God never causes people to sin. Human moral choices self-originate, except in cases of demon possession.
Even though God is sovereign, that doesn't mean there's only one will in the universe. If we human beings were divinely programmed robots, predetermined by God unto every choice we make, then there is no moral accountability. Accountability for wrong actions would fall back on the invincible programmer, none would fall on the robots. But the Bible is clear that there is such a thing as human moral accountability. Therefore, human beings are not programmed robots.
- God never directly causes anyone to sin.
- God maintaining nature, which allows people to use their bodies and objects around them to perform evil acts, is not the same thing as God causing those acts. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, when God maintains the hardness of wood, that does not mean that God caused the rioter to swing the bat.
- God permitting someone to sin is not the same thing as God causing the sin. Christ said that sin springs from the heart, Matthew 15:19. James, in the letter of James 1:13-15, said that evil desires are enticed and reach out from within us, giving birth to sin.
- God removing restraints against sin does not mean that God caused the sin. Romans 1 says that God holds back the inner dominion of the sinful nature, unless the person rebels against Him and begins to worship idols. The Lord also sets up obstacles in the outside world against certain types of sin, such as police forces or the military. But sometimes the Lord weakens or removes these restraints. The person thus released from restraints does what they do freely.
- Examples from Scripture of free-will choices (stated or suggested).
- In a prophetic passage in Isaiah 54, God promises that, in the future kingdom, any strife stirred up against Israel will not be His doing (Isa. 54:15). This implies that, at times, strife against Israel was God’s doing (see 2 Chron. 21:16, Habakkuk 1:5-6ff), in the sense of planning and allowing certain evils to erupt against Israel from their enemies. But the distinction in verse 15 implies that most sins are completely self-generated, by the people themselves. God did not play even a circumstantial role.
- God exclaims in Jer. 32:35 that Israel’s sacrificing of their children to Moloch “never entered My mind!” His outcry implies the Jews' self-origination of that horrible sin. God did not cause them to do it, and He made it clear in His word that such practices were forbidden (Deut 12:31).
- Christ gave Jezebel time to repent (Rev. 2:21).
- If repentance is irresistibly caused by God -- if it is a change of spiritual attitude caused in the soul by God alone -- then Christ waiting for Jezebel to do something she could not do, would not do, appears to be futile and unwise on His part. Him waiting for what He knows is impossible casts a quizzical shadow over His wisdom and goodness. Her decision, or non-decision, to repent must have been her own.
- Paul’s words about adapting his style and manner to the people with whom he worked reveals that social conduct changes people’s receptivity to the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-22). This assumes that some aspect of human decision-making can bve positively affected by entirely natural, social forces.
- Christ’s teaching that rich people have an extremely hard time entering the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:24) reveals that natural circumstances affects spiritual receptivity to the Gospel. A non-spiritual circumstance (lack of wealth) makes it easier for a poor person to repent and believe, where a non-spiritual circumstance (wealth) hinders it. On one hand, this shows that our wills are not as wildly free as we like to think, since something as trivial as money affects us so. But on the other hand, it implies that receptivity to the Gospel is not solely caused by an inward spiritual force.
- In Romans 2:4, Paul says that God is working toward repentance in every unsaved person toward whom He shows kindness, forbearance, and patience. Since God shows at least some kindness, forbearance, and patience toward everyone, this illustrates that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). It also implies that repentance is not a heart-changing force. “Forbearance” of sin is something God chooses not to do (punish sin). Forbearance is not a positive, assertive power that God gives to someone.
- In Romans 10:1, Paul prays for the salvation of all Jews without exception. He does this, even though he just finished writing Romans 9. In turn, This means there was nothing in God's eternal will which would have made Paul's prayer unanswerable, since the Holy Spirit would not lead Paul to pray for something that He made clear was metaphysically impossible. God would not have us pray for the decretally impossible. In fact God rebuked Israelites who blamed the sovereign predetermination of God for their sin of rejecting Christ (Isa. 29:15-16a, Rom. 9:19-20). Paul rebuked that wicked line of thought with, “Who are you to talk back to God?” The very idea that God had eternally predetermined them not to have faith and not to be repentant was a rebellious, blasphemous form of excuse-making.
However we sort out the complicated, difficult relationship between God's sovereignty and man's will, it is clear that God has preserved a degree of free-will in the human race, and that, in the Bible, God speaks to people and deals with them as if their decisions originate with them.