The fallacy of “generational sin” (as God’s punishment)


I was reading about the Christian concept of “generational sin” this morning because of a question I received on FB. One of the statements I read about it said, “The sins of the fathers are punished in the children through becoming the sins of the children.” The idea that God punishes the “sins” of parents by cursing the children ranks right up there with one of those most absurd things I have ever heard. The plain and simple truth is that every human being is a product of their conditions until they begin to exercise conscious choice, and even then it often requires substantial personal work to free oneself from destructive patterns that a person has been conditioned into. In other words, we all are predisposed to the dysfunctions of the family unit and early life circumstances we grew up in. It’s often the case that we perpetuate these by default until we guide our lives more consciously, and choose differently. God has nothing to do with it. God is not actively punishing people by somehow cursing their children.

Latest Comments

  1. Kevin Meyer says:

    I believe this understanding of Christianity and the interpretation of that Bible verse come out of the ancient past where everything in life was viewed in one way or anther as divine or spiritual. I think the authors of the Bible, living in both the time and culture they lived in, had nothing else but to associate the generations patterns with something God caused. They could clearly see the connection, but simply didn’t have enough understanding to make the correct assessment like you did in this post.

  2. Kevin Bailey says:

    We need to schedule a Skype call to discuss this one! I’d love to pick your brain on how this plays out in terms of what may be labeled sin to some in this case and the perception of say mental illness, lifestyle or addiction as the so-called sin being passed on to the child. ie., my own mother’s narcissism being passed on and lived out or punished (so to speak) for behaviors that I was truly unaware existed.

    I’m not disagreeing with your statements but I wonder about the perception of the person making these statements? In other words how are the defining sin? My own definition has changed dramatically.

    Adyashanti defines sin in Resrrecting Jesus as it is translated from Greek as “missing the mark” which is a much did meaning than “a moral failing”. He says, “If you can convince somebody that they are inherently impure and that there is a mistake at the center of being, then sin becomes a wrongdoing that deserves blame.” Sounds just like the things you’ve said!

    So couldn’t “generational sin” be a concept in one’s mind in light of their definition of sin, their idea of who or what God is, the illusions of their mind, the condition of their heart and their belief of separation?

    I understand the absurdity of the Christian concept you described but at some point do you believe that it’s the language used to communicate thoughts and beliefs that get us so twisted up about doctrines and beliefs sometimes?

    • Kevin says:

      I don’t think it’s an error in language as much as it’s a failure to utilize time and culture. That was a common belief in that period of human history; people truly believed that a parent’s “sin” was played out in their generations. Today we call that things like family patterns or family of origin stuff. But this is simply something we’ve evolved our understanding beyond that which the Bible talks about. In all fairness, it is a book bound in time and space, not timeless in everything it contains.

  3. Agnes Wynne says:

    Thank you for being a voice of reason in a crazy world. It’s time we all grew up.

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