Are Children Really Born Sinful?

Question:  What do you see as the implications for children of this verse:  The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. (Genesis 8:21)
Answer:  The implications of this verse are that children either learn from an early age to do evil or they are born with a natural bent toward evil.  Since it is the case that there is no one who does not need a Savior’s atoning sacrifice (1 John 2:1,2), that means everyone is sinful.  If sinfulness was just something learned, surely someone would have been taught how not to sin from childhood.  But that is not the case, so it seems there is in every human soul an incapacity to choose righteousness. 

By that Scripture does not mean humans don’t make right choices. Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11.  Rather, we may make right choices at times, and training is a crucial part of that, but our basic heart orientation is toward saving ourselves, being our own savior, being our own God.  So we are repudiating the basic truth of the universe, that God alone is Savior and Sovereign over right and wrong, and this spoils every good decision we make.  Our attitude, even in the right things we do, is ruined (Southern, “rurnt”) by our rebelliousness toward God.

Randall Johnson

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6 thoughts on “Are Children Really Born Sinful?

  1. Randall
    If noone does good. If even our righteousness is filthy. I sometimes have trouble reconciling Gods requirement for righteousness with my inability to do so. I understand His ability to use my puny efforts, but it seems that righteousness living is required.

    • Righteous living is required of God’s children. But we are God’s children even when we mess up. Because we are His children, however, He is going to discipline and train us to live righteously (see Hebrews 12). He has invited us to think of our relationship with Him in these terms. So ask yourself, “Would I reject my child and remove him or her from my family if he or she were struggling with an inability to do right?”

  2. I think I get that my standing as His child will not change. The question for me is: Can I live righteously…truly, even on full reliance on the Holy Spirit, or is even my best attempt, lacking. In short, what is behind our Father requiring something of us that we are incapable of doing? Or maybe it is possible and I am thinking about those verses about “noone doing good” or “our righteousness is filthy” all wrong??

    • Thank you for the clarification, David. You may not be aware but there is a segment of the church that does believe it is entirely possible and expected for us to live a life of consistent, conscious righteousness. They will sometimes speak of having attained entire sanctification. They may admit to times of accidental failure at righteousness or hidden unrighteousness that God is still in the process of revealing as we are able to deal with it. This perspective is sometimes consciously tied to the belief that we have a free will and a truly free will can choose to live completely righteous.

      I definitely think that we can mature spiritually and live lives of more consistent righteousness, but I also see evidence that it is a process that never ends and that often reveals pockets of selfishness and arrogance that we might have thought absent. Paul calls himself the “chief of sinners” in 1 Timothy 1:16, an epistle written at the latter end of his life. I know that this could be mostly in reference to his persecution of the church before his conversion. But we also see in Philippians 3:12 that he has to confess that he is still struggling as in a race to reach the goal for which Christ called him and I believe that goal is total righteousness. Paul claims that he is not perfect and seems to be arguing that it is those who claim to be perfect who have actually missed the boat and become like the racer way out in front who looks back and rests in the amount of progress he or she has achieved. A believer should in one sense, however, never be satisfied with the standard to which he or she has obtained. That’s a sure way to lose the race.

      God can only require of us what is good for us and that is perfect righteousness. To require anything less would be unloving. The Bible says He understands our frame that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14) and He takes pity on us. For this, I am grateful. The last thing God wants me to do is to become so discouraged with my inability to live all He requires that I quit trying. Instead He wants me to come to Him with my inability and let His ability rub off on me as I spend time in His presence.

  3. This is great feedback and food for thought. I am overwhelmed, once again, that my Father will see Jesus’ righteousness in the end when He looks at me. To God be the Glory for this amazing gift. The only sensible response is for me to chase those things that are valuable to Him and His kingdom (Lord forgive me for my unbelievable waste of time/talent/resources/effort). I am reconciling that I can choose righteousness by grace when I am no longer living, but Christ in me.

    One thing is certain, as Paul said, He must get bigger… and I smaller.

    Are you ok with me weighing in on this site in this format from time to time?
    David

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