Beliefs

Holding Present Generations Accountable for Past Generations Sins: Is Reparations a Biblical Concept?

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die…The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself; and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezek 18.4, 20).

This principle statement offered by the prophet Ezekiel to Israel at a time when the southern kingdom of Judah was falling to the Babylonians is demonstrating that we are all responsible for our own sins. God does not hold us accountable for another’s sins, but we are judged rightly on the sins that we commit. The prophet took this from an earlier statute given by God to Moses to the children of Israel (physical offspring of Jacob):

“Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sins” (Deut 24.16). To ignore this principle is to pervert justice (cf. Deut 16.19; 27.19). In case the language is not plain enough, to attempt to hold someone accountable for what another person has done is unjust, unrighteous, and not a reflection of God’s heart.

Of course, I imagine some might throw up the argument that Paul says we are all judged for Adam’s sin (cf. Rom 5.18-19)1, but that is an incorrect interpretation of that passage. The sense in which Paul is speaking in Romans is merely to point out that through Adam’s sin all his offspring (as a consequence) were made sinners (Rom 5.19). That is to say, Adam’s children are now identified as sinners, and as a result we all sin (cf. Rom 5.12-13). Again, in case you miss it, we are born sinners therefore we sin—NOT—we all sin and are then labeled sinners; for that inverts the argument of Paul opposite than the way he intends.

The point in the Ezekiel and Deuteronomy passages is that according to God’s way of thinking, we are all judged equitably for our own actions. We cannot point the finger over here and say “they made me do it!” Nor, can we say to this individual or that group, “you are accountable for what was done previously and you must pay the penalty;” even though, you did not participate and were not even there when those sins took place.

In short, no one alive today is responsible and therefore accountable for the sins of slavery in American history. What our forefathers did in the past was wrong and deserving of death (cf. Exod 21.16; Deut 24.7; 1Tim 1.10), but it is a great leap of logic to try and pin their sin on anyone living today.

I bring this up in regards to the subject of reparations. The concept of reparations states that whites should pay for the sins of their forbearers who had black slaves, regardless of the fact that whites today did not in fact participate in the sins of the past, with monetary benefits. In other words, we should be able to tax white people for sins previously committed against black people.

Rather, than argue the case myself, I thought it better for another—who articulates it much better than I could—to demonstrate why this is biblically wrong and sinful and not an appropriate way for brothers and sisters in Christ to treat one another.

Gary DeMar is an apologist and accomplished author and former president of American Vision, a Christian worldview ministry located in Atlanta, GA. And while some may disagree with his eschatological viewpoints2, this should not keep you from listening to what he says politically from a biblical worldview. Please read the article posted below, let feel free to let me know what you think.

https://garydemar.com/should-todays-white-people-pay-reparations-to-black-people/

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ENDNOTES:

1 I should point out that what we see with Adam and the comparison that Paul makes with Jesus (the last Adam) is in terms of covenantal heads. Adam is the representative of the whole human race. God established him in the sense of a covenantal head. According to the stipulations of covenantal arrangements there is an order of hierarchy that must be recognized. The transcendent/eternal God as the governing authority, the created image bearer as the representative of God, the Ethical boundaries established by Creator, the positive/negative sanctions (blessings/cursings) in response to obedience/disobedience, the inherited state of those in covenant with God.

Adam disregarded the first three in the garden. He refused to acknowledge God’s authority over his thoughts and actions. He refused to image and represent God when the serpent and his wife spoke against his Creator. He refused to obey the ethical boundary (law) that his Creator had established. Therefore, rather than being blessed he was cursed, and his continual inheritance on earth for he and his children were no longer identified as children of God, but children of wrath—i.e. sinners.

Jesus as the covenantal head of a new people did what the first Adam did not and therefore purchased for his offspring (those in Him) an inheritance of blessing and eternal life. Only those in Christ experience that positive sanctions of God and a continual inheritance with Him throughout eternity.

2 Gary, like me, is a Post-Millennialist. Eschatology has never been in the history of Christianity been a litmus test for orthodoxy. The arguments from historic Pre-Mill, A-Mill, and even Dispensational Pre-Mill are argued over various understandings of certain biblical texts; Unlike the arguments over Creation, which often smuggle in philosophical viewpoints outside of Scripture—i.e. evolution, big-bang cosmology, etc. Those eschatological disagreements may be the source of fruitful growth and dialogue, as all of God’s children should be doing their best to see what the Scriptures actually teach (cf. Acts 17.11-12). They should never be the source of broken fellowships between the family of God.

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