“…Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts…”
“…God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.”
“…being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will…”
Order of Contents
Augustine – Against Julian
Aquinas, Thomas – ch. 141, ‘Providence & Evil’ in A Compendium of Theology
Commentary on James, ch. 1, verse 13
pp. 241-244 of The 47th Sermon, which is the Third upon the Twelfth Chapter in Sermons of Master John Calvin, upon the Book of Job… (d. 1564; London, 1575)
ch. 18, ‘The Instrumentality of the Wicked Employed by God while He Continues Free from Every Taint’ in Institutes, bk. 1
Calvin, John & Theodore Beza – ‘Calvin & Beza on Providence: Translations by Knox’ trans. John Knox (1545, 1558, 1560; 2021)
These two valuable pieces on Providence by Calvin and Beza, though previously available in English, have lain in obscurity, so much so that most people likely do not know that they exist. They originally appeared, translated by John Knox from the French and Latin respectively, in the midst of Knox’s massive treatise on predestination. That treatise remains in old English, which is old enough and difficult enough that to many it is unreadable.
The Libertines, having such a high view of God’s eternal decree, held to what is known in philosophy as a form of Occasionalism, that all events that occur are directly and immediately worked by God. True secondary causation is eliminated. One main problem with this is that it makes God the Author of Sin, something that the Libertines expressly affirmed. Calvin here not only repudiates this blasphemy, but he also lays out three ways (and only three ways) in which God brings all things to pass through his providence, herein establishing true secondary causation.
Beza provides 29 propositions on providence from his work against Sebastian Castellio, touching upon similar themes as Calvin. Both Calvin and Beza’s pieces, while making some basic distinctions, expound the Lord’s providence in a way that is easy to grasp with illustrations from Scripture and human life.
Viret, Pierre – ch. 8, ‘Of the Author of Sin & of the Incomprehensible Wisdom of God which is in his Eternal Ordinance’ in A Christian Instruction, Containing the Law & the Gospel… (London, 1573), pp. 9-10
Beza, Theodore – pp. 59-73 of A Book of Christian Questions & Answers... (London, 1574)
Babington, Gervase – pp. 38-59 of Commandment 1 in A Very Fruitful Exposition of the Commandments, by Way of Questions & Answers… (London, 1583)
Vermigli, Peter Martyr – Pt. 1, Ch. 17, ‘Whether God be the Author of Sin?…’ in The Common Places… (London, 1583), pp. 176-206
4. ‘What are the Causes of Sin’ in The Sum of Christian Religion… (Oxford, 1587), 1st Part, Common Place of Sin, ‘What Sin is’, pp. 99-115
pp. 221-226 of ch. 9, ‘Of God’s Providence’ in Rules & Axioms of Certain Chief Points of Christianity in A Collection of Certain Learned Discourses… (Oxford, 1600)
Zanchi Girolamo – ‘God is not the Author of Sin’ from ‘Observations on the Divine Attributes; Necessary to be Premised in order to our Better Understanding the Doctrine of Predestination’ prefixed to The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination, pp. 1-37 trans. Augustus Toplady 1769
Taffin, Jean – ch. 2, ‘2nd Cause of Amendement, Drawn from the Name ‘Holy’, Attributed to Jesus Christ: wherein is handled Election, Reprobation, & God’s Providence’ in The Amendment of Life... (London, 1595), 4th book
Whittaker, William – pp. 193-200 of ‘Answer to the Eighth Reason, which is the Paradoxes of our adversaries’ in An Answer to the Ten Reasons of Edmund Campian the Jesuit, in confidence wherof he offered disputation to the ministers of the Church of England in the controuersy of faith… (d. 1595; London, 1606)
Dove, John – pp. 55-62 in A Sermon Preached at Paul’s Cross, the Sixth of February, 1596… (London, 1597) on Eze. 33:11
Kimedoncius, Jacobus – Ch. 17, ‘How God is Said to Harden & Blind’ in Of the Redemption of Mankind... (London, 1598), A Book of God’s Predestination, pp. 346-341
Rollock, Robert – ch. 24, ‘Of Sin in General’ in A Treatise of God’s Effectual Calling… (d. 1599; London, 1603), pp. 127-132
Junius, Francis – pp. 58-63 of ‘Answer of Junius to the Sixth Proposition of Arminius’ †1602 6 pp. in A Discussion on the Subject of Predestination between James Arminius & Francis Junius in The Works of James Arminius, vol. 3
Perkins, William – Lectures upon the Three First Chapters of the Revelation… (London, 1604)
Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: The Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter tr. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman (RBO, 2019) See also ch. 2, sections 25-37 & 40-45, namely pp. 60-70 of the document.
Chapter 2, On God
36. ‘…Whether because God would predetermine the will to material acts of sin, therefore He is the author of sin?’, pp. 66-67
40. ‘Whether each wicked action, which is from sinning instruments, is done by God as by the principal agent? We affirm with a distinction against the Remonstrants.’, pp. 67-69
Chapter 5, On the Estate of the First Man
2. ‘Whether God is made the author of the first sin if man sinned for this reason, because God, without regard to his fault, denied him grace necessary to escape the first sin? We deny against
the Remonstrants.’, pp. 81-82
A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist… (London, 1648),
pt. 1, pp. 4-5 of ch. 2, ‘Of Libertines’
The Westminster Assembly – ‘A Short Declaration of the Westminster Assembly, by Way of Detestation of the Doctrine that God is the Author of Sin’ (London, 1645; RBO, 2020) 6 pp.
This may be the least known, most important, short document of the Westminster Assembly. A book was circulated in London arguing that God is the Author even of Sin, purportedly for the benefit of saints taking comfort in this in their trials.
The Westminster Assembly requested the English civil Parliament to suppress this blasphemous book. The Parliament ordered the burning of the book, and that the Westminster Assembly draw up a declaration in order “to declare to the people the abominableness of it.” The declaration, unanimously approved by the Assembly, with none dissenting, very helpfully and carefully condemns the sentiments of the book that go to far, as many today do, and precisely defines how God orders sin for good, while not being the efficient cause of it, it coming solely from the creature at God’s effective permission.
In this short piece, see how the civil government and the Church ought to cooperate between their distinct jurisdictions unto godly purposes, and how censorship of that which is immoral, it violating God’s Law, is good and necessary.
Turretin, Francis – Question 8, ‘Whether it follows and can be elicited by legitimate consequence from our doctrine that we make God the author of sin? We deny against the Romanists, Socinians, Remonstrants and Lutherans.’ in Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P&R), vol. 1, 6th Topic, ‘The Actual Providence of God’, pp. 528-535 See also questions 4-9 on concursus and providence.
van Mastricht, Peter – Theoretical-Practical Theology (RHB), Bk. 3, ch. 10
Section 32, ‘5. Does that predetermining influence make God the author of sin?’
Feser, Edward – ‘The Thomistic Dissolution of The Logical Problem Of Evil’ in Religions 12:268 (2021) 17 pp.
Feser is a Romanist, analytical Thomist, and professor of philosophy.
Abstract: “In his book ‘Is a Good God Logically Possible?’, James Sterba argues that the existence of much of the evil to be found in the world is logically incompatible with the existence of God. I defend
the Thomistic view that when one properly understands the nature of God and of his relationship to the world, this so-called logical problem of evil does not arise. While Sterba has responded to the version of the Thomistic position presented by Brian Davies, I argue that his response fails.”
Gale, Theophilus – The Court of the Gentiles, part IV, Of Reformed Philosophy, Book 3, Of Divine Predetermination, wherein the Nature of Divine Predetermination is Fully Explicated & Demonstrated, Both in the General, as Also More Particularly, as to the Substrate Matter, or Entitative Act of Sin: with a Vindication of Calvinists & Others from that Blasphemous Imputation of Making God the Author of Sin (London, 1678) 217 pp.
Gale (1628–1678) was a reformed, dissenting, English Independent minister.
A Golden Chain... (Cambridge, 1600), A Declaration of Certain Spiritual Desertions…, p. 682
“Desertion in sin is when, God withdrawing the assistance of his spirit, a man is left to fall into some actual and grievius sin. And for all this no man is to think that God is the author of sin, but only man that falls, and Satan. A resemblance of this truth we may see in a staff: which, if a man shall take and set upright upon the ground, so long as he holds it with his hand, it stands upright; but so soon as he withdraws his hand, though he never push it down, it falls of itself.
In this desertion was the good king Hezekiah… God left him (namely, to the pride of his heart to exalt himself) in tempting him, that he might try out all that was in his heart. To this place appertain[s] Noah’s drunkenness, David’s adultery, Peter[‘s] denial of Christ.”
Johannes Wollebius †1629
Compendium of Christian Theology in Reformed Dogmatics: Seventeenth-Century Reformed Theology through the Writings of Wollebius, Voetius and Turretin, pp. 48-9, 67
Ch.3, The Works of God and the Divine Decrees in General
“IV. Both good and evil, therefore, result from the decree and will of God; the former He causes, and the latter He permits.
V. Nevertheless, the decree and will of God are in no sense the cause of evil or sin, although whatever God decrees takes place of necessity.
Since evils are decreed not effectively, but permissively, the decree of God is not the cause of evil. Nor are the decrees of God the cause of evil on account of the inevitability of their result, since they bring about results not by a coercive necessity but merely by an immutable one.
VI. The inevitability [necessitas] of the decree of God does not destroy the freedom in rational creatures.
The reason is that the necessity is not a necessity of coercion, but one of immutability. The fall of Adam took place by necessity, with respect to a divine decree; however, Adam sinned freely, neither commanded nor coerced nor influenced by God; indeed, he was most strictly warned not to sin.
VII. The inevitability of the decrees of God does not destroy contingency in secondary causes.
Many events which take place of necessity with respect to the plans of God are contingent with respect to secondary causes.”
On Johannes Maccovius
Willem van Asselt, ch. 14, ‘Christ, Predestination, and Covenant in Post-Reformation Reformed Theology’, pp. 220-21 in eds. Lehner, Muller & Roeber, The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600-1800 (Oxford, 2016)
“In implicative necessity neither the antecedent nor the consequent needs to be necessary–indeed, both can be contingent. The necessity of the consequent [on the other hand,] corresponds with absolute necessity and the necessity of the consequence [corresponds] with hypothetical necessity.
By distinguishing between these different forms of necessity, the Reformed and particularly Maccovius argued that the divine decree (including predestination) did not make God the author of sin nor did it destroy the contingent nature of the created order (Maccovius 1658, 75-76). It could have been possible for sin not to happen: God does not permit sin per se but per accidens (Maccovius 1641b, 104, 127).
Although this implicative connection between God’s permission and sin is necessary, this does not mean that God is the author of sin. As sun does not cause darkness, God does not cause sin itself. Even so, if God did not move the sinning creature, it would not be moved, and therefore, it would not sin; just as a limping horse would not run and limp unless somebody would set it in motion. But the person that moves the horse is not the cause of the limping itself: the cause of limping is the foot of the horse and not the one who set the horse in motion (Maccovius 1641a, 19, 120; Maccovius 1656, 83).”
Confessions & Standards
Augsburg – Article 19
French Confession – Article 8
2nd Helvetic Confession – ch. 8
Belgic Confession – Article 13
Synod of Dort (1618-1619) – Canons, 1st Head, Articles 1, 5, 15
Westminster Confession of Faith, 3.1
“God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:[a] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[b] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[c]
[a] Eph. 1:11. Rom. 11:33. Heb. 6:17. Rom. 9:15,18
[b] Jam. 1:13,17. 1 John 1:5
[c] Acts 2:23. Matt. 17:12. Acts 4:27,28. John 19:11. Prov. 16:33″
Bradwardine, Thomas – Book 1, ch. 34, ‘If & How God Wills & does Not Will Sin’ in Of the Cause of God, pp. 294-307
Bradwardine (c.1290-1340) was a proto-reformed theologian in the Middle Ages.
Melanchthon, Philip – On Rom. 1
Calvin, John – An Instruction Against the Fanatical & Furious Sect of the Libertines, which Call Themselves ‘The Spiritual Ones’ in The Smaller Works of John Calvin… (1563)
Beza, Theodore – A Response to the Calumnies of some Sycophants which Press to Overturn the Sole Foundation of our Salvation, even the Eternal Predestination of God (Geneva, 1558)
Pareus, David – Bk. 2, ‘Of the Status of Sin, which is on the Cause of the Sin of the First Man, & on the Cause of Sin in General’ of 6 Books on the Loss of Grace & the State of Sin by Robert Bellarmine… to which Three Following are Joined, on Original Sin, are Explicated & Castigated (Heidelberg, 1613) ToC
Pareus (1548-1622) was a German Reformed Protestant theologian and reformer.
Rutherford, Samuel – Ch. 18, ‘Whether, Supposing that God had Stored up the Damned unto the Day of Destruction & had Permissively Ordained them unto Sin, it would then follow that God would be the Author of Sin? The passage Prov. 16:4 (“The Lord hath made all things for himself…”) is judged & vindicated. Likewise the passage Rom. 9:17 (“Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up…”). Also, the passage 1 Pet. 2:8 is judged & vindicated. Bellarmine, Ruiz, Louis le Mairat, Arubal, Fasolus & the Arminians are Invoked in Parts’ in A Scholastic Dispute about Divine Providence… (Edinburgh, 1649), pp. 211-247
Werenfels, Peter – A Theological Dissertation Against the Calumny Thrown on Calvin by Bellarmine & the Papists, as though God were Made the Author of Sin, or that it may follow by Necessary Consequence from his Doctrine of the Providence of God (Basil, 1702)
Vitringa, Campegius – ‘On Concursus’, sections 27-36, pp. 197-201 in The Doctrine of the Christian Religion… (d. 1722), ch. 7, ‘Of the Conservation & Government of Created Things in General, & Specially of Man’. The section on Concursus starts on p. 187.
Calvin, John – A Brief Instruction Fortifying the Faithful Against the Errors of the Sect of Anabaptists; the same Against the Fanatic & Furious Sect of the Libertines, which Call Themselves the Spiritual Ones (Strasbourg, 1546) 140 pp.
Theologians who Gave the Wrong Answer
1500’s & 1600’s
The Libertines & Antinomians
Rutherford, Samuel – A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist… (London, 1648)
pt. 1, pp. 4-5 of ch. 2, ‘Of Libertines’
Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist… (London, 1648)
pt. 1, p. 125
“That ‘we are meere patients in all we do’, and ‘God the immediate agent’, and that ‘God’ (as say the Libertines) ‘is the author of sin and righteousness’, ‘no man is to be rebuked for sin, nor to be touched in conscience for sin, because God is the Author and worker thereof,’ and there is no letter of a command of either Old or New Testament that does oblige a believer’, ‘The Law is now’ (says Saltmarsh) ‘in the Spirit.'”
pt. 2, p. 54
“The Libertines of old, some Familists, and Antinomians of late have said that God is the author of sin, that his working, or not working on the creature, is the cause of good and ill; righteousness and unrighteousnesse: 1. Because sin is nothing but God’s not working. 2. It cannot hurt God, and why should He hate it? 3. It has its first being in God. 4. It is his servant, and conduces to heighten free grace, and rich mercy.
I do not impute this to all Antinomians, yet some have said it and written it, the same principles common to Libertines and Antinomians, as you may read in worthy Calvin (Instructione adversus Libertinos), incline to the same conclusions.”
A Careful & Strict Inquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of Will... 4th ed. (Wilmington, DE: James Adams, 1790), pt. 4, section 9, p. 254
“But if by ‘the Author of Sin’, is meant the Permitter, or not a Hinderer of Sin; and at the same time, a Disposer of the State of Events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I say, if this be all that is meant, by being the Author of Sin, I don’t deny that God is the Author of Sin…
And I don’t deny, that God’s being thus the Author of Sin, follows from what I have laid down…”