Don’t want to stop the discussion, but do want to add two posts from Warhorn:
From April 11, 2018:
TA-NEHISI COATES, REPARATIONS, AND THE SINS OF OUR FATHERS…
Frequently, the question is asked how to reconcile two declarations of Scripture concerning the sins of our fathers. The first is the Second Commandment, Exodus 20:5:
[F]or I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me. (Exodus 20:5)
The second is Ezekiel 18:20:
The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
In his lecture on this passage, John Calvin says:
For when we consider the perishing of the whole human race, it is said with truth that we perish through another’s fault: but it is added at the same time, that everyone perishes through his own iniquity. If then we inquire into the cause of the curse which presses upon all the posterity of Adam, it may be said to be partly another’s and partly our own: another’s, through Adam’s declension from God, in whose person the whole human race was spoiled of righteousness and intelligence, and all parts of the soul utterly corrupted. So that every one is lost in himself, and if he wishes to contend with God, he must always acknowledge that the fountain of the curse flows from himself.
…There is no one who during the course of his life does not perceive himself liable to punishment through his own works; but original sin is sufficient for the condemnation of all men. When men grow up they acquire for themselves the new curse of what is called actual sin: so that he who is pure with reference to ordinary observation, is guilty before God: hence Scripture pronounces us all naturally children of wrath: these are Paul’s words in the second chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians.
If then we are children of wrath, it follows that we are polluted from our birth: this provokes God’s anger and renders him hostile to us: in this sense David confesses himself conceived in sin. He does not here accuse either his father or his mother so as to extenuate his own wickedness; but, when he abhors the greatness of his sin in provoking the wrath of God, he is brought back to his infancy, and acknowledges that he was even then guilty before God.
We see then that David, being reminded of a single sin, acknowledges himself a sinner before he was born; and since we are all under the curse, it follows that we are all worthy of death. Thus, the son properly speaking shall not die through the iniquity of his father, but is considered guilty before God through his own fault.
…Now therefore it is evident how God throws the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, since when he devotes both father and son to eternal destruction, he deprives them of all his gifts, blinds their minds, and enslaves all their appetites to the devil. Although we may, in one word, embrace the whole matter of the children suffering for the fathers when he leaves them to simple nature, as the phrase is, since in this way he drowns them in death and destruction. But outward punishments also follow afterwards, as when God sends lightning upon Sodom many young children perished, and all were absorbed with their parents.
If anyone asks by what right they perished, first they were sons of Adam and so were accursed, and then God wished to punish the Sodomites through their offspring, and he could do so deservedly. Concerning the young who thus perished with their fathers, it is said, happy is he who dashes thy young ones against the stones or the pavement. (Psalm 137:9.)
…Ezekiel here speaks of adults, for he means that the son shall not bear his father’s iniquity, since he shall receive the reward due to himself and sustain his own burden. Should any one wish to strive with God, he can be refuted in a single word: for who can boast himself innocent? Since therefore all are guilty through their own fault, it follows that the son does not bear his father’s iniquity, since he has to bear his own at the same time. Now that question is solved.
Many passages of Scripture declare and demonstrate God’s visitation of the sins of fathers on their sons. Making this point, Calvin lists the sons of Adam inheriting Adam’s guilt and each of us properly being described “children of wrath.” He also recounts the death of the Sodomites’ infants. Such examples could be multiplied.
We enthusiastically claim God’s covenant promises for our children while cavilling at the truth that God continues to visit our fathers’ sins on us down to this very day. Do we not see this in ourselves and our own children? Do we not see it in our churches and among those we counsel and love? For me as a son, father, and pastor, this truth has always been on the level of inarguable and unobjectionable.
For this reason, two texts have been precious to me down through the years.
As you walk into the Lincoln Memorial on our nation’s National Mall, most people turn to the left to read the Gettysburg Address given by President Lincoln just a few feet from the graves of Joseph Tate Bayly the First and his wife and father and sons. I turn to the right and am moved to gaze upon this astounding declaration of the holiness and justice of God by a sitting president of these United States:
The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
The second text is this from the great French mathematician, Blaise Pascal.
For it is beyond doubt that there is nothing which more shocks our reason than to say that the sin of the first man has rendered guilty those who, being so removed from this source, seem incapable of participation in it. This transmission does not only seem to us impossible, it seems also very unjust. For what is more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice than to damn eternally an infant incapable of will, for a sin wherein he seems to have so little a share that it was committed six thousand years before he was in existence? Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine; and yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves.1
No psychologist, poet, or philosopher anywhere or ever has demonstrated a more profound self-knowledge than Pascal here when, having explained his own cavils against Original Sin, simply ends the cavilling by declaring that, without this truth, we are “incomprehensible to ourselves.”
It is God’s grace that He will be our God and the God of our children to a thousand generations of those who fear Him while it is God’s justice that He will visit the sins of the fathers on those fathers’ children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him. Both.
If someone wants to argue with these truths, let him concentrate his thinking on the guilt of Adam which corrupts every last son and daughter God blesses us with as the fruit of the womb. Adam is our first father and each of us inherited his sin and guilt being by nature children of wrath from, as David confessed, “our mother’s womb.”
There is no hope for us outside of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Spotless Lamb of God. Let us worship Him.
My objection to the descendants of slaves like Ta-Nehisi Coates calling for reparations is not that such a thing is contrary to God’s justice and the nature of generational guilt taught and demonstrated in Scripture. My objection is that Coates and his fellow descendants of slaves are so deeply bound in the prison of victimhood that reparations will only make their own fetters worse, allowing them to die another day and year and decade and maybe even a century confessing their servitude and feeling justified to live what they confess.
In other words, my objection is not economic or theological, but pastoral. It is an objection from love.
Then, from April 13, 2018, this Warhorn post: " CHRISTIANS OF NORTH AMERICA ARE GOD’S AGENTS OF RECONCILIATION…:
Since very few people read Calvin’s lecture opening up the Biblical doctrine of generational guilt when I posted it here; and since many of our readers and friends have taken the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to deny this doctrine; I have two points to make.
First, the Bible teaches generational guilt and repentance just as firmly and clearly as it teaches generational grace—what we prefer to speak of as the continuity of God’s covenant grace to our children and children’s children, to a thousand generations. A couple texts hammer this point home sufficiently to convince those who are teachable.
First, all of us who are orthodox Christians confess the Biblical doctrine of Original Sin. In that one man, Adam, we all died. Every man except the Son of Man has inherited the guilt of Adam, and not just to a thousand generations, but to as many generations as God allows to continue until the End. This is the plain teaching of 1Corinthians 15 and Romans 5:
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18, 19)
For this reason, David declared that his mother conceived him in sin (Psalm 51:5), and this sin we each confess as our own when we come to God in faith and repentance. There are actual sins we ourselves commit directly we must take to God for washing and there is Original Sin we committed in solidarity—federal union—with our first father Adam we must take to God for washing. Generational guilt extends to the end of time and each of us must confess and take it to Jesus, our Second Adam, for cleansing.
Beyond Adam, we find both Daniel and Nehemiah confessing their fathers’ sins as their own and pleading to God for mercy for those sins. Read Daniel 9, the entire chapter. It is glorious, and here is the plain statement of Daniel confessing the guilt of his fathers and asking for God’s forgiveness for that guilt:
And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. (Daniel 9:15, 16)
This confession of the people of God’s solidarity in their nation’s sin and the generational guilt it has brought down on them is confessed by others in Scripture including Nehemiah, Jesus, and Stephen. But we can stop with Daniel; he’s sufficient. And, of course, remember the Gibeonites:
So they said to the king, “The man who consumed us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel, let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” And the king said, “I will give them.” (2 Samuel 21:5, 6)
So why are we so quick to claim God’s covenant of grace to a thousand generations while turning around and unleashing our fury at anyone who would dare to suggest we have national generational guilt for all kinds of ways we and our forefathers have polluted the land of the United States of America? We claim God’s promises of grace and mercy while avoiding and denying our Heavenly Father’s promises of justice and wrath—especially when those outside our tribe rub our noses in them.
This is my second point. It is unseemly to watch the vehemence with which conservative Christians deny their generational guilt for the sins of slavery, colonial oppression, military slaughter of innocents, pride, rapacious greed and theft, countless lies, the export of an obscene amount of pornography, and endless child-slaughter found throughout our nation’s history continuing to this very day. How dare we deny the very things Nehemiah and Daniel had the faith and humility to confess!
“But! But!” you sputter; “If we confess the sins of our fathers, Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton and Ta-Nehisi Coats are going to take our businesses and homes and children! Do you want that?”
Well really, isn’t that what happened to the Sons of Israel when they polluted their land as the Canaanites had done before them? They went into captivity? Isn’t that what God is doing to American believers today?
God from His lovingkindness has shown us the way to national restoration and that way is humbling ourselves and confessing our sins. Note I said “our sins,” including the sins of our great-great-great-great grandfathers. You respond that it does no good to confess the sins of our fathers if we don’t confess our own sins, and I fully agree. We are to humble ourselves, neither denying the sins of our fathers nor our own.
This is the reason that I point out the sins of our fathers after pointing out our own sins, first. Judgment begins in the house of God.
Before ending, let me add one thing. Beneath one of my earlier posts linked to on FB, someone commented that what’s important is “racial reconciliation.” I disagree.
What is important is reconciliation with God. That is our first work because it has to do with God our Father. But we must not use our Gospel call to be reconciled with God as an excuse to avoid and oppose humbling ourselves before the great-great-grandchildren of a race of men we oppressed. What sort of God do we believe in if we preach His Son taking upon Himself the sins of the world while denying our own guilt for the sins of our fathers?
Honestly, who would believe in our God’s mercy after listening to our shrill denunciations of every man daring to point out the Church’s guilt and sin? The prophets pointed it out in the Old Covenant? Where are the prophets pointing it out in the New Covenant?
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13, 14)