Let us continue the testimony of Dr. Hopkins: he says, "God does superintend and direct with regard to every instance of sin. He orders how much sin there shall be, and effectually restrains and prevents all that which he would not have take place. Men are, with respect to this, absolutely under his direction and control." From this he proceeds to show that sin could not have originated in the creature, for why should the will put forth a volition contrary to the divinely constituted nature? Nor can it be in the sin itself, for upon that supposition the effect is its own cause, hence we must look to Him who is the First Cause of everything; speaking of the sinner he says, "Something must have taken place previous to his sin, and in which the sinner had no hand with which his sin was so connected as to render it certain that sin would take place just as it does;" his conclusion is, "Moral evil could not exist unless it were the will of God, and his choice that it should exist rather than not. And from this it is certain that it is wisest and best in his view that sin should exist. And in thus willing what was wisest and best, and foreordaining that it should come to pass, God exercised his wisdom and goodness; and in this view and sense is really the origin and cause of moral evil, as really as he is of the existence of anything that he wills, however inconceivable the mode and manner of the origin and existence of this event may be, and however different from that of any other."
“Again, we infer from what we know of God's holiness, and of his moral government, and of the law written in the consciences of men, that he hates sin and can have no concord with it, or with the works it prompts . . . God never planned it, nor did he ever purpose aught that required sin as a means for its accomplishment, or that depended on sin as a means to its end. Sin is of God in no proper sense. His whole relation to it, and action toward it, is, and ever has been antagonism, resistance . . . God is hostile to sin; he has no purpose to serve by it; never gave his consent to it; forbade it at the first, and has steadfastly resisted it ever since; and he has assured us that he can never accept it, nor become reconciled to it.”
I don't know that there's a perfect answer to that dilemma, but I believe the analogy of darkness and light can give us some insight. Isa. 45:7 says: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil . . . ” I realize there are many ways of interpreting this verse, and I don't wish make the case here for any one interpretation. Nevertheless, I think the analogy is instructive. It does not take a physics major to understand that darkness has no existence of its own; indeed it has no existence at all. It is merely the absence of light. Now, I think all would agree that human beings are not fully enlightened with regard to spiritual matters. We all come into this world in a state of darkness. Or, to put it another way, we all experience a deprivation of light. What is the result of this deprivation? It is sin. Sin is the legitimate effect of the deprivation of light. The question, therefore, is this: If God, who is the Light, deprives us of this light, is He therefore the legitimate cause of sin? My answer is Yes, with a but. Yes, He is the cause. BUT . . . He is not the SOURCE. The source of sin is not God, or Light, but rather the lack of light. Light is the source of goodness. Darkness--or lack of light--is the source of sin. Hence, sin, which results from darkness, cannot be said to have its source in God. A source is that from which something proceeds. It is not necessarily the same as a cause. In this case that distinction is paramount. From what does sin proceed? It proceeds from man. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither tempteth he any man.” (James 1:13) Light cannot be both the cause of sin and the source, for it is only from a lack of light that sin proceeds, or, to put it more accurately, from a living vessel that is lacking in light. That would be us. Hence, we can say that sin is not from God even as we say that He caused it. We can say darkness is not from God even as we say He creates it.
The conclusion, therefore, is this: The Universalist can agree with the main gist of both of the aforementioned statements. He can agree that “God orders how much sin there shall be” and yet “He hates sin”; that we are “absolutely under His direction and control” and that “Sin is of god in no proper sense”; that “Moral evil could not exist unless it were the will of God” and that “God is hostile to sin.”
Now there are certain points in both statements which are troublesome, but not too much so. “God never planned it, nor did he ever purpose aught that required sin as a means for its accomplishment, or that depended on sin as a means to its end.” Can the Universalist agree with this? Yes, in spirit, but not in the letter. It’s more proper to say that God planned that Christ would be the means to the appointed end for man, and Adam His beginning, than to say that sin is a means to an end. This implies the thought: I’m going to perfect man through sin, when, in fact the thought is more like this: I’m going to create him in the flesh and perfect him in the Spirit, for that is the best way. Everything that happens along the way is a part of that process, and yes, the Universalist believes God decided that process was the best one.
“If we equate any philosophical debate to battle I would argue that our basic weapons are our ideas and arguments, and our rhetoric is our technique in wielding those weapons. But the battlefield, the terrain of the battle is the vocabulary we use. Therefore, he who controls the vocabulary of the debate holds the high ground.” (JC Freak, Calvinist Rhetoric)
You said God is the author of sin! Gotchya!
You said God is not all powerful! Gotchya!
You said God needs sin! Gotchya!
You said God can’t save everyone! Gotchya!
Whatever position anyone takes, they will leave themselves open to some allegation, as their position will always fit into somebody’s interpretation of a negative word or idea. Words can only express so much. I have here chosen the most damning rhetorical flourishes one could devise against Universalism; I did so in order to try and show that they are not as damning as they might seem. But the truth is that equally damning statements can be constructed against the Arminians as the ones Fisk constructed against the Universalists. As A.P Adams said:
"Words are facile vehicles of thought, easily twisted into almost any shape, and made to answer to almost any end. This is shown in the framing of laws, when, not withstanding the utmost care, the legal formula is found to be capable of several different meanings, giving rise to oceans of talk, and endless complications, to puzzle judges and to defeat the ends of justice. Thus it is also with the letter of the Word; it is oft times capable of various meanings, and in the absence of any authoritative standard of interpretation, one man’s opinion is as good as another’s."