In my last article, I mentioned that those of us who hold to what is known as ”Concordant” theology believe God is 100% in control of absolutely everything, and that the “absolutely everything” He’s in control of includes evil and the suffering it can result in (since evil and suffering are a part of “absolutely everything”). It’s easy enough to prove that God is ultimately responsible for the evil that exists in the world (even without being evil Himself, since He does it for the greater good of everyone rather than for malicious reasons), not only because it’s the only possible way that unmerited suffering could coexist with a loving and omnipotent God (as I demonstrated in that article, so please go read it if you haven’t already), but also because He takes the credit for it in Scripture anyway. But it isn’t just evil that God takes credit for. If Scripture is to be believed, He ultimately takes credit for — wait for it — absolutely everything, which would also have to include sin (unless sin somehow doesn’t fall under the category of “absolutely everything”).
This idea can seem confusing to most people when they first hear it, because it would seem logical that God wouldn’t want us to sin, and in fact He seems to tell people not to do so in Scripture. Well, the truth is, He doesn’t want us to sin, and He does indeed tell people not to. But at the same time, He still wills us to sin. This might sound like a contradiction at first, but it’s really not. It comes down to understanding the difference between God wanting something to happen (in the sense of enjoying something that might occur) and willing something to happen (in the sense of allowing, or even causing, something He doesn’t enjoy but knows needs to happen to take place). As an example, I might not want to go to work on a given day, because I might prefer to lie in bed and watch TV, but I still will myself to go to work, because I need to earn a pay check. Simply put, someone (even God) can will themselves to do something they take no pleasure in and would prefer not to do, because they recognize that the end result of doing that thing will be better than not having done it.
Some of you are now thinking, that’s all well and good, as far as what God “wants” versus what He ”wills” goes, but what about His commandments? Isn’t it His will that humans obey them, meaning that we don’t sin? Well, this comes down to not recognizing another difference, which is the difference between His absolute will and His relative will (or, perhaps better put, His preceptive will and His providential will), meaning the difference between His public commandments (or precepts) and His hidden intentions. Not recognizing the difference between these two different types of “wills” leads Christians to believe that God never intended for people (beginning with Adam) to disobey Him in the first place, when the truth is that He secretly intended for people to rebel against His commandments all along. A great example of this is His commandment against murder. God made murder a sin, yet He had the murder of Christ planned from the foundation of the world, knowing full well when He gave the commandment against murder to Moses that without murder there would be no salvation for anyone.
A less obvious, yet no less helpful, example (and one which explains how it all began in the first place) would be His commandment to Adam and Eve to avoid eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When one considers the facts, that while He told them not to eat of it, He all the while placed the tree right in the centre of the garden with nothing to make it difficult to get at (when He didn’t have to place it in the garden — or even anywhere on the planet — at all if He really didn’t want anyone to sin), and made it look like good food and pleasant to the eyes and to be desired to make one wise, and even placed the serpent right there to tempt them (and nobody is anywhere that God didn’t specifically place them), not to mention the fact that, without eating it, humanity would not only never understand evil but would never truly understand good either (it wasn’t called just “the tree of the knowledge of evil,” it was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”), it becomes obvious that God actually intended for them to disobey Him so that death and sin could enter the world (and, again, had already intended to have His Son killed prior to this, which would be a strange plan if He didn’t also intend for sin and death to exist; God doesn’t make contingency plans — each plan He makes is something that He fully intends to take place and that will indeed happen, so the death of His Son wasn’t just something He had in mind to do if humanity happened to sin, but was instead a plan He fully intended to implement long before Adam ever sinned, and in fact the reason Adam sinned was so that humanity could be mortal in order that He could implement the plan).
And, of course, the entire reason He even gave Israel the Mosaic law at all was so that they would sin all the more. It might seem hard to believe, and some even try to deny it by making the assertion — one that is not only found nowhere in Scripture but that is actually contradicted by it — that “God is not the author of sin,” but the Bible actually tells us that God has not only purposely locked up His human creation in unbelief, but that He has also purposely locked us up in sin, locked us up in vanity, and locked us up in corruption (meaning in decay, humiliation, and death), all in order that He can later set us all free (He can’t free us if we aren’t first locked up).
This means that, while sin is still sinful, it’s not something that surprised God, or even something that He didn’t actually secretly intend to come into existence in the first place (for the purpose of revealing grace — without evil we could never truly appreciate goodness, and without sin we could never truly understand grace; contrast is often necessary to fully comprehend things, as I discussed in my last article, and knowing this helps us come to understand that sin was actually necessary for God to complete His purposes).
I should probably add, knowing the meaning of the word “sin” might help make what I’m saying seem a little less blasphemous to those reading this who are horrified by the idea of the necessity of the existence of sin. The Hebrew word chata’ (חָטָא) and the Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) are the words we translate as “sin” in English versions of the Bible, and the word basically means “to miss the mark” (for example, to not hit the bullseye on a target with an arrow or a target with a stone thrown from a sling — the book of Judges mentioned 700 lefthanded men who could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss, with the word “miss” there being translated from the same Hebrew word that is translated as “sin” in other verses in our English translations).
So yes, Adam missed the mark by failing to avoid eating the forbidden fruit, but God hit the bullseye when Adam sinned because that was His plan for Adam all along, which means that even though He’s responsible for it from an absolute perspective, God didn’t sin by ultimately being behind it all because He didn’t miss the mark, since sin and death entering the world through Adam was His intended “mark” all along. This also means that, if Adam hadn’t sinned, God would then have been the sinner instead, because it would mean He had failed to accomplish His intended goal — and for those who want to insist that God’s intended goal was a world where humanity never sinned, that would also make God a sinner because Adam did sin, which means that God would have also missed the mark if that sin-free world was actually His intended goal. And if His plan was simply to give Adam “free will” (which is a meaningless term — we all have a will, but it certainly isn’t free — although that’s a discussion for another post) and to then sit back and watch what happens, as some seem to believe, having no goal for the world at all, and the death of Christ simply being His contingency plan to use if Adam did happen to sin, that would make God an extremely irresponsible deity, and His sovereignty would be a lie, as would be all the passages of Scripture that tell us He’s completely in control.
And Scripture does tell us that He’s completely in control. In fact, the complete sovereignty of God and His purposes for creation from before it all began is one of the most important factors in Scripture, and is taught throughout it. And while most Christians would claim to believe in His sovereignty, not very many actually do, because very few of them actually believe He has a reason for absolutely everything that has happened in creation, and that He has had very specific plans for the eons (and those in each eon) from the very beginning. Instead of knowing (and glorifying) God as God, which would involve them understanding that He is completely in control, placing everything where He intends it to be and subjecting all to His will, nearly all Christians believe that God really hoped Adam wouldn’t actually sin, but that God is now on Plan B because Adam did end up sinning. They just don’t believe Paul when he wrote that God works all things after the counsel of his own will, not just some things. But the fact is that He really does, which means that everything about creation — be it good and evil, righteousness and sin, pleasure and suffering, faith and unbelief, even the devil (who was created the way he is today, contrary to popular opinion) and the crucifixion — was all intended by God from before the beginning of creation. And this isn’t just about God being able to see the future and then accounting for it in His plans either, because while God indeed is able to see the future, He also declares what is going to be done from the beginning, and what He intends to be done will be done. Which means that if God’s intention truly was a world without any sin, no sin could have ever occurred. To put it simply, everything that has happened and will happen occurs exactly as God planned it, because God is still on Plan A.
[Just as a quick side note, if you’ve read my eBook, you’re likely experiencing some déjà vu right about now. That’s because I included parts of chapter 3 of the book in the above post.]