Children and Sin

Children and Sin

Question

Violence in Old Testament II states, "In some respects the young died because of the sins of the old. This is the result of God's covenant thinking. One way he punishes parents is by killing their children. Even so, it is not as if the children themselves are not guilty." Does this mean there are young being killed not because of the sins of the old? If not for sins, then why? Also, how were the children guilty? My great-granddaughter seems to be totally without sin.

Answer

There are many reasons that harm befalls children. Some children are harmed or killed as part of a punishment on their parents (e.g., 2 Sam. 12:14). But not all children suffer for the same reason (cf. John 9:1-3). Some are harmed or killed as victims of sinful people (Ezek. 16:20-21). God "permits" this by not stopping it, but he does not "endorse" it. Those who harm such children will answer for it on the Day of Judgment. Others are caught in the wake of God's punishments on nations or other people who are not their ancestors.

Speaking from another perspective, the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3) brought on mankind a curse, and that curse includes the fact that we have to live in a sinful world where we can be victimized by others. So, in a general sense, all harm and death is the result of Adam's sin. For example, God forbids murder, but he often does not prevent it. Even when he uses it for his own ends, he does not overlook the sin of those who bring the harm (Zech 14:1-3).

With regard to the sinfulness of children, the Bible teaches that the fall of mankind extends to infants, and even to unborn children. We are all dead in sin; we are all in need of salvation. I have a detailed presentation of this doctrine as it pertains to children in this article on Total Depravity.

I myself have four small children, so I understand how personal experience can incline us to think that babies are perfect. But, to be honest about my own experience, if I can go an hour without disciplining or scolding anyone in my house, I consider it a rare day. Generally, most theologians agree that children sin. What they tend to disagree on is the question of whether or not children are accountable for their sin.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.