12 Nov 2017

National vs. Individual Consequences of Sin

Religious 21 Comments

The book of Leviticus lists a string of punishments or curses that will befall the nation of Israel, if they violate the covenant they’ve made with God. (On the flip side, it also lists a string of blessings if they obey God’s laws.)

I was talking with my study partner about the subtle relationship between righteous actions and worldly success. On the one hand, it’s certainly true that bad deeds “eventually catch up with you,” but on the other hand, bad things can happen to good people–just look at Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus Himself refuted the notion that if someone is suffering, it must be because that person (or his/her parents) committed a sin:

9 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Yet flipping back the other way, I have no problem with Christians (or atheists, for that matter) who warn that Americans’ hubris and violence will spell the downfall of their empire, just as has happened with every other wealthy, militarist hegemon in world history.

I speculated with my Bible study partner that perhaps we can reconcile all of these threads by appeal to tendencies, rather than strict one-to-one mappings. So for example, robbing a bank is definitely a “bad idea,” even if we disregard abstract notions of morality. But any individual might be able to get away with it, with no apparent downside in terms of earthly consequences. Yet surely if a whole society started condoning bank robberies, there would be unavoidable and drastic consequences.

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to see a similar take from Matthew Henry, who wrote in his commentary on Leviticus:

26:40-46 Among the Israelites, persons were not always prosperous or afflicted according to their obedience or disobedience. But national prosperity was the effect of national obedience, and national judgments were brought on by national wickedness. Israel was under a peculiar covenant. National wickedness will end in the ruin of any people, especially where the word of God and the light of the gospel are enjoyed. Sooner or later, sin will be the ruin, as well as the reproach, of every people. Oh that, being humbled for our sins, we might avert the rising storm before it bursts upon us! God grant that we may, in this our day, consider the things which belong to our eternal peace.

(By the way, Matthew Henry wrote in the early 1700s.)

21 Responses to “National vs. Individual Consequences of Sin”

  1. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Hinduism takes a different view, we think everything that happens to you is a reward or punishment for something you did. That something could be something in your present birth or something in one of your past births. And conversely, when you do an action that’s good or bad, it will either be rewarded or punished in your present birth or in some future birth. The ultimate goal, though, is to free yourself from this cycle of actions, consequences, birth, death, rebirth, etc. and attain Moksha or eternal salvation.

    • Mark says:

      Hinduism is a counterfeit. Jesus said He was THE way, THE truth, and THE life and that no man comes to the Father but by Him. The Bible also refutes reincarnation: “it is appointed for men to die ONCE and after this comes judgment” Hebrews 9:27

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Well, that would no doubt be convincing to a Christian, but I’m not one, so I don’t put any stock in the words of Jesus and the Bible.

        • Mark says:

          Well, since He raised Himself from the dead, you should.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Well, I don’t think he raised himself from the dead. But for the record, as a Hindu I do believe that resurrection is possible. I think it has happened before in human history, I just don’t think it happened to Jesus. I should also mention that if someone were resurrected, I don’t think that it would necessarily be some special miracle of God or that the teachings of that person would necessarily be correct or have the sanction of God.

            • Mark says:

              You, along with everyone else, will be resurrected. But there are two resurrections:

              “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” John 5:28, 29

              You get to choose your resurrection. Choose wisely.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Again, this is something that would be convincing to a Christian, but not to me. As I said, I don’t put any stock in Jesus’ words, and I don’t think he was resurrected.

    • Craig Michael Smith II says:

      Keshav! I love Indian people and culture! My wife is actually part Punjabi. I assume by your name you are Tamil? One of my favorite Indian Singers is Tamil (Shankar Mahadevan).

      If I may let me explain similarities and differences in our faith. You said your ultimate goal is to free your self from the cycle of rebirth and attain eternal salvation. Christianity also the ultimate goal is eternal salvation. You are correct in that we both believe in reincarnation. However are difference start there. In Hinduism your rewards and consequences are based on your karma (good or bad) without divine intervention. What makes Christianity unique among worlds religions is that we are told “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Christ was perfect and his death is for your bad Karma. Believing in him can end the cycle of rebirth and give you the gift of eternal life. HE DIED FOR YOUR BAD KARMA! this is a gift of love. Ponder this meri dost.


  2. Mark says:

    Bob –

    A few miscellaneous things related to “religion,” but not today’s post.

    First, you posted an R. C. Sproul video a while back (10/15). While you have to ignore his teachings on things related to Calvinism, he’s a great teacher overall and I wanted to mention that not too long ago on his podcasts he did several episodes related to science and the Bible, faith and reason, two very excellent ones on “chance” (it’s not a thing, btw), the names/titles of Jesus, etc. Another btw – science and scripture are completely in harmony – not at odds as some people here believe. (Renewing Your Mind archives here https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/renewing-your-mind-r.c.-sproul/id110916650?mt=2)

    Second, I answered a question you asked me a while back, and while no reply is necessary, I just thought I would mention that in case you missed it – 8/21 post on Jordan Peterson.

    Third, speaking of Peterson, the hoopla re him seems to have died down, although I do see Bionic Mosquito mentioned him a couple of times recently and Lew Rockwell posted one of his videos the other day in his Political Theatre. Just to add a bit to my previous comments about him, though, I would contend again that he does not hold orthodox Christian beliefs, and his opinions, often contrary to Christian orthodoxy are irrelevant. He spouts a lot of pseudo psychological garbage that is more new agey than anything. He would be near the bottom of the list as a source for information about Christianity.

    For example, he questions Jesus’ existence (“without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Heb 11:6) and bodily Resurrection (“if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom 10:9), and I saw him twice uses Jesus’ name as a swear word in a youtube video. I commented recently on Tom Woods’ site something similar re Stefan Molyneux: “Do we really need to hear from an atheist DeFOOer? I’m sure anything that he offers that might be construed as positive or helpful could be found elsewhere.” I have the same attitude about Peterson.

    Lastly, another one of those one night only events is coming on November 13 and 16. (OK, so it’s two nights only.) The movie Genesis: Paradise Lost is coming to theaters around the country. You can watch the trailer at genesismovie.com As Tom Woods says, all the cool kids will be there. It looks like it’s definitely worth seeing. (Back to that science and scripture thing.)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I’ll check out the Genesis movie, thanks.

      I just recently listened to a Peterson interview where he was open to the idea that Jesus the man was also divine. I didn’t get any hint from him that he thought Jesus didn’t exist historically. Maybe his views have evolved. I agree he shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Mark, that film seems to advocate Young Earth Creationism. I’m curious, do you believe in Young Earth Creationism?

      • Mark says:

        That term is kind of a misnomer since the earth is as old as it is and is therefore neither young nor old. I do believe what the Bible says, which, if you add up the genealogies, makes the time from Adam to Abraham about 2000 years and the time from Abraham to today about 4000 years, so we arrive at an age of about 6000 years, which I think is quite old.

        Since God was there and you and I weren’t, I’ll take His word for it. I know from your previous comments that you think you determine truth, and reality is whatever your opinion is, and I hate to burst your bubble, but neither of those statements are true.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Obviously I don’t think reality is whatever your opinion is. Truth is independent of belief. What we as humans have to do is try to make our beliefs match the truth as closely as possible, using the tools we have at our disposal, including evidence, reasoning, and yes, faith. So I’m not at all skeptical of the notion of taking God’s word for something, although I am skeptical that the Bible actually is God’s word.

          But tell me this: how do you explain things like radiocarbon dating, tree rings, and light from distant stars? Do you think these were put by God to trick us? Also, how do you feel about people who try to reconcile the Bible with the Earth being billions of years old, for instance by arguing that the six days were not ordinary human days?

          • Mark says:

            God cannot and will not trick us – it’s against His nature. And there is no question that the days in Genesis were ordinary days. Any Christian that believes otherwise is compromising their faith in the authority of God’s word. As E J Young said, “…the man who says “I believe that Genesis purports to be a historical account, but I do not believe that account” is a far better interpreter of the Bible than the man who says, “I believe that Genesis is profoundly true, but it is poetry.”

            Radiocarbon dating is not used for dating the age of the earth – that’s a common misconception. At best, radiocarbon dating is good for about 50 to 75,000 years. Certainly not millions or billions of years. (The half life of carbon-14 is about 5700 years. If the entire earth was made of carbon-14, there wouldn’t be a trace of it left in a million years, yet “mainstream science” as Harold calls it, says the earth is 4.5 billion years old.)

            Tree rings are often assumed to be annual occurences, but many scientists have shown this to be a false assumption – more than one tree ring per year is a common occurrence. That’s the problem with all dating methods except the eyewitness testimony of the Creator – assumptions about dating methods.

            Distant starlight, imo, is the only issue related to the age of the universe that is really tough to answer. It’s also the most interesting and I’ve done a lot of reading on it. I’ve often wondered why the speed of light couldn’t have been faster at creation than it is now (and then decreased over time), but many creationist scientists much smarter than I have ruled that out, so I’ll take their word for it.

            To be honest it may be that we never find the answer to that question in this lifetime, either individually or collectively. But many scientists that take the historical account in Genesis to be true, meaning the universe is only about 6000 years old, have proposed several possible explanations. You can find lots of articles, books, youtube videos and DVDs on the subject. I suggest you google ‘distant starlight’ with the following people’s names (separately.)

            John Hartnett
            Jason Lisle
            Danny Faulkner
            Russell Humphreys

            One article that I find especially interesting on the subject is https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/starlight/a-proposal-for-a-new-solution-to-the-light-travel-time-problem/

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Mark, here is a list of proofs that the Earth must be far older than 6000 years:


          How would you explain so many independent proofs pointing to the same conclusion?

          • Harold says:

            I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the approach would be to ignore the evidence you present and list some other evidence that supports young Earth. You will then be expected to refute these arguments, whilst there is no serious attempt to refute the evidence you have provided.

            This is standard approach to rejection of mainstream science, in areas such as creationism, global warming, vaccination, GM, nuclear power etc etc. You will note that these are subjects that are supported by left and right, green and libertarian pressure groups so I am not targeting anyone in particular.

            It is a willful application of confirmation bias. Its brother, whataboutism, is rife currently. Accused of some transgression, instead of answering the charge “what about somebody else who did a similar thing” is offered as a distraction.

            My belief is that we should consider the entirety of the evidence. It is of course impossible for us individuals to avoid confirmation bias completely, as it is impossible to avoid all the other biases we carry. The best we can do is be aware that we carry them and then make an honest attempt to deal with these biases. That should include a look at places where the opinions are different from ours prevail.

            • Mark says:

              “This is standard approach to rejection of mainstream science”

              Ha! There is no such thing as mainstream science. There is science, period. Something is not considered truth or reality or “scientifically proved” by a vote over 50% by some group of scientists. Is the temperature that water boils or the speed of light up for conjecture? Did “mainstream science” determine those things by voting and it won over the vote of the dissidents? Did over 50% of some group of scientists decide what the speed of light is? Or can the speed of light be measured and we all know what it is? “Mainstream science” gives us garbage about global warming. Real science gives us information more like this:



              Christians don’t reject science. Real science is cool and will always confirm what the Bible says when it touches on subjects science-related since God is both the Author of the Bible and the Creator of the universe and cannot lie. There will never be a conflict. There will be, quite often, scientists that reject real science and are not capable of properly interpreting the evidence they find in creation because of a built-in bias against the Creator and a need to explain everything with natural processes because they don’t want to be accountable to that Creator.

              My apologies to Bob for the length of these replies, but I wanted to be fairly thorough – I kept them as short as I could.

            • Harold says:

              Mark: “Did “mainstream science” determine those things by voting and it won over the vote of the dissidents?”

              Well, sort of. There is no formal vote, of course. There is the record of published literature. Explanations that fit the evidence tend to become accepted by other scientists.

              Ths explains it rather well.

              It is interesting that you cite the coming mini ice age as an example of “real science.” Their biggest argument seems to be that 2014 was not actually the warmest year on record. Since 2015, 2016 were both considerably warmer that argument seems moot.

              Another video analysing an earlier “mini ice age imminent” scare.

          • Mark says:

            There are at least 100 methods for dating the age of the earth. About 90% of them show a “young” earth, and about 10% of them show an “old” earth. Since the Bible tells us that the earth is only about 6000 years old, that most of them support that age makes sense. When it comes to the other methods, remember that there are multiple assumptions being made about the past that cannot be proved.

            A small sample of articles on the subject (tons more available)





            If you really want to know about those alleged proofs, spend some time at answersingenesis.org and creation.com. icr.org is also a good source, as is https://biblicalscienceinstitute.com/, a fairly new website. Others, as well, but I’d start with those. The answers are there if you are willing to take a look.

  3. Harold says:

    ” Yet surely if a whole society started condoning bank robberies, there would be unavoidable and drastic consequences.”

    This sounds like Kant’s categorical imperative. “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.”

    “On the one hand, it’s certainly true that bad deeds “eventually catch up with you,” ”
    I am not sure this is certain – unless you mean in the next world.

  4. Khodge says:

    I think that the Biblical basis for national consequences is weak. The history of the Bible is one of growth and inclusiveness: Adam and Eve, the family; Jacob and his twelve son’s, the tribe; David and his kingdom, the nation; culminating in Christ, “Go out to all the world.”

    That nations fall is more easily attributed to the fallen nature of Man rather than cosmic justice for enumerated misdeeds.

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