There is a ground swell today in the Christian counseling world around what is being called generational sins. The premise that is being set forward with dogmatic certainty is that believers are often unknowingly trapped, defeated, and enslaved because of the sins of their forefathers. The solution, as one popular freedom-preacher defines it, is to come before God and renounce all of the particular sins of our parents, grandparents, etc. In fact, there is even an extensive inventory sheet printed in the booklets that the counselor is supposed to use with the counselee to surface all of these generational sins. The implication is that if we do not renounce a particular generational sin, we will be enslaved by it. This, of course, makes for a very heavy burden because it requires that we do enough research into our backgrounds to surface all of these nefarious slave masters because if we overlook one, we will be trapped by it. That would, obviously, block any person, who was adopted at birth and removed from any knowledge of his prior generations, from ever possessing spiritual freedom before God.
The question is: does the Bible teach this? Am I subject to the sinful choices of my forebearers so that I can be unknowingly trapped and defeated in my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ?
In this article, I will attempt to begin to bring the biblical texts to bear on this question. Let's begin with Daniel 1:1-6. In this text we do find that faithful believers are subject to the choices of their forefathers. Daniel was carried into captivity into Babylon through no fault of his own, but because, for 490 years his forefathers had ignored the covenant requirement to give the land a rest every seventh year (2 Chronicles 36:20-21). This text makes it rather plain that the choices of the forefathers do have a direct impact upon a person. But, let this be plain: it did not create any bondage of soul and spirit in Daniel. The damage was limited to an external bondage of the body: Daniel was in physical bondage, but the text argues vehemently, as it develops, that Daniel was free where it is important to be free--in his heart and soul and mind.
Could this have been an occasion of bondage for Daniel? Only in one way: if he was already in bondage to the worship of his physical freedom. If being a free Israelite was so important to Daniel that his being carried into captivity sent him into a tailspin of grief, bitterness, and self-pity, he would indeed have been in bondage in soul and spirit as well as in body. But, do not miss this: Daniel's enslavement in that case would not have been the result of his former generations' sins but, rather, would have been a direct result of his own sin of exalting physical freedom to a point in his value system that God alone should have. In other words, a person who has already come into bondage through the worship of a false god (such as Physical Freedom) will find that bondage increased by the impact of the choices of those who have gone before him. But, the bondage already exists by reason of his own sin. The sins of the forefathers only stack more grief upon his head. Therefore, though generational sins do create many of our circumstances, this text at least tells us that we do not have to be enslaved where it really counts (heart and mind, soul and spirit) by them. There is no necessary link between the sins of my forefathers and my freedom in Christ. Therefore, I do not have any necessity laid upon me to look for some cause outside of my own heart and mind for the reasons for my spiritual condition.