"AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY" HERESY>
An Indictment by
Gary Ray Branscome
"The wicked are estranged from the womb: they
go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." // "The imagination
of man’s heart is evil from his youth" // "Behold, I was shapen
in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 58:3, Genesis
8:21, Psalm 51:5).
that God does not hold those under a certain age accountable for their
sins contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. The Bible not only
says no such thing but in many passages teaches the exact opposite.
that anyone, infant or otherwise, can get into heaven without
forgiveness, without faith in Christ, on the basis of their own
innocence, flies in the face of all the Bible passages that tell us
that is simply not true. First of all the Bible says, “they that are in
the flesh cannot please God,” for “without faith it is impossible to
please him” (Hebrews 11:6, Romans 8:8). Therefore, age has nothing to
do with our standing before God! It is faith, and faith alone, that
determines who is innocent in the sight of God and who is not.
the Bible plainly tells us that, “All unrighteousness is sin,”
including the unrighteousness of a nature that is, “deceitful above all
things, and desperately wicked.” That is why it is written, “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,” and that is why
there is “none righteous, no, not one.” [Romans 3:10, 1 John 5:17,
Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 5:12]
Bible tells us that “all,” not just those above a certain age, “have
sinned,” tells us that we are by our very nature “children of wrath,”
and by the words, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my
mother conceive me,” makes it clear that infants and even embryos are
sinful in the sight of God (Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:3, Psalm 51:5, Job
because “the wages of sin is death,” if infants were not sinners,
infants would never die (Romans 6:23).
A MYTH ROOTED IN WORKS RIGHTEOUSNESS
hold to the myth of infant “innocence” stubbornly cling to the idea
that infants can be saved on the basis of their own righteousness, in
spite of what the Bible says. Either they assume that infants cannot
sin (and thus have achieved righteousness by the law), or they assume
that God somehow lowers the standard for them, by not holding them
accountable. However, lowering the standard amounts to nothing more
than giving them a different law to keep. Therefore, both views assume
that righteousness comes by the law, and that infants have achieved
tells us that the law cannot make infants “innocent,” when it says,
“That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is
evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).
also tells us that lowering the standard will not make infants
“innocent” when it says, “If there had been a law given which could
have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law”
idea of infant “innocence” or an “age of accountability” clearly
contradicts the teaching of scripture, those who teach it are rebelling
against God (Psalm 107:11). And when they try to get around what the
Bible says, or explain it away, they only prove that they have a spirit
of error (1John 4:6).
THE EVIL FRUIT OF THAT MYTH
every doctrine that contradicts Scripture is satanic in origin such
doctrines will produce satanic fruit, and, while the fruit of some
errors is hard to detect, the fruit of the “age of accountability” myth
is clearly evil.
number of occasions I have encountered people who never tried to lead
their children to faith, or even talked to them about salvation,
because they were convinced that their children did not need to “worry”
about salvation until they reached the “age of accountability.”
However, Christ said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and
forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).
also says, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected
praise” (Matthew 21:16). Paul said of Timothy, “From a child thou hast
known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto
salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
And, God has promised that if we, “Train up a child in the way he
should go… when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
[See also Mark 10:15, Matthew18: 3, Luke 18:17.]
evil fruit that has its root in the “age of accountability” doctrine is
tolerance for abortion. I am aware that many people who hold that
doctrine oppose abortion. However, I once looked through a book in
which the author, while claiming to be against abortion, dogmatically
asserted that God was using abortion to “fill heaven.” What could be
more satanic than that? It ought to be obvious that if all infants were
saved Satan would be fighting abortion, not promoting it.
evil fruit has to do with the fact that those who hold the “age of
accountability” doctrine twist Scripture in a vain attempt to find
support for that doctrine. I know of one man who claimed that “because
those who are present at the last judgement will be judged by their
works, infants will not be condemned.” However, that is the same old
delusion of works righteousness that I dealt with in the last section.
The passages that warn of God’s judgement say nothing about an “age of
accountability,” that idea is simply being read into the text.
Moreover, what the man in question clearly does not understand (even
though he is the head of a seminary) is that when we are judged by our
works, only those who trust in Christ will be found sinless, because
only those who trust in Christ will have all of their sins washed away
by the blood of Christ (1John 1:7-9). That is what the Bible is talking
about when it refers to “the righteousness of God which is by faith of
Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe,” or when it says,
“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that
believeth” (Romans 3:22 and10:4).
argument that I have seen used to support the “age of accountability”
doctrine has to do with the fact that only those who were under twenty
years of age when Moses led Israel out of Egypt got to enter the
promised land. Of course it should be obvious to anyone that those
people were older when they actually went into the promised land.
Furthermore, the passage in question is not even talking about eternal
salvation. Therefore, this argument is a clear example of someone
grasping at straws because they do not want to give up the idea that
people under a certain age can get into heaven without faith in Christ.
However, because their idea contradicts the words, “Neither is there
salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given
among men, whereby we must be saved,” they are teaching a false gospel
(Acts 4:12). The Bible makes it perfectly clear that if anyone could
have been saved without faith in Christ, God would not have sent Christ
to the cross (Galatians 3:21).
WHAT THE BIBLE DOES SAY ABOUT INFANTS
Bible makes it perfectly clear that infants are sinners and that no one
can be saved apart from faith in Christ, there are a few passages which
may indicate that the infant children of believers are saved. In saying
that I must make it clear that the evidence is not conclusive, yet we
need to look at what the Bible says.
all, after the death of the child born of David’s sin with Bathsheba,
David said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2
Samuel 12:23). While those words of David may indicate that he was
reunited with the child in heaven, he could be saying nothing more than
that he would go to be with the child in the grave. We do not really
know! Therefore, no matter what your opinion is, you need to be willing
to admit that the evidence is not conclusive. Those who simply assert
that their own opinions are the Word of God are trying to make
themselves God, and that is satanic (Isaiah 14:12-14).
thing to consider is that David fasted and besought God for the life of
the child before it died, and since faith is a gift of God, the child
may have ended up in heaven in answer to that prayer. Again, we cannot
be certain, and even if we could it would be dishonest to try to turn
that one isolated incident into a general rule.
Because Jesus said of the infants who were brought to Him, “Of such is
the kingdom of God” some conclude that all infants are saved (Luke
18:16). However, because the evidence for that conclusion is less than
certain, they are simply jumping to conclusions. When Jesus spoke those
words He was speaking of the children of believers, and specifically
those brought to Him and blessed by Him, not all children. Furthermore,
while His words may indicate that the children of believers are
included in God’s kingdom, He could be saying only that many will wind
up in God’s kingdom because they were brought to Christ at an early
age. Again, since we cannot be certain, it would be dishonest to try to
turn an ambiguous statement into a general rule.
of what the Bible says there are many people who want to believe that
infants can be saved apart from faith in Christ. However, self-delusion
will only hinder the salvation of souls. Because the Bible says nothing
about the salvation of infants, we ought to entrust them to God’s
justice, without trying to delude ourselves. I once heard someone
suggest that infants who die without Christ may never experience a
greater level of consciousness than they had when they died, but that
is conjecture and should be recognized as such. Many believe that God’s
saving grace is bestowed on infants through baptism, however, that
belief is inconsistent with the fact that the Bible does not command or
even explicitly mention infant baptism.
What we do
know for certain is that no infant can be saved apart from personal
faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12, Hebrews 11:6). However, while many
believe that it is impossible for an infant to have faith, we need to
remember that faith is a gift of God and He is perfectly able to give
that gift to anyone He wants to give it to. In fact, we have an example
of such faith in the person of John the Baptist, for the Bible tells us
that John, while still in the womb, leapt for joy at the presence of
Mary and thus of Christ who was then in her womb (Luke 1:44). Only
faith would cause him to rejoice in that way.
I am aware
that the faith of an infant would not be the same as the faith of an
adult. Yet, the very fact that God can work faith in the heart of an
infant should move all of us to begin praying for our children while
they are yet in the womb. Because Christ encouraged those who wanted
Him to bless their children, if we ask Him to receive our children into
His care, instill faith in their heart, and forgive their sin, we can
be certain that our prayer is in accord with His will (Luke 18:16). For
that reason, we ought to go eagerly to Him in prayer, claiming that
promise of blessing for our infants. In fact, why not have parents
bring their infants before the congregation so that the congregation
might join with them in committing those infants unto to God – by
asking God to grant those children faith, forgive them, and receive
them into His care. His Word assures us that He is able to “keep” those
children that we “have committed unto Him,” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Christians we have a responsibility to critically examine our own
ideas, and bring our thinking into accord with the Word of God (2
Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:2). However, Satan is not going to make it
easy for us. In fact, if you have accepted a false doctrine, he may
lead you to place great importance on that doctrine as a way of leading
you to distort what the Bible says, or to deny and explain away any
passages of Scripture that contradict that doctrine. Therefore, we need
to realize how important it is for us to bring our thinking into accord
with the Word of God. In that regard, the following statements apply to
all men, infants included. “By the offence of one judgment came upon
all men to condemnation,” for, “by one man’s disobedience many were
made sinners,” and “Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the
promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe
(Galatians 3:22, Romans 5:18-19). Those who ignore or explain away
those words are rebelling against God (Psalm 107:11, 1 John 4:6).