Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Are Children Born Innocent?

Deuteronomy 20: 16-18

But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.

Psalm 51: 5   

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Romans 3: 9-19

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,  as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;
    no one seeks for God. 
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”  
“Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
   “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery, 
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

The subject of children's salvation is an emotionally charged one.  In a conversation with a female American evangelical on the topic of infant baptism,  I was told that babies do not need to repent, that they are completely innocent; and from her response the presumption then was that babies are born saved.  This kind of evangelical response mirrors the Pelagian view that humanity is basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall, thereby denying the imputation of Adam's sin, and original sin that drastically affects our ability to believe God and earn eternal salvation. However, the Biblical reality is that we live in a fallen world, subject to corruption, in which we all fall under the headship of Adam as "children of wrath".  And by 'all', the Bible means children as well as adults, for 'all' under the law and therefore open to its condemnation.  Like it or not, children are under the righteous judgment of God, and are in need of salvation in Christ Jesus alone.  

The text from Deuteronomy makes this clear.  Both Moses and Joshua were commanded by God to "devote to destruction" everything that lived in the cities of the Canaanites, so that Israel would remain pure and free from all "their abominable practices that they have done for their gods" (Deuteronomy 20:18).  This mandate included children, not to exact ethnic cleansing or genocide on the Canaanite peoples, but to exact God's judgment for "the iniquity of the Amorites" (Genesis 15:16) which God allowed to persist until the right time came for His wrath to enact justice.  Israel's conquest of Canaan was not a tribal war, but an instrument of God's justice against the sinners in those nations.  

It's only because of God's mercy that not everyone has been subjected to the fate that the Canaanites suffered.  But rest assured, there will come a day when "every mouth will be stopped" when Christ returns in judgment to condemn all those who have "sinned under the Law" (Romans 2:12).  Until that day, children need to receive the salvation that comes only by the gospel, to heal them from their sinful condition, and to wash away the original sin in which human beings are conceived.  Thus the need for infant Baptism by which children are united to Christ, trusting in the power of God to grant them faith and repentance through the water and the Word.  

The evangelical fallacy is that somehow only children are unable to believe, because they haven't reached some mythic 'age of accountability'.  However this inability belongs to everyone who are not born from above by God, and are spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins.  Denying baptism to children therefore denies the power of God in salvation. Since this sacrament is his work by which he graciously gives us new life through the waters of baptism, and his steadfast word that seals us with His triune name.  It also denies the command given by Christ in the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations", "baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".  Because of Christ's command, we can be sure that baptising children doesn't just get them wet, but carries the promises to bring near all those who are far off:

Acts 2: 38-39

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”


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