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Arminius on God’s Permission For Sin

Arminius makes the following interesting comments concerning sin and the fact that God permits evil.  Arminius is clear that God does not cause evil nor does He create evil but He does permit evil in His divine providence and His infinite wisdom.  We humans will never comprehend the wisdom of God nor His ability to take free decisions that are sinful and use them for His glory and honor such as in the case of Judas’ betrayal of Christ or the crucifixion itself as an act of indescribable love (Acts 2:22-24).  That God permits evil is the view of the Arminian.  That God causes evil must be the view of Calvinism.

Arminius writes,

X. The permission of sin succeeds, which is opposed to hindering. Yet it is not opposed to hindering, as the latter is an act which is taken away from the power of a rational creature by legislation; for, in that case, the same act would be a sin, and not a sin. It would be a sin in reference to its being a forbidden act; and it would be no sin in reference to its being permitted in this manner, that is, not forbidden. But permission is opposed to hindrance, in reference to the latter being an impediment placed on the capability and will of an intelligent creature. But permission is the suspension, not of one impediment or two, which may be presented to the capability or the will, but of all impediments at once, which, God knows, if they were all employed, would effectually hinder sin. Such necessarily would be the result, because sin might be hindered by a single impediment of that kind.

(1.) Sin therefore is permitted to the capability of the creature, when God employs none of those hindrances of which we have already made mention in the 8th Thesis: for this reason, this permission consists of the following acts of God who permits, the continuation of life and essence to the creature, the conservation of his capability, a cautiousness against its being opposed by a greater capability, or at least by one that is equal, and the exhibition of an object on which sin is committed.

(2.) Sin is also permitted to the will; not because no such impediments are presented by God to the will, as are calculated to deter the will from sinning; but because God, seeing that these hindrances which are propounded will produce no effect, does not employ others which He possesses in the treasures of his wisdom and power. (John xviii, 6; Mark xiv, 56.) This appears most evidently in the passion of Christ, with regard not only to the power but also to the will of those who demanded his death. (John xix, 6.) Nor does it follow from these premises, that those impediments are employed in vain: for though such results do not follow as are in accordance with these hindrances, yet God in a manner the most powerful gains his own purposes, because the results are not such as ought to have followed. (Rom. x, 20, 21.)

XI. The foundation of this permission is

(1.) The liberty of choosing, with which God formed his rational creature, and which his constancy does not suffer to be abolished, lest he should be accused of mutability.

(2.) The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which he knows and is able out of darkness to bring light, and to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) God therefore permits that which He does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows them all, not with reluctance, for he could have refrained from producing a creature that might possess freedom of choice, not as being incapable of hindering, for we have already seen by how many methods he is able to hinder both the capability and the will of a rational creature; not as if at ease, indifferent, or negligent of that which is transacted, because before anything is done he already [“has gone through”] has looked over the various actions which concern it, and, as we shall subsequently see, [§ 15-22,] he presents arguments and occasions, determines, directs, punishes and pardons sin. But whatever God permits, He permits it designedly and willingly, His will being immediately occupied about its permission, but His permission itself is occupied about sin; and this order cannot be inverted without great peril.

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