Is God The Author Of Sin? Jonathan Edwards’s Theodicy -- By: B. Hoon Woo

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:1 (Jan 2014)
Article: Is God The Author Of Sin? Jonathan Edwards’s Theodicy
Author: B. Hoon Woo

Is God The Author Of Sin? Jonathan Edwards’s Theodicy

B. Hoon Woo

Jonathan Edwards’s (1703-1758) doctrine of freedom of the will is notoriously troublesome. Both old and recent scholarship argue that his doctrine was deterministic.1 And if his view was truly deterministic, Edwards would have come to a deadlock regarding the authorship of Adam’s sin. Edwards argued, however, that God was not the author of sin. Thus, it seems that Edwards’s view was inconsistent. This issue has attracted the interest of many scholars;2

consensus holds that Edwards fails to provide an adequate account of the origin of sin.3 For example, James Dana charged that Edwards’s God actually introduced sin by “positive energy and action” because “the creature cannot be answerable for more than he hath received.”4 A century later, Charles Hodge argued that Edwards got into trouble when he presumed too easily that his metaphysics could explain God’s relation to our choices. Clyde Holbrook, in his editorial introduction to the Yale edition of Original Sin, claimed that according to Edwards’s conception of divine influence, “God is most certainly the efficient and morally responsible cause of the transgression.”5

More recently, Samuel Storms repeated Holbrook’s opinion.6 When reviewing Storms’s book, Samuel T. Logan Jr. maintained that “Edwards’ scheme fails to answer definitely the problem of the origin of Adam’s original sin.”7 Gerstner holds that Edwards’s position on this question represented “a total abandonment of the Christian religion, as understood by almost the entire catholic tradition.”8 In an analytical approach, Alvin Plantinga argues that Jonathan Edwards’s argument for theological fatalism reduces to logical fatalism.9 Paul Helm and Oliver Crisp also comment that even though Edwards criticized Arminianism to defend the absolute sovereignty of God, his view also faced “familiar complaints: that it destroys moral authenticity, makes God the author of sin, and delivers each creature to a fate which is undeserved.”10 Along a similar line, Oliver Crisp charge...

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