Haven’t Heard – Part 2

November 5, 2012

Adam Harwood, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Truett-McConnell College
Cleveland, Georgia


Haven’t Heard – Part 1

The previous article asks: “How does God deal with people who die without hearing the gospel?” They can be placed into two groups, the uncondemned and the unreached. The uncondemned are comprised of infants, young children, and the mentally incompetent. Appealing to 10 biblical texts and the Baptist Faith and Message, the article explains that they inherit a sinful nature but are not condemned by God. Instead, God welcomes them into His arms.

This article considers the eternal destiny of the other group, the unreached. This group is comprised of people who reach an age or stage of moral accountability but die without hearing the message of the gospel.

God reveals Himself through His creation and our conscience. According to Psalm 19:1, creation declares the existence of a creator. In Romans 1:20, Paul writes that God’s “invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.” Notice that the unseen is clearly seen. God’s existence and power are “understood through what has been made” (verse 20). As John Stott writes, “Creation is the visible disclosure of the invisible God.”

Romans 1:20 declares “that they are without excuse.” All people who step into eternity and declare they didn’t know that God exists will be called a liar. Although some people may claim God doesn’t exist, they actually know He exists but try to suppress that truth and fail to worship Him (verses 18 and 21).

Also, God’s existence is declared by the human conscience. Paul’s argument in Romans 2 is that Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) are sinners. Paul anticipates this objection: What if a person argues that Gentiles can’t be considered law-breakers since they haven’t been given the Law of Moses? Paul explains that their conscience demonstrates that God’s law is written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15). Gentiles don’t need to be told that taking an innocent life is against God’s law; their conscience tells them it’s wrong. The same is true for adultery and lying and other sins. Knowing an action is wrong doesn’t keep one from committing the action. But knowing the action is wrong and doing it brings condemnation. That is the bad news which makes the gospel such good news.

Every person who recognizes the creator and law-giver is responsible to Him. Universal revelation brings universal condemnation. It is not necessary for a person to reject Christ in order to be guilty before God. According to Romans 1, people are idolators because they worship creation rather than their creator. People who could keep God’s moral law perfectly would not be subject to His judgment. But all of us fail to love perfectly both God and neighbor. We’ve all sinned and we’re all under God’s judgment, even those who haven’t heard the gospel.

The question sometimes arises: Can a person be saved by responding only to the “light” they receive through creation and conscience? There is no indication in Scripture that a person who lives after the Cross of Christ can be saved apart from hearing and responding to the gospel message.

One might speculate that because God desires all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), He might ensure that someone reaches some unreached people with the gospel message. But it’s also possible that many unreached people will step into eternity without hearing the gospel. We can’t know. But we do know that believers are promised empowerment by God’s Spirit as we are worldwide witnesses of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8).

Christ didn’t come to condemn but to save; we’re already condemned (John 3:17-18). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). But it’s necessary that people hear and believe that Christ died for them. Paul asks how the unreached can believe in Christ if they haven’t heard of Christ (Romans 10:14). They can’t.

All people are separated from God and need to know how to be made right with Him. We’re only made right with God by hearing and believing that Christ died for our sins and was raised (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We must reach the unreached with this message. Why? Because every person’s only hope is to repent of their sin and believe in Christ. As Jesus explains, people who don’t believe in Him will die in their sins (John 8:24) but those who believe in Him will live even if they die (John 11:25).

 

– AH, 9-27-12

 

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Steve Martin

Every person will be judged…without exception.

But the One who died for them will be judging them. Christ Jesus knows the hearts of each one He will be judging, as well as all the different circumstances in their lives.

He will make the proper judgement for all those who have never heard the gospel.

Whichever way that judgement falls.

Lydia

“Paul explains that their conscience demonstrates that God’s law is written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15). Gentiles don’t need to be told that taking an innocent life is against God’s law; their conscience tells them it’s wrong. The same is true for adultery and lying and other sins. Knowing an action is wrong doesn’t keep one from committing the action. But knowing the action is wrong and doing it brings condemnation.”

How is it that every little kid, no matter what background, recogizes injustice done to them on the playground? Does not mean they are not unjust themselves but they sure do recognize it.

Bob Cleveland

I believe that, when a person who’s not heard the gospel, recognizes the invisible qualities of God displayed in the firmament, and seeks to know more, that it becomes God’s move to keep feeding that person the truth. I believe it’s not the random choices of man that put people with the message of God’ grace in front of those without it … it’s God’s response to those who seek the truth.

peter lumpkins

Dr. Harwood,

I hope your two brief pieces tease the appetite of readers to explore more fully the subject in your book, The Spiritual Condition of Infants. I have not discovered, in my 30+ years of Christian ministry and pastoral counseling, a more helpful treatise of this subject. In one biblical sweep, you let the air out of most of the objectional tires and assist us in making sober sense out of so-called original sin. I encourage anyone interested in this subject to get your book.

With that, I am…
Peter

    Robin Foster

    Peter, I echo your feelings towards Dr. Harwood’s book. It is an excellent resource and has opened my eyes to understanding the fall.

    Adam Harwood

    Thank you, Peter, for your kind remarks about my book. I am thankful to the Lord to know that it has useful to some pastors in their ministry.

    In Him,
    Adam

Randall Cofield

Dr. Harwood,

Perhaps I’m missing something you said elsewhere, but in Part 1, you said:

What is the eternal destiny of a 30-year old man with the mind of a 3-year old? Because the Bible is silent on mental incompetence, we can only speculate. These people have a trusting and childlike nature. The conclusions regarding the eternal destiny of infants and young children will be applied to adults who have the mind of a child.

Then:

Infants and young children have not yet become transgressors and are not yet under condemnation. They inherit a nature inclined toward sin. They may experience physical death. But they are not condemned by God.

A 30-year old man with the mind of a 3-year old brutally murders an infant.

Is this man not condemned by God?

    Donald

    Your question seems loaded by “brutal” and “murder”. Are these necessary to your question? Can a man with the mind of a 3-year old “brutally murder” anyone?

    Randall Cofield

    Is my question unworthy of a response?

      Adam Harwood

      Randall,

      Thanks for your comment. I apologize for my delay in replying. My delay is not due to regarding your response as unworthy. Initially, I was simply at a loss for words. Then, others addressed your question so I assumed it was not necessary to reply.

      Since you returned to ask for a reply, I’ll do my best.

      You quote me as follows: “What is the eternal destiny of a 30-year old man with the mind of a 3-year old? Because the Bible is silent on mental incompetence, we can only speculate. These people have a trusting and childlike nature. ”

      If it is the case that an adult with the mind of a 3-year old has a trusting and childlike nature, then it is difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which he “brutally murders” anyone. I am not stating that it is impossible, but I am unsure how anyone can argue for or against the plausibility of your scenario with certainty.

      “Brutal” murders are typically committed by people who have a developed moral conscience. They can distinguish between evil and good. In my example, the adult has the mind of a 3-year old. Although children at that age have a basic sense of right and wrong, they clearly don’t understand the implications of their actions. Even secular courts don’t try to charge a child under the age of 12 with murder (even charging a child under age 18 is rare).

      I didn’t reply because I was unsure whether it would be profitable or helpful. While it is necessary to tease out the logical implications of our views, I am not obligated to follow you down the road of your constructed scenario because I don’t regard it to be plausible.

      I hope this helps. Blessings, brother.

      In Him,
      Adam

        Robert

        Hello Adam,

        In your book you make a very strong and good case that we need to distinguish persons having a sin nature (which includes babies and the mentally disabled) and everybody being capable of sin (which is not true of all people, babies and the mentally disabled lack the mental capacity to sin).

        I am aware of a very good and helpful on-line article on this issue written by a guy named Tommie Spurgeon. Adam I believe that you need to incorporate into your thinking the findings of neuroscience, which Spurgeon refers to in the following article:

        http://www.americaisraelprophecy.com/theageofaccountability.html

        Not only does he get into some of the same biblical passages that you discussed in your book. In addition he buttresses his view with some findings of science (specifically in the area of study of the brain). It is remarkable and extremely relevant that neuroscience shows that the brain is not mature in regards to moral thinking until about the age of 20. It is no coincidence that when God spoke of an “age of accountability” to the Israelites, the age when people are able to properly distinguish right from wrong as being at around the age of 20.

        Adam check out that article at your convenience and then let me know what you think of it here.

        Robert

          Adam Harwood

          Robert,

          Thanks for the link. After serving as a student pastor for a brief time, as a parent of teens, and upon reflecting on some of my own judgments as a child and teenager, I agree with the writer’s conclusion that it takes brains about 20 years to fully develop.

          I am in general agreement with the article. Some minor differences with the article include the following:

          1. I would argue for a “stage” rather than “age” of accountability. Why? It’s not clear to me that 20 is the exact age, only that it can be the outer boundary of moral responsibility regarding the group.

          2. When medical studies affirm a biblical view, that’s nice. But I don’t put much weight in them. Why not? Authority and variance. We’re all in agreement that the Bible is our authority for faith and practice, not any journal of medicine. The sciences, though, are finicky. One day they affirm a biblical view; the next day they contradict it.

          Thanks for your words of encouragement and support of my work on this topic.

          Blessings.

          In Him,
          Adam

            Robert

            Hello Adam,

            “Thanks for the link. After serving as a student pastor for a brief time, as a parent of teens, and upon reflecting on some of my own judgments as a child and teenager, I agree with the writer’s conclusion that it takes brains about 20 years to fully develop.”

            I share similar experiences as you do.

            You write: “I agree with the writer’s conclusion that it takes brains about 20 years to fully develop.” The significant thing to me about this article is that I knew about the various scriptures that speak of people not knowing right and wrong before about age 20: but I never knew WHY. I just trusted the Lord that he obviously knows what he designed better than we do. Then years later I come across this article by Spurgeon where he talks about how neuroscience has found that the brain does not fully mature till about the age 20. So I knew the fact from scripture FIRST, then years later I get this scientific confirmation of the biblical fact!

            “I am in general agreement with the article. Some minor differences with the article include the following:”

            Well you are like me, I did not agree with everything in the article as well. What I did appreciate is that he starts with scripture (which estalishes age 20 as a key demarcation point) and then brings in science to support what he already knew from scripture.

            “1. I would argue for a “stage” rather than “age” of accountability. Why? It’s not clear to me that 20 is the exact age, only that it can be the outer boundary of moral responsibility regarding the group.”

            I agree with you that we ought to view it as a stage of accountability rather than an age. This is true because people are different and mature differently as well. I believe age 20 is a ballpark figure while there will be some individual variations. I also believe that God knows each of us intimately and exhaustively so he would know precisely when an individual is morally mature and responsible and accountable.

            “2. When medical studies affirm a biblical view, that’s nice. But I don’t put much weight in them. Why not? Authority and variance. We’re all in agreement that the Bible is our authority for faith and practice, not any journal of medicine. The sciences, though, are finicky. One day they affirm a biblical view; the next day they contradict it.”

            I agree that we start with what the bible says first. I also believe that if the scientific studies are done properly (i.e they come to valid and true conclusions) they can serve a supportive or corrobative role. And this is a perfect example in my opinion. Again, I knew the age 20 demarcation age from scripture years before I heard about neuroscience coming to the same conclusion.

            “Thanks for your words of encouragement and support of my work on this topic.”

            Well that is easy as my view appears to be your view. For years I have maintained that all have a sin nature, all are born separate from God (i.e. spiritually dead) and yet not individually accountable for sin until they themselves sin. Part of this conviction comes from having seen different people with very different mental capacities and abilities. My wife and I have worked with mentally disabled adults for many years (my wife continues to do so and is extremely knowledeable regarding disabled persons and their care). Perhaps due to my personal experience it is harsh for me to conclude that those lacking the mental ability ought to be held responsible and accountable just like those who are able minded persons.

            I am strong on personal responsibility and yet from direct and personal observation have seen people who just do not have the same mental capacities the rest of us have. And the bible makes clear statements that personal responsibility varies (to whom much is given . . . teachers receive a stricter judgment . . . to one is given five talents . . . etc.) and is not identical for every person. If I am aware of these distinctions and have seen them in real life, how much more so does the Lord know this to be true. Anyway, it is easy for me to support your work as your views seem to be to be biblical, rational and true.

            Robert

          Mary

          “babies and the mentally disabled lack the mental capacity to sin.”

          huh? This is based on what? I’ll stick with the Scriptures: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

          Are you arguing that “all” does not mean “all”

            Robert

            You ask: “This is based on what?” and then appear to contrast what I am suggesting with your claim that “Ill stick with the the scritpures.”

            I don’t believe you here at all. If you knew the scriptures and believed them then you would know that in the Old Testament there are clear passages suggesting an “age of accountability” of about 20 years of age. Now you may not like that fact, but God is the one who said of the younger persons below the age of 20 that they would be allowed to enter the promised land and that they did not know right or wrong. Until you deal with these scriptures your claim here sounds sanctimonious and false.

            We also have the principle stated by the apostle Paul that by the law comes the knowledge of sin (this is especially made clear in the book of Romans). Consider what Paul says in Romans 7:7-9 “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if if had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.” Paul says here that we do not know about sin apart from knowledge of the law. He uses the example of the sin of coveting, but it could be anything. Sin is transgrassing the law of God. If you don’t know that law how will you then know that you are sinning? Babies are incapable of understanding the necessary concepts that make for a knowledge of the law and sin. They don’t know the concept of sin, law, breaking the law of God, etc.

            Able minded persons know the law because if they are Jews they have been taught the law, if they are Gentiles apart from the law they have the knowledge of God written on their hearts as well as their conscience. A baby does not yet have a developed conscience nor does the baby know the commandments (or even understand them). Paul spoke of the example of coveting. But let’s take the example of adultery. Mary do you believe that a baby can commit the sin of adultery? Can they even understand the commandment not to commit adultery? Or take idolatry. One of the commandments of God is that thou shalt not have any gods before me. Does a baby understand this commandment? Can a 10 day old baby be an idolator?

            Theological determinists like yourself will sometimes bring up Romans 3, the statements describe the sinful actions that people do. Mary can a baby do any of these things? Do babies use their tongues to deceive (3:13)? Do babies have mouths that are full of cursing (3:14)? It says in 3:15 that “Their feet are swift to shed blood”: can a baby even run somewhere to commit a sin? The descriptions in Romans 3 speak of able minded and able bodied persons who commit sins willfully and so are accountable for their sins. Mary do you really believe that babies willingly and knowingly commit sins?

            So we have scripture that presents an age of accountability and the scripture that speaks of sinful actions speaks of transgressing the law and doing actions that babies just are not capable of doing.

            Perhaps you can explain to the rest of us how a newborn baby who lacks language, lacks the ability to engage in abstract concepts such as “law” and “sin” commits sin???

            I am not talking about whether babies are born spiritually dead (they are, they are born separated from God) I am talking about whether or not they can personally commit acts of sin. I ssy cannot do so, you seem to believe that they can: so explain for the rest of us precisely how this happens.

            Robert

        Randall Cofield

        Hi Adam,

        Thanks for the reply.

        Let’s drop the adjective brutal. Ample examples exist to evidence that this happens.

        Is such a murder sin?

        If so, how does God deal with this sin?

          Adam Harwood

          Randall,

          You disagreed with my articles on this topic, which is fine. You asked a question. I gave it serious consideration and provided a careful and serious answer. You are not satisfied by the answer I have provided and want to ask another question. I don’t see an end to this discussion, brother.

          At what point is it permissible for us to differ on this matter? I’ve already written a lot on this topic here and elsewhere. I ask that you allow us to differ as brothers in Christ on this matter. Blessings.

          In Him,
          Adam

Robert

Randall a calvinist who apparently wants to restrict the grace of God only to the lucky preselected ones (like himself presumably), writes:

“A 30-year old man with the mind of a 3-year old brutally murders an infant.
Is this man not condemned by God?”

This is disturbing in a number of ways.

First does Randall WANT all mentally disabled persons who are incapable of a faith response to the gospel (and incapable of understanding right and wrong and the nature of sin) to go to Hell?

That is extremely harsh and unloving to say the least.

It is also totally predictable coming from a Calvinist. Calvinists can be such merciless creatures, they really don’t care if the majority of mankind goes to hell, as long as they get to go to heaven. They call this the grace of God, because of course God wants to save them and damn everybody else.

Second, most of us understand that for there to be murder there must be intent to commit such an action (which further requires a certain amount of mental capacity as well as knowledge of what is right and wrong). If a rock hurtles through the air (and it was not thrown by a human person like David with his sling) and strikes someone in the head killing them. Do we blame the rock for murder? Why not? Or if a tiger attacks and kills a tourist on a safarii, do we describe the actions of the tiger as the “brutal murder” of the human person? Why not? My point is that there are important moral distinctions that Randall appears to be completely oblivious about.

Third, Randall as a calvinist believes that everything is predestined by God. God preplans everything and ensures that everything occurs exactly as it does. So take his own example (with his thinking that the person is condemned and so hell bound) of the 30 year old man with the mind of a three year old who then **brutally murders** an infant. If that happened according to consistent calvinism, God decided beforehand that the man would be mentally disabled. God decided beforehand that this man would “brutally murder” the infant. God decided beforehand that that infant should die this brutal death. God decided beforehand that this man would be mentally disabled, decided his every action including his “murder” of the infant, and then will condemn him at the final judgment for doing exactly what God predestined for him to do. This way of thinking might be even more gruesome than Randall’s example. Consider what this would say about God’s character (as some have said, in consistent calvinism it is difficult to distinguish God from the devil when it comes to character as God predestines every evil and sin and ensures that they occur exactly as they do, for his glory of course).

Fourth, Randall’s post betrays a lack of understanding of the nature of sin and its condemantion by God. What I mean by this is that if we think biblically about sin, then a person need not “brutally murder” someone else to be condemned and hell bound. It only takes one sin to be eternally separated from God and condemned (if the person never repents and believes). You need not commit murder to end up in hell, in fact you could be a very nice and decent and law abiding citizen and churchgoer and end up in hell. Because it takes only one un-atoned for sin to get you there. So Randall creates this extreme and racy example of a thirty year old mentally disabled man who “brutally murders” an infant. But this same thirty year old mentally disabled man who commits one sin that is not atoned for, can be eternally condemned for that. So if Randall wants to have all mentally disabled persons hell bound they need not murder anyone to get there: just commit lesser sins (assuming they are responsible for their sins despite their mental incapacity as Randall appears to believe).

I have said before that calvinism leads people to become **grace restricters** (i.e. they are happy they are saved and not bothered and concerned that most of humanity is damned from birth with no hope of being saved like them: they happily restrict the grace of God to themselves and people who think and believe just like them). You also don’t see much love coming from those who are quick to condemn others and happy to see as many people as possible to be hell bound. And not only hell bound, but predestined to be hell bound. All according to plan no matter how much evil and sin is involved and no matter how many people are going to hell and never ever had any chance to be saved.

Robert

    lydia

    If that happened according to consistent calvinism, God decided beforehand that the man would be mentally disabled. God decided beforehand that this man would “brutally murder” the infant. God decided beforehand that that infant should die this brutal death. God decided beforehand that this man would be mentally disabled, decided his every action including his “murder” of the infant, and then will condemn him at the final judgment for doing exactly what God predestined for him to do. ”

    Bingo. Makes Randall’s question moot.

    Randall Cofield

    Robert,

    I happen to believe that such a man may, in fact, be saved. Our All-Wise God knows how to have mercy on the simple.

    You, on the other hand, choose to castigate a brother in Christ who you know nothing whatsoever about.

    Who, precisely, is being ungracious here?

      Robert

      Randall others found your question to be less than innocent (e.g. Donald wrote in response: “Your question seems loaded by “brutal” and “murder”. Are these necessary to your question?”).

      I have also noted from other things that you have written in the past that you are a calvinist. Consistent calvinism is a brutal and vicious and merciless doctrine when seen for what it really is. So considering that your question was not innocent and comes from someone who holds a doctrine that is reprehensible and hateful to the extreme (as some honest and forthright calvinists have acknowledged, i.e., the calvinistic idea of reprobation is **the** most hateful thing that could be done to a person and in the calvnist scheme this is done to the vast majority of human persons), you appeared to be suggesting that your hypothetical disabled person ought to be condemned for his sin (though he lacks the mental sufficientcy to understand the difference between right and wrong and to sin intentionally).

      Now you write:

      “I happen to believe that such a man may, in fact, be saved. Our All-Wise God knows how to have mercy on the simple.”

      May be saved?

      How can he be saved if (by the way you present it) he is condemned by his sin and lacks the mental capacity to distinguish right and wrong or intentionally sin??? We don’t hold rocks or tigers responsible for murder nor do we view them as capable of “brutally murdering” anyone. If you had any familiarity with common law legal principles you would also know that throughout the law there are important distinctions regarding diminished capacity and intentionality (e.g. the distinction between murder versus manslaughter).

      Regarding saving the “simple”, in comparison to God all of us are “simple: and need the mercy of God to be saved (in the bible the biblical authors even sometimes distinguish between the simple and the shrewd and manipulative). In fact **all** are saved by the mercy of God whether they be able minded persons or infants or the mentally disabled.

      “You, on the other hand, choose to castigate a brother in Christ who you know nothing whatsoever about.”

      I was challenging your position. You may be a perfectly nice though misguided calvinist.

      We have to differentiate between challenging a position (which is not “castigating a brother in Christ”) and attacking a person. One is acceptable and the other is not.

      Your question suggested that the mentally disabled though they lack the mental capacity to sin (as is also true of babies) are nevertheless condemned anyway. And again coming from a calvinist your question as Lydia recognized falls apart on itself as if your calvinism is true then God would be the one making the disabled person to be disabled to commit his “brutal murder” of an infant, etc. You calvinists repeatedly forget that if your theology is true then God predestines everything without exception. If that is the case then he preplans and ensures ****every sin and evil**** (even those of your hypothetical persons) in every detail.

      “Who, precisely, is being ungracious here?”

      Attacking a false and unbiblical position is not “ungracious”. Jesus did so, Paul did so, the other apostles did so, the prophets did so. In fact, one of the responsibilities of bible teachers is to warn other Christians about false doctrines and inform people about them. Calvinism is a false doctrine and has caused untold spiritual pride, division, error and confusion wherever it rears its ugly head.

      Robert

        Randall Cofield

        Robert,

        There is a distinction between a legitimate defense of the faith and casting personal invective on an individual. Your post both fails at the former and appears guilty of the latter. This hardly rises to the level of the apologetics of our Lord and the Apostle Paul, whose names you claim in “attacking” the question I posed.

        You suggest the contrary (without Scriptural support) when you state:

        Your question suggested that the mentally disabled though they lack the mental capacity to sin (as is also true of babies) are nevertheless condemned anyway.

        Jesus, on the other hand, states:

        Joh 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

        Paul, as well, states:

        Ro. 3:As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;
        11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
        12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
        13 “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
        14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
        15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
        16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
        17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
        18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

        He then concludes:

        19 ¶ Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
        20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no fleshwill be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
        ….23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

        If you want to contend for a category of humanity (i.e. babies/mentally handicapped) that is sinless, by all means do so. But you do so in contradiction of the infallible Word of God.

        All sin. Therefore, all are condemned.

        While I’m certainly not happy about that (as you falsely and ungraciously accused me) I’m irrevocably convinced by Scripture that it is true.

        If you wish to have a brotherly discussion, may I suggest that we leave off ascribing personal motives and the use of invective?

          Robert

          Randall writes:

          “You suggest the contrary (without Scriptural support) when you state:
          Your question suggested that the mentally disabled though they lack the mental capacity to sin (as is also true of babies) are nevertheless condemned anyway. “

          Randall I take it that you deny an age of accountability and you deny that it requires a certain amount of mental ability to understand good and evil and to understand sin and that one is sinning.

          So ****by your beliefs**** all of the babies and mentally disabled are going to hell.

          They lack the ability to believe the gospel, and according to you are all condemned because none of them can believe, therefore they are all hell bound. It takes a certain mental ability to believe or to reject something (and for some persons whether they are babies or the mentally disabled they lack the ability to accept or reject Christ).

          We know some things to be true even when scripture does not explicitly present them. For example we know that we have a brain, that we have a mind, that we have thoughts, and so on. Most of us also understand that in order to understand certain abstract concepts (such as “sin”, “right”, “wrong”, “personal accountability”, “guilt” etc. etc. etc.) we need a certain amount of mental ability. A mental ability that some human persons just don’t have. Apparently Randall you lack this common sense understanding of thinking and comprehension that the rest of us share.

          And consider your “proof” for your position:

          “Jesus, on the other hand, states:
          Joh 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “

          Simple question: when Jesus makes this statement is he speaking of able minded persons who have the ability to choose to either believe or not believe in Him?

          People who are fully conscious of their choice and able to understand what they are choosing?

          Again due to lack of mental development some human persons (whether babies or mentally disabled persons) just do not understand or comprehend certain abstract concepts and propositions and logic.

          You believe that this statement in John 3:18 is a blanket statement applying to all human persons (which would mean that it also includes babies and the mentally disabled). I believe the opposite is the case, Jesus makes this statement and is speaking of **able minded persons** who are capable of making the choice to believe in Jesus or to reject Jesus. If a person is ****incapable**** of both choosing to accept or choosing to reject Jesus, then this verse does not apply to them.

          If we take this as a blanket statement with no qualifications, referring to all human persons, then all babies and the mentally disabled who lack the ability to believe, are automatically condemned and hell bound. That is the inescapeable logic of your position.

          I know someone who just lost a baby that died recently after only a few days of life. Let’s apply your thinking/logic to this baby. The baby never accepted Christ and never believed in Him (the baby never even had the mental ability or awareness to believe in Christ). You would apply John 3:18 to him and the conclusion would then be that this child went to hell. He did not believe (does not matter that he could not believe), by your reasoning that child went to hell(because according to you John 3:18 applies equally to all human persons whether or not they are capable of having faith in Christ).

          Perhaps you feel satisfied about your belief here, but I find it to be barbaric and vicious and cruel. And again, you appear to be much more concerned about keeping people out of the kingdom of God then getting them in. This is why I see you calvinists as being grace restricters, it is all about keeping people out according to your theology. You are quite happy that you are in, but if a 10 day old baby goes to hell by the strict logic of your position, since he never believed in Christ as per John 3:18 that does not appear to bother you at all.

          You then try to bolster your view by appealing to Paul and Romans 3:

          “Paul, as well, states:
          Ro. 3:As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;
          11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
          12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
          13 “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
          14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
          15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
          16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
          17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
          18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

          Babies don’t seek after God: how can they, that requires a mental awareness and understanding they just don’t have.

          You argue that this passage applies to babies: when have they “with their tongues they have practiced deceit”??

          When has their mouth been “full of cursing and bitterness”???

          When did they murder anyone else (that is what the reference to “their feet are swift to shed blood” refers to)??

          When have they destroyed anything or anyone (“Destruction and misery are in their ways”)???

          Randall is proof texing here and I wonder what others have to say about this fallacious attempt: is Paul talking about and referrring to babies here in these verses?

          Or is he speaking in reference to mentally able persons???

          Randall then writes:

          “If you want to contend for a category of humanity (i.e. babies/mentally handicapped) that is sinless, by all means do so. But you do so in contradiction of the infallible Word of God.”

          A contradiction only occurs with two mutally incompatible propositions. Note he says it is wrong to contend ‘for a category of humanity (i.e. babies/mentally handicapped) that is sinless”. This is precisely the category that Dr. Harwood capably argues for in his book. Harwood argues and I believe correctly that while all have the sin nature, not all have sinned. Those who have not sinned (babies, the mentally disabled) have not sinned because they lack the requisite mental capacity to do so. To suggest this is not to suggest something that contradicts “the infallible Word of God”, because to contradict the scripture on this there would have to be a bible statement that babies and the mentally disabled are people who commit sins (hence the bible would say that babies and the mentally disabled have sinned while I would be contradicting the bible by claiming that the mentally disabled and babies have not sinned). There is no such statement. And taking passages like John 3:18 or Romans 3 that presuppose able minded persons who are capable of sinning, does not establish that babies and the mentally disabled are capable of sinning.

          Randall also has the problem with the scripture that says apart from the knowledge of the law people could not know about their sin (cf. Rom. 7:7 “On the contrary, I would not have come to KNOW sin except through the Law”). Well it is certain that babies do not have a knowledge of the law at all, so by this biblical standard they have not sinned.

          “All sin. Therefore, all are condemned.”

          Ok, Randall why don’t you try demonstrating how babies or others who lack the mental ability to do so, do in fact sin.

          Show us how all people including babies and the mentally disabled have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, to know what sin is and that they are sinning.

          And while you are at it, try to explain explicit scripture that says that some people lack the knowledge of right and wrong (cf. Deut. 1:39, Numbers 14 Harwood discusses these passages in pp. 61-63 of his book).

          “While I’m certainly not happy about that (as you falsely and ungraciously accused me) I’m irrevocably convinced by Scripture that it is true.”

          I think you are happy about your doctrinal position; it does not seem to bother you at all that your position on John 3:18 if true: damns all babies and all mentally disabled persons. By your logic all have sinned, and all who do not believe in Christ are hell bound (and since babies and the mentally disabled are incapable of believing in Christ, by your logic they are all hell bound).

          Robert

          Bob Hadley

          Robert,

          You wrote the following:

          “Jesus, on the other hand, states:
          Joh 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “

          Simple question: when Jesus makes this statement is he speaking of able minded persons who have the ability to choose to either believe or not believe in Him?

          I think the correct answer to your question for the calvinist is… when Jesus makes this statement is he speaking of able minded persons that He has given the ability to choose to either believe or not believe in Him.

          Since God is the One who makes that decision, it does not seem to me that the age or mental capacity has much to do with it for the calvinist at all. If God does it and the unregenerate is incapable of choosing God because he is dead… then it would seem to me that mental capacity is not a factor at all… God chooses to save… it is done… no problem!

          ><>”

            Robert

            Hi Bob,

            You make a valid observation here. Those theological determinists who believe that regeneration precedes faith tend to deemphasize both age of accountability and mental capacity. In their thinking regeneration produces or brings about faith. So what is more important is not age of accountability or mental capacity but regeneration. This brings out a real difference between reformed calvinist theology and Baptist theology. Most calvinists hold to Reformed theology which includes both covenant theology and belief in infant baptism.

            This becomes espeically obvious with those who hold to baptismal regeneration. They believe the person is regenerated at their baptism and then later this person comes to faith in Jesus. If you believe that, then the age of accountability becomes irrelevant, what is important is that regeneration occurs first and inevitably produces faith later. As Baptists on the other hand, we reject infant baptism and believe believer baptism to be biblical. Most Baptists also believe that faith precedes regeneration. If you hold these beliefs then age of accountability and mental capacity becomes important to you as you don’t want to be baptizing people who are incapable of having faith. Have you ever wondered why so many calvinists argue against the age of accountability or minimize mental capacity? it is because of their belief that regeneration precedes faith and inevitably produces faith.

            There is like this inverse relationship between the importance of the age of accountability and mental capacity and your view of baptism. For Baptists age of accountability and mental capacity are important (we would never baptize someoone who did not have the mental capacity to have faith on their own). For those who hold to reformed theology which includes more than TULIP, which also includes regeneration preceding faith and infant baptism (they have no problem baptizing someone who lacks the mental capacity to believe). For those who are convinced faith precedes regeneration and believe that we ought to baptize only those who make their own profession of personal faith, then age of accountability and mental capacity become very important.

            Robert

            Patrick

            Robert,

            I beg of you…just stop. All you’re doing is showing your own ignorance. You’re not making a case against the theology you claim to disagree with, nor are you even making a positive case for your own alleged theology. Instead, all you’re showing is that you certainly don’t understand Reformed theology, and even more surprisingly, you’re showing that you clearly don’t understand even your own theology. So please, for your own sake, just stop.

carl peterson

“Christ didn’t come to condemn but to save; we’re already condemned (John 3:17-18). ” Not all of us. Sorry had to say it. At least not according to Dr. Harwood in his preceeding post. If he referred only to the all in this section then I can see Dr. Harwood is not contradicting himself. I think that is what he meant.

But this post makes me want to ask a question. What does it say about God that He wants all to be saved but does not make sure that all have access to salvation? I mean there have been many people after the cross who have lived and died and have Never heard the gospel. Never. So if these people are condemned what about God? Does he really not desire all to be saved? Is he impotent to save them or to get the gospel message to them? What part does the church play in all this? Did God ultimately and completely give this job to the church? Does the free will of myself and other members of the church really make sure that some go to hell because some will never hear because (at least partially) of one of our decisions? I think there are many questions still unanswered.

    Adam Harwood

    Carl,

    Thank you for raising and then answering your own objection. As you noted, this article addresses the question of the eternal destiny of the “unreached,” not the “uncondemned.” I attempted but did not make clear to all readers that this article only regards the group know as unreached and never refers to the group known as uncondemned. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention.

    You raised other important questions. You ask, “What does it say about God that He wants all to be saved but does not make sure that all have access to salvation?” I affirm the first part of your question as valid because Scripture declares that God desires all people to be saved. But since Scripture does not explicitly affirm the second part of your question (namely, that God “does not make sure that all have access to salvation?”), then I gently reject that portion of your question as not clearly supported by Scripture. Scripture is clear that not all people will be reconciled to God. Scripture is clear that sinners are reconciled to God only by explicitly repenting of sin and believing in Christ. But I am unaware of a biblical text which states that certain people have no access to salvation. If it is the case that some people die apart from hearing the gospel, then this in no way nullifies the explicit teaching of Scripture that God desires all people to be saved. I refuse to deny the plain and clearing teaching of Scripture on the basis of my inability to reconcile every implication.

    You asked other good questions but this comment is getting long. If you would like to continue this conversation, then please restate a question you would care for me to address.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

      Carl Peterson

      Adam,

      I created a good sized comment to you here but it would not post and I did not have it copied. I do not have the time to do it again. Thanks for your post. It is good to discuss these types of issues with a Chrisitan brother, whom you disagree, but can have meaningful discussion. Iron sharpens Iron.

      Glory to God!
      CARL

Dell Russell

The unreached are condemned for the same reason all people are condemned, because when they knew God they glorified Him not as God nor gave Him thanks. Our sinfulness is not due to our state of birth, but rather it is the symptom of our turning away from God. Once a person turns away from God there is no other place to go but into sin.

Now once a person hears the gospel they are condemned even more so.

If a person gets a disease that will kill them due to their actions, they are responsible for their death to come. And if someone else comes in with a cure for that disease and they refuse to take the cure then they are responsible for that as well.

Mary

Adam, do you believe that “all” means “all” in the Bible? Such as “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” and “we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.”

It seems like for your argument to stand, all could not mean all.

    Mary

    I ask because of the things that have been said regarding infants and the metally challenged. It seems to me that if there are some that are not capable of sinning, “all have sinned” does not mean “all have sinned”.

      Norm Miller

      I’m not sure how likely this is, Mary, but perhaps Dr. Harwood mistakenly used John Piper’s book on exegesis. For, if “all” really doesn’t mean “all,” then I guess “world” really does mean “elect.” Of course, I jest — but only about Dr. Harwood. — Norm

      Dell Russell

      For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
      Paul is making a comparison between Jew and Gentile. The Jew saw and see themselves, not as sinners, but doing the things of God. Paul was making it clear to the Jew they were not as holy as they thought they were, so “all have sinned”. Paul’s argument doesn’t even start out with infants or children, but those that “hold truth in unrighteousness.” Babies do not hold truth or even untruth as far as that goes.

        Mary

        So, in other words, Dell, it is your opinion that “all” does not mean “all”.

          Lydia

          Mary,

          Perhaps another way to look at it is that all have sinned because they are born dying. “The wages of sin is death”. Everyone born dies a physical death because of Adam’s sin. So even babies are born dying and that death is a consequence of sin.

          I do fear many are reading Romans through 16th Century Reformation eyes and not the 1st Century City of Rome, Jew/Gentile situation eyes. (Esp given that Diaspora Jewish and Jewish Christians were streaming back into Rome after being bannished)

          It is as if it is a sin in some quarters to even suggest such a thing– which blows my mind. The truth is still there but so many in the NC world want to ignore the “Jewishness” of Jesus and how that played out in that time. And I fear they miss the overarching meaning of Romans.

          Ducking out

          Dell Russell

          Hello Mary,
          All does mean all, but sometimes all doesn’t include every single person. Paul was addressing adults not children, so yes, all the ones that Paul was addressing was included.

          As far as death goes, I would not say we are born dying, but death is hanging over each and every person from the time of conception to old age. The death spoken of in Romans 5 is not some kind of spiritual death, but death as in the graveyard kind of death. Adam brought death, but Christ brings life, that is one of the main points of Romans 5.
          In Romans 5 our problem is we are in Adam, but the cure for that is to be in Christ. Either one is in Adam or Christ, but you can’t be in both at the same time. To be in both would be impossible, because you are either in the flesh and lost or in the Spirit and saved.

Carl Peterson

I do not how one gets around Romans 3 and the verses it is quoting even with Infants. See Below

Lydia,

So if infants receive teh punishment of sin why are they not also guilty of sin? Is it good and just of a God to punish infants for sins that they are not morally culpable or guilty? I think this is a huge problem for those who seperate the guilt from the inclination and /or punishment of death that sin causes. In that view infants receive punishment without guilt.

CARL

Romans 3: No One Is Righteous
9 What then? Are we Jews[a] any better off?[b] No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

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

    Robert

    Carl you bring up Romans 3 and say that14 you do not know how one gets around Romans 3 even with infants. Twice now in this thread I have responded to this directly with both Randall and Mary (and neither has responded to my points) so Carl go back and read what I said about Romans 3 earlier in this thread. And regarding “getting around” Romans 3, that is not a fair representation of what I am claiming about Romans 3 at all. The goal of interpretation is always to properly interpret a verse or passage in its context. Paul in the early chapters of Romans is not discussing babies nor the mental capacity of people to commit or not commit sin. He is making a case against the human race to show that all are spiritually dead and separated from God. He is making this case in order to show the solution to the sin problem which is justification through faith in the finished work of Christ. In order to show that sin is a universal problem he has to show it is a problem for both Jews and Gentiles (which he does in the early chapters of Romans). It seems clear that Paul is discussing human persons who are able minded and able bodied (i.e ordinary people) because the things he says about how these people sin all require that they be people who are able bodied and able minded. For example in Romans 1 where he discusses people committing idolatery, the things these people are doing and thinking require physical and mental capacities that say a 10 day old baby just doesn’t have. The same is true in Romans 3. Take some examples and ask whether or not say a 10 day old baby could think or do such things. 3:13 they use their tongues to deceive. Can a 10 day old baby really use their tongue to deceive? Do they do so? 3:14 their mouths are full of cursing. Can a 10 day old baby curse? Do they know and understand and use swear words? Do they even know language of any kind at that time? Only an able minded person with sufficient language ability can curse. 3:15 they run swiftly to commit bloodshed. Is a 10 day old baby able bodied and coordinated enough to even run anywhere? And this running to shed blood is talking about murder. Can any 10 day old baby commit murder? You suggest that it is running around the Romans 3 passage to conclude that it does not apply to infants, I suggest the opposite, you really have to ignore what the text actually states to claim it is speaking of babies. It speaks of actions, mental operations and even physical activities like running that no babies can do.

    I should say one more thing about the phrase “all have sinned”. Is that statement itself a blanket statement intended to apply to every human person who was ever born? No. Jesus is the exception to this statement. He never sinned. He was not born spiritually dead like the rest of us are. Jesus was born into this world and yet Romans 3 does not apply to him at all. So it does not in fact apply to all human persons without qualification. Obviously we have to qualify the statement and recognize that it does not apply to Jesus who was born in the flesh. Most of us are not troubled by this because we recognize who it is applying to: every able minded person who lives on this earth and does in fact sin. Fact is every person (excepting Jesus) who does develop mentally and physically becomes a sinner who sins and commits their own sins. I make no claims that people are sinless, because in fact all who live to the point of being able to sin, do in fact sin (again excepting Jesus). But I don’t have to argue that babies are capable of sinning or have sinned in order to appeal to the passages in Romans. They were not intended for babies they were intended for able minded persons, both Jews and Gentiles who have in fact sinnned and who need to be justified by faith in Jesus in order to be saved. Later in Romans (including Romans 10) Paul will strongly argue for the importance of faith, that a person, whether Jewish or Gentile must have faith in order to be justified by faith. And in that passage he also is not discussing babies who are incapable of faith. As a Baptist I don’t baptize babies as they are incapable of faith. When I evangelize I don’t have to make the point that Romans 3 is not discussing babies because the people I am speaking to, Romans 3 does apply to all of them. I don’t need to run around Romans 3 as in fact I use it all the time when evangelizing. Because its intended meaning was to apply to all able minded persons who are sinners and spiritually dead and separated from God. As long as I use the passage for the people for whom it was intended I have no problems with it and it is very useful scripture to share with people. You go too far when you are forced to argue that these passages spoke about or were intended to apply to human persons incapable of the mental or physical activities the passages are talking about.

    Robert

      Mary

      I appreciate all the many words spoken, but it still seems much easier to me to see that when Paul said “all” are under sin, he meant “all”. Coming up with this after thoughts on the mental challenged is not Bible study any more. It is adding to God’s Word. We have people here saying a 30 year old man could be incapable of sinning because he is mentally challenged. But this is based on what? I would rather simply believe Paul who said that every man is guilty of sin. All these other ideas you have come up with have no basis in Scripture.

        Robert

        I assume that you have been reading the other posts in this thread. If so, then you have seen that scripture has been presented, scripture that you have, for whatever reason, chosen to ignore. You keep repeating the phrase all have sinned. Here again you repeat the phrase as if that is the only scripture that is relevant on this topic.
        And regarding this phrase you are mistaken, it may be simple to believe this phrase applies to all men, but it is also dead wrong.

        You state: “when Paul said **all** are under sin he meant all”. You then went on to say “I would rather simply believe Paul who said that all men are guilty of sin.”

        Jesus came in the flesh as a man. According to you, Mary, since Paul said all have sinned and that applies to all men, therefore Jesus sinned and was guilty of sin. Most of us understand that Jesus according to scripture both came in the flesh and never sinned and was never guilty of sin. That means we have to qualfy Paul’s statement in
        Romans 3. Now you keep pushing it as if it needs no qualification. If so, then JESUS sinned and was gulity of sin. Do you really believe that Jesus sinned and was guilty of sin???????

        Robert

          Norm Miller

          Thanks for the reminder, Robert, that context is crucial to exegesis. — Norm

          Mary

          Of course we know that Jesus never sinned. Scripture is very clear on that. Scripture is also very clear that all people need Jesus. That He is the Savior of all. That there is no other name under Heaven where by we must be saved, other than the name of Jesus. All of this is cooperating evidence that all have sinned and need salvation in Jesus. However, if we take your approach to this subject, there are at least three names under Heaven where men can be saved: Jesus, infant and mentally challenged.

          The problem with your approach is that there are actually people who do not need the atonement of Christ (infants and mentally challenged people). This is completely abiblical.

          Your approach is fraught with error.

            Dell Russell

            In Romans 7 Paul gives us a play by play of his own pre-regenerate condition and he tells us of a time he was alive before he understood anything of the law, but once he understood the commandment, it was at that time, not before, that he died. It was only after he understood that he became responsible and it was after that when he died. So it would only be then that he was lost, but before that time of knowing he was not lost.

            Romans 7:9; For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived (came to life) and I died.

            Mary

            Sorry, Dell, but Romans 7 is NOT Paul’s pre-conversion state. He is speaking as a Christian of his struggle with sin. There is no getting around it. Compare Romans 7:22 and 8:7

            “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” (7:22)

            “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (8:7)

            Romans 7 cannot be Paul’s preconversion state because he is “delighting” in God’s law. The unconverted are incapable of submitting to God’s law nor delighting in it.

            Norm Miller

            The Bible teaches that Jesus was sinless.
            The Bible teaches that Jesus was a man.
            The Bible teaches that all men have sinned.
            Is the Bible “fraught with error,” Mary? — Norm

            Mary

            Norm:

            -The Bible teaches that all men have sinned.
            -The Bible teaches that Jesus is sinless.
            -The Bible teaches that Jesus is God.
            -The Bible teaches that God cannot sin.
            -The Bible teaches that Jesus was born without a sin-nature.
            -Therefore, the Bible teaches that Jesus is unlike any other man (unique of all men)
            The Bible teaches that all men need the sinless Jesus.

            The “sinner-Jesus” argument does nothing more than contradict the rest of Scripture. It has no merit. I’m frankly surprised that you guys are still using such an empty argument.

              Norm Miller

              Mary: You didn’t answer my question. You redefined my question by posing your own syllogism which conveniently avoided the humanity of Jesus Christ. See if you can answer this one.
              “All have sinned.” That is a past tense verbal phrase implying some sort of action, act or deed.
              Since you insist on being such a literalist regarding the word “all,” then be true to your hermeneutical methodology, please, and tell me what action, act or deed (what sin) has a days-old infant committed? — Norm

            Mary

            Honestly, I can’t believe we are having this subject.

            You argue that infants and mentally challenged people are incapble of sinning, and therefore, you argue against Scripture, which teaches that all people need salvation in Christ through His atonment.

            The only arguement you can rally to your defense is Jesus-man-sinner argument. And this argument has no leg to stand on because the Bible is clear that Jesus is God, sinnless, God cannot sin. Jesus was not born with a sin-nature. You try and put the Creator of all things in the same category of sinful man and say “See!” But your argument is completely empty. I can’t believe this is all you have?? It just shows gives more evidence of how truly unbiblical your “sinless infant\mentally challenged” argument truly is. In fact, isn’t it fair to say that anything which would say that men do not need salvation in Christ is heretical? That is what you are arguing for! And your best argument is the “sinner Jesus” argument? Give it up! You can never win such an unbiblical argument.

            Mary

            Norm,

            The infant has sinned in Adam.

            *Adam’s sin is imputed to the human race.
            *The sin of the human race is imputed to Christ.
            *Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers.

            PS: I did not avoid Jesus humanity. I said that he is unique of all people because by virtue of His virgin birth, He was born without a sin-nature, which is why He is the only human being without sin.

              Norm Miller

              Mary: You did avoid my question as to whether the Bible is “fraught with error.” I make the case to show your inconsistency. You are slavish to the word “all” until it comes to the man Jesus. Of course, I believe he did not sin. But you are missing my point. If you are going to use hermeneutical methodology to appeal to the passages the except Jesus from sinning, then why do you deny others the same right to use hermeneutical methodology when they cite dozens of passages refuting your claim that “all” includes babies? This is where one of your inconsistencies lies.
              If you have not read Dr. Harwood’s many posts herein on this matter, then perhaps you would benefit from reading his book which posits, among other matters, that we are definitely born with a sin nature, but are not transgressors until we sin. I did not sin in Adam. I wasn’t there. But I did inherit his nature. — Norm

        Dell Russell

        Mary it doesn’t surprise me that you would say Romans 7 is a saved Paul/Christian, as most, but not all, Baptist see it as you do. However that doesn’t change the fact that it is indeed an unregenerate man.
        Most stumble over Paul’s line of thinking and how he continually keeps bringing the unsaved man into his argument to contrast the lost man struggling to get saved by his own works and failing to the saved man that is saved by faith in Christ.
        Paul gives us an analogy in Romans 7:1-6 to give us a picture of what he is telling us in Romans chapters 5-8.
        Romans 7:2 and 3 is about chapter 5. because it would take too long in one sitting to explain this part I’ll jump to what is more obvious.
        Romans 7:4 is about chapter 6. This one verse is a one verse description of what Paul is saying in Romans 6.
        Romans 7:5 is about chapter 7. Just as this verse speaks of when we were in the flesh it describes the man in chapter 7 to a “T”, which is a man in the flesh.
        Romans 7:6 is about Romans chapter 8. This is a one verse summation of what Paul is saying in chapter 8.

        Also we see the tenses in Romans 7:4, 5 and 6.
        7:4 is in the present tense.
        7:5 is past tense.
        7:6 is present tense.

        This is not unique to Paul’s writings, as he does this about a half dozen times in Romans and at least once in Ephesians. When Paul gives a summation list he does it in order to what he is saying and each time the verse he gives for Romans 7 it is always, ALWAYS, in the past tense and lost man condition.

          Robert

          Helllo Dell,

          As I am sure you are aware, Christian scholars are divided conerning the interpretation of Romans 7 (i.e. there are good and competent and godly scholars who hold both views on
          Romans 7, some see Paul as speaking of a believer and others see Paul speaking of a nonbeliever). That being said my own view is that it is a nonbeliever. Paul is speaking of the Jewish person under the law. He delights in the law and yet finds himself unable ot keep it by his own power (hence the discussion of the Spirit which bollows in Romans 8). Mary says no nonbelievers delight in the law of God. In this she is absolutley mistaken and probably knows no Jewish people personally. I know Jewish people who do in fact delight in the law and because of this believe they are saved via their keeping of the law (just like many of the first century Jews that the apostle Paul dealt with in Romans!). Paul says in Romans that the Jews were zealous about spiritual things which for them would have obviously included the law. People forget that the problem that Paul dealt with in the first century was not Jews who did not delight in the law or made no efforts to keep the law. No, their problem was that they were confident that their keeping of the law was what made them righteous before God. It is very similar to the common attitude that you find among many unbelievers in the United States today (they think they are good so of course they will go go Heaven when they die). Religious people (e.g. the Pharisees in the first century) are often those who are most judgmental and self righteous believing they are saved by their good actions (when in reality we can only be saved through faith in what Jesus did not what we do). The problem with the unbeliever in Romans 7 is not that he does not delight in the law but that he does not have the power in himself to keep the law in a God-pleasing way. Hence he needs the Holy Spirit to live a God pleasing life: which is why Romans 8 and the discssion of the Spirit follows chapter 7.

          Robert

          lydia

          “You argue that infants and mentally challenged people are incapble of sinning, and therefore, you argue against Scripture, which teaches that all people need salvation in Christ through His atonment.”

          They are not incapable of sinning, Mary. They are incapable of understanding sin.

          1 Tim 1 is interesting in light of this subject:

          ” Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

          Infants and the mentally challenged act in “ignorance”.

            Mary

            Lydia,

            The sinned in Adam. Jesus is the only human being born without a sin nature. Therefore, Jesus is the only human being who is guiltless. You guys are arguing against Christian faith if you give others a place Jesus holds alone. He alone is sinless.

            Mary

            I meant “they sinned in Adam”

            Dell Russell

            lydia,
            You and I agree on a number of things, but I would not use the verse in 1 Tim as a proof verse for an excuse of sin. It is true Paul acted in ignorance, but if he had not come to Christ by faith his ignorance and unbelief would have sent him to hell.
            The sin of unbelief was what was sending folks to hell. The sin of unbelief was the subject of Hebrews.

            lydia

            “The sinned in Adam. Jesus is the only human being born without a sin nature. Therefore, Jesus is the only human being who is guiltless. You guys are arguing against Christian faith if you give others a place Jesus holds alone. He alone is sinless.”

            Mary, I did not claim they do not sin at all. I am suggesting they (mentally challenged and babies) are ignorant of their sin and God shows mercy to them.

Mary

Thanks Dell and Robert. Good thoughts.

I still tend to think Romans 7 is post conversion Paul, but Dell I do appreciate your explanation of Romans 7:4, 5 and 6. I can see how they may well sum up chapters 6, 7 & 8.

    Robert

    I took a minute to check just a few of my commentaries on Romans this morning (John MacArthur believes the person in Romans 7 to be a believer: N.T. Wright, Douglas Moo, Thomas Schreiner see the person as a nonbeliever under the law). MacArthur is one of my favorite bible teachers and yet the others are all top of the line scholars. This indicates again there is disagreement on this passage by competent people.

    Mary I have a few questions for you.

    First are you a Baptist? Second if you are a Baptist why do you believe we should not baptize babies?

    If you are not a Baptist, then what is your rationale/justification for baptizing babies who cannot have faith on their own? I am wondering because how you answer these questions will be relevant to the issues in this discussion.

    Robert

      Mary

      Hi Robert,

      I am a Southern Baptist. I do not believe we should baptize babies, simply because “believers baptism” seems clearly taught in Scripture. I do try and base what I believe on Scripture alone, and I am confident you do as well.

      Blessings,
      Mary

        Mary

        PS: Would you allow a 30-year old mentally challenged man with a mind of a 3-year old be baptized? I would. Just curious what you think.

        Robert

        Ok we agree that we should not baptize bablies and that we should only baptize somone who makes their own profession of faith. And that is just it, it takes a certain amount of mental capacity to make this profession of faith. If the person lacks this mental capacity because either they are too young or because they are mentally disabled, we don’t baptize them. In the Great Commision we are told to make disciples and baptize them. But a person who lacks the capacity to make a profession of faith, to be a disciple of Jesus is someone we would not baptize. Mary that is why I askd you the questions about baptizing babies because the same reasoning that prohibits the baptism of certain individuals due to their lack of capacity to make a profession of faith is the reasoning that says if babies or the mentally disabled are to be saved they cannot be saved in the ordinary way through a profession of faith. We don’t have explici bible verses that tell us whether or not a specific individual has the mental capacity to make their own profession of faith. Nevertheless we will not baptize somene who lacks the ability to make a profession of faith on their own.

        Robert

    Dell Russell

    Hello Mary,
    I truly do understand your view on Romans 7 and even though you and I may disagree on this I would not break fellowship over it. Also, even though you believe in original sin and that everyone (except Christ) has a sinful nature, I would not break fellowship over that either. (I’m not saying Christ has a sinful nature as well, but I don’t believe anyone has a sinful nature. That may be another subject for another day.) If I broke fellowship over everything I disagreed with others on I would be a congregation of one most of the time.
    There are many that would agree with me on Romans 7, but then disagree on other matters, such as the teachings of the sinful nature and original. Yes, I am an SBC member, but the Church I am a member of does not teach what I believe about original sin, just thought I would throw that in so you wouldn’t think otherwise.
    I know in all likelihood you will still not agree Romans 7 is a lost man, but I thought I would at least give you something else to ponder, as Paul’s analogy in 7:1-6 is far from the only reason I see it as a lost man.

    First, as Robert and others have made clear, lost people do indeed delight in the law. When one speaks to a Jew that follows after the law you will be told by them, “I am satisfied with the law”. I have also had them tell me, “You believe in Jesus, we believe the law”. They are absolutely satisfied with the law! To delight in the law is not a sign of salvation. Also, besides the number of times Paul tells of his zeal and the zeal of the Jews in the things of God we see in Romans 2:17 how the Jew rested in the law. To delight in the law simply means they are satisfied with the law. The problem was and is they are not satisfied with God, they are still pulling the whole load of the law in order of “trying” to please God. So again, delighting in the law is not a sign of salvation.

    Another problem I see why many think Romans 7 is a saved man is, they see Paul’s letter as being in a chronological order as going from sinner to saint, then struggling saint to overcoming saint. BUT, as you read Paul’s letter to the Romans and the epistle to the Ephesians you will see how he continually brings in the past unregenerate man to contrast it to the now regenerate man.

    Paul gives a number of “series” of verses summarizing what has been said and then what is going to be said. I see them as sign posts pointing the way to his main points. He begins this in Romans 5, but I’ll give only a few, as there are probably a half dozen or so.
    Romans 6:16 is about Romans 1:18-3:20.
    Romans 6:17 is about Romans 3:21 through the end of Romans 4. This verse lets us know we acknowledged our sinful state, but no longer are servants to sin “BECAUSE” we have obeyed from the heart that “form of doctrine” which was delivered to us. That form of doctrine is, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Before we came by faith we came by our good works and our “goodness”, which was nothing but as filthy rags and not good at all. Chapters 3:21-chapter 4 is about “faith”. Faith is the doctrine that saves, not works and not the law.
    Romans 6:18 is about Romans 5. We have been “made free from sin”, because we have been justified in Christ. Chapter 5 is about being justified in Christ.
    Romans 6:19 is about chapter 6. Chapter 6 is basically about overcoming sin. There is more to it than that, but most agree this chapter is about sanctification. Sanctification would be the continual ongoing work of the Holy Spirit as we walk in the Spirit and not after the flesh.
    Romans 6:20 and 21 is about chapter 7. As you see this is “when ye were”, “ye were free from righteousness” and “had ye then”. In other words, it’s the unregenerate lost man.
    Romans 6:22 and 23 is about Romans 8. Moving forward in the things of God!

    Notice again he brings the unregenerate man right back in the middle of the saved man. Same as chapters 6, 7 and 8. Also notice the tenses. Romans 6:19 is present tense. Romans 6:20 and 21 is past tense. Romans 6:22 and 23 is summing up the present again.

    Evidently this is how Paul preached wherever he went. We see this same pattern in Ephesians chapter 2.
    Ephesians 2:1-3 is the sinfulness of man. This can be compared to Romans 1:18-3:20.
    Ephesians 2:4-2:10 is the gospel message. This can be compared to Romans 3:21-7:6.
    Ephesians 2:11 and 12 is remembering in times past, when we were without Christ and strangers from the covenants of promises. This can be compared to Romans 7:7-7:25.
    Ephesians 2:14-22 is moving forward in those things we once were not a part of. This can be compared to at least Romans 8 and more likely to the end of Romans.
    Basically Ephesians chapter 2 is a condensed version of Romans.
    Again we see how Paul brings the past to contrast to the present.

    Another hangup is Romans 7:25a. We are told “no one can thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord unless they are saved”. And I would agree. But one needs to understand 25a is an interjection of praise that he is no longer the man of Romans 7 and not see that one sentence as the summation of the chapter as a whole.

    In all of the series of verses Paul sums up his thoughts they are in order to how he has laid out the book of Romans. I think that speaks volumes.
    There are a number of other issues folks want to pick apart and try to discredit Romans 7 as a lost man, but they all fall short.

    As Robert said, “There are many godly scholars on both sides of the issue”. And as I said, “I would not break fellowship over it”, but we also need to be heard as well and not just discarded as if we are as dumb as a fence post either. If we all stop and listen to one another we might actually learn from one another.
    Anyway I could go on about Romans 7 all day, so I’ll not wear you out over it. Perhaps I might see you in Church some day and we can sit and worship The One True Living God together.

    In Christ,
    Dell

      Mary

      Thanks Dell. I want to think through what you have written here and compare the various verses you’ve mentioned.

      PS: And what is Romans 9 about? :;

        Dell Russell

        Hello Mary,
        I’ll be out of pocket for a few days, gotta run to Chicago. I would like to address your question(s) on chapter 9, but I don’t know if it has anything to do with the subject at hand. I don’t like to get off track too much, or as some may say, Highjack the thread. The only reason I went with Romans 7 is because I do believe it is relevant to the subject. As I pointed out about 7:9, I believe it is an unregenerate man/Paul. That being said I believe it refers to a time when he did not need “salvation”, because he had not yet done anything to be guilty of and therefore worthy of damnation.
        The wrath of God is against those that are worthy of such; not infants, children or older folks that never had the mental capacity of understanding right and wrong and the consequences thereof.
        Salvation is just that, the need to be saved. I don’t believe infants need salvation. Now once they have grown older and come to the place of 7:9 they are lost and in need of salvation. How old that may be? Don’t know. Younger than we would like to think probably.
        I will go over chapter 9 and see if there is anything there that I see is relevant to the subject and address it when I get back. In the meantime if you think there is something there you can go ahead and put it forth.

        Many Blessings to you,
        Dell

      Mary

      Dell, I would add, Original Sin is actually a beautiful doctrine if you look at it in light of its biblical counterparts: 1. Just as the sin of Adam was imputed to the human race 2. So also the sin of the human race was imputed to Christ. 3. And now whoever believes in Him has the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. That is what Paul was getting at in Romans chapter 5.

Robert

Mary you say that you would baptize the man who is mentally disabled and has the mind of a three year old. Would such a person have the mental capacity to make their own profession of faith? Would this person have the mnetal capacity to understand concepts relating to salvation incuding “sin”, “faith”, “salvation”, “repentance” etc.? I am not sure they would and unless they can understand these concepts I do not believe they can make a credible professon of faith. When we speak of **believer** baptism that is just it, we believe they have the mental capacity necessary to have faith, to follow Jesus as a disciple. Remember we are not merely after numbers, we baptized such and such a number, rather our goal is to make disciples of Jesus. A disciple has to understand concepts such as sin, salvation, repentance, etc. if they lack such an understanding then they ought not be baptized. Since I believe that some lack this capacity because they are children or mentally disabled, I would not baptize such persons.

Robert

    Mary

    I can’t imagine standing in the way of a mentally challenged individual from being baptized. Whether they understood fully or not, the fact that they want to be baptized should mean we should not prevent them. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 18:16)

    I know someone will probably try and use this text and see “See!” little children go to Heaven! I’m not saying they don’t. I am saying they are not sinless because the alternative is that Jesus is not the only sinless human being and they do not need the atonment of Christ. Baptists rightly hate it when Roman Catholics speak of the supposed sinless of Mary. But now some baptists here are pushing forward something just as unbiblical.

    What should be held as a fundamental belief among Baptists is that “Jesus is the only sinless human being; there is no salvation outside of Him and no one will be saved without His death on the cross applied to them.”

    If we can’t agree on these basic and important Christian beliefs, we will never agree.

      Robert

      Mary you wrote:

      “I can’t imagine standing in the way of a mentally challenged individual from being baptized. Whether they understood fully or not,”

      Stop right there.

      How can you say that we ought to baptize people “whether they understood or not”???

      Baptism must involve a credible profession of faith and a credible profession of faith must include understanding the nature of baptism and why one is being baptized.

      If they don’t understand these things they ought not to be baptized, plain and simple.

      “the fact that they want to be baptized should mean we should not prevent them.”

      So the mere desire to be baptized is sufficent for a person to be a suitable candidate for baptism?

      I sometimes hear small children say they want to do it though they have no idea what it entails, should we baptize whoever wants to regardless of whether or not they understand what they are doing?

      I think I am done with this discussion, as Mary has crossed the line where we are just going to have to disagree. Hopefully no Baptist in leadership shares her views on this.

      Lastly, Mary wrote:

      “ As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 18:16)”

      That passage has nothing to do with baptism (adult or child) and Mary attempting to use it for that purpose is proof texting at its worst that is both misguided and wrong.

      Robert

        Mary

        What I meant was even a 3 year old or person with a three-year-old’s mind can say “I want to follow Jesus.. I believe in Jesus. I want to be baptized.” And obviously they don’t know much, but I wouldn’t want to hinder that desire to follow him. Therefore I genuinely believe it would be wrong to hinder such an adult from being baptized.

Mary

Can’t we at least agree on these basic but vital truths of Christianity:

“Jesus is the only sinless human being; there is no salvation outside of Him and no one will be saved without His death on the cross applied to them.”

Can you guys as Baptists actually argue against this? This is what Christians believe!!!!!

Dell Russell

Why does most believe we must have a sinful nature? And where does it come from?

    Mary

    Dell: Every bit of man’s history is evidence:

    “the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by thirty-five centuries of recorded human history.”
    (Charles Colson in the book “The Problem of Evil”, p6)

      Mary

      Philosopher G. K. Chesterton is the source of the quote.

      Dell Russell

      So where does this sinful nature originate? And if we have a sinful nature why do we also do good or even want to do good?

        Mary

        I’m not theologian, but the sin nature originated (for man any way) in the Garden of Eden. And I suppose the reason we do good sometimes (or as Jesus put it: You being evil know how to give good gifts to your children) is that we were created in the image of God and that has not been completely lost in fallen man. We still carry his image and therefore we are still capable of some good.

          Dell Russell

          Hello Mary,
          It has been and continues to be a delight in reading and conversing with you. Thanks for putting up with my debating, I just see things from a different perspective than most.

          That is something I have heard before, but when I go back to Genesis and the account of the fall I can’t find it. It does say their eyes were opened after they ate of the forbidden fruit, but then we see in Genesis 3:22;”And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:…” So are we to believe knowing good and evil equates to a sinful nature? If that is the case then what does that say about God?
          You do bring up something I have thought about, The fact that we are made in the image of God, and that has never changed. We truly are made in His image and furthermore He continues to form us in our mother’s womb before we are even born.
          I have also heard Adam was made in the image of God, but then Adam sinned and we are then made in the image of Adam, which I find ridiculous to say the least. Are we to believe, without a shred of scriptural evidence, that Adam changed himself from how God created him? I know his eyes were opened, but we see that didn’t make him an evil person, just responsible for his actions.
          I’m no theologian either, just a student of God’s word.

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