There’s a lot of talk today about white guilt and while privilege; some of Evangelical Christianity’s finest are jumping on BLM’s racism bandwagon to convince white America that we’ve something to be ashamed of, simply because we’re white Americans. They’re teaching us about corporate guilt, being guilty and bearing responsibility for the sins of our group.
As examples, they cite Daniel’s confession of Israel’s guilt for having forsaken God’s laws (Da 9:5), and claim that Achan’s entire family perished for his personal sin. (Jos 7:24-26)
Yet both examples, as well as the general concept, break down in light of God’s clear instruction that children ought not to be punished for their parents’ sins. (De 24:16, Eze 18:20) This would include any of our ancestors.
The truth is that Daniel never admitted any personal guilt for ancestral sin; he did confess that Israel had sinned, stating the obvious, but he didn’t admit that he himself shared in this guilt, that he himself bore any responsibility for it, or that he could repent for the nation – that he could not do so is clear once one understands the nature of repentance.
Similarly, Achan’s family and children may not actually have been stoned along with him, only his animals and possessions included; the biblical text is unclear on this point, and Rabbinic scholars are mixed in their views. If the entire family was put away, we may safely conclude from God’s own command that they each knew about their father’s sin and were complicit in it, guilty along with him, which is certainly plausible.
Corporate guilt is only relevant for a group member when that individual actively and personally participates in the corporate sin; all die in Adam (1Co 15:22) because all in Adam have actually personally sinned. (Ro 5:12)
Apart from personal responsibility, corporate guilt makes no sense if we think about it just a little: if we’re to be punished for our group’s sins, then doesn’t it follow that we’re also to be rewarded for our group’s righteousness? How, for example, can a white individual today be both ashamed that some whites were racist slave owners, while other whites rooted out and extinguished slavery?
And why focus on just the white group? We’re each in practically an infinite number of groups, starting with the human race? Are we all then guilty for every single sin ever committed by any human?
And how far back in history should we go for each group? Ten years? A thousand? Can such guilt ever actually be remedied? By what standard? It makes zero sense.
Those aligning themselves with corporate guilt are, of necessity, aligning themselves with corporate punishment. If I’m guilty for the sins of my group, then I also deserve to be punished for these sins: justice demands it. So, what penalty should be imposed, and by whom? There are no biblical precedents here.
When we support victimization by conceding that one group has unfairly treated another group, we may think we’re being compassionate, but we’re departing from a biblical worldview into the realm of Marxism and group identity. Marxists consistently use class warfare and group victimization to empower themselves through the envy and murderous resentment of the marginalized. Historically, it typically results in genocide of one form or another.
Today, conceding the victim narrative is already excusing the anemic response of officials as rioters intimidate fellow citizens and burn down our inner cities. Those who dare to stand up and defend themselves risk further harassment from employers and leftist officials.
At present, the mob is a marginal fringe, and largely unarmed, yet it’s already the most influential force in American society due to a vast base of passive, empathetic citizens. But the more powerful the mob becomes, the more murderous it will be; there’s no appeasing it.
We need to be very careful how we articulate this, because the price for getting this wrong in western culture this election cycle is our safety and freedom. It’s an ideological warfare, and it’s powerful because it contains much partial truth which appeals to compassionate souls who aren’t thinking for themselves. Yet even if intentions are good, oversimplification here will be devastating.
There are certainly generational consequences for sin, in that we tend to inherit sinful patterns of behavior from our parents. We’re also influenced by our culture and our upbringing, and will tend to be swept along with the crowd if we aren’t careful.
But in the final analysis, we’re each individually responsible only for our own personal choices, and we’ll be judged entirely on our own merits. (Ga 6:4) So, we’re wise to be watchful for sinful patterns within ourselves that are common in our culture and ancestry, repent and root out every trace of these iniquities from our own lives. To the degree that we’re successful in doing so, we’re free of corporate guilt.
Scripture never clearly shows God treating an individual better or worse merely due to what their ancestors have done, when they themselves were not complicit in the same sin, nor does God ever encourage anyone else to do this.
3 thoughts on “We Have Sinned”
To say that the story of Achan is an example of being punished for corporate guilt, being killed merely for the husband/father’s sin, one would need to prove that the other family members were not complicit in Achan’s sin, which cannot be done.
It is not unreasonable to posit that if Achan’s family was killed with him, then it certainly might have been because they were aware of his sin and did nothing to warn others about it.
It is not unreasonable to think that the family greeted Achan when he came home from battle, and might have noticed the extra garment with him and recognized it as a new one. Soldiers needed to travel light, so bringing anything extra home would have been difficult to hide from family.
And the fact that Achan dug a hole in the midst of the family tent to bury the stolen goods strongly suggests that Achan’s family knew about his actions. Whenever you dig a hole to bury something you always have extra dirt left over, so there was either a new bump in the midst of the tent after he came home, or fresh dirt lying around somewhere, evidence of an anomaly. It would be difficult to bury something large in the middle of a family tent without the whole family eventually knowing about it.
Further, treasures acquired in a war are the kind of thing a father would tend to show off to his wife and children.
It is not unreasonable then to say that the family could easily have been complicit in Achan’s sin, knowing he had violated God’s commands, that he had something to hide from his fellow citizens, and that he was placing the nation at risk. This would explain why they were killed along with him, if they actually were.
Tough subject. Glad to see you tackling it.
In Adam, we ALL sin, so in that sense, there is guilt, but the word corporate is not used. I don’t like words outside of scripture to define doctrine. Even such words as Trinity or Rapture — let scripture explain scripture.
I ponder a wolf in sheeps clothing. The sheeps clothing are the compassionate folks of the outer layer the wolf utilizes to disguise the inner satanic goals. The outward sheep are sincere honest sheep, but they are [only] clothing for the wolf. The wolf is more deceptive than we give him credit for.
There are enclopedias of thought which could branch out from your musing.
Scripture does lay blame at the “church” or more specifically to use correct verbiage, If MY people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land.
The quote unquote corporate sin is laid at the feet of a prayerless group of people. I have to start by humbling myself. Man obviously can not heal the [land] of the USA. Covid chases more of us out of a “church” setting. Are we praying more? Or, are we moving towards Ezekiel 5? Is a lack of prayer one of our wicked ways? A lack of weeping over the lost? Jeremiah 13:17
My manifold questions Tim, are what wicked ways do you see that either you, or [MY people] need to repent from. And believe it or not,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
I don’t have to use the word corporate to understand Daniel’s prayer. As far as he was concerned, if any one neglects YOU, then I also neglect YOU.
“When they sin against Thee (for there is no man who does not sin) and Thou art angry with them and dost deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; …
Currently the enemy is Near 🙂
I am curious as to what sins you see in the Body or in yourself that have contributed to the gentle chastisement we are currently experiencing. We have not entered into Ezekiel 5 yet, in my opinion.
Thank you brother Stephen.
I like your thought on the wolf in sheep’s clothing; it’s easy for the wolf to gather unthinking sheep around him/herself and hide the wolfness.
Best I can tell, my biggest sin right now relates to fullness of joy. I am not living in the kind of daily joy, that exceeding great joy, that great peace which honors God’s promises to me. Perhaps this is also the greatest sin of the American church.
Pride would be another key sin which I still see regularly in myself — failing to esteem myself to be the most evil person who has ever lived, except for the enabling grace of God at work in my life.
I count not myself to have apprehended, but I press toward the mark.
I think the words of our LORD to Sardis (and similarly to Laodicea) are perhaps the best way to summarize where I think the American church is: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” (Re 3:1)
But thankfully, God has a remnant: “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” (Re 3:4)
We may be members of a group where many members are guilty of a certain sin, but if we are not personally committing that sin, or accommodating and enabling it, then we are not guilty of it; our identity with the group doesn’t imply our guilt.
It is most dangerous then to be excusing any particular sin because those within our group are committing it. We ought never to make light of the sin of any group we identify with. We ought to confess that it is sin and encourage others to repent as we have opportunity. When we fail to do this then I do think we are complicit in corporate guilt.
However, if such behavior does not acquit is from corporate guilt, if we are guilty of every group’s sin that we belong to regardless of our personal beliefs and actions, then we should never voluntarily belong to any group of any size with anyone else in it less righteous than ourselves, for this will diminish our righteousness and increase our liability. This makes any kind of social agreement or belonging detrimental to our spiritual health, and destroys the essence of society and civilization itself.