Age of Accountability

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by APuritanMindset, Sep 10, 2005.

  1. APuritanMindset

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    In the thread on infant salvation, I keep seeing mention of this "age of accountability". I know what it is, so I am not asking for an explanation. My question is how can this be defended?

    How can we, in light of Psalm 51:5, which reads,

    Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. (Psalms 51:5 HCSB Emphasis mine)

    say that an infant is not held accountable? How can we make a case for age of accountability and still be consistent with Scriptures like this one:

    This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12 ESV)

    or this one:

    Jesus replied, "I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3 HCSB Emphasis mine)

    So, what I am asking for here is a Scriptural defense of age of accountability. I want absolutely no appeals to emotion or "God wouldn't"'s. I want a logical and consistent Scriptural defense of this doctrine.
     
  2. Gershom

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    Accountable for what? And I would look at this verse in other versions before coming to a conclusion.
     
  3. APuritanMindset

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    Even in other versions, I think Psalm 51:5 is saying what the HCSB has rendered it as. The point still stands. If we're born sinful, where is the Scriptural case for age of accountability?
     
  4. Helen

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    We are born with a sin NATURE. That means we will always have a tendency to sin. However, as Paul says in Romans 7, sin does not spring to life in a person until the person knows the law. This is NOT some sort of 'spiritual' foreknowledge as Aaron seems to be suggestion, but actual brain-held knowledge.

    For instance, consider the two year old who, seeing the nice man at the check-out counter helping Mommy put groceries in bags to take out to the car sees that Mommy can get what she wants and there doesn't appear to be any problem with that, so he puts a candy in his pocket.

    Are you going to hold him accountable for stealing? He had NO idea he was stealing or even what stealing was. He was simply imitating Mommy. So Mommy explains to the child, who only sort of understands and may well help himself again, because being told and understanding are often two different things.

    In fact, it wasn't even his sin nature that was expressed in the stealing! He was simply imitating what he thought Mommy was doing. Nevertheless, he was doing wrong. He needed, however, to be corrected, not punished. Punishment at that stage would be totally wrong.

    Paul, I am sure, wanted things as a child. He coveted as a child. And yet he says in Romans 7 that he was alive (meaning spiritually with God) until he understood what coveting was. Then, and only then, sin 'sprang to life', meaning that he rebelled and sinned consciously against what he knew was the Law, and then he died spiritually (was separated from God).

    So when does a person actually understand? We certainly inform our children enough times, but often they really don't understand what we mean. They know they should obey and their sin nature often leads them away from that obedience, but are they consciously rebelling against GOD's law then? No, not really. We cannot be held accountable for doing what it is in our nature to do. We are held accountable when we understand about that nature and choose to follow it instead of doing what we know the Law says to do. Paul tells us the law shows us what sin is.

    If we look at the Bible, if we look at the fact that Jesus said point blank that the children are His (despite sin nature), and if we look at our own children and watch why they do things, then Exodus makes sense to us and we start to understand that there may well be an age of accountability which, while probably individual for each person, is roughly between the ages of 18 and 20.

    On this issue, Bible, experience, logic, and our God-given sense of justice and fairness all converge.

    In other words, to declare that an infant or child is guilty to the point of going to hell of anything at all seems to be entirely contrary to what the Bible indicates.
     
  5. OldRegular

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    Helen

    In a post on another thread you made a very interesting reference to the age [twenty years and under] of the children of the Israelites who were not held accountable for the failure of their elders to enter the Land of Promise. I did not enter into that discussion [other than post some links to remarks by Mohler the President of Southern Seminary] but as I recall I agreed with much of what you said. I do not agree that everyone's name is in the Book of Life. Mohler, who by the way believes in the doctrine of election, discusses this in his discussion. He basically states that only elect children die. I recommend that you read these two articles.

    It is my opinion that parents and pastors are guilty of teaching children that their sense of guilt for disobeying parents translates to knowledge of sin against God. The consequence is that we have children from the age of 3 and up making professions of faith. They walk the aisle tell the pastor they love Jesus Christ and are voted into the church. We therefore wind up with an unregenerate church membership. What child raised in a Christian home will not say they love Jesus Christ if asked?

    I do not know what the age of accountability is. I believe it is much closer to the age of 20 than the age of 6 or 10. The only reference in Scripture, as far as I am aware, is the one you cited earlier from the Old Testament. As a parent and grandparent I understand peoples concern for their children. However, we must also understand that Scripture teaches, as you note, that children belong to God. I believe that people completely misunderstand and misapply that Scripture where Jesus Christ states: Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.[Matthew 19:14]

    Some years ago I read a compilation of certain articles dealing with this problem of taking unregenerate children into the church. As I recall the position suggested was that instead of bringing children into the fellowship they would be brought under the watch care of the church until they did reach that age of accountability. That is basically what some denominations who practice infant baptism do. In my opinion there us no difference between baptizing a newborn infant and baptizing a young child.
     
  6. APuritanMindset

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    But this leaves the implication that we may well NOT sin and therefore live a perfect life. This idea (that we can live a perfect life on our own) was refuted a really long time ago.

    Also, to hold that children aren't held accountable for their natural inclination puts you in a tough spot with a verse like this one:

    among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:3 ESV Emphasis mine)

    I close this post with a quote from John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.

    "...Original sin, then, may be defined a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh...The two things, therefore, are to be distinctly observed, viz., that being thus perverted and corrupted in all the parts of our nature, we are, merely on account of such corruption, deservedly condemned by God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence, and purity...Hence Augustine, though he often terms it another’s sin (that he may more clearly show how it comes to us by descent), at the same time asserts that it is each individual’s own sin. And the Apostle most distinctly testifies, that “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12); that is, are involved in original sin, and polluted by its stain. Hence, even infants bringing their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb, suffer not for another’s, but for their own defect. For although they have not yet produced the fruits of their own unrighteousness, they have the seed implanted in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bed of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God..." (2.1.8)
     
  7. APuritanMindset

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  8. Me4Him

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    Ge 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    Joh 9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, (to sin) ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; (Know) therefore your sin remaineth.

    Adam had to "KNOW" both "GOOD AND EVIL" before he was held accountable,

    "disobedience" to God is to know sin.

    Babies are "BLIND" to sin, they don't possess the "KNOWLEDGE" of "GOOD/EVIL".

    When they become of age to "KNOW" disobedience, they are no longer "blind to sin".
     
  9. RightFromWrong

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    This was my answer to this question on another thread ( which I started ), it holds true here. Does anyone not understand this am I not being clear enough ?

    To me this explains AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY and ASSURANCE OF SALVATION !

    This was my whole crux on how BABIES get to Heaven or how ANYONE gets to heaven. PERIOD !

    Most people do not understand that it ISN'T sin that sends you to HELL. It's your CONDITION that sends you there. One doesn't have to SIN to go to Hell, just the fact that we were born SEPERATED from a Holy God is enough. God told Adam and Eve that they would DIE if they ate of the tree of good and evil. They didn't die PHYSICALLY that day they died SPIRITUALLY
    ( death means seperation ).

    MARK 3:28-29 says " Truly I say to you ALL SINS will be forgiven of man and whatever blasphemies they utter; BUT whoever blasphemes AGAINST the Holy Spirit NEVER has forgiveness, but is guilty of an ETERNAL SIN !

    Babies cannot blasphemy against the gospel. I don't know about you but I have never known a baby in the womb or a very young one who understood the human language, so how can he reject something he has never heard ? It is when a child hears the Gospel ( at whatever age that may be, my sons were 4 and 6 when they were saved ) and if he UNDERSTANDS the gospel and rejects it then he is held accountable.

    Your CONDITION sends you to Hell not SIN !
    Being in a new right relationship with God sends you to Heaven. Not doing good works or living right.

    That is why Jesus told Nicodemus you must be BORN AGAIN ~ Right Relationship with God ! AMEN
     
  10. hamricba

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    I agree we have unconverted children who have been declared church members. But for a great read on the reality that God does regenerate some young children, check out Tom Ascol's BLOG on the conversion of a 4-year old that Jonathan Edwards knew. It's awesome!
     
  11. RightFromWrong

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    Thank you for that link hamricba

    My son who was saved at 4 had an awesome conversion too.

    He was saved through the wordless book. He even cried. From that moment on he had a clear understanding of right and wrong , Good and Evil. If someone sinned he would say they are on Satans side. He also was confessing his SINS to us even when we were not asking. One time I had picked him up from preschool, I asked the teacher how did he do, She said He did fine. We are in the car, and he speaks up and says I didn't do fine I did such and such. Totally confessing his sins. He did this often and still does though not as much. That Preschool year he received " MOST THOUGHTFULL " Next year he received " MEEKNESS " Last year he received an award for SERVANT HOOD. In soccor at school.

    He has always had a heart for God, witnessing to friends, even bringing a few to the Lord. One time at my husbands work he had no problems talking to a Muslim man. He is the hardest to out of my two boys to raise as he is strong willed like me, but he has a good heart and I know God will use that in a great way someday.
     
  12. APuritanMindset

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    Genesis 2:17 was pre-fall times. Now that the fall has happened, we have lost that innocence. All of us. Even that 2 year old that steals the candy at the store knows deep down that he has done wrong.

    If you get home and see him with a candy bar and you ask him, "Did you take that from the store?" He will look at you and either lie and say "no" or he'll hang his head and cry or some such reaction. We all have the knowledge of good and evil in us to one degree or another. The law is written on our hearts.

    They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Romans 2:15 ESV)

    The 2 year old may not completely understand why he feels bad for what he did, but since when does someone have to understand all the details of why to know that he has done wrong?

    I still am not seeing a consistent Scriptural defense of age of accountability, but maybe I am just slow.
     
  13. OldRegular

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  14. APuritanMindset

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    We should be teaching our kids the truths of Scripture from the very beginning. I don't have kids yet (I am not even married yet, although my fiancée and I have discussed these issues already) but I am going to teach them, a little bit at a time, the entirety of the gospel. Even the parts that they don't understand.

    Here is an article by John Piper that fits with this idea of teaching our kids hard things early.

    Teaching a Six-Year-Old – Talitha – The Doctrine of Justification

    Anyway...

    A lack of understanding doesn't mean that we aren't accountable for a wrong that we commit. I cite Romans:

    For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 ESV Emphasis mine)

    Not knowing (understanding) is not an excuse to get away with doing the wrong thing; not in man's eyes and not in God's eyes.
     
  15. OldRegular

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    We should be teaching our kids the truths of Scripture from the very beginning. I don't have kids yet (I am not even married yet, although my fiancée and I have discussed these issues already) but I am going to teach them, a little bit at a time, the entirety of the gospel. Even the parts that they don't understand.

    Here is an article by John Piper that fits with this idea of teaching our kids hard things early.

    Teaching a Six-Year-Old – Talitha – The Doctrine of Justification

    Anyway...

    A lack of understanding doesn't mean that we aren't accountable for a wrong that we commit. I cite Romans:

    For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 ESV Emphasis mine)

    Not knowing (understanding) is not an excuse to get away with doing the wrong thing; not in man's eyes and not in God's eyes.
    </font>[/QUOTE]I am glad you are going to teach your children, when you have some, just don't drag them down the church aisle because the pastor wants to add another name to the church roll.

    When Jesus Christ said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. he did not place any conditions. God will bring to salvation those that are His in His own time and own way. Those who die before the age of accountability are saved by the grace of God. Albert Mohler discusses this in the following links:

    http://www.crosswalk.com/special/tsunami/1305866.html

    http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?cal=go&adate=1%2F5%2F2005
     
  16. Craigbythesea

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    The doctrine of the age of accountability is nothing but wishful thinking and the vain philosophy of foolish men. The Bible explicitly states that we have ALL “sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Bible also says that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Bible also teaches we all sinned in Adam just as we are all made righteous in Christ,

    Rom. 5:12. 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--
    13. for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
    14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
    15. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
    16. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
    17. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
    18. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
    19. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (NASB, 1995)

    We have all sinned in Adam, and the proof of that teaching in Rom. 5 is that many died without having the Law even though sin is not imputed when there is no law. Newborn infants have not yet had the opportunity to commit personal sins, and yet many of them die. This would be impossible were it not for the fact that they sinned in Adam, and that the wages of sin is death. Some Baptists choose to deny this fundamental teaching in the Word of God, but the parallel that Paul is making in Rom. 5 is unmistakable—the sin of Adam was imputed to all just as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who believe. How can anyone deny the imputation of sin and yet believe in the imputation of righteousness? How can one argue that imputation is one thing when it refers to sin, and something very different when it refers to the righteousness of Christ? Imputation is imputation!

    Absolutely nowhere in the New Testament does it say that infants and small children are free from sin and its consequences. Absolutely nowhere in the New Testament does it say that infants and small children can be saved by anything but the grace of God. And we know for certain that infants and small children are accountable for the sin of Adam because they very often die before they have had an opportunity to commit any further sins. Don’t be fooled by those who teach that infants are not accountable—we know that they ARE accountable because some of them die and without sin there is no death. And don’t be fooled by those who carelessly teach that we did NOT really sin in Adam but that we only inherited a sin nature from Adam. Romans 5 says absolutely nothing about a sin nature, it speaks of sin itself, and it expressly says that we SINNED—and in the context it expressly teaches that we sinned in Adam. This IS the doctrine of original sin—we all sinned in Adam and the “we” here includes infants, and we know for a fact that it includes infants because some infants die long before they have the opportunity to commit any other sin.

    What, then, is the fate of infants who die? Christian theologians have been debating that question for more than 1900 years. The typical response by Baptist pastors is, “Don’t worry about it—God does not hold infants and small children accountable for either Adams sin or their own personal sins.” If a Baptist pastor tells you that, ask him to quote the Bible where it says that—and, of course, he will not be able to. This is not just a philosophical question, it is a real question about real infants and their eternal destiny. I don’t have any infant children, but if I did, I would not let my Baptist pastor tell me not to worry about it. I would most certainly get down on the floor before God and ask Him if there is anything that I, as a parent, should do to insure that my infant child will not spend eternity in hell but will spend eternity with Him should he or she die in infancy.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Helen

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    Excuse me, but what do you think Paul was talking about, then, in Romans 7:7-11?
     
  18. RightFromWrong

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    SIN DOESN'T SEND MAN TO HELL !

    HIS CONDITION DOES !

    You all are not getting it :confused:

    You can talk all about SIN till the day you die, that has NOTHING to do with your salvation. that isn't what got you ( or lack of it ) SAVED and it isn't what will cause you to keep it.

    SIN effects your RELATIONSHIP with GOD and that is ALL.
    Being Born Again by FAITH by accepting the Gospel is what GETS you saved !

    Man, doesn't anyone study the Bible, thoroughly anymore ?
     
  19. ituttut

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    I believe those infants that die before the age of accountability are saved just as all are saved, just in a different manner, but by the same rule. As we today in this dispensation are saved differently than Moses, David, Isaiah, others, including those of the “great commission”, so are those “little one’s” saved differently, but exception’s cannot be made, regardless of age. We are born in sin, and into sin.

    Our Just God will not condemn one unjustly. Jesus Christ died for all, just as He died for us, yet not all are saved. Should a “little one” die before being able to make a choice, they are as innocent as Adam and Eve before the fall, but God knew what would happen. So I don’t believe this will answer our question, other than to let us know they did not know right from wrong; however God Knew Before Hand the woman would be deceived, and Adam would not, but Adam would Love His Woman more than His God.


    The only scripture that I can point to (you request scripture) will take us off of the subject for a moment, but send us back to the subject.

    Matthew 18:14 tells us it is not the will of the Father that a “little one” perish. If God the Father wills one of these little one’s to not perish, can (or will) anyone correct Him? I won’t. But we run into another problem at this point. Jesus explicitly tells us that He did not come for the heathen, but only for His sheep, which He mentions in the preceding verse. It is important that we understand what Jesus spoke, and meant while He was on this earth, and why He came, and it wasn’t for some Gentile forefather of mine.

    Please note the verses that follow in 16-17, ”But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Do we believe what we read? Most do not. Jesus consistently says He did not come for a Gentile, heathen dog, yet the Christian church completely ignores this, and tries to tie we today that come throughfaith, with those that came by faith. WE CANNOT attempt to apply verses to us that don’t apply to us.

    So I thought I had the answer in Matthew 18:14, but upon examination, we find this is not applicable. I doubt there is a definitive verse that will give us what we want of proof one way or the other. But I believe In Faith we can accept the fact that God in His Mercies, His Justice, His Love, and abounding Grace will determine the matter. God tells us He knows our souls even before we take that first breath, witness Esau hated of God before his birth. We see the soul of one being formed by the Spirit in Elizabeth’s womb in Luke 1:41. God knows before hand our soul.

    We live in faith, and in faith I trust God to save all those He has chosen, regardless of age. But when each of us reaches our age of accountability, those chosen will be saved, and those not chosen won’t be saved. Christian faith, ituttut
     
  20. RightFromWrong

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    Some Very Good Points.......ituttut

    RIGHT ON [​IMG]
     

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