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To clarify,

  • this question is not asking for a "justification" of those times, described in the Bible, when God struck someone dead. Life is His to take.
  • the question is also not asking strictly whether Jesus had the capacity to sin. The answer should not hinge on whether Jesus was God (He was, assume this), or whether Jesus was one or two persons (He was one divine Person, assume this).

The question is asking if God can sin, with attention to, for example, how that might be reconciled with his omnipotence and benevolence. I expect that there are some theological constructs already in place to deal with this question or others like it. If there is some well-established theological difference between "can sin" and "has the power to sin" or "has the capacity to sin", then this should be clarified.

Can God (three Persons, one Being) sin?

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Asking if God can sin is like asking, "Can God microwave a burrito so hot, that he himself cannot eat it." I answer that question like, Yes he can microwave it that hot, but he can also eat it too. –  styfle Mar 10 '13 at 22:43
    
Good question. I was thinking if God has double standards. –  deleteMe Jan 1 at 15:19
    
truth seeking question –  The Freemason Apr 14 at 18:55
    
possible duplicate of Would it have been possible for Jesus to sin? –  Flimzy Apr 15 at 1:15

9 Answers 9

God cannot sin, not because He lacks the free will to do so, but because it would be inconsistent with His character and His nature.

From http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/rock.html

The word "omnipotent" is never used in the Bible, but has been inferred primarily by one of God's Hebrew titles, "Shadday," which is most often translated "almighty."1 However, the Bible never claims that God can do all things. In fact, the Bible makes a point that there are things that God cannot do. The Bible says that God cannot commit sin.2 God cannot lie.3 Therefore, biblical omnipotence does not mean that God can do all things. God cannot do anything that is contrary to His holy character. However, God can do anything that He determines to do. This is a true meaning of omnipotence - the ability to do anything that one sets out to do.

Technically, God could sin if His nature were not perfect - if He chose to, but because His nature is Holy, Perfect, Flawless, to sin would be contrary to His nature. He would never "set out" to do it,even if it is conceivably within HIs power to do so.

A pastor (I can't remember which) once put it like this: "If I were to say I can't eat rotten garbage, that doesn't mean that it would be physically impossible for me to do so. I have the physical capability to pick it up, put it in my mouth, chew, and swallow. However, I say I cannot do it because it is so repulsive to me. In this same way, it is possible for God to be omnipotent, yet be unable to sin."

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This is precisely correct. This is also why Jesus could not have sinned because of his nature, yet he certainly had the capacity to sin and that's what made the temptation real. –  Dougvj Mar 10 '13 at 20:42
    
God not only detests sin, but lukewarm believers. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev 3:16) Your reference to eating rotten garbage reminded me of this verse. –  styfle Mar 10 '13 at 22:40
    
very nicely put! +1 That Pastor explained that so well! –  staples Apr 14 at 20:48

God cannot sin, because sin is defined in relation to who God is and what He does. Anything God does cannot be sin, simply because God did it. Sin is a failure to live up to God's standard.

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+1. Nice and simple. –  David Stratton Mar 10 '13 at 20:41
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+1 Captures well the definition of sin in relationship to God. Sin is sin because it is contrary to God, period. –  David Morton Mar 11 '13 at 11:28
    
Would give this more than +1 if I could. –  outXast Oct 22 at 19:52

God can't sin because he is immutable. Some questions do not need long answers. It would be more debatable to ask 'Can men become muti-headed rabbits?' The simple answer is, 'Of course not.'

If one were to imagine a god that could sin in some sense, then it would not longer be the God recognized by the scriptures. Therefore it would only be true when changing the meaning of the word God, to 'idol'. There may be some unholy and unbelieving people willing to do this, but it would be an incorrect answer by the definition of the words being used in the question. I am assuming by 'God', in the question it is meant 'God'. I am also assuming that by 'sin' in the question, it is meant something God hates and punishes, as it is against his holy nature and perfect will. Unless either 'sin' or 'God' be corrupted into a new meaning, there can be only one obvious answer which all understand as self-evident. No.

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The essence of sin is a rejection of God's authority over our lives. Sin is rebellion, it's wanting to be autonomous when we have no right to that.

The doctrine of the Trinity is complex, but its unity makes the suggestion of rebellion between the persons of the Trinity nonsensical.

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In answer to the question, no, the God being presented in the Bible cannot sin. Whether that is by reason of inability or constraint of good character, the 'why' is irrelevant to the strict up or down answer. "No" is the accurate answer in order to depict the God presented to us in Scripture. Whatever other dilemmas or implications that may create do not affect the reality of that fact.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This seems more like a comment than an academic answer. –  Affable Geek Oct 22 at 16:26
    
Can you cite specific verses (edit them into your answer) to back up the claim that "the God being presented in the Bible cannot sin"? –  Mr. Bultitude Oct 22 at 17:56

As far as I know about Christianity, God is All-Powerful who created everything and cannot be restricted by anything. That would mean that God actually defines what sin is. In other words, lying is wrong because God says it is wrong, killing is wrong because God says so...and so on. Otherwise, God would not have everything under His control. In order to clarify my point, I will give an example...

If God says killing is wrong because killing is wrong (in and of itself)...that's like saying God has to say killing is wrong because it is wrong. In other words, we are saying that God does not have the freedom and power to make it right. This means God is restricted and does not have everything under His complete control, which goes against the Christian belief.

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"God cannot sin, because sin is defined in relation to who God is and what He does. Anything God does cannot be sin, simply because God did it. Sin is a failure to live up to God's standard."

So if God committed an act which would be sinful for you and I, it could not be sinful because God did it.

This is just playing with words. Consider that you are limiting the power of God by saying he cannot or would not commit an act against his own interests. If this is the case then he is no longer omnipotent, simply because there is at least one limitation on his powers.

Original sin was invented as a possible way around these questions. However the fact remains that if I can commit an act which is against the will of God I am acting independently and God is no longer omnipotent.

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Welcome to the site. As you're a new visitor, I'd like to recommend the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page, How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Jan 1 at 15:59

God cannot sin.In Him there is no darkness. No evil. No hatred for his children, for He wants that none should parish. God the creator, created. Romans 6:23 says, The wages of sin is death. In GOD there is only life. The word says, Those that are not with me are against me and they shall be thrown into the burning fire like chaff. The word does not say you will burn for eternity it says , you will be separated from God for eternity by your choice. Which is the same as feeling as though you were burning but God is merciful not to ever lasting punishment but everlasting LIFE. you chose the Life. Judas traded silver for Jesus, what are you trading for Jesus. He is the Vine ,you are the branch, God the Vine dresser. If you choose to be apart from God of course those that have free willed that will be plucked out,cut off and cast away. after every opportunity throughout a lifetime to realize and recognize and be given the chance time after time. Then the end comes.

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Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Apr 19 at 17:41

God created everything (Gen 1.1). If sin exists, God created it . The question really should be then Why did God create sin?" To say that God did not create sin is to say that either the devil did when he rebelled against God or Adam did when he disobeyed God. Can the devil create something God did not? (it is common Christian belief that the devil cannot create something that God did not) If so then God would not be all powerful because one of His created beings created something that did not exist as something created by God (common Christian belief in God's attribute of Omnipotence).

What about Adam? If sin did not exist before Adam disobeyed then Adam created sin through his act of disobedience. Again, sin would have been created by one of God's created beings and again that would mean that God is not omnipotent because another being created something God did not. The act of creation is an act of omnipotence. Omnipotence is only attributed to God not to any of His created beings. Therefore, if sin exists God created it **Gen. 2:9. God created the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Life pre-existed Adam, and Good and Evil pre-existed Adam. Who created Life? God. Who created Good? God. Who created Evil? The logical answer following this line of questioning/reasoning should lead one to conclude that God created evil. Further, in Gen 3:21 it states that Adam acquired the knowledge that God had of Good and Evil. Knowledge of a thing necessitates that the thing that is known exists. If it does not exist, it cannot be known. As the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil existed before Adam fell, this knowledge was acquired when he fell.

Addressing evil (sin) it existed before Adam. Consider the lie (sin) told by the serpent to Eve before she took of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Gen. 3:4. The Bible clearly shows that sin existed before Adam. Who then created it? Did Lucifer? Did he do so when he as an angel rebelled against God? Isa 14:12-14. The angels were created free-will being just as Adam was. To have free-will implies having a choice between at least two options. One cannot have free-will with only one option. The angel Lucifer chose one of at least two options - to obey God [good] or disobey/rebel against God [evil]. He chose to rebel against God. He could not choose something that did not already exist. If we say that evil came into existence as a result of his rebellion, then we must also say that he or at least his act created something that God did not. This leads back to the opening statements of my submission above. That is, something that God did not create came into being through the direct will or act of one of God's created beings. Then God would not be omnipotent because someone else created something that God did not. We as Christians would not accept that God is not omnipotent).**

The fact that free will is exercised by God means that a choice exists. A choice between what is contrary to God and what is not contrary to God. If there is no choice to be made then there would be no need for free will. God's free will existed before the creation of the devil and Adam. Therefore, what is contrary to God (sin) and what is not contrary to God existed before the devil and Adam so neither of these created beings could be the creator of sin. The fact that God exercises free will means that a choice exists for God. God does not sin because it is impossible for Him to sin but because He chooses not to sin. Can God make a choice contrary to Himself? Only if He truly has a free will which He does. But because God is Holy, He would not (free-will) choose contrary to Himself. It would only be impossible for God to choose contrary to Himself if He did not have a free will because there would would be nothing to choose between "good - contrary" or "evil - not contrary". Only "good - not contrary" would exist therefore free will would not exist neither would sin exist. We can readily observe that this is not the case.

The existence of free will means the existence of choice which means the existence of "good -** not contrary to God" and "evil - contrary to God". This same choice existed for the devil and Adam. For Adam this is manifest in the existence before he was created of the Tree of the knowledge of good (what is not contrary to God) and evil (what is contrary to God). Exercising free will Adam chose evil. How can he choose something that does not already exist? If it already exists, who created it? Is the devil a creator? No, the devil exercising free will as an angel chose "contrary to God" which had to already exist. The question should be asked, why did God create sin.

In answer to the question posed "Does God have the capacity to sin, can God sin?" God has the capacity to do anything because one of His attributes is that is is omnipotent. Therefore, God has the capacity to sin, God can sin. However, because God also has the attribute of holiness, and He also has a free-will, He CHOOSES not to sin because He chooses not to violate His holiness. In other words, because He is omnipotent, He says "I can", and because He is holy He says "I won't".

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This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Apr 14 at 4:01
    
Please see the references I've added in bold with additional clarifications. What is submitted is not personal interpretation, but a thoughtful consideration of what the Bible states leading to a rational understanding. Please share what you consider is based upon personal interpretation rather than Biblical information. –  user10777 Apr 14 at 18:57

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