In the last few posts, we’ve continued working through a series on 1 Corinthians 15, which I find to be one of the more challenging chapters in Scripture, and have arrived at the passages on the Doctrine of Original Sin. We’ve since turned our attention towards common objections of this foundational teaching from Scripture, beginning first with the Objection of Eve. Here we’ll explore two more objections that are frequently brought up, What about innocent babies and That’s Not Fair.
Objection #2 – Doesn’t this concept of original sin condemn all mankind, even “innocent” babies?
Answer – The doctrine of original sin does condemn all mankind, even babies. Scripture knows no such thing as the doctrine of accountability, which loosely states that children reach an “age of accountability” around 12-13 years of age (which similarly is the age for the Jewish Bar mitzvah). Additionally, Scripture knows nothing of a state of innocence based on age.
If this teaching were true, and if original sin was not inherited even by babies, then there wouldn’t be any death among those under a certain age. In other words, the Scriptural teaching “in Adam all die” would be wrong, and it’s not. Death touches us all, even those in the womb, and it is the direct product of original sin upon the world in which we live. The wages of sin is death and we must all pay, regardless of age.
As a side note, the effects of original sin, namely guilt and pollution, applied to “innocent babies” does not necessarily mean that should infants or young children die that they are automatically condemned to hell. We must allow room in our thinking for the truth that the Judge of all the earth will do what’s right. Admittedly, this is a difficult subject deserving of its own post, but in the meantime, I would lean towards agreeing with Charles Spurgeon’s understanding of infants who die, which you can read for yourself here: Infant Salvation
Objection 3 – Isn’t it unfair that God would punish us as a result of another person’s sin?
Answer – This is perhaps the strongest emotional argument against the doctrine of original sin, particularly in light of objection 2. However, calling God’s own character, namely His holy justice, into question is a wrong starting point. We must be like Job and place our hands over our mouths and confess that not a day has gone by that we have not sinned on our own.
If the argument of fairness is allowed to stand, then it must also be allowed that it is unfair for Christ to have the sin of those who would believe imputed to Himself and likewise suffer the punishment that they deserved. Additionally, it would be “unfair” that Christ’s righteousness should be imputed to all those “in Him” who did nothing to earn that. This objection of equity cannot consistently stand, despite its emotion appeal.
The “That’s not fair” card was played repeatedly in the Old Testament, particularly in Ezekiel 18 which we will look at next time. Instead of stomping our feet and screaming that’s not fair, ought we not to be petitioning the Lord for Mercy. Assuredly we do not want fairness. Thankfully, both justice and mercy kiss at the cross of Jesus Christ.
“We must allow room in our thinking for the truth that the Judge of all the earth will do what’s right.” This statement only makes sense if you believe it would be wrong for babies who die to be punished in hell.
Do you believe that it would be a good thing or an evil thing for a baby who dies to be punished for eternity in hell?
If it truly is just for God to regard all human beings as guilty for what Adam did on the basis that we somehow sinned in Adam (even though we didn’t exist), then a baby who sinned in Adam is no less guilty that an adult who sinned in Adam, and it would be right for God to punish both (though it would also be right for God to save either or both through Christ). In which case, trusting that the God of all the earth will do right means trusting God that he will either punish a baby who dies in hell for eternity or he will save him. It means being prepared to praise God that his justice could involve condemning babies to hell, and doing that in public as part of our evangelism as we declare the excellencies of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Personally, I don’t know what I believe about this. I really don’t like the idea of babies being condemned to hell, but the Reformed doctrine of original guilt strongly points in that direction. The confessions referring to “elect infants dying in infancy…” seem deliberately worded to allow that not all infants who die are elect.
Kevin, thank you for the well thought out comment. This is obviously a difficult issue. On the one hand, we have Scripture passages that describe God’s election before the foundation of the earth. On the other hand, we know that in Adam, all are guilty. Unfortunately, as it relates to infants and small children, we do not have (clear) Scriptural evidence to help us out in this area. Additionally, it is just a matter of reality that they do die. So we are left in a bit of a quandary, but one that does come up and has attempted to be solved, if perhaps unconvincingly by the confessions (I think they allowed wiggle room and likely resigned themselves to not knowing who the elect were, so as to gain comfort in the thought). For that reason, I know of no other solution then to, alongside Job, put my hand over my mouth and resign myself into the will of the Judge of all the earth.
As I stated, “We must allow room in our thinking for the truth that the Judge of all the earth will do what’s right.” Maybe as you read it, it does sound as though this creates the only option that, as you stated, “only makes sense if you believe it would be wrong for babies who die to be punished in hell.” But that is not the only option and it wasn’t my intention. By this I mean that we trust that whatever God “decides” and does is most certainly right. If that is to manifest his judgment and the execution of His wrath, then that is what is right. If it is to manifest His mercy, then that is what is right (perhaps there is Romans 9:19-23 whispering in the background here). As it relates to infants and small children, while I stand alongside you and do not like the idea of babies condemned to hell, we’re not in the seat of Judge and if not for Him extending His sovereign mercy to us, we too would be condemned to hell. It “seems” right to me that God would extend mercy to infants, but I do not want to presume on God. Given this, I would probably summarize my position as God extending election to all infants and small children who die.
In this series that I was working through, I knew this was a common objection that needed to be addressed. It is difficult and I do not pretend to have it all worked out. Perhaps the following from Charles Spurgeon may be of some help:
Grace and Peace,