“To be, or not to be? That is the question.”
This is one of the most quoted Shakesperean lines ever written. While I don’t know much about these lines and where they fit in Shakespeare’s work (excuse me for my literary ignorance), I do know that this seems to be the question that Calvinists and Arminians debate these days...and have so done since the beginning of history as we know it. “To be the author of sin, or not to be the author of sin?” For believers, that is the question.
Is Jesus guilty? Well...I would say He isn’t; but there are some who believe He is guilty of sin. S.M. Baugh is among them; and in his chapter on “The Meaning of Foreknowledge” he writes:
“Acts 2:23 also implies another truth integral to Calvinism that must not be (and is too often) overlooked: HUMANS POSSESS GENUINE, UNFORCED VOLITION and are thereby MORALLY RESPONSIBLE. Although God accomplished his fixed purpose by handing Christ over to the cross, he himself did not crucify him: ‘You nailed up and killed this man through the agency of wicked men.’ Peter’s hearers and their agents were both the culpable participants in Christ’s death. GOD ORDAINS ALL THAT COMES TO PASS, BUT ‘NEITHER IS GOD THE AUTHOR OF SIN, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established’” (S.M. Baugh, “The Meaning of Foreknowledge,” from “Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace” by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000, page 190).
First, notice that Baugh credits humans with free choices and moral responsibility: “humans possess genuine, unforced volition and are thereby morally responsible.” I applaud Baugh for this honest admittance. Most Calvinists would not be this gracious; but S.M. Baugh restored my confidence in Calvinist theologians a bit with this statement.
But later on in the above quote, Baugh provides us with a massive contradiction: “God ordains all that comes to pass, but neither is God the author of sin...” Now Baugh uses a passage, Acts 2:23, to provide this assessment. Let’s read the passage:
“Him [Jesus of Nazareth, v. 22], being delivered by the DETERMINED PURPOSE AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death...” (Acts 2:23, NKJV)
As Baugh notes above, man bears responsibility for his own actions; God is not responsible for the actions of men, although in His foreknowledge, He knew they would crucify Jesus. It was the Jews and Pilate who put Christ on the cross. However, Baugh also notes that God handed Jesus over because of His “determined purpose.” But what was the purpose for so doing? The purpose was to save mankind from their sins. This is why the angel Gabriel tells Joseph,
“And she [Mary] will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name ‘JESUS,’ FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS” (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31).
And John declares this concerning Jesus:
“Behold! The Lamb of God WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD!” (John 1:29, NKJV)
The purpose for the Father sending Jesus into the world was to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. Jesus was sent to appease the wrath of God upon men, which is why when He is born in Bethlehem, the angels declare, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14, NKJV)
But if God’s “determined purpose” was for Jesus to die, then what purpose did His “foreknowledge” serve? His foreknowledge is what accounts for His knowledge concerning the actions of men. It is His foreknowledge that already informed Him of the actions of the Jews and Pilate.
But if He didn’t force the men to kill Jesus, as Baugh says regarding Acts 2:23, then the only reason He “FOREORDAINED” or “PREDETERMINED” the death of Christ was for redemption. He didn’t cause the men to do what they did, but He did allow it to happen to Jesus because of His plan to redeem mankind (His creation).
Now we can see why Baugh’s words are so stunning: “God ordains ALL THAT COMES TO PASS, but ‘neither is God the author of sin...’” Baugh’s use of Acts 2:23 to justify his view of God “ordaining every action” is unjustifiable.
Acts 2:23 tells us of Christ’s coming for a salvific purpose: to redeem the world. However, IF “God ordains all that comes to pass,” as Baugh puts it, then God also ordained the sin that put Jesus on the cross. So now, we find that God not only ordained Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden, as well as all the other acts of evil (such as the sins of the men who drowned in the flood and the enslavement of His people, the Jews), but He then, AFTER ORDAINING SIN, turned around and made His Son come to die for THE SIN THAT HE ORDAINED AND CREATED TO START WITH!! What a masochist God that would be!!!
Here is a definition of the word “ordain” by Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:
2 a : to establish or order by appointment, decree, or law
b : DESTINE, FOREORDAIN
If the Lord decrees all acts, then evil is necessary—for the Lord “incorporated” it, just as He did good, into His sovereign plan. And, because God decreed it, He becomes the author of sin. Here then, is the definition for “author”:
1 a : one that originates or creates : SOURCE
If God ordains evil, then He becomes the author of evil. He becomes the one responsible for evil because, if He had never “ordained” it, then it would never have existed. Do you see the problems with this analysis? It stains the character and name of the Lord God.
The reason why S.M. Baugh uses Acts 2:23 to justify God ordaining every action is because he doesn’t want you to see his underlying bias. In his mind, God ordained Jesus to die; if God ordained Jesus to die, then God ordained EVERY ACTION AND EVERY EVENT that led up to Jesus’ death; since Jesus’ dying involved evil actions, God ordained these evil actions; if God ordained these evil actions, then He ordained all the evil actions that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion, including Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. If God ordained the Fall of Genesis 3, then God ordains every action (whether good or evil).
The problem with this logic, however, is that Baugh does what he claims he doesn’t want to do—that is, to make God the author of sin and evil. It looks like, once again, Calvinists make God responsible. Sounds like the time has come for a theology change...