Inherited Sinful Nature:
A View Permissible as both Biblical and Baptist

December 9, 2012


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


The doctrinal formulation known as inherited guilt, or imputed guilt, holds a prominent position within the history of Christianity as well as among Baptists. The claim of this paper is that inherited guilt, the view that every person inherits more than a sinful nature or inclination but also the actual guilt of the first Adam, faces the challenge of maintaining internally-consistent theological assertions when formulating a doctrine of infant salvation. In other words, there may be a better way of understanding what the Bible teaches about our inheritance from Adam and subsequent sin and death which has been answered by God in the gift of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This view, inherited sinful nature, is presented in a basic way through seven biblical statements on the spiritual condition of infants. The paper supports this view by engaging key texts (such as 2 Samuel 12; Psalm 51:5; and Romans 5:12), major theologians (such as Augustine, Calvin, Wayne Grudem and John MacArthur), and our convention’s common doctrinal statement, the BFM 2000.

This paper is offered as a resource to benefit Southern Baptist pastors. While the professors teach students about doctrinal issues such as the nature of our inheritance from Adam or how to formulate a theologically-consistent doctrine of infant salvation, it is pastors who do the hardest work. It is pastors who prepare and deliver funeral sermons for those previous infants and minister to those hurting families in subsequent years. Reared in SBC churches across the country (moved by the military every few years), I heard a wide variety of Southern Baptist pastors and Bible study teachers advocate a view which was sometimes referred to as an age or stage of accountability. This view resonated with many people as faithful to the teachings of Scripture. But there seemed to be little-to-nothing in print which articulated a biblical-theological defense for such a view. This paper is offered as a small contribution to begin filling that theological void. It is my intuition that this view of inherited guilt will be gladly received because it is already widely affirmed throughout the SBC.

The content of this paper was drawn from the work in my 2007 PhD dissertation in Theology completed at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The dissertation was revised and published in 2011 with pastors in mind. Unless a person wants to comb through 400+ footnotes from more than 200+ sources, I recommend simply reading this paper. On a personal note, it is humbling to know that God may desire to encourage and sharpen certain pastors in their high calling through this proposal. If it blesses even one pastor and aids in his ministry, then I will thank the Lord, because it was prepared as an offering to the Him and now I am honored to offer it for consideration to the pastors who serve in His churches throughout the SBC.

There are few things more painful or perplexing than the death of an infant. Because the fog of grief can cloud your thinking, the best time to set into place a biblical view about tragedy and suffering is before it strikes. Although several books have been written on the subject of infant salvation, the current proposal is unique because it attempts to address the spiritual condition of infants who are physically alive. Why focus on the spiritual condition of living infants? Before we consider the issue of the salvation of infants, we need to be clear about what the Bible does and does not affirm about their current spiritual condition.[1]

In one paper, I must exclude more information than I can include. The content, nevertheless, is organized as follows: first, a presentation of the dilemma concerning infants; second, a proposal of seven biblical statements on their spiritual condition; third, some comments of pastoral application.

The Bible presents a dilemma concerning infants. On the one hand, Genesis 3 and Romans 5 describe humanity’s fall into sin and the horrible legacy for subsequent generations. We all have a relationship with the first Adam, and that relationship results in our being sinners. Even before we understand the difference between right and wrong, we are sin-stained people. The Bible also informs us that every person will spend the rest of eternity somewhere—either with God in heaven or apart from God in hell. The good news is that God did not abandon his broken creation. At the very moment we were hopeless and helpless in our sin, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Jesus, who was and is fully God and fully man, lived and died and was raised to provide the forgiveness of sin and to make peace between God and man (1 Cor 15:1–4; 1 Tim 2:5–6).

But the sad part of the good news is that not everyone will be forgiven of their sin. Jesus spoke of a broad gate and road, which lead to destruction, and the many who would go that way (Matt 7:13). Jesus warned about the danger of being thrown into hell (Luke 12:5). Thankfully, some people will go to heaven. And those people who go to heaven will at some point in their lives hear the saving message of the Gospel—that Christ died for our sins. And the people who hear that message will have repented of their sin and turned to Christ for the forgiveness of their sin.

The dilemma comes when we consider infants. I’ll define an infant as a person who is one year old or younger (including the pre-born). Infants are part of sinful humanity. Even if they don’t yet know they are sinners, they inherit from the first Adam a sinful nature. And later in life, they will inevitably and certainly act out of that sinful nature and knowingly commit sinful acts. But infants who die never had a chance to hear, understand, and respond to the Gospel. It’s not just that they do not hear and respond; infants cannot hear and respond to the Gospel.

It seems wrong to think that the loving God of the Bible would allow those infants to spend eternity in hell. But it seems equally wrong to think that the holy God of the Bible would welcome guilty people—no matter how young—into heaven. Thus, the dilemma: How does God welcome some, or any sinful infants into heaven? The Bible doesn’t explicitly answer this question. When Anabaptist leader Balthtasar Hubmaier (1480–1528) was asked about the eternal destiny of unbaptized infants, he wrote, “I confess here publicly my ignorance. I am not ashamed not to know what God did not want to reveal to us with a clear and plain word.”

The Bible does not explicitly answer that question. There is no chapter and verse in the Bible that answers that particular question in that particular way. We can, however, based on Scripture’s clear teaching regarding sin and God’s judgment, attempt to build from Scripture an argument for how we think God deals with people who die in infancy. We can also rule out some wrong answers.

These are the kinds of questions that need to be answered:

  • In the Bible, are infants and adults treated the same way?
  • Does the Bible teach that infants are already guilty of sin or only that they inherit a sinful nature and will later become guilty?
  • In the Bible, does God judge our sinful nature? Or does He judge only our sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions?

Are infants guilty of sin or not? If you believe that people need to hear and respond to the Gospel to be saved, and you say that infants are guilty of sin, then the consistent conclusion is that all infants who die without hearing and responding to the Gospel will be separated from God. But almost no theologian says that. Nearly all theologians hold out hope that some (or all) of those infants will go to heaven. But most of those same theologians also say that infants are guilty of sin. If you begin with infant guilt, then you’re left with a doctrinal system in which some sinful, guilty people (infants) are welcomed into heaven. That system is internally inconsistent.

Let me illustrate for you the inconsistencies. Ronald Nash was a well-respected theologian and philosopher who taught at Christian colleges and seminaries for 40 years and wrote more than 30 books. He attempted to reconcile infant guilt and the hope of heaven in his 1999 book entitled When a Baby Dies. Nash insists that infants are guilty because of their sinful nature. So, infants are guilty. However, “divine judgment is administered on the basis of sins committed in the body.” He cites 1 Cor 6:9–10, which includes sexual sins and says this excludes infants. So, infants are not guilty. But, Nash writes, infants are guilty due to their sinful nature. So, infants are guilty. However, infants don’t know the difference between good and evil, so they are incapable of personal sin. Nash cites Romans 1, which is “clearly dealing with responsible adults.” So, infants are not guilty. Typically, Ronald Nash is consistent and clear. But in this case, he insists that infants are guilty before God and at the very same time not guilty. How can that be?

That’s the dilemma. What is their spiritual condition? What can we know from Scripture? To address this dilemma, I will present and defend seven biblical statements on the spiritual condition of infants and close with suggestions for pastoral application.

(1)  Infants are people. Sometimes we think and speak about infants, especially in the womb, as not-yet-people. Infants are a fetus or a potential person, but not yet a person. That is not the view of Scripture. In Psalm 139, David explains how God formed him in his mother’s womb. David was “made” and “woven” together. Even when David was “unformed substance,” God saw him and David’s future days were written in God’s book. In Jeremiah 1, God tells Jeremiah that He “knew” Jeremiah before He formed him in the womb. And God “consecrated” Jeremiah before he was born. From these passages, we see that infants are people, which means they are the special creation of God and (Gen 1:27) made in God’s very image. Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, did not distinguish grammatically between pre-born or born-alive infants. He used the same Greek word (brephos) to refer to John the Baptist as a baby inside the womb (Luke 1:41) and to Jesus as a baby outside of the womb (Luke 2:12). The womb is the place where God creates people. In the words of the widely-read twentieth century theologian, Dr. Seuss, who repeatedly made this statement in Horton Hears a Who: “A person’s a person no matter how small.” Infants are people.

(2) Infants are impacted by sin. One of the questions people ask before they read my book is this: “If infants are not guilty of sin, then why do some infants die? Isn’t death a result, or wage, of sin?” That is a great question. Death is a result or wage of sin. And some infants die. But it does not follow that their deaths are a result of either personal or inherited guilt. Instead, death is the result of God’s universal judgment against sin. Even infants can be caught up in the horrible effects of living in a fallen world.

Consider one example of the death of an infant in Scripture: David’s first son. Second Samuel 11 details the awful events of David’s adultery with Bathsheba. David’s cover-up ended in the death of her husband, Uriah. In chapter 12, the prophet Nathan confronted the king with a story that ended with the accusation, “You are the man!” Struck by that truth, David admitted his sin. God forgave David but announced that there would be severe consequences for his actions. One of those consequences was that the child in Bathsheba’s womb would die (12:14). Scripture tells us that the child was born and became sick. David fasted and begged God to spare his son’s life. But the infant died. Question: What sinful action did the infant commit in order to earn the punishment of death? The answer (of course): Nothing. The infant had done nothing wrong. The child didn’t die because of Adam’s sin. The text is clear that the child didn’t die because of his own sin. The child died as a direct result of David’s sin. Our sins can have horrible consequences for other people, including infants.

Consider also Pharoah’s infanticide in the day of Moses and King Herod’s infanticide in the day of Jesus. Those babies did nothing wrong. I don’t cite these examples to say that the death of infants can always be blamed on the sinful actions of other people. The story of Job and the teachings of Jesus (John 9) tell us that is not the case. Instead, what we have seen is that infants can suffer death without personally committing any acts of sin. Infants are impacted by sin.

(3) Infants are not sinless. We reject Pelagianism. Pelagius taught that infants are sinless and Adam was only a bad example that we choose to follow. That’s wrong. Only Jesus was born without sin. All other people, including infants, inherit a sinful nature from Adam. People may look at babies and speak of their innocence and purity. If by those words, they mean that infants have not yet knowingly committed sinful actions, then yes, they are innocent and pure. But if they mean that infants are without sin exactly like Adam and Eve before the fall or like Jesus, then no.

David wrote this: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5). Old Testament scholars who comment on this passage explain this as David’s reference to his sinfulness from the first moment of his life. But this is not a comment on infant guilt. Systematic theologians sometimes cite this verse to support a claim of infant guilt. That is not what David said. OT scholars who provide the explanation for Psalm 51:5 I am advocating include: Franz Delitzsch, Edward Dalglish, Mitchell Dahood, Michael Goulder, Hans-Joachim Kraus, and others. These Old Testament scholars say David is not referring to guilt but sinfulness.

Scripture clearly connects us to Adam. Sin entered the world through one man (Rom 5:12). So, all orthodox Christians agree that infants are not sinless. What they disagree on is guilt. There are two different views of this. That brings us to our next position.

(4) Infants inherit from Adam death, not guilt. Augustine taught, and John Calvin later affirmed, that all infants inherit from Adam not only a sinful nature, but also his guilt. Augustine argued that all of humanity was physically (seminally) present when Adam sinned in the Garden. So, we were physically present in Adam. Calvin, though, argued that Adam acted as our representative, or our federal head. He acted as our representative. When Adam sinned, he acted on our behalf and because he is our representative, when he was judged guilty we were judged guilty. In either case, this tradition of Augustinian-Calvinism teaches that all people inherit from Adam both a sinful nature and Adam’s guilt. So, the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition affirms that all people, even as infants, have inherited guilt. In explaining this view, theologian Wayne Grudem wrote that “even before birth, children have a guilty standing before God and a sinful nature that not only gives them a tendency to sin but also causes God to view them as ‘sinners.’” Calvinists point to Rom 5:12-21, in which Paul parallels the work of Adam and the work of Christ. But despite the teachings of Augustine and Calvin, Paul was not arguing for our guilt in Adam. Rom 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Paul connects sin to death and states that all have sinned.

Some people read Augustinian-Calvinism into Romans 5, insisting that every person will die because “all sinned,” adding these words that are not in the text: “in Adam.” They say Romans 5 means we’re all guilty because of Adam’s sin. But the text only states that “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” We need to be careful not to read a theological system into the text of Scripture.

Several New Testament scholars who comment on Romans 5 are careful not to read inherited guilt into the passage. C. E. B. Cranfield, in his International Critical Commentary on Romans, allows for a distinction between Adam’s sin being passed to infants and the guilt they later incur after they commit sinful actions. He writes, “But those who die in infancy are a special and exceptional case, and Paul must surely be assumed to be thinking in terms of adults.” In Cranfield’s estimation, Paul was dealing with adults in Romans 5 not infants.

Millard Erickson raises the problem of reading an exact correspondence into Romans 5. If all people were present and guilty because of Adam’s disobedience (universal condemnation), then an exact correspondence would mean that all people were made right with God through Christ’s obedience (universal justification). But that is not the case. We reject Universalism. Rather, we say that one must personally ratify the work of Christ in our life by responding in repentance and faith to be saved. In a similar way, we must personally ratify the work of Adam in our life. We do so the first time we commit an act of sin after we know the difference between right and wrong. We must become guilty. (The picture on the next page attempts to illustrate Erickson’s view of conditional imputation.)


The Scriptures teach substitutionary atonement (Christ died in our place) not substitutionary guilt. You are not held responsible for the sins of another person but for your own transgressions. You are not held guilty for the sins of your father, your grandfather, or your great-grandfather. Can their sins have consequences on you? Yes. Are you held guilty for the adultery of your great-great-grandfather or the lies of your great-great-great grandmother? No. Neither are you held guilty for the sins of the first Adam. We are connected to Adam, but we answer to God for our own sin and guilt. We inherit from Adam death, not guilt.

(5) Inherited guilt requires inconsistent claims regarding our inheritance from Adam and its effect upon infants when formulating a doctrine of infant salvation. If you begin by assuming infant guilt, then an infant’s only hope for heaven is found in one of four ways, all of which appear to be doctrinally inconsistent.

If you begin with infant guilt, then the infant might have a hope of heaven due to baptismal regeneration (baptism for salvation). This was Augustine’s solution. He thought baptism would cleanse the infant of the stain of “Adamic sin.” But if an infant died before being baptized then, he wrote, the infant would suffer a “milder condemnation” in hell because the infant still retains the guilt of Adam’s sin. But we reject baptismal regeneration–both for infants and for adults. People aren’t made right with God by the act of water baptism–whether by sprinkling or immersion. Guilty people are made right with God by repenting of their sin and placing their faith in Christ. But if you begin with infant guilt, the road to infant salvation may pass through baptismal regeneration.

If you begin with infant guilt, then the road to infant salvation may travel the road of parental faith. Covenant theology holds out the promise that infants who die with believing parents may go to heaven due to the covenant nature of salvation. They point to 1 Cor 7:14 sanctification and the nature of covenant promises being “to your children.” This is the example of John Calvin and Wayne Grudem. Infants of believers can have this hope but not infants with unbelieving parents. So, the difference between heaven and hell for an infant now lies in whether or not parents are Christians?! We reject that view.

If we begin with infant guilt, then hope for heaven can also be found in forgiveness apart from repentance at death. Infants who die remain guilty but enter heaven apart from repenting of that sin/guilt and apart from confessing faith in Christ. When would infants repent of their guilt? John Piper speculated in a footnote of an otherwise excellent book that infants who die will mature after death and confess Christ.[2] Was it a commitment to infant guilt that led Piper to speculate about post-mortem confessions of Christ? That is not a good solution.

If we begin with infant guilt, then their hope for heaven can be based on forgiveness apart from the commission of sin. If we begin with inherited guilt, then you are left with an infant who is guilty of sin before committing any act of sin. Infants are considered guilty, then, on what basis? On the basis of Adam’s actions in the Garden. Those options fall short because they begin with an assumption that is foreign to Scripture: infant guilt.

(6) Infants are free from condemnation but will later become guilty for sins committed after they develop moral knowledge.

Free from condemnation? Moral knowledge? What is the basis of such a statement? Is there one example from Scripture of infants being declared free from God’s judgment simply because of their lack of moral knowledge? Yes.

Recall the story of the 12 spies. Ten said, “We can’t take the land because of the giants.” Two said, “God has promised us the land, so we can take it.” Do you remember why Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years? Because they voted with the ten spies, who failed to trust God. Deuteronomy 1 and Numbers 14 records God’s judgment against them. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the older generation (defined in Scripture as twenty years and older) would not enter the Promised Land. Instead, they would wander around and die off in the desert. After the last of that generation died, the younger generation of Israelites would enter the land. What was the single reason the younger generation was spared God’s judgment? Their age. I am not suggesting that 20 is the age of accountability, but according to Deut 1:39, that younger generation had “no knowledge of good or evil.” They lacked moral knowledge and were spared from God’s judgment.

Even some Calvinists affirm this reading of this story. Pastor and author John MacArthur holds a similar interpretation of Deut 1:39 and links that with the spiritual condition of infants today. In his book Safe In the Arms of God, he writes, “The Israelite children of sinful parents were allowed to enter fully into the blessing God had for His people. They were in no way held accountable, responsible, or punishable for the sins of their parents. Why? Because they had no knowledge of good and evil, right or wrong.” Then, he quotes Ezek 18:20, which reads (ESV), “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

MacArthur continues, “The same is true today. A child may be conceived out of wedlock. A fetus may be aborted by an ungodly mother. A child may be beaten to death by an ungodly father. But before God, that child does not bear culpability for the sins of the parents. The children were considered ‘innocent’ of sin. They had not rebelled; they had no ‘say’ regarding the Israelite’s rebellion and unbelief. In a profound way, God blessed their innocence.”

If the Bible teaches that sin and death (not guilt) comes from Adam, then when does a person become guilty? Although there is no “age of accountability” in the Bible, there are conditions for accountability:

1. You know the difference between right and wrong.
2. You knowingly commit your first sinful act.

Only after those two conditions are fulfilled is a person guilty before God and under condemnation.

This basic view was the consensus among theologians prior to Augustine. It has been affirmed by various Christian thinkers throughout church history. In my estimation, the proposed view is more consistent with both the doctrinal statement of the SBC and more clearly reflects the claims of Scripture. Of the two views (inherited guilt or inherited sinful nature), only one of them (inherited sinful nature) is affirmed explicitly in Article 3 of the BFM 2000, “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” It is permissible, however, to affirm inherited guilt, because such a view claims more not less than the BFM 2000.

Infants, according to the BFM 2000, are not transgressors; infants are free from condemnation. Why? Because they have not yet become capable of moral action. This describes the conditions we noted above for an age of or condition for accountability. This failure to affirm inherited guilt is advocated in Article 3 of the BFM 2000 and runs contrary to most systematic theology textbooks in print. Inherited guilt is a dominant but weaker view. It needs to be refuted because it is unnecessary for a robust doctrine of sin. But whether you affirm inherited guilt or sinful nature, it’s clear that all infants are descendants of the first Adam and have inherited (at least) a sinful nature.

(7) In the Bible, God judges sinful actions, not our nature.

Consider the following statements from Scripture about God judging sin: 2 Cor 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” What is the basis of God’s judgment in this verse? Our nature or our actions?

Consider the argument that Paul builds in his letter to the Romans. In chapter 1, God’s wrath is revealed against the following actions: the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (v. 18), fail to honor or thank God (v. 21), claim wisdom (v. 22) but choose idolatry (vv. 23–25), and practice homosexuality (vv. 26-27). What is the basis of God’s judgment in this passage? Our nature or our actions? The same things can be seen in the rest of Romans 1.

Romans 3:10 is a classic statement of man’s unrighteousness, “There is no one righteous, no not one.” What follows in vv. 11–18 is not a summary of man’s sinful nature but his sinful actions. We fail to understand or seek God (v. 11), turn aside and fail to do good (v. 12), speak sinful words (vv. 13–14), kill, destroy, fail to live peaceably, and fail to fear God (vv. 15–18). What is the basis of God’s judgment in this passage? Our nature or our actions?

Reflecting on Romans 1-3, New Testament scholar Harold Hoehner writes, “Paul makes it very clear in Romans that it is their willful acts of transgression and disobedience that bring this wrath.”

The significance? Augustinian-Calvinists argue for our guilt and the judgment of God based upon our sinful nature but Paul argues for our guilt and the judgment of God based upon our sinful actions, which excludes infants.

In this paper, I have argued:
1. Infants are people.
2. Infants are impacted by sin.
3. Infants are not sinless.
4. Infants inherit from Adam death, not guilt.
5. Inherited guilt requires inconsistent claims when formulating a doctrine of infant salvation.
6. Infants are free from condemnation but will later become guilty for sins committed after they develop moral knowledge.
7. In the Bible, God judges sinful actions, not our nature.

I’ll close with a few words regarding pastoral application.

God has things to say to parents who have lost an infant due to miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth, or some other tragedy. These Scriptures are meant to bring hope and encouragement and can be affirmed regardless of one’s position on our inheritance from Adam.

  • Your child was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).
  • Parents should never have to bury a child. It’s not the way life should be. David modeled in Psalm 13 the appropriate response when we enter those dark times. He brought his questions and his pain to God–continually stating that his hope and trust are in God.
  • The death of infants demonstrates in painful clarity that this world is broken. But Christ through His death on the Cross defeated death and will remake and restore His broken world. Because of God’s decisive victory in Christ, there will one day be neither death nor mourning (Rev 21:4).
  • God is present. He can provide comfort and peace as you trust Him (Rom 15:13).
  • Jesus welcomed little children (Mark 10). He pointed to them as examples for adults of citizens in God’s kingdom. Just as Jesus welcomed little children during His earthly ministry, He still welcomes them into heaven. Jesus does the same thing now that He did 2,000 years ago. He takes infants in His arms and blesses them (v. 16).
  • Like King David, who mourned the death of his infant son, parents who know the Lord (because only those parents will be in heaven) can say, “One day, I’ll go to be with him” (2 Sam 12:23). Parents, you have a solid biblical basis for the hope of one day being personally reunited with your child.
  • Jesus alone is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25). Jesus alone is our only hope for resurrection and reunion with our loved ones, whether they are adults, children, or infants.

Under God’s good providence, the theological conclusion regarding infant salvation has been shared by Baptists for more than 400 years. This was true whether one self-identified as a General or Particular Baptist, Sandy Creek or Charleston Baptist. The same is true today.[3] The two streams of Baptist tradition still differ on the nature of our inheritance from Adam. But we stand united on the reason pastors can make such a claim. Pastors can comfort any family grieving the loss of a precious infant because of the boundless love God demonstrates at the Cross of Christ, for “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).[4]


[1] Because this manuscript was not intended for academic peer-review, few quotations are cited. For bibliographic information or a more comprehensive treatment of this topic, see Adam Harwood, The Spiritual Condition of Infants: A Biblical-Historical Survey and Systematic Proposal (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011).

[2] John Piper, Jesus: The Only Way to God: Must You Hear The Gospel to be Saved? (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 77 n. 6. Surprisingly, Piper cites in support of his claim Ronald Nash, When a Baby Dies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), who argues in chapter 3 against precisely the view to which Piper is open, salvation via post-mortem faith.

[3] For an example of this agreement, see R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin, “The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?” at http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/07/16/the-salvation-of-the-little-ones-do-infants-who-die-go-to-heaven/, accessed June 14, 2012

[4] For a chapel presentation by Dr. Harwood in which he explains the Baptist Faith and Message 2000’s affirmation of inheriting a sinful nature but rejection of imputed guilt, see http://www.truett.edu/chapel/fall-2011-chapel/fall-2011-chapel-video-player.html

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Matt

Adam,

Well, first of all I would like to say that you have addressed a truely difficult subject. I appreciate your research on this subject. I know you and know that you have a heart for God. I will admit that I cannot tell anyone exactly how God deals with infants or children under an age of understanding. I know that you and I both want the outcome to be the same. I have a soft spot in my heart, especially as a parent, for children. I, in my limitted knowledge, hope that all children who die prematurely spend eternity in glory with God.

I do have a couple of questions for you on points that we are not quite in agreement on though. You use the example of David’s son being struck sick and then dying to say that his death was not a result of Adam’s sin but of David’s. I agree that the early timing of his death was a punishment to David, but the baby would have died one day just as everyone does. As you point out, all infant deaths are not punishments for the sins of thier parents or others around them, but I believe that scripture is clear that all death is the result of Adam’s sin. If there is no condemnation then why do infants suffer this punishment of Adam’s sin?

We both seem to agree, or at least hope, that God’s treatment of infants is different than His treatment of people in general since infants could not be saved by hearing and responding to the gospel. I tend to think that although infants have not yet done this or that specific sin, they are by nature rebels against God. As a result of thier nature they are not able to stand before God holy and blameless in His sight. I don’t think that anyone who’s very nature is enslaved to sin can stand blameless before a holy God, much less enter into eternal glory based on thier own righteousness. So, I tend to think that God must regenerate them, and although they have no specific sins of thier own, the righteousness of Christ must be imputed to them for them to be given the reward of eternal glory. I do not claim to know that this is what happens. Scripture is too silent for me to really know how God operates on this subject. What I am saying is certainly different from what I believe about how God deals with people in general where a person must hear the gospel to be saved. The saints of the Old Testament were saved without specific knowledge of Jesus’ atonement, and so I hope that infants are dealt with in a way similar to this. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. I would also like to make sure I understand you correctly. Are you saying that since you believe infants are not under condemnation for any guilt, that you believe they are automatically admitted to heaven based on thier own righteousness?

Like I said before, I don’t claim to know exactly how this works. I don’t know if God saves some infants or all infants or any infants. I know that if I were omnicient like God, I would totaly know and agree that whatever it is that God does is right and just.
Right now all I can say is that in my heart I hope all infants are saved. I won’t respond to this again; I’m just interested in hearing what you have to say.

God bless

    JoeJ

    Dr. Harwood wrote, “Infants cannot hear or respond to the Gospel.”

    John the Baptist is the exception to that. From the first chapter of Luke: The angel Gabriel speaking to Zachary about John, “For he shall be great before the Lord; he shall drink no wine or strong drink, and shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.” Then Elizabeth, also filled with the Holy Spirit, said to Mary, “…the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.”

    Was not Mary carrying the Gospel (the good news)? Did not John respond to it? Whether this was a special exception, or a capacity of all infants, is open to debate.

    Joe

Jimmie Bates

Of the many questions I have, one would be concerning Korah, Dathan and Abiram, Numbers 16. Were the wives, the sons, and little children of these men innocent victims of their fathers, or were they saved. If they were guilty, was it because of the sin of their respective fathers, or was it the result of a legal guilt inherited from Adam, and which came to them by way of procreation by a sinful father? For, unless I am severely mis-reading this, and other similar passages, there are only two choices concering the children in question; and those two choices seem to be; they were either guilty or innocent.

Another passage I have not seen addressed in any of these posts regarding the Ten Articles is the issue of Jacob and Esau, and Pharaoh in Romans 9:11-23. In V 11 Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, employs the the word prasso to give us the English word done; and the meaning seems to be speaking of an action of any kind, which neither Jacob nor Esau had yet taken. I am aware that many claim Paul is speaking only of the nations that were to come out of the loins of these two; while I do not believe the language here will support that view; but for the sake of argument, even if that is the case, does that not support the view of inherited guilt, or did God arbitrarily hate the nations that came out of the loins of Esau, even though they were innocent. Another issue arises in this same vein where the Hebrew writer tells us that Esau sought repentance with tears, but it was not forth coming. Whereas Paul uses the word prasso in V 11, in V 20 he uses the word poieo to give us the English word made; and if I understand the basic meaning here it means to appoint, or to endow, or make one with a certain quality, which seems to speak of ones nature.

There are several other questions I would like to raise, but because it is 5:15 a.m. I will refrain from that for now.

I am respectfully,
Jimmie Bates

Ron Hale

Dr. Harwood,

Your writings are … consistent with Scripture and what Baptists actually practice, thank you! We do not baptize our babies. We don’t hold to a theology that says because we have had our sins forgiven, that our babies are under a special covenant. We know that babies are born into a sinful world and inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin and ALL will sin; we are sinners! Yet, “we inherit from Adam death, not guilt.” This is the teaching of Rom 5:12.

Sadly, some have held the Augustinian-Calvinism model up on a pedestal for hundreds of years. It just doesn’t work for Baptists, never has and never will. Your view is filled with mercy, love, and most of all … Grace!

Your work will be a guiding light to Baptists for many generations to come. Thank you for your honest work and the courage to share it.

Steve Martin

Great article!

Yes, infants cary the same same sin nature as we do, from birth.

This is one of the reasoms that we do baptize infants. We believe that God does the baptizing (since He Himself commanded it) \’ponta ehtnae\’ – \’all people\’ (no age requirement or disqualifiction in Matthew 28.

Jesus said \”let the little ones come to me and don\’t hinder them\”…so we don\’t hinder them. Little ones may be clueless in so many ways, but they are capable of great deal of trust (their parents). We feel that the Holy Spirit is capable of speaking to them \”in sighs too deep for words\”.

As Acts 2:38 says, \”In baptism we receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.\” \”And the promise is to you and your children…\”

Lots more reasons. I\’m short on time – headed out the door to work.

But those are some of the reasons that we baptize infants. Those who die apart from baptism? What kind of a God do we have? A gracious One. We\’d hope and pray that He\’d bring the unbaptized babies into His Kingdom.

Thanks, so much.

Rick Patrick

Thank you for your excellent work in this area, Dr. Harwood. You have divided the Word superbly.

Dale Pugh

Excellent, Dr. Harwood! In 30 years of pastoral experience, I’ve only had to bury one baby. I was a young seminary student, and it was painful and difficult. Your treatment of the subject is very helpful. This question has arisen over the years from concerned church members, and I’ve counseled them as best I could. Rest assured that your insights have helped that one pastor you mentioned in your introduction!

volfan007

Dr. Harwood,

Thank you, Bro., for this excellent post. It is enlightening, and explains very clearly what a lot of us, SB’s, have believed. God bless you for sharing this with us.

David

Godismyjudge

Dr. Harwood,

Is there a way to understand article two such that infants require Christ’s mercy through the atonement in order to go to heaven? I want to be able to say that anyone in heaven is there because of the blood of Christ and to do that I think In need to avoid saying those dying in infancy don’t need mercy. I of course believe all dying in infancy are saved and go to heaven.

God be with you,
Dan

Lydia

Thank you so much for this work. I can remember reading over at Challies blog years back and being astonished to read several commenters saying that God is glorified when he throws infants into hell. Seriously! There are Calvinist out there who truly believe that. I am so glad our SBC Calvinists do not subscribe to that interpretation but I do think they have to jump through a lot of semantic hoops in interpretation to get there with their filter of imputed guilt applied to infants.

    JCJ

    Lydia, don’t be so quick to say all Calvinistic Southern Baptists believe a certain way.

Randall Cofield

Dr. Harwood,

I certainly don’t claim certain knowledge about many of the knotty issues associated with the salvation of infants. I do, however, have a couple of questions concerning your offering. But first, a disclaimer:

*****************
I am Calvinist, and I believe that all pre-born and pre-cognizant children who die are saved by grace, through faith, on the grounds of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. I know this will seem illogical to many, but I have worked through the issue very carefully, and I think can defend it, from scripture, with a reasonable level of competency.
*****************

You seem to contend that though infants possess a sinful nature, they are not guilty before God. If that is accurate, this would be my contention and resultant questions:

As a father of 3 and a grandfather of 2, it has been my observations that infants only a few months old are capable of sinful behavior. I have observed in my own offspring anger, defiance of authority, petulance, deceit, and selfishness, to name just a few. These are all sins which are regularly committed by all infants prior to them having knowledge of right and wrong. This should be surprising to none of us, because they possess a sinful nature, and that which possess a sinful nature will, without fail, act in accordance with that nature.

These are my questions:

1) Do these infants stand in need of salvation to enter into God’s presence?

2) Does Scripture offer any other way of salvation other than repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Grace and Peace

    Mike Davis

    Adam,
    I had similar questions to the ones Randall asked. First of all, I appreciate your thoughtful treatment of a difficult subject. My view is pretty much the same as John MacArthur’s on the subject. I would point out that though he believes infants are saved, he also holds to imputed guilt. In The Battle for the Beginning he writes (p.197), “According to Romans 5: 12 and 1 Corinthians 15: 22, when Adam sinned, he brought death and judgment not only upon himself, but upon the whole human race. Every one of us inherits sin and guilt from Adam.” I personally take much more comfort that infants are saved because of the cross of Christ than hoping that somehow they aren’t guilty. Also, by distinguishing between the age of accountability and the age of moral decision, I think this could help to explain how a very young child who has started making moral decisions but may not yet be old enough to understand the Gospel can still be saved by Christ’s work on the cross.

      Mike Davis

      Just to clarify with regard to Randall’s second question:

      2) Does Scripture offer any other way of salvation other than repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

      Obviously we’re talking about a situation like a very small child who would not be capable of understanding the Gospel. We all agree that after the age of accountability there is no way to be saved apart from repentance and faith in Christ. I’m sure we’re all on the same page with that, but after re-reading my comment thought I should clarify my meaning.

      Blessings.

        JCJ

        An age of accountability? Really? Jesus says the he ALONE is the way, truth, and life. No one comes to the Father except by Jesus. NO ONE!!!! And no one comes unless the Holy Spirit draws!!!!! The transgression by Adam and Eve caused man (that is all of mankind) to inherit a sinful nature at conception. There is no way around it!

          volfan007

          jcj,

          Then, to believe like you do would mean all infants go to Hell. They are not saved, nor are they regenerate in any way.

          David

    JCJ

    Yes, at the moment of conception, we all stand in need of Salvation, but it can only be granted by us embracing the Gospel and then the Holy Spirit drawing us and convicting us of our sin.

      JCJ

      To answer volfan,
      that would be correct. The only way to eternal life is through Christ. If anyone has not been born again he cannot see Heaven. John 3:5.

        JCJ

        Uh volfan, SEC WEST is the best! WOO PIG SOOIE!!!

          Dean

          JCJ, I find it hard to fathom a person saying that infants living minutes and then dying spend an eternity in hell and in the same moment yell woo pig sooie flippantly. Our convention is huge and large enough to house many divergent beliefs. I am grateful it is so large for maybe I can be insulated from such. I have pastored people who have lost infants. I have conducted their funerals. I, like David, thought they would see their children again. Maybe I should have offered your theology and said this child is in hell and she deserves. Tough break mom and dad, hey everyone lets stand and chant roll tide roll. Good gracious what in the world is going on?

        volfan007

        Jcj,

        So, you really believe that infants and mentally handicapped people go to Hell? Interesting, but I disagree.

        David

        PS. Every Hawg has his day….and, it wasnt that too long ago that the Vols, Gators, and Bulldogs dominated the SEC….hopefully, the return of the Vols is in the works!!! :)

          JCJ

          Nope, the old SEC guard is finished! Here comes the SEC/BIG8; Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mizzou.

Leslie Puryear

Dr. Harwood,

Out.Standing.

JCJ

Regeneration is necessary because all descendants of Adam and Eve have inherited their sin and are morally incapable to do what is good. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that people are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. In this state, they are without God and without hope in the world. Not in response to their merit, but freely and in love, God speaks the word that raises the dead. —-RC Sproul……AMEN AMEN and AMEN!!!!!!

Alan Davis

Dr. Harwood,

Thank you for a great resource and I say that humbly for I at times have not been gracious. I do have some questions but they can wait. Though we may not agree on everything you have a God given gift no doubt, thank you for sharing.

Alan Davis

M. R. Williams

I am waiting on a traditionalist exegesis of Romans 5:18-19. It didn’t find its way into this article by Dr. Harwood and it is not listed among any of their proof texts regarding the results of Adam’s sin to his descendants.

” Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12)

(Romans 5:13-17 is parenthetical in the KJV, and with good reason).

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19)

IMO, Romans 5:12 CAN be made to say we only inherit a sinful nature from Adam if it is treated without any reference to 5:18-19. But when 5:12 is viewed in light of 5:18-19 (and there are very good reasons why we should see 5:18-19 as a clarification of 5:12), the phrase “for that all have sinned” is more than a statement of an inherited sinful nature; its a statement of imputed guilt.

Respectfully submitted.

    volfan007

    MR,

    I signed the statement, and I believe that all men were made sinners by Adam’s fall. In fact, I’d bet’cha a dozen, Krispy Kremes that all the signers would agree that all men became sinners…with a sin nature….due to Adam’s fall in the Garden.

    In fact, I believe this has been said many times, but many different ones, who signed it.

    David

      volfan007

      That should have read….”said many times BY many different ones, who signed it.”

      M.R. Williams

      David:

      Not a Kripsy Kreme guy . But I am a Vol fan (tormented by a brother and sister who are Bama fans ).

      The traditionalist statement is clear that y’all – I’ll include you since you say you signed it – believe that “men became sinners…with a sin nature….due to Adam’s fall in the Garden.”

      I assume that you are saying that “became sinners with a sin nature” is the meaning of the phrase “made sinners” in 5:19? So what does the phrase “made righteous” mean in 5:19? Would the signers say that “made righteous” means “became sinless with a righteous nature”?

      I don’t mean any sarcasm – it’s a logical question based on the text.

      Thanks.

        volfan007

        MR,

        I believe men became sinners when Adam fell in the Garden. We inherit his sinful heart.

        Glad to hear you’re a Vol fan. Also, forgive those Bama fans….they cant help themselves. CB Scott is a Bama fan….

        David

Lydia

“As a father of 3 and a grandfather of 2, it has been my observations that infants only a few months old are capable of sinful behavior. I have observed in my own offspring anger, defiance of authority, petulance, deceit, and selfishness, to name just a few. These are all sins which are regularly committed by all infants prior to them having knowledge of right and wrong. This should be surprising to none of us, because they possess a sinful nature, and that which possess a sinful nature will, without fail, act in accordance with that nature. ”

They are born sinful because they are born dying. Death is the consequence and because of it we are born in corrupted bodies into a corrupted world. Did it occur to you that many things you describe above could be survival and development instincts given by God? Good things? A baby crying to be fed is being sinful? A baby crying to be held is selfish? A baby that wants a shiney object is coveting? Does the baby know he is being selfish? coveting?

If these things are a result of sin and we know Jesus Christ was sinless then we must assume He never cried to be fed or exhibited any other instinctual development aspects of an infant. As I said on another thread, I know a couple whose baby never cried to be fed and they had to put in a feeding tube. They would love for that baby to ‘sinfully” cry for a bottle.

    M. R. Williams

    Randall said he had observed, “defiance of authority, petulance, deceit, and selfishness.” He said nothing about a baby crying to be fed or held or reaching for shiny objects. I believe you misunderstood his statements.

    Respectfully,

    M.R.

    JCJ

    Lydia, Lydia, Lydia,

    Come out of your Arminian self. Please, scripture does NOT teach an age of accountability. Read John 3 and tell me that one does not have time be BORN AGAIN! It is that plain and simple, and we are ALL physically born with a sinful nature. We are hopeless and TOTALLY DEPRAVED and are in need of an UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION that is LIMITED in ATONEMENT to those whom the Holy Spirit has extended to them IRRESISTIBLE GRACE that PERSEVERES for THE SAINTS because the Saints are ETERNALLY SECURE!

      Lydia

      JCJ, Calm down. I never said we weren’t born in a sinful state.

      MR, Does a baby know they are “defiant of authority, petulant, deceitful, and selfish?

        M. R. Williams

        Lydia:

        I can’t say an exact age for when those attitudes begin to manifest. I think an observant parent will notice when those attitudes start manifesting. But if by “baby” you mean “new born infant,” no ma’am, I don’t think so.

        My wife and I reared four children and we now have eight grandchildren. We kept our 6 month old granddaughter last month while the parents were gone for a week. I did see evidence “defiance” and “selfishness.”

        My point in the earlier post was that you put words in Randall’s mouth. He said nothing about crying for a bottle being sinful. That was you.

        Respectfully.

          Lydia

          “He said nothing about crying for a bottle being sinful. That was you.”

          Sorry MR. I thought the behaviors he was describing such as “selfish” would be such things as crying for a bottle or to be held. On the very first thread several Calvinists claimed such. I thought maybe it was a tenent of such thinking.

volfan007

While children certainly sin in their fallen, sinful bodies; they are just not held accountable for their sins…until they reach the age where they can understand that they’re willfully disobeying God. They are not innocent. They are not unaffected by the fall. They are sinners with a sinful heart…just like all of us are. They are just not guilty of Adam’s sin, even though they have the affects of Adam’s sin present in thier lives…..they are sinners….they will die, one day….all because of Adams sin.

The mentally handicapped would fit into this. A lot of them never reach the ability to understand what they’re doing. Many of them have no idea, whatsoever, about sin, and God, and rebellion. They have no way of understanding the Gospel. I believe they go to Heaven….due to God’s mercy and grace.

JCJ, I hope you never have to comfort a grieving Mom and Dad, whose baby has died.

David

    JCJ

    Well, I have and I have not lied to them. What I say is this, I am not 100% positive about an age of accountability, however let’s hope that I could be wrong.

    Perry Robinson

    The best way to answer this question is to allow the Bible to give the answer verses trying to explain through the teachings of Calvin, Luther, Wesley or anyone else.

    Just read it and allow the Holy Spirit to bring you into the truth. Where is David, according to Scripture David a Man after God’s own heart is sealed and with the Lord, David said he would join his child. The child wasn’t able to hear the Gospel, respond through faith so was David confused and this passage not inspired? I believe David was on target. Well, that makes this mountain of a discussion a speed bump now and I will move on with my day. Be blessed in the Lord and I will see all you in Glory!

    2 Samuel 12: 20-23

    20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

    21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

    22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Lydia

There is another aspect to this thinking that is dangerous and cruel. There are groups out there teaching this about little babies and advocating spanking (even a few months old!) them or allowing them to cry all night to bring them ‘under authority’.

    Patrick

    Heaven forbid a parent spank their children! Oh the humanity!

      Lydia

      Hi Patrick,

      You might want to take the time to read a bit slower. I specifically said little babies. I certainly hope you are not advocating spanking an infant. If so, it is good you are not using your whole name because that is abuse.

      And remember, there are those who are making it a tenent of their doctrine that infants show signs of sinful behavior that most likely are really survival instincts given by a gracious God. If you have ever been around a baby born with a mental/physical disability that never shows any signs of such behavior, it is a very sad thing and instantly recognized as not normal.

      There is a hardness of heart that uses helpless babies to prop up such doctrines.

      The groups advocating this spanking of babies (some have changed it because of court cases and bad publicity) do so because of this same teaching we are seeing here that babies are sinful as in selfish, defy authority,greedy etc. The Pearls and Ezzo’s both taught cruel “Christian” ways to raise babies up until Lydia Schatz was beat to death by her parents, who followed the Pearls teaching. I have not checked to see if they changed their teaching since them. The Pearls were discussed in the court case.. Even John McArthur was smart enough to stop the Ezzo teaching in his church. Here is what Ezzo taught in his first book:
      “The book justified the act of leaving a baby to cry alone by comparing that choice to the crucifixion of Jesus: “Praise God that the Father did not intervene when His Son cried out on the cross.”

      There is a lot of cruel responses to infants because of this doctrine.

      I am a parent who believes in spanking if used correctly and at the appropriate age which is different according to the child. But it does not always work and you know when your child asks for a spanking to get it over with that you need a new tactic. :o)

      We need to be careful what responsibility we put on little babies. May the Lord soften your heart a bit on this subject.

        Donald

        Lydia,
        It’s best to just ignore the “Patrick’s” of the world. He’s just trolling for a response to his drive-by comments. I’ll guarantee he never read your well written response.

        Donald

    Patrick

    Or worse yet, use a belt on their children. Whatever will we do?

James Thompson

I would like to draw attention to the fact that 2 Samuel 12:14 sounds like David’s guilt is being imputed to the child. The child is suffering on account of David’s sin. Further, Leviticus 4:3 explicitly presents the imputation of guilt in the case where the High Priest sins unintentionally and, thus, the whole nation of Israel becomes guilty. Imputed guilt appears both explicitly and implicitly in Scripture. Seeing it is not that difficult.

    volfan007

    James,

    Of course, many times the consequences of the sins of the father and the grandfather are passed down. Happens all the time. The baby was not guilty of David’s sin, but he certainly suffered the consequences of Davids sin. Just like all of us, human beings, suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin.

    David
    David

Andrew Lindsey

I appreciate the clarity of this article and the way in which it strives for consistency. My main difficulties with the line of thinking represented in the article are: 1) it seems to separate “sin” and “guilt” in a way that does not seem biblically consistent; 2) Ephesians 2:3 says that we are “by nature children under wrath;” “wrath” is God’s judgment against sin, the judgment implies guilt, and the judgment in this verse is linked to nature.

T. R.

If you believe that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all believers, then you must also believe that Adam’s guilt has been imputed to the human race (and reject article 2 of the new statement). Otherwise, you must reject the SBC’s Sandy Creek Confession of Faith. The new document obviously is against that confession, see for yourself below:

Sandy Creek Confession of Faith

Article 3
That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is IMPUTED to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed.

Article 4
We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the IMPUTATION of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

    M. R. Williams

    Yes sir! That is why I keep asking for a traditionalists’ exegesis of Romans 5:18-19.

    THANKS!!!

ALB

I am at work right now, so I don’t quite have the time to read through every comment to see if my point of view has yet been suggested. I see that JCJ rejects the doctrine of an “age of accountability.” I concede that it is very tempting to believe in such a thing, but I just do not see it in Scripture. I think it is an extra-Biblical doctrine that man has established, because for some reason we view babies, mentally handicapped individuals, etc. as “less” sinners than ourselves. I’m not going to try to make a case for this, but I would like to put forth a couple of questions.

1. It is clear that condemnation spread to all men because of Adam’s sin in the garden. If you reject this, then don’t try to answer the question. So if you hold that Adam’s sin brought about condemnation yet hold that we are not guilty because of Adam’s sin as well, how do you explain God condemning innocent people?

2. Also, about this age of accountability: We know that disease, murder, and all that results in the death of babies and the handicapped minds we speak of are direct effects of the Fall; these thing would not be here were it not for Adam’s sin and the entrance of sin into God’s creation. How, then, can an effect of the Fall make one unaccountable for the Fall?

Perry Robinson

According to John 3:18

We are condemned because of unbelief in Christ.

Sin entered the world through Adam and we are prone to wander and bear the works of the flesh according to Galatians 5.

I am not guilty because of Adam’s sin, I am guilty because of my own sin.

Adam was just the first victim to its curse.

The law of God was established to be a school master to teach me of my sin, not to save.

It is by God’s Grace, through my faith in Christ Jesus that brings me into God’s Family.

I wasn’t discounted because of Adam failure, just like my children won’t be discounted because of my sin (they may have to deal with some of the effects of my action) however if I am discounted it is because of my own unbelief and that goes the same for my children.

A person who is too young or can’t understand simple conversation can’t choice to belief or not believe in something.

As a Father, I know my Heavenly Father is bigger than our man made theologies and God has the final say.

I would rather point people to the fact that God is Soverign, Merciful, Good and He will do what is right based on His standards not ours.

I know He did according to Scripture with Abraham who died prior to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

I will just point people to the Lord Jesus Christ and let Him deal with the what if’s.

If anything I have wasted probably 10 minutes of my time on this discussion instead of taking that ten minutes and praying for the lost.

Be blessed in all you do! Not ashamed to bear my name Perry Robinson, Benton, AR.

Randall Cofield

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Randall Cofield

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Randall Cofield

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t.r.

The logical result of this article is that babies go to Heaven by virtue of their own sinlessness, rather than by the sinlessness and righteousness of Christ. All we sinners will praise Jesus for all eternity for saving us. However, infants will have no need to thank Jesus for saving them. Jesus didn’t save them. They were worthy of Heaven all on their own. That is what this article logically teaches.

Also, this article is completely inconsistent with Romans 5:19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

You continue to maintain that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, but that is not possible, according to this text, “if” Adam’s guilt is not imputed to people. Your interpretation, if consistently applied to this text, would have us making ourselves righteous, in time, after coming to know Christ. But it would not be an imputed righteousness of Christ, it would be our own righteousness. Your paper falls to pieces in light of Romans 5:19. And it also falls to piecies on the fact that Jesus is the Savior of all. He would not be the Savior of infants. They need no Savior at all to get into Heaven. That is the logical outworking of your teaching.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Which is why imputation schemes derived from a passage where the only mention of “imputation” (Rom. 5:13) is a negation of the idea is totally lacking in any sort of sound exegesis whatsoever.

    In any case, primarily, Jesus died for sinners. It does not follow that Jesus only died for actual sinners with records of lawbreaking. If Romans 8 means anything, Jesus died so that the total sum of fallen creation, including the resulting casualties of the futility and death that resulted from the fall, would find freedom and restoration. It does not follow whatsoever that infants would have no need to thank Jesus simply because Jesus didn’t die for their long list of transgressions. That is absurd, and the result of a narrow vision of what Christ actually accomplished at the cross. People need to get past reducing all of their atonement theology to one or two clauses in Scripture (i.e. Rom. 5:8 “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, or worse, Gal. 2:20 “…who loved MEEEEEEEEEEE, and gave Himself up for MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”). Christ’s accomplishment on the cross is simply bigger than that, and ultimately, even Romans 5:12-21 is a profound statement to the even greater impact Christ had on the cosmos than Adam had.

    Nor is Dr. Harwood’s position inconsistent with Romans 5:19. If many were, by direct causation, constituted sinners because of Adam rather than some other means, then the parallel (you realize how parallels work in Hebrew thought work, right?) then the same direct causation would be applied to the latter part of the verse, which thus results in universalism. Universalism though, is a big theological no-no (at least as far as I believe). As such, your understanding of Romans 5:19 (and 5:18 which says even more than this) needs to be rethought until understood properly.

    Infants, mentally handicapped, and whatever other exceptions are tossed about are included in those casualties, whether it can be said they committed actual transgressions or not.

    Especially in the case of infants, I think those who reject “infant redemption” at any level for any reason are basically asserting that Yahweh is the most efficient and successful practitioner of Molech worship in existence. What abominable, damn-worthy nonsense such a position would be in my opinion.

Johnathan Pritchett

Seriously Dr. Harwood…John MacArthur is a major theologian? I think this point deserves a whole debate in itself. :) HIs Caluthpensationism is only slightly more coherent than Moo’s absolutely incoherent “modified” Caluthpensationalism…but anyway…

The very wording and terminology that gets tossed about makes this a difficult topic to grasp with any amount of precision. So that not withstanding, I inquire of the following.

In what sense are infants not sinless? Are you saying that they have sin without any guilt of sin? In what manner are they sinful. “Sinful” meaning full of sin, or more appropriately, sins (plural). What sins are infants full?

The Bible speaks of sins as literally being a breaking of God’s laws, and metaphorically (but not literally) as a ruling power wielded by Satan. Sin itself is not, in a literal sense, ontologically a “being”, nor is it ontologically a physical or immaterial “stuff”, so I am still unclear on your position, even though I have read and benefited much from of your work in this area.

It is always nice to get clarification from the author, and more scholars should learn to be so accessible to those of us in the cheap seats. So, thank you for that.

In any case, when you say infants are not sinless, are you saying they are literally sinful, or metaphorically sinful? If the former, how can they be literally full of lawbreaking without the guilt of that lawbreaking of which they are full? If the latter, how can infants be metaphorically full of anything and it not be a formally meaningless statement in a realistic sense?

Inside a mother’s womb, it can be said of an infant that he or she is metaphorically, or rhetorically, full of joy. But in what sense is it actually, realistically speaking, meaningful to say an “infant is full of joy”? At least joy, unlike sin, is an emotion. But insofar as it is meaningless to make such an emotional statement about babies, metaphorically speaking, it seems even more meaningless to say babies are metaphorically sinful.

Some help here would be greatly appreciated.

    Adam Harwood

    Johnathan,

    Thanks for your note. It was great getting to know you last summer. I trust your life and ministry are going well.

    Regarding the cheap seats, I’m sitting right next to you, brother. ;-)

    Your comments in the previous post are on target regarding the atonement. Jesus’ death accomplished the atonement of sin, but His death also inaugurated God’s restoration of His fallen creation.

    I agree with you that this is a difficult topic because the same theological terms are used a variety of ways. Perhaps that is why you were not satisfied with Schreiner’s work on Romans 5, noting that his statements sometimes seem contradictory. In his defense, as you surely know, that’s the way most commentaries deal with that text.

    I’d be happy to attempt to clarify. You asked: “In what sense are infants not sinless? Are you saying that they have sin without any guilt of sin? In what manner are they sinful?”

    The reason I am unwilling to state that infants are sinless is that I don’t see that statement in Scripture. Also, church history has rejected the teachings of those who have made that claim. Of course, I also reject infant guilt on the basis that Scripture doesn’t allow such a view (unless one assumes covenantal theology and reads that system into Romans 5:12-21). And the same people who declare that infants are guilty will clarify by answering that God only holds them accountable for their actual guilt (rather than Adamic). In what way were they ever guilty if they were never accountable to God for the guilt?

    I am comfortable calling infants “sin-stained.” If infants are not yet guilty, then they are not obligated to confess their sin and believe in Jesus. But the Bible never calls them sinless. This may not provide a clean, crisp answer (which systematic theologians prefer) but my goal is to simply tread carefully, saying as much as the Bible says but no more.

    From page 154 of The Spiritual Condition of Infants: “For those readers who have been reading through this book waiting for a declarative statement on the spiritual condition of infants, here it is: Infants are sin-stained, not guilty. Infants are not sinless because they inherit a sinful nature. But infants are not guilty because God judges our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, not our nature. If I were pressed to speculate how God might deal with people who die in their infancy, I would offer this suggestion: All people who die in their infancy will be included in God’s restoration of his fallen creation through Christ’s work at the cross. Perhaps this is the time Jesus mentioned as ‘the renewal of all things’ (Matt 19:28). Paul said that creation would be set free from its bondage to decay (Rom 8:19–23). Although infants are not guilty of sin, they have been stained by it. Even though they have not knowingly acted in ways that would incur God’s judgment, they may be in need of God’s redemptive and renewing work. And it is Jesus who promises, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev 21:5).”

    Yesterday, I began working on an essay which attempts to explain how there are TWO different, orthodox views of infant salvation within the SBC. I’m very excited about it because this can explain to both sides of the Calvinism debate how the “other side” is not actually violating orthodox views of sin, man, or salvation. As long as they make particular affirmations within their system, the other side may disagree but it doesn’t make them unorthodox.

    That was a much longer reply that you requested but I am excited about that thesis and you were here to get an “earful.”

    I hope this helps. Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Thanks for the response. I like “sin-stained”, that seems more like saying “fallen” without the implication of inherited guilt.

      I agree that God doesn’t judge natures, and in light of this, I am wondering if the “sinful nature” phrase is still helpful. I like the BFM2k wording best, though a bit “wordy”.
      Blessings.

D.R. Randle

Adam,

While I appreciate your attempt here to deal with a difficult issue – one that I have personally dealt with in my own life (my wife and I have experienced 2 miscarriages in the last year) – my biggest issue (at least from a methodological perspective) with your entire argument is that you seem to start with a problem and the conclusion you think is most tenable to your view of God and ask, “How can children with inherited guilt go to Heaven?” and then work backwards to reject the idea of inherited guilt. I don’t know of any other issue where that would be appropriate to do exegetically or theologically. Certainly we would not want to ask, “How can the man who never hears the Gospel go to Heaven?” and then work to answer that in a positive way by rejecting other views which threaten our presupposition.

I also feel that you refuse to believe that parents could be able to hold these truths in tension (inherited guilt, God’s justice, God’s mercy, and the Bible’s silence about the destiny of every infant), that they could actually not have all the answers, and that reality would be enough for them. I can say with experience that it I think they can – I believe God Himself can be enough for parent who experience the loss of infants. I don’t need believe one needs to fully understand how God can be good and merciful and just and yet also design a world where all people inherit the guilt of Adam upon conception. One simply needs to believe the Bible and rest in the very character of God – that He will do what is right.

Personally, I don’t feel the need to perfectly understand how God can be good and yet punish the wife and children of Achan by stoning in Joshua 7 for his sin. Again, one must simply believe the Bible and rest in that. Nor do I feel the need to excuse the Psalmist writing in the power of the Holy Spirit in Psalm 137:9 when he writes, “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” Instead, we must read and say, “God is righteous, I am not, He does not need to give an account to me, but rather I must give an account to Him.”

This brings me to my final point – the issue of Achan and other events where Israel was called by God destroy even young children have led many scholars to re-imagine the Biblical storyline and explain away the simple truth that God is just and yet merciful and that whatever He decides is always right. I would hate to see some take your position and hermeneutical approach and go down a slippery slope towards the rejection of other solid doctrinal positions in pursuit of answers to complex problems we will never understand this side of Eternity. So I would simply warn other readers to tread lightly here – moving from a problem we want solved in our mind to an interpretation of the text which solves it, rather than the other way around, can be very dangerous.

    Daniel Wilcox

    D.R. Randle,

    Sorry to hear of the severe tragedy in your life. (My question is not meant to minimize your and your wife’s heartache.)

    Given your perspective on infants as sinners, I must yet ask,
    why do you even want to bring any of these sinful babies into the world?!

    Think of the billions of infants God is creating who according to theological determinists are being brought into the world already foreordained to eternal damnation…

    And they get conceived in sin…sinners before they can even think or act.

    What a hopeless view…where is the Good News in all of this?

    Daniel

      Adam Harwood

      Daniel,

      I would gently suggest that your reply to DR does not provide the most constructive approach to discussing the topic of infant salvation.

      In Him,
      Adam

    Adam Harwood

    DR,

    Thanks for your reply, brother. My heart goes out to you and your family for the loss you have experienced. I have never known the pain. I take comfort knowing you look to God during that valley (Ps 23).

    On your critique of my approach: I agree that twisting our reading of the biblical text to conform to the answers we have already fixed in our minds is both circular and a waste of time. We simply convince ourselves of what we already know.

    That was not my approach. If my essay gave that impression, then I apologize for leading you astray. The essay was my attempt to rearrange the material from my book and provide a deductive presentation of my inductive approach to the topic in my book.

    The following was my theological method for dealing with the spiritual condition of infants:

    I noticed an inconsistency in the theological system of a respected theologian, Wayne Grudem. He assumes in his Systematic Theology (see esp. pgs. 499-501):

    1. all guilty people must repent of sin and place faith in Christ in order to be saved;
    2. infants are guilty and under God’s condemnation and wrath due to Adam’s sin;
    3. the Bible seems to provide a case for the salvation of infants with Christian parents.

    Therefore, Grudem concludes: Christian parents, not unbelieving parents, can have some assurance from the Scripture that they will one day see their infant in heaven.

    I did not begin my study of this issue by desiring to make a case for all infants to be saved. And I did not begin with the desire to argue that it would be unfair for God to do otherwise. Researchers must always work to keep their work unbiased, letting evidence speak for itself.

    I questioned Grudem’s conclusion, which caused me to revisit each of his prior theological presuppositions. What I observed was an inconsistency within Grudem’s own presuppositions. Namely, all people are assumed guilty and must repent in order to be saved–except infants. They are still guilty but it is not necessary for them to repent. Why are they an exception? And why would the eternal destiny of infants be determined by the faith of their parents? Those questions about his theological viewpoint led me to begin the study.

    After identifying the major biblical texts which seem to address the issue, I attempted an exegetical and historical exploration of each text with this question in mind: “What, if anything, does this text tell us about the spiritual information of infants?” It turns out that some of the passages to which others appeal when addressing infant baptism or infant salvation provide very little information. Even that is helpful information because I was exploring the boundaries of the Bible’s revelation on the topic. It is helpful to identify those parameters of our available information (for example, this verse only tells us so much about the topic and no more).

    I attempted a similar approach in the second half of the book. After identifying a broad range of theologians who addressed original sin, infant salvation or infant baptism, I drew from their key writings to answer the question, “What was this person’s view of the spiritual condition of infants?” Working through the views of eastern and western fathers, Radical and Magisterial Reformers, and recent (select Baptist and Southern Baptist) theologians, it was discovered there was little consensus and come inconsistencies in their views.

    I expect people to disagree with my conclusions. Christians differ on many points of theology. But I do ask that they either read my book or consider this explanation of my theological method before writing about my work as if I had written my conclusion before I had done the biblical and historical spade work.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

Mary

Brother Adam Harwood,

Your inconsistencies on this subject pile higher and higher. You don’t see it, and I suspect you never will. You have dug deep into a unscriptural position. You will of course disagree with what I see as the logical outcomes of your position, but here they are:

* Your position leads to infants not needing Jesus as their Savior–which is utterly unbiblical.

* Your position leads to Jesus not being the only way to the Father (John 14:6). There is another way: Die and infant! Again, your doctrine is completely unbiblical.

* Your position leads to Paul being wrong when he wrote “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)

* Your position leads to a rejection of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us who believe because your position denies the first part of Paul’s Adam\Christ parallell in Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Thus, once again, your doctrine is unbiblical.

Of course, you don’t see it, and you will deny every point I’ve mentioned above. Nevertheless, this is the reality of your teaching. Your doctrine is unbiblical, no matter how much you try to convince yourself and all of us to the contrary.

Mary

    Daniel Wilcox

    Mary,

    Please step outside of your theological doctrine for a moment and re-read the passages in the NT of Jesus and little children.

    You write:
    “* Your position leads to infants not needing Jesus as their Savior–which is utterly unbiblical.

    On the contrary, the NT emphasizes that infants/little children are precious and esteemed by Jesus. There is nothing in Jesus’ words or attitude that
    make little children into guilty sinners. On the contrary Jesus blessed them and said we should become like them if we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Then you write:
    “* Your position leads to Jesus not being the only way to the Father (John 14:6). There is another way: Die and infant! Again, your doctrine is completely unbiblical.”

    On the contrary, re-read the first chapter of John, etc. All truth comes through Christ. But this doesn’t necessitate buying into Augustinian doctrine, which was dead wrong. Think of how many of our forbears suffered–even were killed– for rejecting his belief that infants were guilty sinners and had to be baptized and the ones who weren’t–to hell with them:-(

    Then you write:
    “* Your position leads to Paul being wrong when he wrote “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)”

    Heck, a new born baby isn’t a “man!” someone who has failed by sinning intentionally. Besides, this passage in Romans needs to be taken in conjunction with John where Jesus says if we follow him we will “never die.” Obviously, its not talking about physical death. Only God is immortal. The main death the NT is talking about is spiritual death.

    It is true that when infants when grow up, they will encounter “spiritual death” if they reject the Spirit of God.

    But infants aren’t spiritually aware. Try holding my grandson and find out:-)

    Infants were brought to Jesus. He didn’t claim they were guilty sinners who needed to repent and be baptized!

    He said “let the little children come unto me.”

    Let’s let the little children and infants come unto their Savior and stop
    weighing them down with false theological doctrine.

    Daniel

      Mary

      Daniel,

      It seems to me that since death spreads to all who sin, the fact that infants die, is evidence that they bear Adam’s guilt and are therefore in need of the Savior. But the solution seems rather simple to me. The only sin that infants are guilt of is Adam’s. But Jesus died for Adam’s sin. Therefore, all infants go to Heaven with Jesus their Savior. I’m not sure we need to make it any more complicated than that. I am not arguing that any infants go to Hell. I am merely arguing that they are saved by Jesus, their Savior, like all the rest of us who belong to Him.

Donald

“The meaning of the passage in its general bearing is not difficult; and probably the whole passage would have been found far less difficult if it had not been attached to a philosophical theory on the subject of man’s sin, and if a strenuous and indefatigable effort had not been made to prove that it teaches what it was never designed to teach. The plain and obvious design of the passage is this– to show one of the benefits of the doctrine of justification by faith.” – Albert Barnes on Romans 5:12-21

    Mary

    And that “benefit” (i.e. “the gift of righteousness” v.17) is lost by Harwood’s interpretation. The parallel between Adam & Christ is very clear in verse 19. Adam’s disobedience made us sinners and Christ’s obedience makes us righteous. If Mr. Harwood is correct, Adam’s disobedience is not imputed to us but rather our own disobedience makes us sinners, and therefore, it must be concluded that in verse 19 Christ’s obedience is not imputed to us; it just enables us to become righteous by our own obedience. That is why this teaching (that you guys appear to love) is filled with inconsistency and inevitably leads to heresy.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Again, imputation is a specific thing, and thinking in terms of imputation in these passages is wrong-headed here from the start.

      Romans 5:13 is the only mention of imputation in the passage, and the concept is negated.

      Of course, “righteousness” is a declaration of a status (Romans 3:26) given by one party (God) to another (believers), and not a “thing” given from one party to another. God is righteous, hence His purview to declare others as such on the ground He determines (Jesus).

      Likewise, “disobedience” is not a “thing” given from one person (Adam) to others (his offspring). Adam didn’t “give”his offspring a “thing” called disobedience.

      Keep in mind this passage states *what is the case* about the relationship between Adam and his offspring. It says nothing about *how it is the case*, and we should not say more than Paul says on this point (lots of goofy, pseudo-gnostic ideas have been tossed about since Augustine).

      What Paul does say here and elsewhere surmised is that Adam’s offspring inherited a world under the reigning powers of sin and death, wielded by the “god of this age” (i.e. Satan, 2 Cor. 4:4) We have also received a nature separated from God’s immediate presence and right-making activities, with the result being a “death nature” (1 Cor. 5:22) and its wrong inclination towards self rather than God, which results in sin, because as the text says in Romans 5:21, sin reigns in death. As such, “through one man’s trespass there is condemnation for everyone…through one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners.” (Romans 5:18-19)

      Hence, Jesus is the glorious answer to this problem that goes all the way back to the beginning. Moreover, Scripture teaches that the solution was prior to the problem. Jesus wasn’t there as plan B for Adam’s (man’s) error, but Adam (man) was created for Christ. The first Adam is but a man of dust, but the “last Adam” (Jesus) is the life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45; echo Gen. 2:7). Paul, by linking all sinners back to Adam, demonstrates the universality of the problem of man, and the universality of the solution of Jesus, since, of course, we remember Paul saying that God is the God of both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 3:29), and as such, Jesus is the Savior of both Jew and Gentile (Romans 3:22).

      There is no need to add more theology than the text allows and that Paul nowhere teaches. I don’t understand what is so hard about all this. What has imputation have to do with “…sin is not imputed…” (Rom. 5:13) anyway?

        Mary

        “the free gift” given to us in this passage is “the gift of righteousness”, correct???

        And this free gift of righteousness comes to us through the “obedience” of Jesus. Correct??? Do you deny this FACT????????

        And do you not see Paul’s parallel with Adam’s disobedience\Christ’s obedience?

          Johnathan Pritchett

          Yes, I understand that the gift of righteousness comes through Christ (Rom. 5:16-17).

          What is your point?

          My point is that you have completely missed what the parallel between Adam and Christ actually means, and so explained to you what the parallel actually means.

            Mary

            Johnathan: Then, sorry to say, but you have not convinced me in the least. You’ve missed the Apostle Paul’s point.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Do tell me what Paul means then. If you have insight that I missed, then please share.

Mary

…though Johnathan there are certainly things with which I agree with you and appreciate: Such as that Christ was not a “Plan B”.

Revelation 13:8: “everyone whose name has not been written BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD in the Book of the Life of the Lamb who was slain.”

There is a book before Adam was created: “The Book of the Life of the Lamb who was slain.” Jesus was not an afterthought to the Fall. God planned to magnify the mercy and grace and kindness and justice of His Son before Adam ever existed—through the cross, which was because of sin. Which means the plan included sin—without God being the least sinful and with all sinners being totally guilt, in God’s inscrutable ways!

Though, what I think you have not fully grasped is that Adam was “a type of Him who was to come.” (v.14) and how that applies to the disobedience\obedience parallell in verse 19.

    holdon

    “Which means the plan included sin”

    You cannot draw that conclusion from Rev 13:8 for which you cite an erroneous version. It is not “before” there but “from” the foundation of the world.

    As far as I am aware there is no Scripture inferring that “the plan included sin”. Also, it is inconceivable that God might want sin.

    There certainly is a parallel in Rom 5 between Adam and Christ. However the word “imputed” is missing altogether in the chapter. So, I think you’re on the wrong track, not understanding what “imputation” means.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Actually, my exegesis comprehends the way the type and parallel should be understood in such a way that avoids universalism. The type is a contrast of how each other affects the human race in their respective acts.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    A better way to say it is that the plan accounted for sin.

    holdon, sorry to nitpick, but while “from” is a minor distinction without much difference, since the foundations were laid prior to the creation of man. Certainly, I agree that sin was not God’s intention for creation, it is nonetheless the case that it was accounted for by God in His decree prior to creation. God’s foreknowledge, even outside of determinist schemes (which is not a part of either of our theology), makes this point rather certain.

    In any case, you are correct, the exact word for “imputed” is totally absent from this passage, but a word in that wordgroup with similar accounting/detail meaning is used, but used in the negation in Romans 5:13. This makes imputation a total non-issue regarding the meaning of what Paul intends with the passage, and it is somewhat mysterious why people insist that it is there when it is most certainly not there, especially with the notion being negated in verse 13.

    Perhaps Pope Mary will actually bother responding to inquiries asked of her and give us the proper “ex cathedra” exegesis of the passage we all seem to be missing though. You never know. :)

      holdon

      “Certainly, I agree that sin was not God’s intention for creation, it is nonetheless the case that it was accounted for by God in His decree prior to creation. God’s foreknowledge, even outside of determinist schemes (which is not a part of either of our theology), makes this point rather certain.”

      Of course this is outside the current theme. Nevertheless, in my opinion such remarks reveal reliance on theology rather than God’s revelation; and that is related to the subject of this thread. You have no idea of His decree prior to creation in this respect: that’s human invention of the supralapsarian kind.
      If God did not reveal, we should not revel.

      Re. the word “put to account” in Rom 5:13, it is only remotely related to “logizomai” and has a completely different meaning, as you seem to be well aware. The word in Rom 5:13 is a bookkeeping term as can be seen in Philemon :18 where the same word is used. There it means to tally up what belongs to someone. When there is no law, (between Adam and Moses), it was impossible to tally up the sins of a certain person (4:15 “but where no law is neither is there transgression”). But death reigned from Adam till Moses even for those who did not transgress like Adam had done. (he had a specific commandment; the others after him till Moses had not).

      This tallying up is never the case with “logizomai” (imputed), which means a man is judicially estimated such or such, despite of what he is. (circumcision (2:26; righteous (4:3); not having any sin (4:8)). In himself he is NOT, but God thinks he is. The person therefore has that REputation, because the feature is IMputed to him.

Robert

Mary wrote:

“That is why this teaching (that you guys appear to love) is filled with inconsistency and inevitably leads to heresy.”

Mary needs to change her view of heresy on this matter or I suggest to those who direct this blog that she be banned from posting here.

I have now seen her repeatedly claim that those who hold Harwood’s views (or something similar, i.e. those who deny that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all people including infants, those who deny the Reformed doctrine of imputation, those who deny the Augustinian interpretation of Romans 5) ****ARE HERETICS****.

This is completely unacceptable.

If someone affirms the essentials of the Christian faith (including things such as the trinity, the deity of Christ, the incarnation of Christ, the inspiration of scripture, etc. etc.) and they are in a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then they ****are**** saved persons and not heretics.

Even if they deny things such as the Reformed doctrine of imputation, deny that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all people.

Now Mary may believe that those who deny the Reformed view of imputation or that Adam’s guilt is imputed to people ***are mistaken*** (and that is fine that is her opinion to which she is entitled).

But to claim they are HERETICS is completely unacceptable and wrong.

She says those who hold these views different from her own will inevitably be espousing heresy. This charge is slanderous and false.

She has made this charge of heresy repeatedly in the past and makes it yet again here.
She says those who deny her ****interpretation**** who take a different view (and that includes Dr. Harwood, others posting here and major scholars such as N. T. Wright and Bob Gundry, etc. etc. among Protestants, and the ENTIRE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH and the ENTIRE CATHOLIC CHURCH) hold to a teaching that is “inconsistent”and “inevitably leads to heresy.” This charge is false and is slander of those who deny her interpretation and take a different view.

Now it would be another thing if, some here were denying essentials such as the trinity or deity of Christ, that would merit the appelation of heresy and heretic.
But this appelation is unacceptable when it comes to disagreement concerning the interpretation of Romans 5, disagreement concerning the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all people, disagreement involving bible belieiving saved persons.

Put another way, the fact is that some Christians do deny the Reformed doctrine of imputation, the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all people doctrine, the Augustinian interpretation of Romans 5: and yet they are saved persons!!!! And saved persons (whether they be Protestants who deny these doctrines or Eastern Orthodox or Catholics) are ***not*** Heretics. I will not declare that none of them are saved persons. Speaking for myself I disagee with the Eastern Orthodox and Caltholics on certain issues. But I will not declare them ***all*** to be heretics because of disagreements I have with them.

The same mentality ought to be present here. We can disagree with one another on some things (while all holding the essentials in common) in this case the imputation of Adam’s sin to all people/the Augustinian interpretation of Romans 5: while still viewing the others who hold differing interpretations as fellow Christians (and not heretics). I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me or believes that I am mistaken in my interpretation of some particular scripture: but calling me a heretic because I hold a different interpretation than they do is unacceptable and wrong. And there needs to be accountability on this.

Robert

    Mary

    Robert,

    I am NOT calling anyone a heretic. But let me as you (and others here a question): Is it heresy to deny that righteousness is imputed to us and to rather teach that we become righteous through our own obedience????

    I would think you would agree with me that that is indeed heresy? Do you disagree?? I am saying that in light of Romans 5, especially verse 19, that the logical outcome of denying that Adam’s sin guilt is imputed to us is that Christ’s righteousness is not imputed to us. That is what I am calling heresy, and I think you all would call it heresy too. I think what Dr. Harwood and others would argue is that I am wrong about the logical outcome. He does not believe we become righteous by our obedience but rather than righteousness is imputed to us because of Christ. But I am confident that Dr. Harwood would AGREE with me (and perhaps you Robert as well) that it would be heresy to say we become righteous by our own obedience rather than declared righteous through Christ’s obedience.

    I am confident that many of not most here would agree with me on this point, bu would disagree with me that Harwood’s teaching logically leads there.

    So, then, what is the problem Robert. You and others here agree with my assumption that that would indeed be heresy. You agree and Dr. Harwood agree with me on that point and yet you want me banned? That makes no sense.

    I did not call anyone a heretic. You should read more carefully, and try not to get your feeling hurt so easily.

      Mary

      Robert, let me ask you very plainly a question: Do you believe we become righteous before God–acceptable in God’s sight–by our own obedience???

      It is THAT teaching which I am calling heresy. But such a teaching is not Baptist, it is Roman Catholic! So unless you are a Roman Catholic, you have no reason to be offended other than that you have completely missed what I was saying!

        Adam Harwood

        Mary,
        I do not and have never affirmed righteousness through human obedience. Never. Please stop laying that unsubstantiated claim at my feet.
        Next, please re-read my essay.
        Finally, if you still disagree, then please remember that you have already voiced your disapproval of this view repeatedly in this comment stream. It is not necessary for you to continue registering the same complaint.
        Thank You.
        In Him,
        Adam

          Mary

          Adam, before you even wrote, I made clear to Robert that I am fully convinced that you do not in anyway believe that righteousness comes through human obedience. Thank you for confirming this.

          Yes. I’ve said enough (read too much). I’ll stop here. Thank you, brother.

Randall Cofield

Dr. Harwood,

I certainly don’t claim certain knowledge about many of the knotty issues associated with the salvation of infants. I do, however, have a couple of questions concerning your offering. But first, a disclaimer:

*****************
I am Calvinist, and I believe that all pre-born and pre-cognizant children who die are saved by grace, through faith, on the grounds of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. I know this will seem illogical to many, but I have worked through the issue very carefully, and I think can defend it, from scripture, with a reasonable level of competency.
*****************

You seem to contend that though infants possess a sinful nature, they are not guilty before God. If that is accurate, this would be my contention and resultant questions:

As a father of 3 and a grandfather of 2, it has been my observations that infants only a few months old are capable of sinful behavior. I have observed in my own offspring anger, defiance of authority, petulance, deceit, and selfishness, to name just a few. These are all sins which are regularly committed by all infants prior to them having knowledge of right and wrong. This should be surprising to none of us, because they possess a sinful nature, and that which possess a sinful nature will, without fail, act in accordance with that nature.

These are my questions:

1) Do these infants stand in need of redemption/salvation to enter into God’s presence?

2) Does Scripture offer any other way of salvation other than repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Grace and Peace

Daniel Wilcox

DR

You say,
“As a father of 3 and a grandfather of 2, it has been my observations that infants only a few months old are capable of sinful behavior. I have observed in my own offspring anger, defiance of authority, petulance, deceit, and selfishness…”

This is truly sick, despairing thinking. Your Calvinistic theology has twisted the precious experience of having children and grandchildren. :-(

Thank God, I was raised by Baptist parents (my dad a fundamentalist Baptist minister) who loved me and my sister as precious gifts from God, and that our infant behavior was about being a baby and had nothing to do with evil.

Thank God there are yet other Christians (like my parents) who love little children and infants like Jesus did.

No wonder much of the world doesn’t want to consider such “Good News”–that babies are evil.

What has happened to the Good News of John 3:16?

Daniel

    Randall Cofield

    Daniel Wilcox,

    You said:

    DR…This is truly sick, despairing thinking. Your Calvinistic theology has twisted the precious experience of having children and grandchildren.

    1) I am not DR

    2) I assure you, sir, that you do not love your children and grandchildren one whit more than I love mine.

Daniel Wilcox

Randall,

My apologies for printing the wrong name.

As a former health care professional and as a teacher for many years, I can tell you that I certainly wouldn’t want you near any or child.

I can’t believe that you actually think infants are (quoting you): “that infants only a few months old are capable of sinful behavior. I have observed in my own offspring anger, defiance of authority, petulance, deceit, and selfishness…”

Thank God I grew up in a totally different kind Baptist church.

I want nothing to do with your religion or your theology!

Daniel

    Randall Cofield

    Good grief….

    Mary

    Daniel,

    You sound like my late (Roman Catholic) grandfather. He said that I had a different religion than his. I told him, “I just want to see people come to know and love Jesus, if that is a different religion than yours, that’s very sad.”

    I’m confident that Randall Cofield loves Jesus Christ and that his religion is Christianity. I’m sorry to hear that you want nothing to do with Christianity.

Daniel Wilcox

Mary

You say “I’m confident that Randall Cofield loves Jesus Christ and that his religion is Christianity. I’m sorry to hear that you want nothing to do with Christianity,” when Randall Cofield says ” infants only a few months old are capable of sinful behavior. I have observed in my own offspring anger, defiance of authority, petulance, deceit, and selfishness…”

Whew…

All I want right now is to hear again the Good News I heard in the Baptist Church where I was growing up that babies are precious and loved of God, that Jesus said we are to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of God,
and most importantly that God loves and wills for everyone to be saved, and that Jesus loved us so much he died for every single one of us. As Billy Graham so famously preached (and was in the July 2012 Decision) that God would have sent Jesus to die if only ONE of us had sinned!

That’s the Good News that saved me my sister, my parents (my dad by a Baptist chaplain in the Pacific in WW2!), my relatives, and millions of others.

And ditto for the other Baptist churches I belonged to–preaching the Good News of God’s love for every single human sinner. And that children don’t become guilty until they come to an age of awareness when they consciously “miss the mark” and fall short of God’s glory.

Not until many years later did I encounter a Baptist minister who held to TULIP–that children born guilty sinners, that God only loves some humans:-(, that God secretly unconditionally elected only a limited number to be lovingly saved and foreordained all the rest of us to eternal damnation.

That, Mary, is no Good News.

If babies are so innately depraved and sinful for those who think so it would be better for such to avoid bringing the selfish things into the world.

Instead of reading more of this depressing theology, my wife and I are going to soon go spend a weekend taking care of our infant grandson.
Last time he cried almost non-stop for 6 hours!

Was he displaying his innate sinful nature?

No, he was being a baby who is teething, etc.

All this despairful TULIP News has nothing to do with the Jesus who we accepted into our hearts back in the 50’s, back when all the Baptist churches we knew of preached
God’s love for everyone!

For God so loved the world that whosoever….

Daniel

Robert

Mary wrote to Daniel:

“I’m sorry to hear that you want nothing to do with Christianity.”

Mary completely misrepresents Daniel here.

Daniel never said that he wanted to have nothing to do with Christianity.

Daniel is quite content with Christianity, as his posts clearly show, with a God who loves all people and sent Jesus to die for the sins of all and desires the salvation of all.
What Daniel wants to have nothing to do with is *******calvinism*******.

Apparently Mary mistakenly equates calvinism with Christianity. They are not the same thing at all.

If you look at Church history you find that the vast majority of Christians have rejected Calvinism/theological determinism. Catholics reject it, Eastern Orthodox reject it, most Protestants reject it, the early church never taught it and it never surfaced in church history until Augustine invented it. You only find it periodicially and sporadically in church history. If you look at scripture the bible contradicts calvinism. If you look experientially, Christians (including professing calvinists) do not live as if it is true. They make their own choices, they urge people to make the right choices when facing competing choices, they all live as if they actually have free will. Despite their protestations and professed theology and philosophy they all live and act as if we all have free will (there are no consistent living determinists!!!!).

Daniel made it quite clear that it was ***calvinism*** not Christianity that he rejects.

He made it clear that he rejects the deterministic doctrine that God preselects a few to be saved and preselects most human beings for damnation. He rejects a theology that limits the love of God to a preselected few. He rejects a theology that claims babies are guilty of the sin of Adam.

So let’s be clear here, Daniel has no problem with Christianity:

His problem and the thing he rejects is ********calvin-ism*******.

Robert

    Mary

    Robert,

    No. I have accurately represented Daniel’s comment: He said to Randall Cofield: “I want nothing to do with your religion or your theology!”

    Randall’s “theology” is Calvinism. However, Randall’s “religion” is Christianity–unless you too are implying that Randall is not a Christian!

    That is what I am complaining about here. Daniel has flatout implied that Randall Cofield is not a Christian and instead of you, Robert, rejecting his OFFENSIVE comment. Daniel obviously owes Randall an apology for implying he is not a Christian. I am amazed by how much rude behavior is tolerated by Traditionalists here. Calvinists constantly get kicked off this site, yet Traditionalists can flat-out say that Calvinists are not Christians and nothing! It is unbelievable.

      Robert

      Daniel wrote multiple posts clearly saying he completely rejectes CALVIN-ISM and wanted to have nothing to do with *****this theology*****.

      Mary then tried to equate Daniel’s rejection of calvinism with rejection of Christianity (which I corrected in my previous post).

      Now she wants to go even further with her misrepresentation of Daniel’s perspective and claim that he does not believe that calvinists like Randall are even Christians.

      She writes:

      “No. I have accurately represented Daniel’s comment: He said to Randall Cofield: “I want nothing to do with your religion or your theology!”

      And he meant, and I clearly interpreted him to mean: that he wanted to have nothing to do with Cofield’s CALVIN-ISM.

      Daniel made this very clear in his posts sharing what he rejected about calvinism, for example:

      “Not until many years later did I encounter a Baptist minister who held to TULIP–that children born guilty sinners, that God only loves some humans:-(, that God secretly unconditionally elected only a limited number to be lovingly saved and foreordained all the rest of us to eternal damnation.
      That, Mary, is no Good News.”

      As well as what he appreciated about Christianity, for example:

      “All I want right now is to hear again the Good News I heard in the Baptist Church where I was growing up that babies are precious and loved of God, that Jesus said we are to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of God,
      and most importantly that God loves and wills for everyone to be saved, and that Jesus loved us so much he died for every single one of us. As Billy Graham so famously preached (and was in the July 2012 Decision) that God would have sent Jesus to die if only ONE of us had sinned!
      That’s the Good News that saved me my sister, my parents (my dad by a Baptist chaplain in the Pacific in WW2!), my relatives, and millions of others.“

      Daniel can speak for himself but his comments have been clear: he loves what he sees as Christianity and he rejects calvinism.

      Mary continued:

      “Randall’s “theology” is Calvinism. However, Randall’s “religion” is Christianity–unless you too are implying that Randall is not a Christian!”

      I am not implying that Randall is not a Christian nor was Daniel:
      Mary is again twisting things beyond recognition.

      Mary then elaborates presenting her “complaint”:

      “That is what I am complaining about here. Daniel has flatout implied that Randall Cofield is not a Christian and instead of you, Robert, rejecting his OFFENSIVE comment. Daniel obviously owes Randall an apology for implying he is not a Christian. I am amazed by how much rude behavior is tolerated by Traditionalists here. Calvinists constantly get kicked off this site, yet Traditionalists can flat-out say that Calvinists are not Christians and nothing! It is unbelievable.”

      This deserves refutation. So let’s take each line and show its falsity.

      “That is what I am complaining about here. Daniel has flatout implied that Randall Cofield is not a Christian”

      Not true at all Daniel implied no such thing, nor have I.

      Randall may be a Christian even if he espouses calvnism which both Daniel and I reject.

      Where does Daniel say or imply that Randall is not a Christian?

      I don’t see it in any of his posts. Mary is inventing this, making this up, in order to gripe about the SBC today discussion forum.

      “and instead of you, Robert, rejecting his OFFENSIVE comment.”

      I don’t have to reject his comment because I understand his comment. You on the other hand are trying to invent a controversy when there is none.

      Come to think of it as long as I have seen you posting here at SBC today you are always creating controversies, always acting in a divisive and argumentative fashion. You have repeatedly said those who reject calvinistic theology are heretics: and you have never apologized for these slanderous and false claims.

      “Daniel obviously owes Randall an apology for implying he is not a Christian”

      Daniel owes no such apology because he did not claim or imply that Randall was not a Christian.

      Mary you are spinning his comment that way, intentionally misinterpreting and misrepresenting his comment, trying to create a controversy, when there is none.

      And speaking of apologies, why don’t you take the beam out of your own eye first?

      Why don’t you apologize to myself, Adam Harwood and others you have falsely attacked as heretics for challenging and rejecting your calvinistic doctrines (e.g. the doctrine that Adam’s sin is imputed to all people, so infants are born guilty of Adam’s sin)???

      Before you apologize for your rude and contentious behaviour here, your speaking of others apologizing has little or no weight at all.

      “I am amazed by how much rude behavior is tolerated by Traditionalists here.”

      Yes I am amazed at what the non-calvinists have put up with from calvinists here (being called heretics, being called Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians and “will worshippers” etc. etc. etc. etc.). I would have banned contentious and argumentative people like this much more quickly, but they show a lot of patience and grace in dealing with argumentative and contentious calvinists here.

      “Calvinists constantly get kicked off this site, yet Traditionalists can flat-out say that Calvinists are not Christians and nothing! It is unbelievable.”

      Every one of those calvinists who got kicked off should have been kicked off. Their actions merited their being banned from the site.

      Traditionalists here are not saying that Calvinists are not Christians. I have not seen so-called Trads saying this at all here.

      And now you come along trying very hard and yet completely unsuccessfully to try to spin Daniel’s words into a claim that Daniel believes that Randall is not a Christian. Daniel said no such thing.

      I find it interesting that when you or your fellow Calvinists slander non-calvinists as heretics or Pelagians or “will worshippers” or whatever, I *****never***** hear YOU correcting these other calvinists or holding them accountable in any way (nor do you even correct yourself). So your claim here is extremely hypocritical. When you stop calling non-calvinists heretics, when you oppose other calvinists who make these ridiculous and slanderous claims, then your complaint might have more weight.

      While I reject calvinistic theology and doctrine (and sometimes find it extremely reprehensible). I make no claim that calvinists are not saved persons. They are mistaken in their theology and their interpretations of scripture. But most of them as far as I can tell, do not deny essentials of the faith so they are not heretics.

      Mary when you get your own house in order, then perhaps your comments will have greater weight and importance. As it stands now, your conduct is part of the problem not the solution. You need to apologize for your own slanderous attacks of non-calvinists and you need to do a much better job of holding fellow calvinists accountable when they engage in their slanderous attacks of non-calvinists as heretics/Pelagians/Semi-Pelagians/”will worshippers”/ people attempting to steal God’s glory/etc. etc. etc. etc.

      Robert

        Mary

        Robert, I don’t want to fight with you. You are my brother in Christ. One thing I want to make clear is that I was not calling any of you heretics. I know you took it that way and it offended you and for that I am sorry. But you genuinely did misunderstand me. The only thing I was calling heresy is to say that we are righteous by our obedience. Adam doesn’t teach that. You don’t teach that. No Baptist I know teach that. That is an old debate any way. If you would look at the conversation Adam and I recently had, you would see we worked that all out. Another thing: you accuse me by saying, “You have repeatedly said those who reject calvinistic theology are heretics.” Honestly, the only thing I was talking about as heresy is what I just mentioned. You know, Robert, it is not fair what you are saying about me. I never even speak of “Calvinist” theology. That’s not me. I have never even called myself a Calvinist, and yet you lay that charge against me. It’s not true. I was just trying to project the fact that babies need Jesus to go to Heaven. That’s it! And now that issue is resolved. So I would really appreciate it if you would stop accusing me of these things. Lastly, regarding Daniel’s comment. I think I have raised a legitimate concern concern. You say his comment was just about Calvinism, but if that was so, his comment would be singular, not plural. He said “I want nothing to do with your religion or your theology.” If that is only about Calvinism, then he is saying “I want nothing to do with your Calvinism or your Calvinism.” No one speaks like that. There is more to it than just his Calvinism. But please, I don’t want to argue with you about this. It brings the worst out in me. We are all Christians here.

        Your sister in Christ,
        Mary

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