Thursday, July 01, 2004

Age of Accountability

I am reading a great deal on covenant theology, and will post some more essays soon. But not today.

Today I want to write about the age of accountability. I arrive here because of a logical chain that I have used in several recent posts, viz.

Whereas: We are saved by faith, and that faith in Jesus Christ, obtained by grace, is the necessary and sufficient requirement for salvation, and

Whereas: We believe that some who die as infants are saved and in heaven,

Therefore: Infants are capable of faith, although not of expressing it.

Responding to this, several people asked of an alternative possibility: an age of accountability. Perhaps children do not need faith, because they are not held accountable for their sins.

There is no biblical basis for such a doctrine, no matter how attractive it may be. It flies in the face of Original Sin and the manifestation of Original Sin, Total Depravity. We are in rebellion from the womb, and are in need of a redeemer from conception.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps 51:7)

The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. (Ps. 58:3)

The closest passage to affirming an age of accountability is probably:
For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. (Is. 7:16)

What, in the face of overwhelming scripture that belies the concept of an age of accountability, can this mean?

One thing it might refer to is the age of accountability under human law. We don’t put two year olds in jail. That is a far different thing from saying that children are born innocent in God’s eyes and only become sinful when, after reaching some age, they choose to sin. We are born sinners, in rebellion against God, and apart from saving grace we all would receive what we deserve: eternal damnation.

It is also possible that indeed young children cannot make a distinction between right and wrong. But once again, this still does not excuse them from the fact that, as a result of the fall, they are abhorrent in God’s sight, apart from being clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

If there were an age of accountability, then the forty million abortions that have occurred since Roe v. Wade would, in addition to being infanticide, also (in some way) be a mass mercy killing. Forty miilion souls that never faced the risk of condemning themselves by choosing to sin.

Whatever fraction, hopefully all, of the forty million murdered children that are in heaven are there because of God’s mercy, not because they were innocent. Innocent people of any age would not need Christ, for God is just.

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