OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
There are two doctrines that assert that children are born in sin. One doctrine is referred to as the doctrine of Original Sin. This doctrine is primarily taught by the Roman Catholic Church. This doctrine informs us that when children are conceived that they inherit Adam’s original transgression committed in Eden. The other doctrine is called Total Hereditary Depravity. This teaching is one of the foundations of Calvinism. This teaching states that after Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden that they were totally depraved. This condition is one that has been inherited by all men since that time. To be totally depraved means that one is evil within and without at birth. One chart this writer recently saw referred to babies as “little sinners.”
If these two doctrines are true, babies and little children are at risk of being lost for the first several years of their lives. Why do we say this? We say this because salvation involves action on the sinner’s part. All would agree that one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in order to be saved. A classic passage that stresses the need for faith is Ephesians 2:8. “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” When a baby is born, he cannot believe. He does not possess the ability to hear and understand the Word of God. This being the case, he cannot develop faith (See Rom. 10:17). Even when a child is a toddler, he does not have the ability to believe in Jesus Christ. If an individual is in sin and does not possess faith in Jesus Christ, he will be lost. Jesus said: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he: ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Honestly, who could believe in a doctrine that would put the souls of little babies at risk for several years until they can develop a trust in the Son of God as their Savior?
Another problem with these two doctrines is that they fail to consider God’s part in the birth of a child. The physical components of a baby come from the child’s mother and father. The spirit and soul, however, are given by God. “Then shall the dust return unto the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). Zechariah 12:1 teaches this as well. “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.” Sin has nothing to do with the physical body of man. At death the body will be separated from the spirit and the spirit can continue to be stained with sin. If a child is born with a soul stained with sin, is God responsible for this iniquity’s being there? Remember, it is God who forms that spirit of man in him. This cannot be the case at all! God is the giver of good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). If He gives man a soul, it is in no way tainted with sin.
The doctrine of Original Sin tells us that sin is inherited. Think about that! A little child has done nothing of his volition to transgress God’s will, yet he is said to be a sinner. He has sin, but not because he is responsible for it. He has it because he inherited it from Adam and his descendants. My friends, the Bible teaches that this cannot happen. “The soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20). Each person is responsible for his own sins. Adam’s sons did not bear the iniquity of their father, Adam. Adam’s sin, therefore, has not been passed on to all men by birth.
Another point that can be raised about these teachings centers around repentance. If a person is in sin, does the Bible require that he repent of that sin? The Bible answers: “Yes.” In Luke 13:3, Jesus says: “I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” In his sermon on Mars’ Hill, Paul said: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Here’s the question for those who believe that babies and children are “little sinners:” “How does a person repent of a sin he did not commit?” Changing something you did not do cannot be done.
Another point that needs to be considered by those who teach Total Hereditary Depravity has to do with the nature of God. We would ask: “Is God kind?” Certainly all would respond, saying: “Absolutely!” Numerous verses in the Bible tell us of God’s kindness. “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (Tit 3:4). If total depravity is true, God is not kind. The doctrine teaches that a child is born in sin. To this child, God offers salvation, but the child cannot respond to God’s offer. First, he does not have the ability to respond as we noted earlier. Second, if he did have the ability, we are told that he could not until the Holy Spirit first operated on his heart. In essence, God is holding out a stick of candy to those “little sinners.” As He holds it out, He invites them to come get it. They, however, cannot get it. They are chained to a tree. In fact, God is the one who is holding the key that keeps them chained as He issues the call to come. This picture of God is not kind at all.
The fact is that when God creates a child that child is born innocent. He does not have a spot of sin upon him or in him. In time, the child will reach a point wherein he can understand the concept of sin. He also develops to the point that he can learn the concepts of the gospel that he needs to obey in order to be saved. Some refer to this as the “age of accountability.” When one matures to that point, he can make his own decisions about sin and salvation. Too, God can justifiably hold him accountable for his sins and transgressions. NOTE: If a child dies in a state of innocence, he is not lost. He is safe in the arms of Jesus Christ. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).