God Does Not Cause Us To Sin

(Part of the "Predestination vs. Free-Will" series)

James 1:13-15: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” 

God does not cause us to sin, tempt us to sin, or encourage us to sin ... but He does bring us opportunities to decide if we will choose to sin or not (see the previous post, “God Set Pharaoh Up”).  And if we sin, it’s because that's what we wanted to do.  

But encouraging us (prompting us) to make our own decision to sin is far different than encouraging us to sin.  Giving us the opportunity to sin if that's what we want to do is far different than causing us to sin.

Bear with me here for a small, pathetic illustration of what I'm saying.  You know in movies sometimes when two men are about to get into a fight.  And Guy #1 (who doesn't want to fight) is waiting for Guy #2 (the Instigator of the fight, the one who wants to fight) to throw the first punch.  This way, when Guy #1 hits back, it's in self-defense.  Guy #1 will yell something like, "Go on, do it!  Take a shot; you know you want to!"  He is encouraging Instigator to act out what's in his heart, to do what he wants to do.  And if Instigator does throw the first punch, Guy #1 is justified in punching back.  

Did Guy #1 force Instigator to punch him?  Did Instigator have no choice but to do what Guy #1 told him to do?  

No!  Guy #1 didn't force Instigator to do what he did; he just gave him the opportunity to do what he wanted to do all along.  Instigator is fully responsible for deciding to throw that first punch.  He could have walked away but he chose not to because he didn't want to.  He wanted to fight.  Guy #1 just gave him the chance and the promoting to do it so that Guy #1 was justified in fighting back.     

I believe that God gives people the opportunity to make their decisions, even to sin.  And He might even prompt them to do it - not to sin, but to make their decision about if they will sin or not.  

But Calvinists will say that God controls all that we do.  And so if we sin, it's because God caused us to sin.  And then, He punishes us for the sin He causes us to do.  

Actually, they'll say nonsense like "We are still responsible for our sin because we are choosing to sin according to our old nature, according to what's in our hearts."  But what they don't say is that God alone, according to Calvinism, determines who gets the new nature (able to obey, acquiring salvation) and who has to keep the old nature (the hell-bound one that can do nothing but sin).  

According to Calvinism, God either causes us to be saved or to remain unbelievers.  It's His choice alone, predetermined from before men were created.  And so if God doesn't "elect" you to get the new nature then you automatically have the old nature, and can do nothing but sin.  God still determined it.  He still caused it and controlled the outcome.  If you are unelect, you have no choice but to be the hell-bound sinner God predetermined you would be.  

Don't let Calvinism's weird, rambling double-talk confuse you.  Out of one side of their mouth they deny that God causes us to sin (so that they don't look like they're contradicting the Bible), but out of the other side of their mouth they essentially say that God causes our sin because He alone determines if we get the old (sinner) nature or the new (saved) nature.  

If God places before us only one door - the "unsaved sinner" door - and He tells us to pick a door, it's not really a choice if we pick the "unsaved sinner" door, is it!?!  Because it's the only "option" we had.  It's really not a choice on our parts at all.  

(Plus, a fundamental belief of Calvinism is that God controls every molecule of His creation, down to even our utterances and thoughts and decisions.  Because, according to them, if He didn't actively control and micromanage everything then He wouldn't be God.  This is a total assumption on their part.  It's them telling God how God has to be in order to be God.  And then they build their theology on this man-made assumption and on other misconceptions like it.  But in reality, while God is definitely in control of all, it doesn't mean He actively controls all.  He can still be in control without micromanaging everything.  He is a big enough God to handle everything and to work everything into His plans, even the things He doesn't cause, the things we choose to do.)

By saying that we still choose to sin (even though they believe God controls everything we do), Calvinists are just trying to make it sound like God is righteous and just in punishing us, as if we did something to deserve the punishment we get.  But if we do not have the ability to freely decide, is it truly just for us to be punished for doing the things that God predetermined we would do?  When we had no chance to do anything differently?

Calvinism makes a mess of the Bible.  It destroys the Gospel Truth and the message of salvation and hope and grace and forgiveness.  And it completely flips God's character of its head!  

How can God truly be considered "just" if He punishes us for the sin He causes?  How can God be truly loving if He only sent Jesus to die for the "elect," and if He causes the non-elect to be unbelievers and then sends them to hell for it?  How can God be considered honest and trustworthy if He says things like "I don't want anyone to perish; I want all people to find eternal life," when He Himself has predetermined that most people will go to hell (supposedly for His glory) and there's nothing they can do about it?  How can God be good if He causes people to do the things He commands us not to do (sin and rebel) and prevents them from doing the things He commands us to do (seek Him, believe, obey)?  

God doesn't cause people to sin or to be sinners.  This is a horrible, disastrous mischaracterization of God, and it does grave damage to the Gospel Truth.  

But ... God does give us the chance to be the people we want to be, to act out what is in our hearts.  He lets us be who we want to be, and then He responds accordingly.  (I didn't intend for that last sentence to be so poetic sounding.)

Here is an example from the Bible illustrating what I am talking about.  In Ezekiel 13 and 14, God is condemning false prophets.  And He is talking about the idolatrous people who visit them.  And God says this to Ezekiel:

“For any one of the house of Israel . . . who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to inquire for himself of me, I the Lord will answer him myself . . . And if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people, Israel.  And they shall bear their punishment – the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike-” (Ezekiel 14:7,9-10, RSV) 

When I first read this, it sounded like God causes an innocent prophet to lie and causes an innocent person to believe that lie, and then He punishes them for it. 

But it’s not what it sounds like. 

In this case, these are false prophets (Ezekiel 13) who have not been sent by the Lord.  And the people who are inquiring of them have set up idols in their heart, and their sins are blocking them from seeing clearly.  These prophets and people have been unfaithful to the Lord and do not really want to hear what He has to say.  They want to hear, believe, and spread lies.

So basically, God gives them what they want.  He gives the prophets opportunities to lie and to spread lies, but He does not force them to lie or to be liars.  They chose to be liars, God just lets them do it.  

Contrary to Calvinism, God doesn't give us only one door and then tell us to choose.  He always gives us two doors: obedience or disobedience.  And we decide which door to enter.   

It’s like the story of Ahab in 1 Kings 22 (which I looked at in the “Sovereignty and Free-Will Working Together” post), where God asks for a volunteer to entice Ahab to go into battle where he will be killed.  And a demon steps forward and says that he will entice Ahab by being a lying spirit in the mouths of the false prophets.

God didn’t cause the demon to lie to Ahab and He didn’t cause Ahab to believe the lies, but He did bring them together – a lying spirit and a person who wanted to believe the lies.  He gave the demon permission to spread the lies through the false prophets, knowing that Ahab would believe the lies and go into battle and be killed.  But God did not force Ahab to believe lies.  He just presented him with the lies (through the actions of the demon) and let Ahab believe them. 

And if you read the story, you’ll see that God even gave Ahab a true prophecy – that he would be killed if he went into battle – through the mouth of a godly prophet.  And yet Ahab still chose to listen to the lying prophets, even though he knew that the godly prophet was speaking for the Lord.  God didn’t keep the truth from Ahab in order to make him believe the lies.  Ahab was just so set on going into battle that he would only listen to what he wanted to hear.  Ahab willfully chose the lies.   

Likewise, these prophets in Ezekiel wants lies.  They are willing to believe lies and to share lies, by their own desires.  And so if they are presented with a false prophecy (maybe through the help of a lying spirit, like with Ahab), they will believe and share that false prophecy because they want to and choose to.

And the idolatrous people don’t want God’s truth.  They want to hear lies.  They have already made their decision to drift from God, and they don’t want to hear His truth because it would make them uncomfortable.  And so they are just fine with getting a false prophecy from a false prophet.   

But God doesn’t make them believe the lies.  He just hands them the lie through the willfully-lying prophets and then lets them believe it.  Because that’s what they choose to believe.  And since they had chosen to turn from God and to believe lies, God could justly punish them. 

Likewise, as we saw in the last post, Pharaoh chose to be a hard-hearted person, resistant to God.  God just gave him the opportunity to do it because He knew that He could use that hard-heartedness to perform wonders, bring glory to Himself, and get the people released.  And since God did not cause Pharaoh to be the hard-hearted person he chose to be, God could punish him for it in the end, after He used it to accomplish His purposes.

God follows our lead, what we are willing to do and believe, who we want to be.  If we want truth, He will guide us into truth.  If we want lies, He will allow us to go after lies, maybe even making it easier for us to do so, such as through the use of lying spirits.  But make no mistake, if we believe the lies, it's because we wanted to.  

(Think of all the churches nowadays who are denying clear truths of Scripture because they want to cling to their own ideas of Truth instead.  They have the Truth right there in the Bible, but they choose to alter it because they don't like it.  God didn't cause them to believe lies.  They chose it!  And they will be held accountable for it!  Their own desires lead them astray, and it will eventually lead to their eternal demise.)  

How this affects us now

And I think this is how God generally works with us, too.  Contrary to Calvinism, God does not make our decisions for us.  He does not cause us to sin or be wicked or whatever.  But He does give us opportunities to decide what we will do, to be who we are going to be, to rebel against Him or to obey Him, whichever we prefer.  He lets us make our decisions (He even encourages us to make our decisions), and then He works it into His plans, for His purposes and His glory.  And then since we have decided to be who we are and to do what we do, He can rightly punish us or reward us based on our decisions.    

Does this make sense?  It does to me. 

If God encourages us to throw the first punch at Him because He knows that's what we want to do ... and if we do it ... God didn't cause us to do it.  He didn't force us to punch Him, to be the fighting kind of person.  He just gave us the opportunity and prompting to do it, to carry out what's in our hearts, to be the kind of person we want to be.  And so if we take that first punch, He is justified in punching back.

Eternally speaking, God gives us all the choice to either believe in Him or to reject Him.  He puts the truth in front of all of us.  And He shines enough light on the truth that those who want to believe will be prompted to draw near to it, to seek more of it.  But there's also enough darkness that those who don't want to believe the truth won't.  They will be content with not believing, having made their decision to stay in the darkness, to be resistant Him.

"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself ..."  (Romans 2:5)

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened ... Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts ..."  (Romans 1:21-24)

"... They were broken off because of unbelief ... And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in ..."  (Romans 11:20,23)

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."  (Hebrews 4:7)

This is why Jesus spoke in parables.  He gives a taste of truth.  And those who are interested will seek more Truth and seek to understand.  But those who aren't will either simply ignore the parable and go on their way, or they will tear apart whatever He told them.  Jesus knew better than to throw pearls to pigs.  He knew better than to give precious truths to those who only want to destroy them.  They won't accept what you're saying or even really listen to what you're saying until  and unless they want to.  

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."  (Matthew 7:6)
This is why it's pointless to try to reason with a dogmatic Calvinist.  They absolutely believe they are right, they won't even consider they might be wrong, and they will simply tear apart anything you say that contradicts them.  They will not see their error nor be able to see the Bible's Truth and change their view until and unless they are willing to.  You can't reason with the unreasonable when they want to be unreasonable.  

But the truth is always there, available to see, if anyone wants to see it.  And if they don't see it, it's because they don't want to.

When it comes to salvation, He has given all of us the truth in His Word and in our hearts, but we have to decide if we will believe His truth and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior ... or if we will reject God and His truth.  And while He does not make that decision for us, He does force us to decide.  He does not force what we choose, but He does force us to choose.  (And not choosing Jesus is essentially making the choice to reject Jesus.  Because there are only two sides: Jesus's side or Satan's side.  And if we don't choose Jesus, we end up on Satan's side by default.  See this post for more on this.)  

I think this cleanly ties together God’s sovereignty over all (how He can and does use our obedience or disobedience for His purposes), His love (how He says He loves us all, how Jesus died for us all, and how He wants all of us to come to salvation in Him), and His justness (how He fairly determines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell – by letting us choose and by letting us face the consequences of our choice). 

We go to hell if we chose to reject Him or to heaven if we choose to accept Him.  And since He’s made salvation available to all and possible for all - putting the choice in our hands - no one will be able to say “God isn’t fair!  He didn’t give me a chance!  He made me disobey.”

Previous post in series:  God Set Pharaoh Up

Next post in series:  The Holy Spirit and "Dead People"

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