Definition: Sin is any failure (attitude or action) to conform to the will of God.

Biblical Words


hata = to miss (a mark); to wrong, offend, sin

pasha = to break with, away, from, or “crossed the line” to transgress


hamartia = sin, miss the mark

paraptoma or parabasis = sin, transgress

paranomia = lawlessness; evildoing


To suggest that sin began with the act of Adam and Even in the Garden of Genesis 3 would be to imagine that God had no prior conception of it. This would be inconsistent with what the Bible teaches about God’s omniscience (all-knowing and foreknowledge). Theologians discuss the origin of sin (as well as everything else) under the heading of God’s decrees.

Westminster Larger Catechism, 12

God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.

Though God is atemporal (not subject to time), our minds cannot comprehend timelessness. Therefore, we speak of a time when God decided to do all his good pleasure in the affairs of his creation. Once again, our minds are too limited to understand simultaneous thoughts and actions, much less all thoughts and all actions being determined simultaneously. Therefore, we speak of God’s decrees plural and we speak of them in a sequence. For instance, we would say that God decreed to create earth before he decreed to make man. In this discussion of sin, the questions arise: (a) when did God decree that sin should be and (b) where does that decree fit with other decrees, and (c) how did he decree that sin would be without being the author of sin (Js 1:13)?

a.When did God decree that sin should be?

The short answer is, we don’t know. However, the Bible gives some indication about what God did and when he did it. God’s plan of redemption through Christ was a decree given before this age began (1 Cor 2:7). The decree to adopt and unite all things was made before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:3-10). God’s decree to create all things (Col 1:16) included his creation of calamity (Isa 45:7). Though we have no comprehension of eternity past, we do know God made his decrees in coordination with, but prior to time, as we know it.

b. Where does the decree of sin fit in a discussion of God’s decrees?

This is perhaps the stickiest question before us. First, we should clarify the   question more specifically and then stress its importance.

Did God’s decree to permit sin’s entrance into the world come before or after his decree to send his son to redeem mankind? Theologians generally fall into one of two camps on this question. For those who believe that God decreed to send his son to redeem his elect before the decree of the fall, the argument centers on consistency. That is, God’s decree to redeem mankind was not based on their being fallen, but on his grace alone. These theologians choose this order of decrees partly from a concern they have that God not be seen as reacting to man, but in ordaining all things. On the other the hand, there are those who argue that if God decreed to send his son before the decree of the fall it makes God appear to be the author of sin.

See John Frames outline:


  1. To elect some creatable people for divine blessing.
  2. To create.
  3. To permit the Fall.
  4. To send Christ to provide atonement.
  5. To send the Spirit to apply the atonement to the hearts of believers.
  6. To glorify the elect.


  1. To create.
  2. To permit the Fall.
  3. To elect some people for divine blessing.
  4. To send Christ to provide atonement.
  5. To send the Spirit to apply the atonement to the hearts of believers.
  6. To glorify the elect.

How important is this order? How will it change the way you live for Christ? John Frame’s detailed answer is worthy of consideration. He offers eleven reasons why, “. . . we should not take any position on the debate between infralapsarians and supralapsarians.” However, our meditation on the origin of sin will significantly affect our understanding of God, his sovereignty, and our security (more on this below).

c.  How did God decree sin into existence without being the author of sin?

[J.] Edwards answers, “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.”

But, he argues, willing that sin exist in the world is not the same as sinning. God does not commit sin in willing that there be sin. God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.”

Roger Olson is a leading Arminian thinker and Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco Texas. He writes,

John Piper has been at it again. But there’s nothing new in the sermon reported on there. He has been saying this and writing it for decades. According to him, God foreordains sin. He “ordains and governs” it. He stops short of saying God causes is. But the effect is the same: sin is God’s will, even if it grieves him. And he’s talking about about every specific sin, not just “sin in general.” (typos original)

I will not say Piper is not a Christian; I will only say that his view is worse, far, far worse, than open theism. At least open theism preserves the character of God. And I will say I could not in good Christian conscience attend a church pastored by Piper or any of his disciples.

I wish that more moderate Calvinists would take a stand against Piper when he says these things (and against his surrogates when the repeat them). That they don’t really worries me. What are they thinking?(

The Crux

Frame is correct, we need not solve the order of decrees issue. However, asking what God decided to do and when he decided to do it speaks directly to our need to know God, to know the God of the Bible. One might assert, the question is not did God permit that sin should be before or after the decree to send his son, but that if (and he did) God ordained that sin should be to demonstrate the riches of his glory (Rom 9) what is the believer’s disposition toward that level of Lordship?

Does, Olson’s opinion of what God’s character should be usurp God’s self -revelation of who he is? Does God use the sinful action that he has ordained to carry out his will and demonstrate his glory in Lordship, yes or no (Acts 2:22-23; cf. Job 1 and the history of Israel 1 Kgs-Mal)? Frame admits, that God “stands behind sin” so as to make him Lord over its creation, but not a culpable author of its enactment. The fact that he ordained that it should be does not mean he is guilty of committing it.

Consider the Alternative

The possible alternatives include, (a) sin being the exclusive result of man’s actions independent of the will of God or (b) the ancillary creation of a God who hopes his creation will avoid, but is not sure. In either case you have a god who is less than the God of the Bible.

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