I’ve been asked to explain my statement on Sunday that even babies are sinners.
The context for the statement is that I was summarizing the Bible’s teaching on the subject of sin. One of the issues has to do with the EXTENT of sin and I said that sin in universal – i.e., all human beings, including babies, are sinners.
A common misconception is that babies are born innocent and do not BECOME sinners until they are old enough to knowingly sin.
The reason this is a misconception is because of what David wrote in Psalm 51:5:
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
The Doctrine of Original Sin
What David is expressing here is part of what is known as the doctrine of original sin. This is the understanding that human beings – from the moment of conception – have a depraved or corrupt nature that makes us inclined TO sin and renders it certain that we WILL sin. This depraved or corrupt nature is passed from parent to child and can be traced all the way back to Adam.
Paul wrote about our link to Adam in Romans 5:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (verse 12).
It is in this sense of having a corrupt nature and sharing in Adam’s guilt (and condemnation) that even babies are sinners (or sinful, to use David’s term).
But Not Condemned
This is not to say, however, that a baby who’s aborted, miscarried, or who dies in infancy, will go to hell. On the contrary, Protestants have typically held that such persons, while they share in humanity’s guilt & condemnation, God will nevertheless apply the work of Christ to them. He will do this as an expression of His grace & mercy.
While the Scripture doesn’t explicitly say this is the case, it is a doctrine derived from David’s confidence in II Samuel 12:23 that he will see his deceased infant son in heaven. Here is David’s exact statement:
“But now that [my infant son] is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (emphasis added)
Believing parents who have experienced the death of a pre-born or infant child can be confident that they will see their child in heaven.