Question: "What provision is made for infants and children who die before having reached the age of accountability?"

Answer: There is a doctrine in the religious world, once very popular and still held by many, called total hereditary depravity. It teaches that all babies are born with a sinful nature which they inherit from Adam through their parents and thus are under the sentance of death. Those who accept it often cite Psalm 51.5 where David said, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me." However, total hereditary depravity is not taught in this verse or any other passage of scripture. David is not talking about his own spiritual condition at birth but simply about the condition of the world into which he was born.

Yet, some believe that if an infant dies, he will go to heaven only if he is one of the chosen whom God elected before the foundation of the world, but he will go to hell if he was not one of the elect. Others think that infants need to be "baptized" (usually sprinkled with water) to have their inherited sin removed before they can go to heaven. Still others say that because of the death of Jesus infants automatically receive forgiveness on the basis of Christ's provisions as our offering. However, this raises the question, where did these babies get the sin for which they are supposed to need forgiveness? We read in 1 John 3.4, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." The familiar King James Version says, "transgresseth also the law." Sin is something that we do, not something that we inherit.

God said in Ezekiel 18.20, "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." If we do not bear the guilt of our own fathers, we certainly cannot bear the guilt of Adam. Paul wrote in Romans 5.12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Yes, one man, Adam, brought sin into the world; however, spiritual death passes to all men not because all inherit sin from Adam, but because all sin. Again, sin is not something that we receive from others but something that we do.

Thus, no provisions have to be made for infants and children who die before having reached the age of accountability, because babies are safe due to innocence. They are not yet capable of sin, so they have no sin to be forgiven. In Matthew 18.3 we read that Jesus spoke to His apostles, "And said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.'" If little children are born guilty and depraved, then a sinner who is converted and becomes as a little child simply becomes guilty and depraved, which he already is so there is no change!

The only way that these passages make sense is to recognize that children are born pure and sinless. Therefore, there are no passages of scripture which teach that infants, babies, and small children need to be baptized, and there are no Bible examples of infant baptism. Baptism is for people who can believe (Mark 16.16) and repent (Acts 2.38). Children under the age of accountability are capable of doing neither in the Biblical sense, nor do they even have any sin to repent of. "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized" (Acts 8.12). [From "Search for Truth," July 11, 1999.] Brotherly, Wayne S. Walker

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