As we discuss God as the creator of all, and particularly God’s sovereignty, interesting questions often come up. Sometimes they are questions that seem in and of themselves heretical, and we are afraid to ask them in a public setting. One of those questions is “Did God create sin?”
This question flows naturally from biblical considerations. For instance, we know God knew ahead of time that the Creation would result in the Fall and the subsequent need for redemption. We know this in part because Peter tells us that Christ as the sacrificial lamb was “foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). At the very least, that tells us that God, in creating the world, was creating a world that He knew would result in sinful creatures.
But is this the same thing as creating sin? At the heart of that question is really another question. Given the fact that God knew His creation would ultimately result in the fall of man, is God then responsible for the sinful actions of his creation and the consequences of his creation’s sinful choices?
God and Sin are Incompatible
Thankfully, scripture gives us answers to these big questions. The Bible teaches that sin entered the world, and continues to reign in the world, because of the choices of God’s creation, and not God’s specific will. Romans 3 in several points says no one is righteous, while also saying in verse 4 that our sin does not nullify God’s faithfulness (“let God be found true though every man be a liar”). In other words, while we have sinned from the beginning and continued to sin, God has never sinned. Even the temptation to sin has never crossed him. The first chapter of James very clearly states that “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). This tells us very clearly that God and sin cannot coexist.
Now, let’s back up for a moment. Clearly, scripture establishes that sin entered the world as a result of our choices. But did God create the world such that sin would enter it? If so, doesn’t that pose a problem and apparent inconsistency regarding God’s relationship with sin? Here the framing of the question becomes very important. If we’re forced to answer yes or no to this question, we would have to say yes. But that would imply that God created this world with the specific will of sin entering into it. That is not the case. God’s purpose in creating Adam and Eve was to create free moral creatures, and present them with the choice of whether or not to serve Him.
Giving Us a Choice is Not Creating Sin
Did creating the presence of that choice create sin? No, it did not. Scripture is clear on this: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7). Herein lies a fascinating idea: God did not create sin by creating arbitrary rules. The laws of morality exist independent of our knowledge of them or being told of them. God tells us what is good, because goodness is an expression of His character, not an arbitrary set of rules (for more on the question of “Are God’s laws arbitrary” see this post).
God’s creation of a standard does not create the necessity of breaking that standard. God created us free moral creatures, but His making us so, and His foreknowledge that we would choose such, does not make God morally culpable for those sinful choices.
An illustration might make this a little bit easier to understand. Let’s say for instance that a father tells his five-year-old son not to play with matches. His son then plays with matches and burns himself. Did the father burn his son? No, he did not. The father created the standard, but the creation of a standard does not make the father responsible for the consequences when that standard is broken. In fact, if anything, the father was striving for the opposite by telling his son what would be best for him to do. As the son, not the father, created the fire, the human race, as moral free agents, created sin as we know it when we willingly heeded Satan and disobeyed the command of God. As James 1:14 says, “for each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.”
Admittedly, in our example, the father did not make a decision about whether or not to give his son free will. His son has free will whether he likes it or not. But the point of our illustration is who is morally responsible for free actions, and that introducing a standard does not make one responsible for the consequences of that standard being broken. In order for God to be responsible for sin, it would have to have been His specific will, and His direct decision, for mankind to sin. This is not the case.
Free Will is Worth It
Sin was introduced in part because God chose to make a world with creatures who have free will. God knew this would result in the Fall of man, and made a plan accordingly, but this does not mean that God created our disobedience. It rather means that God, seeing the consequences of the Creation, chose to go through with it anyway, knowing the heartbreak that it would cause. This speaks ultimately not to a God that would create sin, but a God who places an incredible value on us as His children (for more on the question “Is free will worth it” listen to this episode of the ACL Podcast with guest Clay Jones).
The point is essentially this, that God created us with free will. With that free will, we (the human race) introduced sin into the world by disobeying God’s commandments. God making commandments does not make him responsible for sin. Our free choice to disobey those commandments makes us responsible for sin. God created the world, knowing we would make those choices. Praise God for His being so gracious and so merciful, even when he knew how we would treat Him.
Logan Judy is a Christian blogger and science fiction author. At A Clear Lens, he focuses on the intersection of Christianity and culture. In addition to his work on the ACL website and podcast, he is also the founder of Christian Entertainment Reviews, and the author of three novels. He tweets @loganrjudy about writing, apologetics, parenting, and Batman.