7. Discernment & Accountability – (Are Babies Born With Sin?)
When Does Accountability Begin?
The Discernment Of Both Good & Evil
(Genesis 2:16-17) “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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.”
When Adam was created in the garden he was created with the gift of choice or what we commonly term “Free Will.” There was no recorded sin in Adam’s life. Prior to his pivotal moment of disobedience to the commandment of God found in (Genesis 2:16), it appears he did not even possess the ability to discern the difference between good and evil. He had free will but did not have the ability to discern both good and evil.
It wasn’t until after he had disobeyed that his eyes were opened and he knew he was naked and covered himself. Preceding Adam’s fall, he and his wife were both naked and unashamed. They did not discern nakedness, it was their natural state of being. Once spiritual discernment came into play the freedom Adam and Eve had experienced was altered.
(Genesis 3:6-7) “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
Then came the curse of death, the promised consequence of Adam’s disobedience. “In that day thou shalt surely die…” was the promise but abrupt death was not manifest in that moment; but God’s promise was far-reaching and it was at that precise moment that death was allowed to reign in the world and become the heritage of all mankind.
(Romans 5:12) 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: (also Romans 5:13-17).
Are Babies Born With Sin?
So, today we have both death and a sinful nature that was inherited from this one act of disobedience, and with age, time, and study we learn to discern both good and evil. The question many have regards babies and whether babies are born with sin. (Romans 5:12) states “all have sinned.” If All meant ALL (as to include infants) then babies are born with sin. However, if true that would also mean all of mankind is born with sin, even Jesus Christ would not be exempt, he himself was “born” (Matthew 1:16, 2:1; Luke 1:35, 2:11), a “human child” of Mary (Matthew 1:16) and the seed of David (John 7:42; Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8). Yet, the Bible tells us that this man (John 8:40) was without sin (1 Peter 2:22). Is sin actually inherent at the first breath an infant takes into their lungs? Or, does choice play a part; being a point of entry into each life?
Until Adam exercised his choice/free will to disobey God’s commandment there was no sin in his life. Once he disobeyed and his eyes were opened there were other things he came to understand were not as they should be and had to be changed.
In Adam’s life sin was nonexistent without that choice. Once that choice was made, then discernment and accountability came into play. When an infant is born they lack the ability to choose anything for themselves, their entire existence depends on the care and nurture of others. It is not until they have the ability to choose to disobey that sin enters the picture. Even then, until they have the ability to discern right from wrong can full accountability come into play?
(Luke 12: 47-48 ) – “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
(Hebrews 5:13-14) “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Based on the word of God there are clearly different degrees of understanding and accountability. It is impossible to disobey without a choice. Disobedience comes with a price, but it is impossible to disobey if you have no knowledge that what you are doing is wrong.
The basic knowledge of right from wrong starts being learned at a very young age. How many people reading this know this scenario? “Don’t touch that, it is hot.” followed by a curious child touching the object and learning what both “don’t touch” and “hot” mean. At this point, did the child sin? Until after the lesson on what “don’t touch” and “hot” mean the child does not comprehend that touching the object is wrong. It is with this repetitive lesson. “Don’t touch that…” the child begins to understand this is an order and they are not supposed to disobey. When the child turns to the parent with a knowing look and an ornery grin and touches the object anyway, they have made a choice and they have disobeyed, they are then accountable and pay a consequence with a swat on a diaper-padded bottom, or a moment in time out. Was punishment meant to hurt the child or teach them the serious nature of the infraction? Children are taught in degrees. Choice and disobedience also present themselves in degrees.
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