The Difference Between a Decree and a Cause
Greg Koukl on The Stand to Reason blog is bold to post ideas in Christian philosophy that are not yet fully developed. But such a thing is necessary for allowing the idea to be processed in the community of Christians at large. He recently started a discussion on the difference between God issuing a decree and acting as a cause. That language might not immediately seem pertinent. But there is the tension that we see in scripture where God is absolutely sovereign and where He seems to cause sin as a result. Go here to watch his video blog and read some of the comments:
My slightly edited response:
God, as a causer, is not an agent of cause. "Agent" implies that the causer was himself caused by something else. God's causing is in this way different than His creation, as discreet subdivided iterations of existence, being internally consistent agents of cause. That is, God has eternally established what will happen by decree and has created underlying rules for all of creation to follow as temporal causal agents.
Men, as volitional systems of causal agents, have intent. Where this intent agrees with God's ethical will, then there is no sin. Where this intent does not agree with God's ethical will, there is sin. The will of man is hardly monolithic. Every decision a man makes consists of a cocktail of intents - some good, some bad. If God causes anything to happen in the action of any man in the fallen world, that man will be guilty of sin.
God's intent, conversely, is always pure. God is not guilty where His goodness causes actions that arise out of the evil intents of men.
Men are sinners already and God has not alienated Himself from men any further than they are by causing actions that for men are sinful because of their intents. And their intents are not the most fundamental level of their sin. Evil intents arise out of the status of men being separated from God. We are born in a separated world and are likewise separated from God from birth. Even when we are given the Holy Spirit, we must endure the wiles of this separated world. Being given the Holy Spirit allows us to be separated FOR God (Holy) in this age rather than being separated FROM God in this age.