The charge that divine determinism “makes God the author of sin” typically functions as a proxy for an argument rather than an actual argument that merits rebuttal. As I have concluded elsewhere: What is widely regarded as a grave problem for Calvinism—that it makes God the author of sin—only appears so while the term “author” is left ambiguous and unanalyzed. The critics have much more work to do if this commonplace objection is to have any real bite.3
Since it’s relevant to some current discussions, I’m posting here a short section from a forthcoming essay entitled “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Incompatibilism versus Compatibilism,” which is due to appear in a multi-author volume on the doctrine of unconditional election.
Does Divine Determinism Make God the Author of Sin?
Reformed compatibilism maintains that divine determinism is compatible with human freedom and moral responsibility, where divine determinism is understood as the view that all events within the creation, including human choices and actions, are ultimately determined by the will or decree of God. It is commonly objected that divine determinism, if true, would make God to be “the author of sin,” but since God cannot be the author of sin—James 1:13 is commonly cited here—it follows that divine determinism must be false.1
Let us note first that Reformed theologians have consistently repudiated the idea that God is “the author of sin.”2 To take one representative example: the Westminster Confession of Faith, in its chapter on God’s eternal decree, affirms that God has sovereignly ordained from eternity “whatsoever comes to pass,” but denies that God is thereby “the author of sin” or that his decree does “violence” to the will of his creatures. Similarly, the Confession’s chapter on divine providence, while asserting that God’s providential control of events extends even to creaturely sins, insists that God “being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.”
Of course, the mere fact that Reformed compatibilists have issued such denials does not refute the charge that divine determinism makes God the author of sin. But it’s crucial to recognize two things about this objection. First, the initial burden of proof lies with the objector to offer a serious argument in support of the charge, not with the Calvinist to provide an argument to the contrary.