The Doctrine of Bloodguilt
I’ve had some time to think about this one, and after arguing with several people about the topic I’ve decided that I need to voice this in a more concrete fashion. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with the doctrine as it is usually presented, so I hope this will help it make more sense. It isn’t heresy and it isn’t devaluing the work of salvation in any way. That being said, it is a topic that needs to be broached gently.
All throughout the Bible, God judges nations because of their sin. However, the Bible doesn’t give qualifiers on what percentage of the people need to be committing a sin before it earns His judgement. So while it is frustrating that there is no exact definition of what does or does not count as a “national sin”, it should be obvious that there are certain things that get a nation expelled from their borders.
In fact, whenever we see God laying the smackdown on an entire nation (such as Egypt in Exodus) or uprooting one altogether (Judah, Israel, Assyria, Babylon, Canaan) it is specifically listed in the Bible as being a result of their various sins. To get a quick rundown, take a look at the book of Amos. Some were just idolatrous, some neglected the poor, but all were guilty of shedding innocent blood (Amos 1,2; most of the Prophets support this).
So now we hit this very interesting wall. Every nation that was deposed in the Bible shed innocent blood. Every nation that was deposed was sent away during a long and bloody war. Based on this, we have a very solid foundation with which to say that God hates the shedding of innocent blood. According to Mosaic law, the only way to cleanse a land of shed blood was to spill the blood of the man who committed murder. Now, however, we approach a problem. Namely, with a broken justice system (such as would be found in an apostate nation), it is inevitable that men have committed murders who were never brought to justice and died “in peace”. With this being the case, Justice demands recompense.
Aside from the Biblical examples already cited, it is here that we bring the doctrine of bloodguilt (and indeed of sin in general) into the New Testament. In the Old Testament, we see nation after nation falling into sin, shedding the blood of innocents, and subsequently being carted off by the current World Power. In the New Testament, we see a new focus on the heart of the individual. Not necessarily because this is intended to be a shift in God’s heart for man, mind you, but more because we see a shift from the history of an ethnocentric religious people group (read: the Jews) to the various doctrines of a cross-cultural interethnic religious group (read: the early church).
In the New Testament, there are many times where Jesus says that unless you believe in Him for the forgiveness of your sins, you will be judged for them. This forms a New Testament foundation for the doctrine of bloodguilt… namely, that God will and does judge unrepented sins. The very doctrine of salvation is that we all deserve eternal damnation for our sins, but Christ is the sacrifice through which we can find forgiveness. Unless we go through Christ, there is zero forgiveness of any kind for our sins. Because unrepented sin brings judgement and there is no evidence of moral shift negating the responsibility of a nation, we must conclude that unrepented sin on a national level still brings judgement. Unless someone can show a verse where God changes His MO for righteousness in the earth, it is what we have to conclude.
So what do we do about it? Joel 2:12-14 “‘Now, therefore,’ says the LORD, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him-A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God?” Prayer, repentence, and fasting place a stay of execution on a nation, giving them time to repent. Through prayer and repentence, Daniel brought an end to the Babylonian captivity and gave Israel a prophecy of the exact timing of the coming of their Messiah (Daniel 9). Through prayer and intercession, Jeremiah had staved off Judgement on Israel… so much so that God had to direct the Prophet in Jeremiah 14 and 15 to not pray for them, because their sins were so many and so repugnant to God.
This is why I pray. Since the 1970’s, the United States of America has executed 50 million innocents as a sacrifice to the gods of convenience, comfort, and pleasure. Since God forbade the sacrificing of children to foreign gods, I think it should be obvious that we are racking up quite a score that will be settled… The question is, will we pray for Mercy and forgivness so that the score is settled in the finished work of the cross, or will we let it go with the apathetic attitude that pervades so much of the church and end up coming under just judgement?