Monday, August 25, 2008

Response to Comments/ Objections - Children Punished for Parents' Sins

I have received a few comments regarding yesterday's post on Original Sin (link). In some cases, I'm not sure whether they are intended simply as comments or as objections. Nevertheless, I've tried to address each, below.

Anonymous states:
You never dealt with a very important passage, Ezek. 18.

I dealt with that passage at some significant length in an earlier post (link to Ezekiel 18 discussion).

Godith states:
John 9 is another passage to deal with in regard to this topic. The man born blind.

John 9 is an interesting passage.
John 9 (the entire chapter)
1And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
13They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
19And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
24Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
26Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.


For our discussion, the key part would seem to be:

2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

It is interesting that the disciples seemed to recognize that blindness was something that could be viewed as a punishment for sin. Furthermore, the it is interesting that the disciples recognized that the blindness might be a punishment on the parents' sin (since the man was born blind).

Jesus' response is quite surprising. He tells them that the blindness is not a punishment for sin, but is instead simply there to show God's glory.

If the doctrine of original sin is a smack in the face to individualism, this is a blow straight to the gut. Here is a terrible infirmity imposed on a man through his whole childhood and into his adult years for the primary purpose of showing God's greatness.

He was not disadvantaged in this way primarily on account of his own sin, or on account of the sins of his parents, but simply so Jesus could heal him!

In short, while this passage is not (in my view) particularly germane to the issue of children being punished for the sins of their parents (since that was not the primary reason for this man's congenital blindness), it does have themes that similar undermine the autonomous view of "every man for himself."

Theojunkie states:
Do any of the scriptures you presented (or any others that you would like to add), suggest that the punished children were free of personal sin?

There are certainly several verses presented that indicate that the children did not personally participate in the sin for which the punishment was incurred. That is not the same thing as saying that they were free from personal sin. Given the former feature, I don't think the latter issue is of particular significance.

-TurretinFan

9 comments:

TheoJunkie said...

TF,

Thanks for your response.

The reason why I asked the question was because you concluded (in your previous post) that, "it is just for children to be punished for their parents' sins."

You didn't quite answer my question (that being, whether the punished children were free of personal sin), choosing rather to say that it was not of particular significance.

Actually, it is significant because unless you can show that the punished children were free of personal sin, then it is logically inappropriate to conclude that the children were being punished for the sins of their parents... and consequently also, the conclusion that it is "just" to do so, is also logically inappropriate.

Why? Because it "could" be that the justice of a "victim" suffering consequences of another's sin lies in the fact that the victim himself is a sinner and himself deserves to die on his own merit.

Crazy analogy just to make the point... Let's say a shoplifter is convicted of thievery, and is assigned community service. The community service is to clean bedpans at the local rehab clinic.

The punishment of this person for his thievery, depends upon the existence of drug addicts populating the rehab clinic. If there were no addicts, there would be no soiled bedpans for the thief to clean. The thief, it can be said, is being punished for his own sin, but by being exposed to the consequences of another person's sin.

So I'm curious... do you believe that children (let's take it to the extreme and say infants) are free of their own personal sin? Or not?

You would not be the first to affirm the personal innocence of infants, and would be in the company of greats like Augustine and Calvin if you did. (I would suggest, though, that it is this notion-- and not the Cross or any scripture-- that requires the imputation of Adam's sin/guilt). Think about this :)

(PS.. I repeat that my argument here is not about Adam's federal headship. Only about how his federal headship plays out.)

Turretinfan said...

Responding to TJ's comments:

TJ wrote: "The reason why I asked the question was because you concluded (in your previous post) that, "it is just for children to be punished for their parents' sins.""

I stand by that

TJ wrote: "You didn't quite answer my question (that being, whether the punished children were free of personal sin), choosing rather to say that it was not of particular significance."

Correct. The issue is not whether the children are justly punished for their own sin, but whether they are justly punished for their parents' sin.

TJ wrote: "Actually, it is significant because unless you can show that the punished children were free of personal sin, then it is logically inappropriate to conclude that the children were being punished for the sins of their parents... and consequently also, the conclusion that it is "just" to do so, is also logically inappropriate."

Actually, that's not true. It's sufficient to show that the children were punished by God for their parents' sin, which has been shown. It's not necessary to address the issue of whether those children had personal sin at all (in fact - many of the texts are completely silent as to whether the children had personal sin), because the children are being punished for the sins of their parents.

Your point would make sense if the text simply indicated the fact that the children were punished, but did not specify for what the children were punished. Then, your point would seem to be that there is a speculative loophole available for the individualist to argue that perhaps the children had personal sin that was being punished (though, of course, the text does not say so).

TJ wrote: "Why? Because it "could" be that the justice of a "victim" suffering consequences of another's sin lies in the fact that the victim himself is a sinner and himself deserves to die on his own merit. "

That's the speculative objection I mention above. It is only significant if the connection between the specific sin and the punishment are not linked. If punishing person A for crime B is punishing person A for something for which he is not guilty, that punishment does not become just simply because person A happened to be guilty of another crime (C) that would be deserving of the same punishment.

If you falsely execute a criminal for murdering his mother (who turns out, after the execution, to be alive), that punishment does not become justified simply because the criminal in fact had committed treason.

TJ wrote: "Crazy analogy just to make the point... Let's say a shoplifter is convicted of thievery, and is assigned community service. The community service is to clean bedpans at the local rehab clinic.

The punishment of this person for his thievery, depends upon the existence of drug addicts populating the rehab clinic. If there were no addicts, there would be no soiled bedpans for the thief to clean. The thief, it can be said, is being punished for his own sin, but by being exposed to the consequences of another person's sin."

I'd prefer a more Scriptural analogy: one of the many times that a heathen nation executed judgment on Israel. Those judgments were always sinful on the part of the invader, and yet were a just punishment (from God) on Israel.

But that's not what the verses I identified address. Instead, they address situations in which children are punished for the sins of their parents.

TJ wrote: "So I'm curious... do you believe that children (let's take it to the extreme and say infants) are free of their own personal sin? Or not?"

I take Psalm 51:5 to indicate that children are sinful from conception. Obviously, the manifestation and heinousness of that sin is rather slight compared to the sin of adults. I'm not overly dogmatic about this, though.

TJ wrote: "You would not be the first to affirm the personal innocence of infants, and would be in the company of greats like Augustine and Calvin if you did. (I would suggest, though, that it is this notion-- and not the Cross or any scripture-- that requires the imputation of Adam's sin/guilt). Think about this :)"

Those are good reasons to reevaluate my position. Nevertheless, either way, because of Adam's sin, all his children are under condmenation (and justly so).

TJ wrote: "(PS.. I repeat that my argument here is not about Adam's federal headship. Only about how his federal headship plays out.) "

Words have meaning. If you don't accept the traditional meaning of the term, you're not really accepting the concept that the term represents to the reader.

-TurretinFan

Mitch said...

If I may be so bold as to ask a couple questions. How does Adam’s Federal Headship play out? And last, Theo do you believe in personal innocence of infants? I have a good idea of what your answer to the second question is, but would like to make sure. I am also intrigued by how Adam’s headship plays out if you could elaborate on that a bit.

Praise be to God

natamllc said...

TheoJ asked a profound question and seeing we near the end of the age and this question has been around for a lot of millenium, is it any wonder the confusion in coming to a "ready answer"? :)

I have been pondering it and my responses TF has added to it.

I offer three more answers as to the sins of the fathers being suffered by the sons.

One, King David, wars will not cease from his kingdom line.

Two, Hezekiah, consider that one, our buddy Hez, seems to me to be just like me! Oh God, will I have to suffer in my lifetime? No king, it will come upon your sons in theirs!

Three, consider the violences going on in the Middle East right now because of our Great father of the Faith, Abraham!

This is a "world" suffering problem as the whole world is being drawn into this one. The whole world is now caught up in this "one" experience of the flesh of Abraham with Hagar, not walking in the Faith he is so noted for being the father of! Dicotomies anyone? :)

TheoJunkie said...

sorry to do this again... posting to subscribe. Feel free to delete. thanks

Godismyjudge said...

Dear TF,

TJ asked: "So I'm curious... do you believe that children (let's take it to the extreme and say infants) are free of their own personal sin? Or not?"

TF responded: I take Psalm 51:5 to indicate that children are sinful from conception. Obviously, the manifestation and heinousness of that sin is rather slight compared to the sin of adults. I'm not overly dogmatic about this, though.

Here's a verse you are probably unfamiliar with. :-)

(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls)-Romans 9:11

Seems like the unborn don't sin yet, although they have original sin.

God be with you,
Dan

Turretinfan said...

Godismyjudge,

Yes, taking that verse out of context can lead to a denial of the verse that states, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

In fact, it was used in exactly that way by papist apologist Tim Staples, as recently highlighted on Dr. White's Dividing Line webcast. His purpose was to deny that Mary was sinful, despite the verse above.

Within the context, the point is that neither had done anything to distinguish the one from the other. It's a point that only makes sense from the standpoint of Unconditional election.

But, frankly, even if small children did not have personal sin, that would only assist my presentation above.

-TurretinFan

Godismyjudge said...

Dear TF,

Shockingly, I disagree, but there's no need to get into it, as I was just making sure you hadn't overlooked that aspect of Romans 9:11.

God be with you,
Dan

Turretinfan said...

Godismyjudge,

Yes, a discussion of the unrelated issues of Romans 9:11 would be off-topic for this combox.

-TurretinFan