Is My Baby Evil?

As a new parent, one of the things I think about the most is the safety of my child; somehow I doubt that will ever change. As a pastor I am charged in many ways to keeping those in the church I serve, including myself, spiritually safe; meaning not necessarily away from persecution or the challenges that life throws at us, but equipped with the word of God and walking faithfully in discipleship so that when those times come we persevere by abiding in Christ.

Now combining those two responsibilities, I have thought more recently about the idea of original sin. There are many facets to the idea of original sin, but basically it is the idea that because of humanity’s fallen state, we are all born depraved and sinful. In many ways there is no choice, we are sin and helplessly captive to sin unless we surrender our lives to Christ. Typically most non-Christians would say people are born either as blank slates, neither good nor bad; or born basically good, only led astray when we do not recognize our inner goodness and the goodness within others. But for Christians we in some ways believe the worst of people, not that we expect everyone to disappoint us or that no one can ever be trusted, but that even the most faithful and well-meaning person is incapable of sinless-ness or atoning for his or her sin if he or she were to sin.

The issue of original sin may not seem as important to people without children or those who have never had a young friend or relative die. But it is important because as Christians we point to humanity’s helpless state as sinners, a state which no person can avoid, as proof that there is no other way to redemption and eternal life but through Christ and his sacrifice on our behalf upon the cross. Yet if we confess this, the question remains whether or not a child is born guilty yet unable to confess that guilt and accept salvation and therefore doomed without infant baptism or some other protection. Or, does God have some age or standard of accountability that he follows, where those unable to recognize and confess their sinfulness are not punished? If this is true, at what point or age is a person accountable for their sin?

Are we endowed with this human defect? Some theologians would argue that even infants, are sinful and depraved, as seen by their self-centeredness and demands (through crying) that they be cared for and be the center of attention.

Other theologians argue (and I would agree) that infants lack the capability to sin because they are not choosing to be self-centered, but cry out in their helplessness to their parents for survival. Think of how powerful the scriptural image of God as parent becomes when we understand ourselves as being in a helpless state crying out to our father. Remember that Christ called us enter into his kingdom like children (Matt. 18:1-7). Jesus would not have done that if he considered the childlike state one of hopeless sinfulness and depravity. Rather, I believe he meant that children possess a simple humility and faithfulness that adults tend to lack as they become more and more focused on what they want and desire for themselves apart from God.

People have written whole books about this topic, so I do not expect to answer every question about original sin in one blog entry. However, I will say that while I do believe that God does not hold children or the mentally or developmentally impaired accountable to some standard they cannot comprehend and commit to, most healthy and normal children will eventually reach a point at which they begin to understand right and wrong. Therefore it is important for us as Christians and the Church to guide them in the path of discipleship and faithfulness to God.

Yet, I still believe in the idea of original sin in the sense that every person, given the chance to grow and mature, will reach a point where he or she will choose to be selfish and sinful. We are creatures unable to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16) and so inevitably we dishonor our God, and thus we need a savior. And so I do not believe my child is evil, but I do know that she is predisposed as a human to sin and alienation from God by original sin. Without recognizing as she grows up her need of Christ she will become accountable before God, as we all are, for her actions. I as a parent and we as a church must show her the way through the narrow gate.

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One Comment to “Is My Baby Evil?”

  1. Lydia Mariam Says:

    Recently I have begun to think that the basic nature of humanity is both good and evil. We are not only good or only evil but are both; we are conflicted between the two. We are good because when God created the world he said that his creation was good (in fact he said humans were “very good”). We also are good because we are created in God’s image. At the same time, we are drawn to evil, we do evil things. The good and evil natures within us are at war, similar to how Paul describes it in Romans 7.

    What do you think about this?

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