David French and Dubious Interpretation of the Bible

 

Our friend @bryangstephens wrote a fine post on Saturday criticizing a recent essay by David French, at the Dispatch, about structural racism and reparations.  Some of the comments cited a responsive essay by Michael Anton, ridiculing French for making “the conservative case for hereditary bloodguilt.”

I write separately because both Bryan and Anton did not address French’s Biblical argument in any detail.  I realize that this may be of little interest to unbelievers, but I think that it is important to both Christians and Jews, who accept the Old Testament authorities on which French relies as Scripture.

French specifically relies on a story out of 2 Samuel 21, about Saul and the Gibeonites, which I’ll get to shortly.  All of my Biblical citations are to the English Standard Version (ESV), except when otherwise indicated.

I.  My Initial Proposition: Children are not punished for the sins of their parents or other ancestors

I begin with the proposition that God does not punish children for the sins of their fathers (or other ancestors).  I base this on several passages.

Deuteronomy 24:16 says: “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 sin.”

Ezekiel 18:1-4 says: “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 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.

Ezekiel 18:20 says: “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.”  Chapter 18 of Ezekiel gives many more specific examples of this principle.

Jeremiah 31:29-30 says: “In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’  But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

Notice that both Ezekiel and Jeremiah quote this “proverb” about the fathers eating sour grapes.  As far as I can tell, it is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture.  My impression is that this is an erroneous “proverb,” not from God, but rather a principle that was incorrectly believed by the Israelites of the time.

From these verses, I deduce that children are not punished for the sins of their parents, or more distant ancestors.  I will analyze French’s argument on the basis of this principle of divine justice.

There are some contrary verses in the Torah, which I will address later.

II.  French’s Argument

The pertinent part of David French’s argument, addressing the story of Saul and the Gibeonites, is:

To understand the flaw in their argument, let’s first turn to biblical text. A pastor friend of mine recently reminded me of an intriguing and sobering story from 2 Samuel 21. During the reign of King David, Israel was afflicted with three years of famine. When David “sought the face of the Lord” regarding the crisis, God said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house.” (Saul had conducted a violent campaign against the Gibeonites, in violation of a covenant made with the Israelites many centuries before.)

Saul was king before David, and God was punishing Israel years after Saul’s regime because of Saul’s sin. It was the next king, David’s, responsibility to make things right. And so David turned to the remaining Gibeonites and said, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the Lord?”

The Gibeonites’ request was harsh—to hand over seven of Saul’s descendants for execution. David fulfilled their request, and “God responded to the plea for the land.”

Note the underlying conception of justice here: Israel remained responsible for its former leader’s sins, and they were required to make amends. This is a consistent theme throughout scripture.

Well, it’s not consistent with the Scripture that I quoted in Section I.  I also think that it is a poor interpretation of 2 Samuel 21, which I’ll address in the next section.

This is the principal Biblical story that French cites, though he does reference some other examples of Israelites, including kings like David and Josiah, confessing or mourning the sins of prior generations.  These other examples do not include either punishment or atonement for the sins of prior generations.  French argues that the story of Saul and the Gibeonites provides a Biblical basis for imposing such punishment, atonement, or reparations.

I dissent.

III.  2 Samuel 21

A bit of background may be in order, before looking closely at the story of Saul, David, and the Gibeonites.

Under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites conquered the Promised Land around 1400 BC.  Their instructions from the Lord were harsh.  They were generally commanded to kill, or drive out, all of the inhabitants of the land.  A group of people called the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites, pretending to be from very far away, outside the Promised Land, and entering into a treaty of peace.  A few days later, the Israelites discovered the deception, but held themselves bound to their treaty.  They did make the Gibeonites something like servants or semi-slaves, requiring them to be “cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation.”  This is reported in Joshua 9.

About 400 years later, Saul became the first king of Israel, ruling over all 12 tribes.  He disobeyed the Lord, so the kingdom was taken away from his descendants and given to David (eventually).  Saul was not killed for his disobedience, but lived a long life and eventually killed himself after losing a battle with the Philistines.  This is a very brief summary of the book of 1 Samuel.  Saul’s slaughter of the Gibeonites is not reported in 1 Samuel, but is only referenced in the passage in 2 Samuel that French cited, during the reign of David and after Saul’s death.

I’m going to go through the passage from 2 Samuel 21, with a special focus on the first six verses, which are the most relevant.  I’ll quote these verses, with some commentary.

1Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”

Other translations differ a bit, but all put the blame for the slaughter of the Gibeonites on both Saul and “his house.”  The NIV says: “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”  The NLT says: “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.”

So there is an implication that both Saul and other members of his family (or “house”) were guilty of this crime, but the specific guilty parties are not identified, other than Saul himself.

 2So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. 3And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD?” 4The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.”

This is interesting, in light of French’s use of this passage to justify communal or national responsibility, and reparations (apparently).  Notice that the Gibeonites did not demand reparations — payment — from the nation of Israel as a whole.  They did not even demand reparations from Saul’s house.  They demanded vengeance.  But they did not demand vengeance on the nation of Israel as a whole, and specifically stated that they did not want this (“neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel”).

This seems quite inconsistent with French’s interpretation.

And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” 5They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, 6let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” And the king said, “I will give them.”

So the Gibeonites demanded vengeance solely from Saul’s house, specifically demanding seven of Saul’s “sons.”  “Sons” often means descendants in this context, and this is made clear by the men selected, who are more specifically identified in verses 7-9.  They are two of Saul’s sons (identified by name), and five of Saul’s grandsons (identified by the name of their mother, a daughter of Saul, and their father).

There is no indication, one way or the other, about whether these particular seven men of Saul’s house were individually guilty of the murder of the Gibeonites.  But why would we assume that they were not?

The Bible is unclear as to the length of Saul’s life and reign.  There’s an ambiguous reference in 1 Samuel 13:1.  Acts 13:21 says that Saul ruled for 40 years.  There is a clear reference, in 2 Samuel 4:4, to a grandson of Saul being 5 years old at the time of Saul’s death, so he was certainly old enough to have grandchildren.  There is nothing to indicate that this was Saul’s oldest grandchild, so he may have had others who were older.

Thus, it is quite feasible for the two sons of Saul and the five grandsons of Saul who were killed by the Gibeonites, to avenge the prior murder of the Gibeonites, had individually participated in that crime.  This is consistent with the principle set forth in Section I, God does not punish children for the sins of their parents or ancestors.

So I submit that in addition to any other errors, as detailed by Bryan and Michael Anton, French’s argument is based on a dubious interpretation of the Bible.

IV.  Verses Contrary to the Principle of Section I

In Section I, I quoted one passage from the Torah (Deuteronomy), and two from the major prophets (Ezekiel and Jeremiah) as establishing the principle that God does not punish children for the sins of their parents.  There are some contrary verses in the Torah.

Exodus 20:5-6, in the Second Commandment itself, states: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands (or to the thousandth generation) of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  The parenthetical about the “thousandth generation” is in the notes to the ESV translation.

Exodus 34:7-8 states: “The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands (or to the thousandth generation), forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’”  This appears to be a repetition of the statement in Exodus 20, as this chapter deals with God’s instruction to Moses to cut two new tablets of the Ten Commandments, to replace the ones that Moses broke (righteously, at the episode of the Golden Calf).  Again, the parenthetical about the “thousandth generation” is in the notes to the ESV.

Numbers 14:18 says almost the same thing: “‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’”  This is a quote from Moses interceding for the people, after they refused to enter the Promised Land the first time, and God threatened to strike them with pestilence, disinherit them, and raise up a new nation from Moses himself.  It appears to be a partial quote of the two that we’ve already seen in Exodus.

The same thing is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:9-10, in the chapter in which Moses repeats the Ten Commandments to the Israelites.  “You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands (or to the thousandth generation) of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

An unbeliever might throw up his hands, finding an irreconcilable contradiction between these verses and those that I quoted in Section I.  As a believer, I seek to harmonize these verses, and I find three ways to do so.

One way to harmonize these verses is to notice the contrast, in three of these four quotations, between the promise of vengeance to the “third or fourth generation” and the promise of steadfast love to the “thousandth generation.”  There may be hyperbole here, with God demonstrating the extraordinary extent of His love by exaggerating the scope of His vengeance, and then making it clear that His love is incomparably greater.  Further, the passage from Numbers that does not include this contrast appears to be a partial quotation of the same text previously reported in Exodus, and later repeated again in Deuteronomy.

A second way to harmonize these verses is to interpret these harsh passages as dealing not with direct divine punishment of children, but with the inevitable intergenerational effects of a parent’s sin.

A third way to harmonize these passages — though not one that I favor — is to interpret the harsh passages as referring to punishment by God Himself, while the other passages from Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah make it clear that the Israelites are not to impose intergenerational punishment.

Any of these interpretations undermine the argument in French’s article.

V. A Relevant Essay by C.S. Lewis

French’s argument also brings to mind an essay that C.S. Lewis wrote in 1940, called The Dangers of National Repentance.  I consider Lewis to be a great Christian apologist and one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th Century, though his views are, of course, not Scripture.  Here is part of Lewis’s article, which I find very much more convincing than French’s view.  My emphasis added:

The idea of national repentance seems at first sight to provide such an edifying contrast to that national self-righteousness of which England is so often accused and with which she entered (or is said to have entered) the last war, that a Christian naturally turns to it  with hope. Young Christians especially—last year undergraduates and first-year curates— are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England. What that share is, I do not find it easy to determine. Most of these young men were children, and none of them had a vote or the experience which would enable them to use a vote wisely, when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?

If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity.

Unfortunately the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the government not “they” but “we.” And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a government which is called “we” is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practicing contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, “Let us repent our national sins”; what they mean is, “Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.”

You can read Lewis’s entire essay here (it starts on page 95 of the pdf).

I actually think that Lewis’s essay is the best response that I’ve seen to David French, though Lewis wrote it more than 80 years before French penned this latest bit of what I, at least, consider to be erroneous and dangerous nonsense.  Uncharitable nonsense, actually, made less attractive by its deceptive cloak of apparent self-righteousness.

Wokeism delenda est.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Well done sir. I did not tackle the religious side for 2 reasons: 

    1.  I did not want to get into religious when I was making a purely political argument so as not to lose non believers.

    2.  I really did not want to go this in depth to demonstrate the fallacy Of French and you have done an admirable job there.

     An excellent post in which I think you make wonderful theological is full theological Hey out out of what is in fact David Francis rather poor understanding of The Bible. Frankly he rather reminds me of the of the all faith person in Sunday school who never actually has wrestled that heavily with the text or with his faith.

    • #1
  2. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Great post.   I am not a biblical scholar, but it seems the act of seeking reconciliation is the important act and not the sacrifice.

    • #2
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Well done sir. I did not tackle the religious side for 2 reasons:

    1. I did not want to get into religious when I was making a purely political argument so as not to lose non believers.

    2. I really did not want to go this in depth to demonstrate the fallacy Of French and you have done an admirable job there.

    An excellent post in which I think you make wonderful theological is full theological Hey out out of what is in fact David Francis rather poor understanding of The Bible. Frankly he rather reminds me of the of the all faith person in Sunday school who never actually has wrestled that heavily with the text or with his faith.

    Bryan, thanks.  I liked your post, and your comments as well.  Good stuff.

    I hope that I didn’t come across as critical of you for not addressing the religious issue.  You had plenty of other reasons to be critical of French, and had good reasons for focusing as you did.  Frankly, your post inspired me to think about the Scriptural side, as well, and it turned out that I had too much to say to fit in a comment (or two, or three . . .).

    I’m inclined to agree with you about French, though I don’t want to be overly judgmental.  It is pretty easy to interpret Scripture the wrong way — to start with the point that we want to make, and search for Scripture that seems to support the point.

    In French’s case, he cites an unnamed “pastor friend” who pointed him to the story of Saul and the Gibeonites.  Here I am critical.  A pastor should know better.  This is part of the poison of CRT and intersectionality invading the church, I think.  Both John MacArthur and Voddie Baucham have been very strong in condemning this ideology.

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    French has claimed to be Christian, maybe even an especially good Christian, yet he now discounts Christ, the second Adam, dying in the perfect and final sacrifice for the Original Sin of the first Adam. No one else can redeem the sin of another, however closely or distantly related. We live in a world tainted by the first Adam’s sin, yet answer for our own actions/inaction.

    Neither French nor religious professionals like Tim Keller make an argument from the Gospels, Acts, or the Letters of the Apostles, as far as I can see. Instead, they cherry pick Old Testament passages. Telling.

    • #4
  5. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Thank you very  much.  I would make one comment, that God visiting “iniquity” upon the descendants of sinners is not vengeance or punishment, but a visiting of the iniquity — or the sin — or the predisposition to specific types of sin — on the sinners’ descendants.  We see this everywhere in the cycle of multigenerational sins (or similar dysfunctions).  Children unconsciously learn or carry on ways of thinking, sins from their parents, and this includes sinful thoughts and actions.  “The apple does not fall far from the tree” so to speak.  Apparently it takes four generations (more or less) to dilute the intergenerational influence of sins of the great grandfather to insignificance or until it is gone.  And this is not homogenous but there are differences between descendants and there is room for descendants’ personal choice and also (presumably) the effectual righteousness of great grandparents to be passed down as well.  But I would argue that the effects are there.

    In simplest form, don’t we see this with Abraham and Isaac: they both lied to men whom they feared would kill them for their beautiful wives, saying that their wives were their sisters.

    • #5
  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    What good man does not ask the Lord to bless his family? Those who have been given to him are most precious to him. They are the most regular and heartfelt expression of the man’s love of neighbor. He loves them as he loves himself. The man’s greatest reward on earth is that his family is favored by God. So the many benefit by the one’s faithfulness. 

    It is normal human experience to be both proud of one’s family members when they are good and ashamed of them when they are wicked. As a wife may apologize for her husband’s angry words, so one brother may offer amends for the other’s misdeeds. Such actions do not disregard personal responsibility, but do invite mercy by recognition of deep connections between persons. 

    For the sake of one, another is tolerated; even forgiven. Or for the one both are shunned, because the good will not leave the wicked behind (like Moses leading a foolish people). They are bound together. 

    Who as a child was never part of communal punishment by a teacher, coach, or parent? The adult can do this purposefully. By taking responsibility for each other in filial correction, the children are taught to accept the burden of love. The sacrificial self-giving to which they should aspire must be trained by command and consequence. Eventually, kids learn to correct their neighbors not just to avoid collateral damage, or in spite, but because they genuinely want others to know the joy and peace of right living. What begins in harsh discipline is fulfilled in understanding and charity. 

    Exodus 20 seems to me fair and merciful. If a man may be rewarded by way of gifts for his beloved family, then he may also be punished by harshness on his family. But because the Lord is wondrously merciful, the rewards outweigh the punishments. And because the Lord is just, those hardships are never without that same eager offer of mercy; never without opportunity to escape the shadow of a family’s misdeeds. 

    We are joined in a mystical body. When one part of the body fails, another can suffer because the parts belong together. Original sin marks us all. But Christ has paid our due.

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    I hope that I didn’t come across as critical of you for not addressing the religious issue.  You had plenty of other reasons to be critical of French, and had good reasons for focusing as you did.  Frankly, your post inspired me to think about the Scriptural side, as well, and it turned out that I had too much to say to fit in a comment (or two, or three . . .).

    No you did not. I am glad we have this companion piece.

    • #7
  8. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Baucham notes that in all the demands for reparations and vengeance, there is very little spoken of forgiveness.

    Forgiveness is a far more biblically based exercise than forcing the assumed descendants of racists to pay reparations.

    • #8
  9. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Jerry, as usual, a very thorough examination of the evidence presented in French’s essay and a precise denial of his conclusion. Well done, sir. I enjoy the Bible and look to it for underlying morality in life, but do not hold every word up as the word of God From my perspective, it is just simply non-sensical to hold anyone responsible for sins committed by others, especially others who lived so long ago and in such a different era. If that were to be the rule, then there isn’t a soul alive who isn’t guilty. David French appears to have succumbed to a need for affirmation. In so doing he is achieving opprobrium.

    • #9
  10. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    This is a great post. Really much appreciated. As it happens, this notion of bloodguilt (i.e. vicarious moral culpability) for Christians has been floating around the fringes of Christian thought for at least a couple of decades. (Probably longer than that but that’s how long I personally have been aware of it.)   What has me gobsmacked is its emergence as a lynchpin of modern woke evangelicalism. (FWIW – I wrote my own related observations about the David French’s of evangelicalism and the current kerfuffle here: https://www.keithlowery.com/bloodguilt-resurgent/ )

    As I say in my blog post, modern Christians are going to have to come to grips with what they believe about collective guilt and corporate repentance. There’s a modern phalanx of hip evangelical big-shot pastors who are busily redefining the historical assumptions of the Christian gospel to put it in service to wokeism.

    Thanks for taking the time to put together this post.

    • #10
  11. SteveSc Member
    SteveSc
    @SteveSc

    Two words for you:

    1. David
    2.  French
    • #11
  12. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Deuteronomy is mostly Moses’ instructions to the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan on how to live as a God worshipping and following community now that they were settling down in one place after two generations of being nomads. Deuteronomy is mostly about what the people are to do, and rarely if ever what the Lord’s prerogatives might be. Some of what the people were to do was to highlight their differences from the violent cultures around them. In a region full of cultures in which injuries and slights were frequently met with violence that kept expanding, instructions to the Israelites to limit revenge to “an eye for an eye” and to refrain from exacting revenge on subsequent generations were instructions to de-escalate violence. Many of the principles underlying the instructions in Deuteronomy remain useful for peaceful society today, and in fact are incorporated in the law in much of western civilization. Including the principle of not punishing one person for the crimes committed by another (even if the another was the person’s father). 

    The histories recited in Samuel are histories of particular events. Maybe those events serve as examples of what should always be done, but not necessarily. They may be too tied to specific circumstances. I’d need a lot more evidence before taking the event of Saul and the Gibeonites as a definitive example of how all future events should be handled.

    As to the passages (mostly from Exodus) about God’s possible exaction of punishment or reward on future generations, in Exodus the people are still learning some pretty basic stuff about God, including His vast powers. So some extreme examples (hyperbole) might be an appropriate part of communicating to the people. I’m mostly in the view that at least some of the references to visiting the iniquities of the fathers onto the third and fourth generation is mostly a statement of the reality that our bad behavior is going to impact negatively our children and our grandchildren, and is not necessarily a statement that God is going to punish actively those children and grandchildren. Nonetheless, even if God is saying He will actively punish future generations, He is God and has a perspective that we do not. So God is likely to execute judgment with much better justice than we would. It would be highly presumptuous for us to claim God’s role in visiting judgment on future generations for the sins of their fathers. And absent some pretty specific instructions from God, we mortals are likely to make a mess of it. 

    • #12
  13. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: French argues that the story of Saul and the Gibeonites provides a Biblical basis for imposing such punishment, atonement, or reparations.

    I don’t think French is arguing for imposing punishment or reparations.  He’s talking, instead, about a corporate obligation to help remedy the persistent effects of past sins.  In other words, if the effects are still there, the entities which helped cause them, ought to help relieve them.  It’s not about punishment, but more meeting the obligation of creating a more just society.  It’s a subtle distinction, i guess, but an important one.

    As French notes, where this gets very difficult is when you try to think of what can actually be done.  But allowing the injustice to fester, doing nothing, may cause more harm in the long run, especially to the Church, where there are people who have the same basic faith, but very different ways of seeing this issue.  If significant numbers of fellow Christians are saying, “hey, this is a real problem,” it needs to be addressed with an open mind.  Whatever problems there may be in his use of the story from Samuel, I would only point out that French raises it in response to others who insist that any kind of intergenerational responsibility is unbiblical.   I think he’s saying, “Not so fast, there may be some biblical support for the notion that an obligation to try to remedy persistent harm from past wrongs does follow a nation, even if no individual punishment is appropriate.”

     

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: A second way to harmonize these verses is to interpret these harsh passages as dealing not with direct divine punishment of children, but with the inevitable intergenerational effects of a parent’s sin.

    This seems to comport with French’s argument.

    As for the CS Lewis essay, I remembered that one as well.  But don’t forget it also contains this line:

    Is it not, then, the duty of the church to preach national repentance? I think it is. But the officelike
    many others can be profitably discharged only by those who discharge it with reluctance

    Lewis is concerned more about who is calling for national repentance and why.  That idea can be dangerous in the wrong hands, especially people who do not love the nation.  But he’s not saying national repentance is always inappropriate.  French’s focus seems to be on the church, and Lewis seems to agree the church has some duty in this regard.

     

    • #13
  14. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: French argues that the story of Saul and the Gibeonites provides a Biblical basis for imposing such punishment, atonement, or reparations.

    I don’t think French is arguing for imposing punishment or reparations.  He’s talking, instead, about a corporate obligation to help remedy the persistent effects of past sins.  In other words, if the effects are still there, the entities which helped cause them, ought to help relieve them.  It’s not about punishment, but more meeting the obligation of creating a more just society.  It’s a subtle distinction, i guess, but an important one.

    As French notes, where this gets very difficult is when you try to think of what can actually be done.  But allowing the injustice to fester, doing nothing, may cause more harm in the long run, especially to the Church, where there are people who have the same basic faith, but very different ways of seeing this issue.  If significant numbers of fellow Christians are saying, “hey, this is a real problem,” it needs to be addressed with an open mind.  Whatever problems there may be in his use of the story from Samuel, I would only point out that French raises it in response to others who insist that any kind of intergenerational responsibility is unbiblical.   I think he’s saying, “Not so fast, there may be some biblical support for the notion that an obligation to try to remedy persistent harm from past wrongs does follow a nation, even if no individual punishment is appropriate.”

    D.A., I think that French was arguing what you say at the end — that there is some Biblical support for an obligation to remedy past harms — and then he fails to provide any such Biblical support.  The principal account that he cites, about Saul and the Gibeonites, plainly does not support his thesis.  It was a matter of vengeance, not reparations, and the vengeance was exacted on 7 apparently guilty individuals, not the nation as a whole.

    The other examples that French cited are even less on point.  Josiah mourned the fact that the Israelites had ignored the Law of Moses, but there were not reparations, nor any sort of collective punishment.  The references to David, Nehemiah and a passage from Leviticus merely involved a confession of the sins of ancestors, not any sort of reparations or punishment.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: A second way to harmonize these verses is to interpret these harsh passages as dealing not with direct divine punishment of children, but with the inevitable intergenerational effects of a parent’s sin.

    This seems to comport with French’s argument.

    I don’t think so.  This says nothing about the whether we are expected to make amends for the sins of our ancestors in some way.

    [Cont’d]

    • #14
  15. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    If you look at how the world actually works, they should have been given 40 acres and a mule. Then after Lincoln was assassinated they got shafted in reconstruction. There is definitely going to be reverberations through time with people’s human capital and financial capital. LBJ obviously made a bad situation worse.

    I’m not that up on all of this and I will try to leave it at that.

    • #15
  16. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    The focus of my post was on French’s Biblical reference, which I think that I demonstrated to be erroneous.  He has absolutely no Scriptural support for his position.

    His argument is extremely troubling for other reasons.  He makes an argument for institutional or corporate responsibility.  This turns out to be impossible to fulfill.  How would one go about doing it?

    I find French’s argument to be an invalid dodge.  He says — in his follow-up tweet, I think — that individuals don’t have to be punished or make amends for the wrongs of their ancestors.  But institutions do have to do so, he claims, and the only way that this can happen is if individuals in those institutions today, who did not commit the wrong, are required to do something to remedy the wrong.  Making matters worse, as a general matter, the person who suffered the wrong is not the recipient of the unspecified remedy.  In fact, generally speaking, it’s not even the descendants of the wronged person who receive the benefit.  It’s just someone, or some group, who happen to have the same skin color as the wronged person.

    I find this expectation to be the essence of race discrimination, of an anti-white type, and I find it to be just as bad as the old anti-black racism.  Individual whites have to atone or make unspecified sacrifices, for the benefit of individual blacks who were not even the victims of a historic wrong.

    Say that a church wrongfully excluded blacks who wanted to join the congregation, 70 years ago.  The policy has been changed, and blacks are welcome.  What more is there to be done?  Have the church give money to some black people — the descendants of those excluded — or give money to some black church?  How would that make amends?  Should the church give preference in leadership positions, now, to black church members?  How would that make amends?

    French, however, is not writing principally about churches having been the guilty institutions.  He’s writing about governments.  He complains of prior housing and employment discrimination, zoning laws, and policing.  He’s basically arguing that the Bible requires us to adopt the Leftist views on these issues.  I disagree, not particularly respectfully.

    [Cont’d]

     

    • #16
  17. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I think that the core of French’s error is in this paragraph:

    So how is a Christian to respond? First, let’s go back to scripture and recognize that the obligation to “act justly” is intergenerational. If there is injustice that predates our personal power, it is still our obligation to do what we can to set it right. 

    This is the part that I demonstrated to be incorrect.  Scripture does not impose an “intergenerational” obligation to “act justly,” whatever that means.  And what it means is important.  It means that today, in the here and now, innocent whites must be disadvantaged and blacks who were not victims must be advantaged.

    I dissent.

    Since French claims to care about Scripture, though he’s careless about it in my view, I have a good Scriptural reference to toss at his side of the argument — those demanding some sort of amends or special treatment for blacks, on the basis of historic wrongs, generally 50 years ago or more.  Matthew 6:14-15:

    For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

    So there is an obligation to forgive the wrongdoers.  Most of whom are dead.

    I am getting more and more upset as I consider this further.  Sorry about that.  The obscenity of the so-called social justice/racial justice argument makes me angry.  It is not justice.  Justice is individual.  Punishing an innocent person for someone else’s wrong, or requiring an innocent person to make reparations, is the opposite of justice.

    It is Black Privilege and Black Supremacy.  I find it just as odious as the KKK.

    • #17
  18. Quintus Sertorius Coolidge
    Quintus Sertorius
    @BillGollier

    I have a much more cynical view of Mr. French’s arguments and I am sure most will not agree with me. Imho, all this quoting of scripture and philosophical utterances by Mr. French is just window dressing as his real beef is with the new wing of the Republican Party. I am convinced if those in state legislatures pushing back against CRT (most who are sympathetic to Trump policies and the new wing of the Republican Party) were to support CRT then Mr. French would be finding scripture that shows how wrong CRT is. My gosh. the man has been against CRT since GWB was president…now all of a sudden he is quoting scripture to support it…really? I wonder why that is?? In truth who is more bigoted….the legislators pushing back against CRT (who by the way I am sure would not deny we have had ethnic issues and oppression in our past…it’s all there for the world to see…nobody is hiding it nor would they deny we need to keep working on those issues) or the likes of Mr. French who has argued for 2 years Trump supporters are terrible racist stupid duped  human beings who he would not say hello to?

    This is all about Mr. French et al who are mad somebody else came into their sandbox and others in the sandbox liked the new person. better than them; they are pissed about it and are willing to let a whole different group from a different playground come in who wants to destroy and remove the sandbox….but by gosh we will show these newcomers and those who don’t like us in our sandbox…..

    • #18
  19. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Quintus Sertorius (View Comment):
    I have a much more cynical view of Mr. French’s arguments and I am sure most will not agree with me.

    Orthogonal.  Jerry addresses French’s biblical confusion, while you address French’s likely motivation. You can both be correct.

    • #19
  20. RyanFalcone Member
    RyanFalcone
    @RyanFalcone

    Too long. Didn’t read.

    However, I am all for reparations. All Americans didn’t own slaves, create Jim Crow, the KKK, horrible innercity neighborhoods and schools, the Democrats did. Every Democrat should have everything they have confiscated and given to every proven descendant of slavery who isn’t a Democrat. 

    • #20
  21. W Bob Member
    W Bob
    @WBob

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I think that the core of French’s error is in this paragraph:

    So how is a Christian to respond? First, let’s go back to scripture and recognize that the obligation to “act justly” is intergenerational. If there is injustice that predates our personal power, it is still our obligation to do what we can to set it right.

    This is the part that I demonstrated to be incorrect. Scripture does not impose an “intergenerational” obligation to “act justly,” whatever that means. And what it means is important. It means that today, in the here and now, innocent whites must be disadvantaged and blacks who were not victims must be advantaged.

    I dissent.

    Since French claims to care about Scripture, though he’s careless about it in my view, I have a good Scriptural reference to toss at his side of the argument — those demanding some sort of amends or special treatment for blacks, on the basis of historic wrongs, generally 50 years ago or more. Matthew 6:14-15:

    For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

    So there is an obligation to forgive the wrongdoers. Most of whom are dead.

    I am getting more and more upset as I consider this further. Sorry about that. The obscenity of the so-called social justice/racial justice argument makes me angry. It is not justice. Justice is individual. Punishing an innocent person for someone else’s wrong, or requiring an innocent person to make reparations, is the opposite of justice.

    It is Black Privilege and Black Supremacy. I find it just as odious as the KKK.

    French is either naive or disingenuous. The voting habits of whites are all that stand between the Democrat party and total power. Reparations, CRT, systemic racism, tearing down statues etc. None of it is meant to right wrongs or bring about justice. It’s all meant to demoralize whites until they throw in the towel and go from purple to blue. For someone to look for biblical moral justification for a program of action that is concerned not with morality but with power is just pathetic. 

    • #21
  22. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    Great post. As you’ve skillfully stated:

    So the Gibeonites demanded vengeance solely from Saul’s house, specifically demanding seven of Saul’s “sons.”  “Sons” often means descendants in this context, and this is made clear by the men selected, who are more specifically identified in verses 7-9.  They are two of Saul’s sons (identified by name), and five of Saul’s grandsons (identified by the name of their mother, a daughter of Saul, and their father).

    Thus, it is quite feasible for the two sons of Saul and the five grandsons of Saul who were killed by the Gibeonites, to avenge the prior murder of the Gibeonites, had individually participated in that crime. 

    I’ll add some additional ways that French’s Biblical interpretation fails:

    1. The unique ways in which the Lord communicated with, commanded, and was directly involved with the governance of ancient Israel: God revealed his will to the prophets who then passed on this divine revelation to the kings of Israel (e.g. Nathan speaking the Word of the Lord to David concerning his sin with Bathsheba). As you note, the Gibeonites’ demands were specific, and God’s response was specific and revealed specifically to David (most likely through the means/voice of a prophet). Scripture clearly states that God does not deal with the Church (the successor to and fulfillment of the kingdom of Israel) in this way:

    Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2

    2. We do not live in a theocracy where the prophets anoint the Lord’s chosen to be king, the Lord reveals through the prophets his will for the nation, the Lord determines what alliances the nation is to enter into or avoid, or has revealed how an entire nation should or should deal with the past sins of specific people against other specific people at specific times and specific places. How does French claim to know the necessity of a national atonement that the Lord has not revealed to a secular nation (the USA)?

    “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.”” John 18:36. Jesus’s kingdom is the Church that exists wherever two or more are gathered in His name (where the Word is preached and the Sacraments are rightly administered) anywhere in the world and under any earthly government.

    3. I can’t think of anything more antithetical to The Great Commission, Pentecost, and the universality of the good news of the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to all peoples than collective, racially specific, and multigenerational guilt.

    French’s interpretation ignores how God speaks to us today, is divorced from the New Testament fulfillment of ancient Israel in the Church, and is antithetical to the Gospel.

    • #22
  23. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    [Deleted]

    • #23