THE
"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).
    The idea 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.

    The idea 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.

    Second, 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]

    Third, the 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 14:4).

    Fourth, 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


    Those who 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 that righteousness.

    The Bible 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).

    The Bible 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” (Galatians 3:21).

    Since the 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


    Because 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.

    On a 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).
    The Bible 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.]

    Another 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.

    A third 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).

    Another 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


    While the 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.

    First of 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).

    Another 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.

    Second, 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.

    In spite 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).

CONCLUSION


    As 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).