We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Generational Sin/Generational Curses

This teaching is promoted by many teachers and many legalistic organizations, including Bill Gothard’s IBLP. It has become quite pervasive among Christians.

This teaching claims that sins can be inherited by children, and some teachers go so far as to say the sins are caused by demons that must be exorcised, while most teachers of this doctrine say that the sins of one’s progenitors must be confessed and repented of. “Generational Sin” also teaches that if a progenitor was involved in witchcraft or some other occult activity, then the demonic forces pass down through their children. Some, such as Gothard, use this doctrine to say no one should adopt a child because you have no way of knowing what their spiritual ancestry is.

So what is the origin of this teaching? As with other false teachings, one must misuse Scripture. The specific passages are Exodus 20:5 and its cross-reference Deuteronomy 5:9. The context must be taken beginning at vs. 4 and continuing through vs.6 (this is part of the Ten Commandments):

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

What is the context of this passage? Idolatry. And it is about only "of those who hate me," a phrase conveniently left out by those who promote generational sin/curses. Also left out is the next passages, “but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” God shows mercy to thousands of generations that love Him. So is that also a "curse" passed down from father to son?

The passage doesn't say God will curse them, it says He will "visit the iniquity," that is he will punish them with His judgment for as long as they continue worshipping idols and hating Him. So, if your great-great-grandfather was an idol worshiping pagan, and so was your great-grandfather and yet your grandfather became a believer, and so did your father, does that mean you have a generational curse on you because of your great-great-grandfather? Those who teach the doctrine of “generational sin/curses” say it does. But by their own reasoning, applying verse 6 once your grandfather became a Christian then thousands of generations would have God’s lovingkindness.

A problem with the generational curses idea is that it has God punishing those who are not guilty, when in reality God tells us many times that he punishes only the guilty. Whereas a whole nation can be punished for generations because its people turn from God, individuals are blessed or punished based on their own actions and not those of their ancestors. (Deut. 24:26; 2 Kings 14:6; Jer. 31:30; Ezek. 18)

Those who teach this passage as meaning sins of the fathers are passed to their sons have even less backing. These people claim that if a person is a drunk, then their children inherit their sin; if a person is promiscuous then their children will be the same; if their parent is a thief then they will also be. They neglect the fact that people learn to do what their parents do, not that they inherit their behaviors.

This teaching is not only unbiblical, but spiritually dangerous.


Drew said...

//They neglect the fact that people learn to do what their parents do, not that they inherit their behaviors.//

I'm not seeing a whole lot of difference there.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The difference is that inherited traits are like eye color, hair color, skin color, facial features, etc. You don't inherit behavior.

My father was an unbeliever and committed adultery while married to my mother, and had numerous affairs between his other two marriages.

I, on the other hand, became a believer. Long before that I decided that my father's behavior was not something I wanted to copy. I have never cheated on my wife and I have been married to her for over 34 years.

If behavior was inherited, then I would be just like my father. I CHOSE whether or not to emulate behavior I learned from him. Children do indeed learn behaviors, but they still have the ability to choose.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that with behaviors such as drunkenness, someone may actually inherit a weakness for that particular sin. They may further learn the behavior as they see it lived out in the home. All of us know I think the sins that we tend toward and those that don't seem to plague us. (though our hearts are certainly capable of them all). But even the unsaved still have the choice to live differently. And as for the Christian,a little known fact about Christ is that He actually came to set us free from bondage to sin and satan.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 12/14,

There is no medical or scientific evidence that people inherit a tendency to any behavior. That is one of the lies that those who practice homosexual behavior try to force upon us. Behaviors are always chose.

Do parents teach their children sin? Yes they do. But that is not the same as inheritance.

Lois said...

I don't hear too much about co-dependency these days, a buzz word of the '80's, but that seemed to be used countless times to justify, or explain away sin. Someone would tell me they are critical of others (for ex.)because their father is an alcoholic, and that's just the way they are. Of course, their dad's alcoholism has nothing to do with their own fault-finding in others, but I'm to accept them and excuse them. Even in the church today I hear about it. Beth Moore, in her Breaking Free video, alluded to generational sin. She prefaced her comment with, "Now I don't believe in generational sin, but...." naturally going on to present just that.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Generational Sin is one of Beth's teachings which adds to all the other false teachings of hers, which is why she is a bad teacher.

hbar98 said...

There also seems to be a trend to making everything a disease these days, even if it is behavior based instead of a true disease. This, in turn, seems to make it easier to swallow that some behaviors are inherited and, thus, "Not my fault".

And, when something becomes "Not my fault", the world gets to step in and offers helps in the form of self-helps, pop psychology, instead of facing the real issue at hand: that we are sinners in need of a savior.

Jesse said...

If we could inherit the sin of our parents, then would that also mean that we could inherit the righteousness of our parents?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Well, I asked that question --- if God's mercy was passed on for 1000 years to those who were righteous. Seems the logical response, doesn't it!

Anonymous said...

Generational curses are found only in the Old Testament and not in the New:


Anonymous said...

Your beleif that sinful behaviors are learned is inconpatible with the biblical teaching of our total depravity. They are a part of our fallen NATURE. Where did the first homosexuals and thieves learn their stuff from?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Even in the O.T., the curse was only on those who rebelled against God, even among same families. "of those who hate me."

As for the article, I strongly disagree with the next-to-last paragraph. No sin is genetic. Sins only pass through generations because each individual chooses to do the same as their parents. While diseases are often genetic, "alcoholism" is not a disease. Even "rage" is learned.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous #2 (10:09 PM)

You are 100% wrong. First, "total depravity" is not a biblical concept, rather it is Calvinist rubbish.
Second, although we are sinners, we do indeed choose which sins to act. All sinful behaviors are learned or chosen. Even homosexuals choose to behave homosexually.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous Calvinist troll,

I have never even intimated that we don’t have a sinful nature. What I have stated is that we choose what sins to commit, we choose our sinful behavior. We do not inherit any sin, we inherit a sinful nature. Quit raising straw men arguments; you will not be allowed to preach your unbiblical Calvinism here.