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Is God responsible for sin?

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  • Is God responsible for sin?

    I just watched a talk by Ed Feser on YouTube entitled "Edward Feser "Classical Theism and the Nature of God""
    He talked about the idea that things can only exist in reality if they first exist in the intellect of God. He gave as examples roundess and redness.
    Which made me think - "what about sin?" Can sin only exist in reality if it first exists in God's intellect? I learned years ago that God did not create sin but that we did (do) by taking the good things that God has made and twisting them into evil to suit our own purposes (i.e.: God created sex - a good thing - but then we take that good thing and create pornography and prostitution). But is it right to say they we could only create sin if it first existed in the intellect of God? So we could only create pornography if it first existed in God's mind.
    Something in this doesn't seem right to me.
    Would love to hear your thoughts
    Thanks

  • #2
    Hello Bellarmine, welcome to the forums.

    I think the classic answer to this would be that sin is a sort of privation, and not an existing thing in it's own right. I think it is possible to look at any particular example of sin and see it as a distortion of something good that exists. To use your example, God created sex, and we manipulate sexual desires and the power structures that exist in society to create sex slavery and prostitution. I'm not sure that we've created something new, so much as ruined things that already existed. If this is true, sin doesn't exist in the mind of God because sin doesn't' exist. Sin is what we call a perversion or deficiency in an existing, good thing, especially, when that deficiency or perversion is brought about by a rational agent who made a choice.

    Are you familiar with the piece of "art" entitled "Erased de Koonig Drawing"? It is a drawing made by de Koonig that was bought by another artist, who then merely erased what the original artist had drawn. It would be very hard to say that the 2nd artist truly created something new. Rather, he took something that existed, and changed it by removing essential elements of it. I think we can view sin this way. Prostitution isn't something new or novel, it's just sex without love, or sex as a transaction or sex as mere pleasure. But if love and love freely given (not transactional love) are an essential part of sex, then prostitution isn't something different than sex, it's just deficient sex.

    Theoretically, we could give an explanation like that for any sin. Giving a friend a loan is perhaps a type of charity or friendly love. Usury is loan giving without the friendship for the express purpose of moneymaking. It's not a different type of activity as loaning, it's a perversion of loaning.

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    • #3
      Brian: Thanks for the response and I agree with what you say. But what really challenged me in Dr. Feser's talk was when he explained that nothing could exist and no state of affairs could exist unless it was first conceived of by God. So in order for a cat and a mat to exist they first exist as concepts in God's mind, but even the "state of affairs" of a cat sitting on a mat would first have to exist in God's mind before it could exist in reality. In this God is all knowing.
      But does this mean an adulterous relationship or the holocaust (a "state of affairs") first existed in God's mind as a possibility before it ever existed in reality?
      Thanks

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      • #4
        Consider a philosophically consistent response that makes Stephen King seem like some Grub Street hack. Yes, G-d is The Author of Sin. G-d is "responsible" for absolutely everything about everything. He and He alone is the only True Cause. Cheung could be described as a Calvinist Occasionalist. I admire his biting all the bullets. Modal collapse? So what! People are sent to hell though they couldn't have done otherwise? That's exactly what many passages (like Romans 9) explicitly say.

        I'm the furthest thing from a Calvinist you'll find on this earth, but studying how other traditions deal with this issue is fascinating for its own sake and potentially useful for jump-starting fresh thinking -- if only to refute positions like this. There's also strains of Islam that are down with Determinism. The closest Judaism approaches is Chasidic reflections on Ein Od Milvado. There's more to Deut. 4:35 than meets the eye. And it makes a great fridge magnet.

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        • #5
          Bellarmine: Are you raising this as a problem for free will, omnibenevolence, or something else?

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          • #6
            (The answer to this:

            But does this mean an adulterous relationship or the holocaust (a "state of affairs") first existed in God's mind as a possibility before it ever existed in reality?

            Is: Yes, of course. God and his knowledge is ontologically prior to all creation.)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Bellarmine View Post
              Brian: Thanks for the response and I agree with what you say. But what really challenged me in Dr. Feser's talk was when he explained that nothing could exist and no state of affairs could exist unless it was first conceived of by God. So in order for a cat and a mat to exist they first exist as concepts in God's mind, but even the "state of affairs" of a cat sitting on a mat would first have to exist in God's mind before it could exist in reality. In this God is all knowing.
              But does this mean an adulterous relationship or the holocaust (a "state of affairs") first existed in God's mind as a possibility before it ever existed in reality?
              Thanks
              Yes, God knows the powers of free, finite creatures, including the fact that free creatures can distort the good and therefore make evil acts. What's the problem with that?

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              • Bellarmine
                Bellarmine commented
                Editing a comment
                I guess my issue is in wondering if in order for sin (or sinful state of affairs) to exist it must first exist in the mind of God does this run counter to the idea that God did not create sin but that we did through privation or through taking the good that God created and twisting it into evil. Is there a conflict here?

            • #8
              It's worth asking what people here take states-of-affairs to be. If they are a categoricaly distinct form of entity then one might try to make a case that 'evil' states exist (not that I think it would be a strong one mind you)

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              • #9
                I guess my issue is in wondering if in order for sin (or sinful state of affairs) to exist it must first exist in the mind of God does this run counter to the idea that God did not create sin but that we did through privation or through taking the good that God created and twisting it into evil. Is there a conflict here?

                Or should I be drawing a distinction between something "existing" in the mind of God and "existing" in our reality?

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                • #10
                  I had a reply typed, but it disappeared some time between when I typed it and this morning. Basically, we create sin and God creates us creating sin. Some say that since we freely choose to create that sin, God isn't responsible for it; others, that since God still creates a world where we choose to create sin, he's responsible for it. The dialectic goes from there. (There has got to be someone here who has read literature on this more recently than I have.)

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                  • #11
                    Originally posted by Bellarmine View Post
                    I guess my issue is in wondering if in order for sin (or sinful state of affairs) to exist it must first exist in the mind of God does this run counter to the idea that God did not create sin but that we did through privation or through taking the good that God created and twisting it into evil. Is there a conflict here?

                    Or should I be drawing a distinction between something "existing" in the mind of God and "existing" in our reality?
                    Put it like this. Sin involves privation or disordering. Privation and disordering are naturally negative or parasitic, like evil. When we think of something bad, such as blindness, what is bad is actually the privation of sight, or the corruption and disordering of positive substances which cause vision. The bad is negative and parasitic upon Being, which is positive. This much is standard for views that "evil is a privation".

                    When someone sins - murdering someone, say - they are doing something bad, something morally wrong. But existentially, this actually involves the use of good and positive things, except that they are used in a disorderly way. If you look at the substances, the murderer is using his good and positive body to move; he is using his good and positive power to hold an object such as a knife, and using that knife's positive power to stab someone who had a potency to be affected by a metal object. What makes this whole act morally wro isn't the positive powers and substances themselves, the existing entities, rather it is disordering of goods here (the positive, powerful actions which ultimately have the consequence of harming another person), something which is more abstract. Indeed, very similar acts involving very similar substances and powers could have had a different moral standing (think of the surgeon operating a patient). The evil and sin aren't in the positive, existing substances per se, they are rather negative realities which are parasitic on substances.

                    God knows all substances and their powers. Their powers are positive and good. But they can be abused and disordered. The possibility of disordering simply follows from the powers themselves, because it involves their effects. God knows such possibilities. But it's not as if he positively creates sin or anything oike that; he just creates and knows about positive entities with positive powers that might be disordered (as a consequence of the good power of free will, say)

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                    • #12
                      I'll be interested to see how Bellarmine replies to this. I saw him as carefully stepping around the privation view by talking about "sinful states of affairs" and leaving himself in a position to still question God creating the holocaust. In other words, as asking about God not creating a less deficient world.
                      Last edited by John West; 06-16-2019, 03:21 AM.

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                      • #13
                        Originally posted by John West View Post
                        I'll be interested to see how Bellarmine replies to this. I saw him as carefully stepping around the privation view by talking about "sinful states of affairs" and leaving himself in a position to still question God creating the holocaust. In other words, as asking about God not creating a less deficient world.
                        Maybe the super-Socrates argument would work here?

                        A side point on the Holocaust, which often comes up in these kinds of discussions. Does putting it back into context (of the Second World War in mainly Eastern Europe) make it more or less salient in this kind of discussion? For example, it is estimated that around 24 million non-Jewish Soviet citizens died during the same time frame, 2.5 million non-Jewish Polish citizens, 8 million Germans (about half being civilians) etc.

                        Looking back a generation before, men in their twenties from the same region would have been born in the era of the WW1. then the Russian Civil War, where about 12-15 million people are supposed to have died, with a concentration in the same area. The Ukraine, where the Nazis found many who assisted them in carrying out the Holocaust, had also been the object of terror famine by the Soviet forces in the early thirties (another 3 million people starved/executed).

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                        • #14
                          Thanks Atno for post #11 - so you are saying God, as all knowing, must be aware of all the possible transgressions that free will creatures will be able to commit and while his being aware of them makes them possible (as a state of affairs that must first exist in the mind of God in order to exist in our reality) it is still the responsibility of the creature with free will who chooses them.
                          Does that sound right?

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                          • #15
                            Originally posted by Bellarmine View Post
                            Thanks Atno for post #11 - so you are saying God, as all knowing, must be aware of all the possible transgressions that free will creatures will be able to commit and while his being aware of them makes them possible (as a state of affairs that must first exist in the mind of God in order to exist in our reality) it is still the responsibility of the creature with free will who chooses them.
                            Does that sound right?

                            Yeah, something like that. These acts are possible because, obviously, they follow from the powers that can produce them. A moral transgression is possible because a finite rational creature with free will is capable of choosing to abuse its positive powers. Finite, rational and free creatures are possible. Naturally, God knows finite rational free creatures and can create them, so He grounds their possible existence. As a consequence, God knows moral transgressions are possible. But he's not actually responsible for moral transgressions; it is the free creature that chooses to abuse or disorder his goods.

                            For instance, a murderer has the pretty neat power of holding physical objects, such as knives. He also has the pretty neat power of physically affecting whatever is in scope of his body. As a consequence, however, he can wrongly affect an innocent person with his knife. This evil act would not be some positive ontological reality in the same sense that a rock or a thrtle is, but it follows as a possible consequence of the murderer's pretty neat physical and mental powers, if he uses them in a disordered way. Naturally, God knows the powers of a free, finite person, and knows that they can employ their powers in a disorderly way. Sins are grounded in causal powers in this negative sense, which God is also aware of, and thhis obviously does't make God responsible for any actual sinning.

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