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Article 0133 - Are Babies Born Guilty of Sin?

Are Babies Born Guilty of Sin?

Jon Gary Williams

The question posed in this article's title concerns itself with a widespread doctrine in the religious world today. Often labeled "original sin" or "Adamic sin," this doctrine teaches that from the moment children are born into the world, they are guilty of sin - - that they have inherited the sin passed down from Adam himself and through all subsequent generations. This teaching is sometimes referred to as "hereditary depravity," emphasizing the presumed profane and corrupted nature of the newborn.

While this teaching is by no means based on the biblical teaching, the overwhelming majority of churches in the broader world of "Christianity," including Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and most of the various denominational groups, promote the idea as religious doctrine. These religious groups perform rites of "baptism" upon babies through various means and methods and, within their own ideologies, for a variety of reasons. In the words of one denomination's statement, "that in baptism a child was cleansed of the guilt of original sin, initiated into the covenant with God, admitted into the church, made an heir of the divine kingdom, and spiritually born anew."

Regarding this doctrine, various explanations are plentiful. Notice the following statements, cited from the creeds of several prominent groups:

"Original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally [natural birth] is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil." (Protestant Episcopal Church, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 606)

"They [Adam and Eve] being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed, to all the posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation [natural birth]." (The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, pp. 35,36)

"We believe the scriptures teach that man [Adam] was created in holiness, but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners; being by nature [natural birth] utterly void of that holiness, positively inclined to evil, and therefore under just condemnation." (The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 60)

"Original sin is the corruption of the nature of every man that naturally [natural birth] is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness." Doctrines and Disciplines of the Methodist Church, p. 26)

"What has happened on account of the sin of Adam? On account of the sin of Adam, we, his descendants, come into the world [natural birth] deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his punishment." (Catholic Church, The Baltimore Catechism, p. 33)

Interestingly, within the memberships of these churches are many who are surprised to learn that this doctrine is found in their creeds. When presented with the implication of this erroneous teaching, many resist and even reject the idea, and for good reason. Moreover, some who know of and understand the meaning of the doctrine do not actually embrace it - - they may outwardly accept the stated creed but at heart reject the idea of the newborn being guilty of sin. Of a certainty, many religions hold fast to the idea of inherited sin as solid doctrine, yet the idea is one which meets controversy and challenges both scripture and common sense.

The Doctrine of "Inherited Sin" Is Not Found in the Scriptures

Search as they may, the idea that children enter this world guilty of Adam's sin cannot be found on the pages of God's word. The fact is, such a concept actually contradicts the scriptures. Notice how clear the Holy Spirit was in revealing the relationship of children with their Creator.

1. Jesus himself taught that children are already suitable for the kingdom God, hence, they cannot be guilty of sin. "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:16).

2. John said that sin is the transgression of law. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). Since children are not capable of transgressing anything, they are not guilty of sin.

3. The Bible clearly teaches that people are guilty only for their own sins and not for the sins of their parents. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son." (Ezekiel 18:20).

4. God told Moses that children have no knowledge of good and evil. "Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it." (Deuteronomy 1:39). Since children cannot know good and evil, they do not stand before God guilty of sin.

5. The scriptures teach there are specific prerequisites to acknowledge and follow before one is to be baptized.

A. Prior to being baptized one must be capable of having faith. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6). Since it is impossible for newborn children to have faith, they are not subject to baptism and are not guilty of sin.
B. Before baptism one must be capable of repenting. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized... for the remission of sin..." (Acts 2:38). Since newborns are incapable of repenting they are not candidates for baptism and are not tainted with sin.
C. When people approach the point of baptism, they must be capable of confessing their faith. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). Since it is impossible for newborns to confess faith they cannot be baptized and therefore they have no sin.

It is obvious that the doctrine of inherited (Adamic) sin is far removed from what God has revealed through His inspired word. Those who have been misled with this teaching should understand that the "baptizing" of infants, be it through sprinkling, pouring or even immersion, is a man-made and fruitless practice based upon a corrupted and unbiblical concept.