|Volume 21 Number 5 May 2019||
Are babies born in sin? There are popular religious dogmas that affirm that babies are born in sin. The doctrine of “original sin” supposes “the imputation of Adam’s first sin to his posterity, and also that native depravity which we have derived by inheritance from our first parents” (“Original Sin”). The view of original sin, then, is that babies are born into this world with the imputed sin of Adam and Eve on their souls, and additionally, as a consequence, babies are born with an inherited depravity and propensity to commit sin because of the sin of Adam and Eve. “Original sin” is usually associated with Catholic doctrine.
Calvinism regarding “Heredity Depravity” maintains a similar doctrine to “original sin.” “All men are conceived in sin, and born the children of wrath, indisposed (inepti) to all saving good, propense to evil, dead in sin, and the slaves of sin; and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they neither are willing nor able to return to God, to correct their depraved nature, or to dispose themselves to the correction of it” (“Calvinism”). “We all come into the world stained with sin, possessed, as Adam’s posterity, of a nature essentially depraved, and incapable, in ourselves, of aiming at anything which is good…” (Calvin). Calvinism, attributed to John Calvin and modified over the years, underlies the tenets of several Protestant denominations (e.g., Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.).
However, does the Bible teach that babies are born in sin? Though not embraced by Catholicism as the source of present-day authority in religion, nevertheless, the Bible is the Word of God. Further, God has not relegated the Bible to insignificance. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV). In the Scriptures, God has provided “all things” that we need (2 Peter 1:3). The Bible or “the faith… was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). No deviation from it or the Gospel is permitted, but every deviation from the Gospel is condemned.
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
Additions to and subtractions from the Bible likewise garner the condemnation of God. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). What is true respecting the Book of Revelation applies in principle to the entirety of God’s Word—the Bible. It has always been sinful to add to, subtract from or modify God’s Word. “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).
Whereas many denominations claim to revere the Bible as authoritative in religion, they have supplanted Scripture with the adoption of manmade doctrines. Beyond that, some sincere religious people who respect the Bible do not know how to distinguish between God-given religions of Patriarchy, Judaism and Christianity appearing therein; such ones experience difficulty “handling aright” (ASV) or “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV). They fail to differentiate between the Old Testament and the New Testament, not realizing that the Old Testament is the foundation of and has been replaced by the New Testament (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:6-11).
So, does the Bible teach that babies are born in sin? Unlike some themes that differ between the testaments (e.g., day of worship, Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Acts 20:7), whether babies are born in sin can be answered by examining passages of Scripture in both testaments of the Bible, because unlike the days of worship, the divinely inspired information on this topic is the same in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament.
Bible verses affirm that babies are not born in sin. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16). Everyone is accountable for his own sin; sin is neither inherited from Adam and Eve nor from a family member (e.g., father, mother, etc.).
Still additional passages imply that children are not guilty of the sin of their parents or otherwise born in sin. Jesus Christ used the innocence of little children to illustrate the spiritual quest of people to prepare themselves for residency in Heaven.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:1-5).
“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 19:13-14). Guilt for sin is imputed to those who have the ability to discern between right and wrong, and small children can neither purposely disobey nor intend to obey the Gospel. For instance, little children lack the capacity to believe (John 8:24), repent (Luke 13:3) or choose to be baptized (Mark 16:16). “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4 KJV). Children cannot consciously violate the law of God.
There are verses considered in isolation of the balance of the Bible that some may construe to be biblical evidence for babies being born in sin. One such verse is Psalm 58:3, which reads, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (NKJV). However, even the Presbyterian commentator Albert Barnes acknowledged that the writer was not considering all of humanity in the surrounding context of the verse. “Strictly speaking, therefore, it cannot be shown that the psalmist in this declaration had reference to the whole human race, or that he meant to make a universal declaration in regard to man as being early estranged or alienated from God; and the passage, therefore, cannot directly, and with exact propriety, be adduced to prove the doctrine that ‘original sin’ pertains to all the race—whatever may be true on that point” (Barnes’).
Psalm 58:3 is an example of figurative language, overstating or exaggerating something for purpose of emphasis. “This is the language of hyperbole, and is certainly not the profession of the doctrine of original sin. What the psalmist means is that those who ultimately become heinous sinners, for the most part show, even from their early childhood, a strong tendency towards evil” (Pulpit Commentary). “In exaggerated language (see similar expressions in [Psalm] 51:5) these people go astray from the womb, which translates what is literally ‘they go astray, the wicked, from the womb they err’; and in line b ‘from the womb they tell lies’” (UBS).
Another passage used to teach “Total Hereditary Depravity” is Psalm 58:3: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psa. 58:3). But first we notice they “go astray.” They are not “born astray.” It says it happens as soon as they are born. How soon is “soon”? Verse six says “break their teeth.” Verse three says they speak lies. Do just-born infants speak? Do they have teeth? The verse is using, obviously, the figure of speech called “hyperbole” or exaggerated language. All it is saying is that man is so sinful that even at a very early age he goes astray… (Moffitt 224 emphasis added)
Anyone who acknowledges that the Bible is the inspired Word of God understands (1) the Bible does not contradict itself, (2) the Bible is its own best interpreter (by resorting to passages with which we have no difficulty discerning their meaning to assist us in understanding better verses that are more difficult for us to comprehend) and (3) biblical doctrine can be ascertained by considering the “sum” of God’s Word (Psalm 139:17). Hence, we conclude without doubt that babies are not born in sin.
Barnes’ Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Calvin, John. “Psalm 58:3.” Calvin’s Commentaries. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
“Original Sin.” McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
“Calvinism.” McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Moffitt, Jerry. Denominational Doctrines. Damon: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1996.
“Psalm 58:3.” Pulpit Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
“Psalm 58:3-5.” UBS Old Testament Handbook Series. CD-ROM. New York: United Bible Societies, 2004.