose to act on it, yet God is sovereign and saves His people through election. The Scriptures also say that nothing was created that wasn’t created by God, yet He did not create sin. There’s a major breakdown in the logic and common speach about this topic that sits like a pea under my mattress. No, more like a boulder than a pea.

    I have not read “Original Sin”. Does Edwards include Scriptural proofs (not mere “proof texts”) for his theory of the higher/lower natures? I do not recall having ever read anything like that regarding the fall and am curious how he defends it. What I do remember reading is that all things, both seen and unseen, were created by God and that He, as the master potter, has prepared some as vessels of blessing and other as vessels of wrath, and that we are not to question why he loves some (Jacob) and hates others (Esau. Rom 9) I’m not trying to make a point here (well, okay, sort of), but am curious to how others have reconciled these things.

  4. Beth'sMomToo says:

    Ian,
    Yes he does use Scripture in addition to his reasoning. That was a point I intended to bring out in the exciting conclusion (two posts from now). He considers passages mostly from Genesis and Romans.

    While a large chunk of the book is addressed to disputing Taylor, he also presents what he believes is correct doctrine. Edwards also concludes (in my exciting conclusion two posts from now) that there are some things of God our finite minds will never be able to completely wrap around.

    You really should get “Original Sin” [Volume 3 of “The Original Works of Edwards”]. You can buy it separately from the set (22 Volumes to date, and they’re STILL transcribing!) I think you would get a lot out of it, especially since you have a background in philisophical argumentation. It would make a good “summer project”.

  5. Doug Wilcox says:

    Ian raises many of the questions I was hoping for more discussion on, if BMT can stop teasing us with installments.

    I look forward to it.

  6. Beth'sMomToo says:

    Just remember I titled the series “The EDGE of the Mind of Jonathan Edwards”. I’m only giving you “peeks” because I’m still reading (trying to read 😉 Edwards. I can’t understand everything he writes about, but I’m sure some of you could. I’m just trying to wet your appetite.

    From what I understand, in Edwards’ day sermons were written like philosophical treatises. Edwards’ strength was his gift for dialectic reasoning. We, on the other hand, generally avoid philosophical disputations, because we are no longer trained in the art of thinking/discerning that way. As Ian noted earlier in a comment to Beth, theology and philosophy were pretty much considered the same thing. Error came in when such reasoning was allowed to supercede Scriptural Truth, rather than supporting it (it’s appropriate role).

    Today we place such a strong emphasis on faith that many turn off/reject our reasoning/discerning abilities. I think such reasoning can certainly be misused (Enlightenment, Hegel, Marx, etc.) when it departs from God’s Revelation, placing human reasoning in a place of authority above it, BUT it can also be used properly in a God-honoring manner, as demonstrated by Edwards and hundreds of Puritan theologians. (though they were NOT always correct; and I think they would have been the first to admit that Scriptural Truth was real truth)

    In Apologetics class a few years ago, Dean Mangum gave us some worthwhile definitions. He defined “faith” as ‘informed, reasonable trust’ and “reason” as ‘the ability to think clearly and draw conclusions based on facts known or assumed’. That’s what discernment is. You can’t “argue/debate/reason” a person to faith. Only God can regenerate a mind. But those who have been regenerated, who have faith, do not cast off their ability to discern/reason. We have “reasonable faith”. God gave His revelation to be understood. We need to develop our ability to discern, using Scripture as our base for Truth. I’m afraid there is a great deal of “facile faith” floating around these days, having it’s focus on self, not God, and experience alone, without reasoning. Faith includes aspects of both experience and reasoning. Our faith is reasonable because it is anchored in God’s revealed Truth! We just need to be sure to not put the cart before the horse, so to speak.

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