1 The Westminster Confession of Faith

The 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith is highly esteemed among Calvinists. It is an integral supporting document in the explanation of their doctrines. Regarding the issue of sin, how it came about, and who is responsible, The Westminster Confession of Faith says:

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.[1]


According to this confession, God “binds” and “orders” in His “governing” of all things including “the first fall” and “all other sins of angels and men,” but is not the “author or approver of sin” because God is “holy and righteous.” God is said here not to merely grant His creation permission to sin, but that God binds them to sin. This confession of faith clearly states that the fall of mankind, the rebellion of Lucifer and his followers, and every sin of man occurs because of God’s almighty power, wisdom, and goodness.


The first question which springs immediately to mind is, “How is God’s binding His creation to sin a good thing?” Unfortunately, the writers of The Westminster Confession of Faith offer no explanation to this question.


Secondly, a typical mind will instantly link man’s being unchangeably bound by God’s almighty power to act in a sinful way with God’s being responsible for sin. Nonetheless, Calvinists miss this connection. Instead, they repeatedly contradict themselves. With one breath they say that nothing happens outside of God’s will, that God is in control of all things, that He alone is sovereign, and that He, according to His almighty power, wisdom, and goodness, has bound or compelled man to sin. Then, with another breath, they say that God is holy, righteous, and is not responsible for sin. Both cannot be true.


The Westminster Confession of Faith appears to explicitly state that God is the author of sin. What other conclusion could be reasonably drawn? Nevertheless, the authors of this confession denied such a claim. They state that because the sinful act was not actually performed by God Himself, but only by the creature, God is not responsible for the sin.


God has used His almighty power, wisdom, and goodness to bind His creatures to act in a sinful way. He orders and governs their actions. Nevertheless, we are told that God is not the author of those actions. How can this be? How can we be expected to accept this? The inherent contradiction in this statement is apparent.


A third question which comes to mind is, “If God’s creatures act in a way which is obedient to God’s predestination, wisdom, binding, ordering, and governing, then how can God not approve of those actions? Is God disapproving of His own wisdom, will, and governing?” Sadly, we are again not given an answer.


For further clarification of this issue, let us examine another portion of The Westminster Confession of Faith, “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”[2]


We are told that everything that happens—good or bad—is part of God’s will. Not only this, but God has determined every action in advance. Thus, every sinful act was predetermined from eternity past and is in perfect agreement with what God willed and ordained. However, we are also told that God is not the author or approver of sin. To support this claim, they rely upon the argument of second causes.


Briefly stated, the argument of second causes maintains that because God is only the primary cause of sin, while man is the secondary cause of sin, God cannot be held responsible.*[3] It was man, not God, who actually performed the action, so God’s hands are clean. However, even if this argument is accepted as true, it still fails to explain how God is not the author of the action. The Westminster Confession of Faith makes bold statements about God’s ordaining all things after the counsel of His own will from eternity past, binding His creatures to that will, and ordering or governing His creatures to accomplish His will. It then directly contradicts these claims by stating that God neither authors those actions, nor approves of them.


The Westminster Confession of Faith provides us with a beautiful example of the contradiction inherent in the theology and writings of Calvinists. They are logically inconsistent. Unfortunately, even though they say and write such blatant contradictions in the space of only a few sentences, most of these contradictions are ignored or missed.


  1. Westminster Confession of Faith, V:4.
  2. Ibid, III:1.
  3. “What I have maintained about the diversity of causes must not be forgotten: the proximate cause is one thing, the remote cause another.” (Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 181.)


Is God the Author of Sin? Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Zebell. All Rights Reserved.


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