by Pastor Paul K. Christianson

Augustine, in writing against the Pelegian heretics of the fifth century, declares: “Each sinner is a source of his own wickedness…a man remains free only in evil. He cannot be made free in good until God makes him so.”

David understood this as well, writing in the 51st Psalm and verse 5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This passage is not describing David as being born out of wedlock – but David describing himself as a sinner from conception. In Psalm 51 David traces back his sin of adultery and his sin of murder to the fact that at his conception he was a sinner: fallen and depraved as a result of Original Sin.

Today there are many evangelical pulpits who would deny directly or indirectly the doctrine of Original Sin. One method of denial promotes the so called “age of accountability” thesis. This false teaching encourages the idea that every child who dies before they reach the “age of accountability” will be saved and go to heaven. But such teaching is a perverse twisting of Scripture through the lenses of sentimentality, medieval scholasticism, and the logical processes of fallen human thought.

It does great damage when parents tell their children that “God loves them and they are certain of heaven apart from the Gospel because they are in the years of their innocence!” This is the creed of hell for it leads not to Gospel fervency, nor to the urgency of evangelism, nor to the instruction of children. But it does lead to indolence and presumption before a holy God.

This miscreant doctrine of an “age of accountability” denies the imputation of Adam’s sin to all mankind. In Romans 5:12 Paul asserts, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.” (ASV) Notice the words, “…for that all sinned.” A summary, a constantive in the active indicative, the gathering up in this one tense the history of the race – in sin! Adamís sin was imputed to the entirety of the human race, and so we come into this world as sinners.

Those who support the “age of accountability” teaching would like to tell us that Romans 5:14 “proves” their assertions. Paul writes in Romans 5:14, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adamís transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.” Who are those who have “not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression…?” The use of the word “transgression” emphasizes the breaking of a specific commandment. Those who lived from Adam to Moses did not sin in the “likeness of Adam’s transgression.” They did not break a specifically revealed commandment which was, in Adam’s case only, eating from the tree.

Adam sinned as the federal head of the whole human race. In that sense no one can ever sin in such a manner. But from Moses onward we all have transgressed against specifically revealed laws (Ten Commandments). And here is the crux of the argument: If the doctrine of an “age of accountability” is true – why did not Paul extend the time period mentioned in verse 14 from Adam to the end of time?

In other words, why did the apostle limit the time period in verse 14 from Adam to Moses? Surely, if this “age of accountability” thesis were correct Paul would not have limited the time period from Adam to Moses.

Dear reader, beware of pulpiteers and theologasters who would subvert the word of God with their vain imaginings. There is no such thing as an “age of accountability.” All flesh is accountable before God whether it be adults or children. There is no clear teaching in the Bible that children will be brought to glory apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ. When the word of God is silent, we do great harm when we seek to bridge the gap with speculations, and teach it as Gospel that little children are sure of heaven apart from the Gospel.

The doctrine of an “age of accountability” does not lead to Gospel urgency…it leads to indolence and presumption. Believing a lie will not make it true. May we seek the salvation of our children from their earliest years not presenting them with man-made doctrines, but with the truths of the Gospel.