even though the conditions of salvation are made very clear in
the pages of Scripture.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it creates for
humanity two different kinds of salvation. Of course mankind is
very good at creating good/bad, better/worse, and best/worst kinds
of categories for sin. But is that what is being advocated here?
Different classes of people? The obvious answer is no. However,
that is exactly how this line of thinking logically plays out. Instead
Scripture makes the point that all people are morally bankrupt
and in need of a Savior. A case may be made regarding differing
consequences for sin, but all sin is also equal in the sense that it
makes a person guilty before a holy God. Perhaps a straightforward question needs to be asked at this juncture of those who
do believe babies go to Heaven when they die: Are you saying a
person can be saved without being born again? If so, what do you
do with the passages that clearly create this requirement? If not,
then are you saying there are two different kinds of salvation? It
seems that either case is problematic at best.
In addition to the state of humanity and the clear requirements
for salvation, Scripture also offers up examples of situations when
children were included in the penalty for sin. The Flood is a prime
example, as God chose to destroy all people, save Noah and his
family, because of their iniquity (1 Peter 3: 20; 2 Peter 2: 5). The
judgment was not based upon age; rather, every man, woman,
and child was destroyed because of their sin and God’s intrinsic
standard of holiness. Many evangelicals even go a step further and
view the ark as representative of the future work of Jesus Christ,
making the point that there is no salvation outside of the ark or
outside of Christ. But by advocating for the salvation of children,
it sets up the idea that a person can in fact be saved apart from
Christ. Yet the children in Noah’s time were not saved from judgment. Scripture is clear that with the exception of eight people,
all met the same fate.
The same could be said for the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah in Genesis 19. In this case Abraham pleaded with
God over the city. In this amazing exchange, Abraham pleads for
the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God says He will relent
if there are as few as 10 righteous people in the city. However,
it seems apparent that children were not viewed as innocents, or
they would have been spared. Instead, even though the children
may not have been guilty of the same kinds of sins as the other
residents of the city, still they were sinners and, therefore, were
included in the resulting judgment.
One other example that should be noted is the way God dealt
with the pagan nations in the Old Testament. The most prolific
instance was the advent of the 10th plague just before the Exodus in which case the firstborn son of every Egyptian household
was killed. The Israelites who had applied blood to their doorposts were passed over, while the Egyptians faced incredible loss.
Undoubtedly, many of those firstborn sons were infants, yet there
is no indication that they were saved either in the physical sense or
in the spiritual sense. Furthermore, other passages about how the
Israelites were to deal with pagan nations were even more specific:
And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction
every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors (
Deuteronomy 2: 34, ESV, emphasis added).
Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women,
young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword
( Joshua 6: 21, ESV, emphasis added).
And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after
him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity.
Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and
women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my
sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house
(Ezekiel 9: 5, 6, ESV, emphasis added).
As difficult as these passages are to understand, the point as it
relates to the topic is that God did not show partiality to children.
While a case might be made that the consequences of a parent’s
sin affect others, including their children, these passages make no
attempt to create classifications.
When it comes to the effects of original sin, Genesis makes
it clear that the penalty for Adam and Eve’s sin was death. This
includes spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1), physical death (Hebrews
9: 27), and eternal death (Revelation 20: 15), with the repercussions
of Adam’s sin touching every human being born ever since. Just
the fact that every human being faces physical death is evidence
in and of itself that sin has impacted the whole of humanity and
that no one is truly innocent. Simply put, before sin, there was no
death. But the fact that death now breeches all of humanity also
speaks to the far-reaching impact of sin.
Charles Hodge puts it this way: “The death of infants is a Scriptural and decisive proof of their being born destitute of original
righteousness and infected with a sinful corruption of nature.
Their physical death is proof that they are involved in the penalty
the principle element of which is the spiritual death of the soul.”2
The argument is that people sin because they are already sinners
from birth. This is not a condition of the environment; rather, it
is inbred. While it is true that much of what children do can be
attributed to learned behavior, a child begins to do wrong things
at a very early age without even realizing it. This is due to the fact
that the sin nature was passed down to each baby at the moment
of conception through his or her parents, tracing all the way back
to Adam. Scripture certainly affirms this truth:
And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in
his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the
intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again
strike down every living creature as I have done (Genesis 8: 21, ESV,
The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth,
speaking lies (Psalm 58: 3, ESV, emphasis added).
But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith
in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Galatians 3: 22,
NKJV, emphasis added).
Even the miracle of the Virgin Birth affirms the widespread
effect of original sin. According to Romans 5: 12, the sin nature is
passed through the man, not the woman. If Jesus had a biological
father, then the sin nature would have been passed on to him as
well. The miracle of the Virgin Birth is not only the conception of
2. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner &
Co., 1872), 249.