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Is there such a thing as an age of accountability? That is, is there a certain age where children are not judged for their sins prior to this age? It's a good question, and the answer is not so clear.

How can God judge someone who can't even understand words? Will a baby that dies go to hell cause he didn't trust in Jesus as his savior? How can a baby or even a child confess his sins when he can't understand words or talk? Or if he can talk, can he grasp the concept of trusting in Jesus to cleanse his sins?

And what about those who are older, but can't understand words? Like a severely retarded (mentally-challenged) person? Will they be held accountable for their sins?

What about the concept of original sin? Isn't everyone born guilty of sin? Rom 5:12 says "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Psalm 51:5 "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." If everyone is born guilty of sin, then it's automatic that everyone, including babies, who dies before repentance will go to hell. For more on original sin, David Heddle has some thoughts on this.

Perhaps for Calvinists, children that has been elected (God had preordained them to be saved), but prematurely dies, are automatically saved. And those children not elected for salvation are destined for hell, whether or not they've been given a chance to repent. But, what about an elected person that dies after he has the ability to repent, but before he actually does repent? For Calvinists, that might seem impossible. But that's also saying it'd be impossible for an elected baby to die.

If there is an AoA, what age would that be? The Talmud designated thirteen as the age boys become men. Jesus was twelve years old when he discussed theology with the learned men in the temple. Luke 2:46 "And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions." God judged the Israelites who were 20 and over. Numbers 14:29 "Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me."

Also, does infant baptism fit in? If a baby is born guilty of sin, wouldn't it be wise to baptize the baby in case he dies prematurely? Since a baby wouldn't be able to make a personal decision of faith, a parent, by proxy, could make a decision for the baby.

Well, probably more questions were raised than questions answered. But here is a good conclusion by Mark Van Bebber:

Through the ages, this question of infant salvation has been emotionally debated. The persistence of this debate has been aided by the fact that the writers of Scripture did not explicitly comment on this subject. Having reviewed many pertinent avenues of reason, we can safely say that the salvation of infants can be regarded as at least an uncontradicted hope. It is my conviction, however, that although infant salvation is not taught explicitly, based upon the justice and character of God, infant salvation is an implicit certainty. In humility we worship a righteous God who will certainly do right!

(Update 8/28/2002: David Heddle replied with a post after I inquired what was his opinion on the Age of Accountability.)

More reading:
Is There An "Age of Accountability"
For Salvation?
- BibleTeacher
Do Babies Go to Hell? - Probe
What is the eternal destiny of an infant who dies? - Christian Answers
What is the Scriptural basis for the "Age of Accountability" in regards to children's salvation? - John MacArthur
Is The Age of Accountability Biblical? - Tony Warren
The Age of Accountability - BibleTruths
What is the age of accountability?
The Age of Accountability - Bible Bell
Scriptural Age of Accountability - Bible Truth
Age Of Accountability - Bible Fragrances
Refuting The Age Of Accountability Heresy - Bible Truth Forum

Posted: 2002-08-27 11:20:00

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