Q: #156. Are babies born sinners?
By: Steve Shirley
A: This is an often debated and fairly complicated subject. Let me briefly discuss both points of view.
The first view called "original sin" (held primarily by Calvinists, Catholics, and other religions who baptize babies) teaches that babies are indeed born as sinners. It is called "original sin" because when Adam "originally sinned," or committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden, his sin was then imputed or passed on (kind of like a genetic defect) to each successive generation that followed. The primary Biblical text that is used to support this position is found in (Rom 5:12-21).
Calvinists call this "Total Depravity," meaning that a baby is a condemned sinner at conception and has no choice but to sin. He is also unable to seek God at all or choose Christ until God regenerates him, at which point he will be saved.
Catholics, and other religions that baptize infants, believe that the baptism of the infant washes away this "original sin."
This concept of "original sin" seems to have originated with Irenaeus in the 2nd century, however, it was made popular (especially amongst Catholics) by Augustine (354-430). He was the first to propose that baptism would cleanse the infant, and even went so far as to say the infant would go to Hell if he died before being baptized. (Most who baptize infants today do not go this far.) In addition, most who call themselves Calvinists do not believe in baptismal regeneration.
The other view (held primarily by Armenians, anabaptists, and a number of other Christian religions) teaches that we are not born as sinners per se, but rather, we are born with a "sin nature." In other words, man is not forced to sin because he has the "sin gene" passed on to him from Adam, but instead, he has the "free will" choice to sin or not. He is also able to believe in God (Jn 3:16,18,36)(Jn 1:12)(Eph 1:13)(Heb 11:6)(Jn 8:24), repent (Acts 3:19)(2 Cor 7:10)(Lk 13:3,5)(Mt 4:17)(Acts 11:18)(Mk 1:15), and call upon the Lord (Rom 10:12-14)(Acts 2:21) in order to be saved without first being regenerated.
Generally, those who hold this viewpoint also believe in what is called the "Age of Accountability," which states, in short, that a child is not responsible or accountable to God for his actions or sins until he reaches an age where he is truly able to distinguish between good and evil.
The "sin nature" view teaches that man is only accountable and guilty for the sins he actually commits, while the other view says man is declared a sinner simply because he inherited sin.
OK..., if you have read my home page, you know that I try to steer clear of secondary and dividing issues on this website. It is difficult to share my views on this subject without crossing into the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate, so what I will do instead is simply ask several questions for each viewpoint to consider. Know WHY you believe what you believe, or if you don't know for sure, open your Bible and study these questions for yourself and come to your own conclusion.
Questions for the adherents of "original sin"
#1. How do you explain where the Bible teaches that man is not held responsible for the sins of the father (i.e. sin is not passed down from Adam)(Ezek 18:14,17-20)(Deut 24:16)(2 Kin 14:6)(2 Chr 25:4)(Jer 31:29-30)?
#2. If you believe that man is "totally deprived," doesn't that make God the author of sin which the Bible says He is not (Jas 1:13-15)(Jn 8:44)(Lk 8:12)(Hab 1:13)(Mt 13:24-43)(1 Jn 3:8)?
#3. Didn't God say after He created all things that they were "good" (Gen 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31) and that He made man "upright" (Eccl 7:29)?
Questions for the adherents of "sin nature"
#1. How do you explain the verses in (Rom 5:12-21) and the numerous verses that seem to point to being born a sinner (Isa 48:8)(Ps 51:5)(Ps 58:3)(Eph 2:3)(Job 14:4)(Job 15:14)(Gen 8:21)(Rom 3:23)(Eccl 7:20)(Prov 22:15)(Prov 20:9)(Ps 14:2-3)(Gen 6:5)?
#2. How do you explain the fact that a child almost immediately tends to do wrong at the first possible moment (i.e. greed, tantrums) without even having a chance to learn it?