Are Babies Guilty Because of “Original Sin”?


In our previous Q&A, we pointed out that babies are conceived and born with human nature. We referred to David’s saying in Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” We explained that this was not a reference to any illicit acts of David in his mother’s womb, nor of his mother and his father; rather, that David described here HIS human nature with which he was conceived and born.

We also stated, however, that this must not be “confused with the WRONG concept of the ‘original sin,’ which holds that Adam and Eve’s sin was ‘imputed’ to all of mankind, and that because of the sin of Adam and Eve, everybody is guilty. This negates personal and individual responsibility and accountability. But it IS true that due to Adam and Eve’s sin, access to the Tree of Life and God’s Holy Spirit was disallowed, leading to the kind of world under Satan’s influence which we experience today (Romans 5:12)—a world cut off from God and being held captive by Satan. The point is that even an unborn baby has human NATURE, which would have led to sinful CONDUCT following birth (compare Job 13:26; 14:1-4; 25:4; Psalm 25:7).”

Before we address in more detail the difference between human nature and original sin, let us further explain the concept of human nature.

We stated in the above-mentioned Q&A:

“We need to understand that we do not only have to repent of what we DO, but also, of what we ARE. The Bible shows us that apart from God’s Spirit within us, NOTHING good dwells within us (Romans 7:18)… all are born with HUMAN NATURE or, as the Bible puts it, with SINFUL FLESH. Christ never sinned, but He came into sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). He had human nature passed on to Him through His mother Mary, and He needed God’s help to overcome sin in the flesh. He had the fullness of God’s Spirit within Him without measure, and that from conception (John 3:34, Authorized Version), which enabled Him to stay sinless.

“… Even though an unborn baby who dies prematurely in his or her mother’s womb or who is aborted, does not commit sinful ACTS, they are still human beings with human nature, which CANNOT be subject to God’s law (Romans 8:7)…  Adam and Eve… refused to eat from the Tree of Life which would have granted them the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. God did not create Adam and Eve with wicked hearts and rebellious minds; however, He did not create them with a divine nature either, but with human nature, susceptible to the temptations of Satan the Devil. Since they were free moral agents, they could choose, and they chose to follow Satan—falling for his temptation—and to disobey God. Mankind has been following Satan ever since, but many times, man follows Satan without realizing it.

“Satan has control over the whole world. He rules over this world… and he does so often by sending feelings, impulses and emotions, which are contrary to godly love and promote instead unrealized selfish ambitions. We might call this human nature… but in reality, it is SATAN’S NATURE which he instills into human beings. And in that sense, Satan has tempted everyone, to one degree or another… We read in Ephesians 2:1-3 that we all were once targets of Satan, the ‘prince of the power of the air,’ ‘fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were BY NATURE children of wrath.'”

Christ was not in any way guilty or sinful because of an “original sin” which had been passed on genetically to Him when He was conceived in Mary’s womb, but Christ was conceived with human nature. As mentioned, Romans 8:3 tells us that Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” to overcome and condemn sin in the flesh.

David recognized that he was conceived and born with human nature. His statement in Psalm 51:5 (quoted above) does not refer to his parents (even though it is true, of course, that his parents had human nature as well), but David was referring to himself. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown agrees, stating: “In sin did my mother conceive me… not referring to the sin of his mother, but of himself…”

The old Luther Bible translates Psalm 51:5 [Psalm 51:7 in the German Bible] as follows: “Look, I am born in [or as] a sinful nature [or being]” (“in suendlichem Wesen”), pointing at the sinful nature of human beings.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible explains that David’s statement (“I was brought forth in iniquity”) describes himself, not his mother and his father, stating, “This cannot be understood of any personal iniquity of his immediate parents; since this respects his wonderful formation in the womb, in which both he and they were wholly passive, as the word here used is of that form; and is the amazing work of God himself, so much admired by the psalmist… the sense is, that as soon as ever the mass of human nature was shaped and quickened… , sin was in him, and he was in sin, or became a sinful creature…”

Gill went on to explain that David’s second thought (“And in sin my mother conceived me”) does not refer to a sinful action of his mother or his father, either:

“… Nor does the sin in which he was conceived intend any sin of his parents, in begetting and conceiving him, being in lawful wedlock; which acts cannot be sinful, since the propagation of the human species by natural generation is a principle of nature implanted by God himself… Marriage is the institution of God in paradise; and in all ages has been accounted ‘honourable in all, when the bed is undefiled’, Hebrews 13:4.

“Nor does it design his being conceived when his mother was in ‘profluviis’, of which there is no proof, and is a mere imagination, and can answer no purpose; much less that he was conceived in adultery, as the contenders for the purity of human nature broadly intimate; which shows how much they are convicted by this text, to give into such an interpretation of it, at the expense of the character of an innocent person, of whom there is not the least suggestion of this kind in the Holy Scriptures; but on the contrary, she is represented as a religious woman, and David valued himself upon his relation to her as such, Psalm 86:16.

“Besides, had this been the case, as David would have been a bastard, he would not have been suffered to enter into the congregation of the Lord, according to the law in Deuteronomy 23:2; whereas he often did with great delight, Psalm 42:4. Moreover, it is beside his scope and design to expose the sins of others, much less his own parents, while he is confessing and lamenting his own iniquities…  Nor is the sin he speaks of any actual sin of his own, and therefore he does not call it, as before, ‘my’ iniquity and ‘my’ sin… it being common to him with all mankind. Hence we learn the earliness of the corruption of nature…”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible agrees, stating:

“Of course, the idea here is not to cast reflections on the character of his mother, or to refer to her feelings in regard to his conception and birth, but the design is to express his deep sense of his own depravity…”

At the same time, the commentary points out that David is in no way expressing the concept of “original sin,” stating:

“There is no statement that the sin of another was ‘imputed’ to him; or that he was ‘responsible’ for the sin of Adam; or that he was guilty ‘on account of’ Adam’s sin, for on these points the psalmist makes no assertion. It is worthy of remark, further, that the psalmist did not endeavor to ‘excuse’ his guilt on the ground that he was ‘born’ in iniquity; nor did he allude to that fact with any purpose of ‘exculpating’ himself. The fact that he was thus born only deepened his sense of his own guilt… The points, therefore, which are established by this expression of the psalmist… are

“(1) that people are born with a propensity to sin; and

“(2) that this fact does not excuse us in sin, but rather tends to aggravate and deepen our guilt.

“And in sin did my mother conceive me – … This language simply traces his sin back to the time when he began to exist… The idea is… ‘as soon as I began to exist… I had then a propensity to sin – a propensity, the sad proof and result of which is that enormous act of guilt which I have committed [i.e., his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah].'”

But being conceived or born with human nature is not the same as being condemned to death because of Adam and Eve’s “original sin” which was allegedly transferred to all of mankind.

In a Q&A on “original sin,” we stated the following:

“Simply put, the concept of the original sin holds that we all ‘inherited’ guilt or transgression from Adam and Eve who ‘originally’ sinned. According to that concept, we inherited eternal death–which is the penalty for sin (compare Romans 6:23)–even though we ourselves did nothing to deserve this penalty. In other words, Adam and Eve’s original sin was somehow arbitrarily transmitted to all, down to the last baby born before Christ returns…

“Romans 5:12, 19 is used as the proof verse of original sin. It reads, ‘… through one man sin entered in the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men… by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…’ However, this passage does not tell us that we are guilty of eternal death, just because of Adam’s sin, and without any personal responsibility. Rather, an important part of the Scripture was left out in the above quote. Romans 5:12 reads, in its entirety: ‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death [the penalty for sin] spread to all men, BECAUSE ALL SINNED…’

“This passage… says that all have sinned, individually. Romans 5:14 says that ‘death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the LIKENESS of the transgression of Adam.’ But, they DID sin. Verse 13 says that sin is not imputed when there is no law. Since death reigned from Adam to Moses, and beyond, there WAS a law, and sin WAS imputed. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version), and the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23)…”

But does this not contradict God’s statements in numerous places that He will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation (compare Exodus 20:5; 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 5:8-10; Numbers 14:18)? We addressed this question in a previous Q&A, stating this:

“Exodus 20:5 speaks of those ‘who hate [God].’ Soncino points out that the phrase, ‘of those that hate Me,’ applies to the children, i.e. God will punish the children if they [the children] hate Him. Soncino comments, too, that the punishment will be brought upon the children, ‘when they retain the evil deeds of their fathers.’…

“… parents must consider the consequences of their actions – not just for their own sakes, but also for the sakes of their children, grandchildren, and future generations (A wrong lifestyle might very well affect the parents’ offspring – even in physical ways). For instance, as long as even one parent is in the Church, his or her children are sanctified (1 Corinthians 7:14), that is, they can and do have access to God. If both parents leave the Church, their children’s access to God is no longer guaranteed and may in time totally disappear. We note that because of Lot’s righteous conduct, God saved his daughters, while David’s adultery caused the death of his child (2 Samuel 12:13-14, 19-23). It should be pointed out here, however, that God did not consider David’s child to be guilty in any way and worthy of punishment. God punished David. The innocent child will be brought back to life by God at a time of peace and happiness, when prejudice and the hatred towards illegitimate children (compare Judges 11:1-2), who did nothing to deserve their fate, will be a thing of the past.

“When Adam and Eve sinned, the penalty imposed on them affected all mankind. Through their sin, they cut themselves – and man – off from God. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and since all have sinned, all have incurred the death penalty for sin (Romans 5:14). One might say that the sin of Adam and Eve affected, at the very least, the third and fourth generation, but since Cain sinned, his sin affected the next four generations, and so on. The effect of sin is cumulative. Finally, sin had become so all-encompassing that God decided to destroy the entire world in a flood…”

The point is that the sins of our parents are not imputed to us, but we are responsible for our own conduct.

Deuteronomy 24:16 states that children are not to be put to death for the sins of their fathers. The same is expressed in 2 Kings 14:6 and 2 Chronicles 25:4. Also, Ezekiel 18:4, 17, 19-20 tells us, “(4) Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son are Mine; The soul who sins shall die… (17) [The righteous son] shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live… (19) Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of his father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. (20) The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.'” (Compare, too, Exodus 32:31-33, as well as Jeremiah 31:29-30).

Passages such as Matthew 23:29-36; Luke 11:44-51; or Acts 7:51-52 do not teach something different. Even though all these passages speak about the sins of the fathers or previous generations, it is also emphasized that the sons or descendants committed the same sins themselves, following their forefathers’ bad example. The sins of the fathers were not imputed to the sons; rather, we read: “… as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). At first glance, it might appear that the terrible sins of the fathers might be “imputed” to their descendants who were alive at Jesus time, because Jesus said: “… you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets” (Matthew 23:31). But the very next verse negates this, because Jesus goes on to say: “FILL UP, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.” And even though He says in Luke 11:50-51 that the blood of the prophets “shall be required of this generation,” He condemns that very generation for their terrible deeds and actions, showing that they were sinful themselves, having followed the unrighteous deeds of their ancestors.

The opposite does not follow from Lamentations 5:7, which reads: “Our fathers sinned and are no more, But we bear their iniquities.” The entire book of Lamentations shows the recognition of personal sin (Lamentations 1:5, 18; 3:39-42). So, people bear the iniquity of their fathers because they have engaged in the same kind of conduct and thinking… not because the sins of their fathers were “imputed” to them.

A baby in his or her mother’s womb is not guilty because of “original sin,” nor has he or she committed any sinful acts in the mother’s womb. When Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, He was not guilty because of any “original sin,” nor did He commit any sinful act in the womb of His mother. But as a human being conceived with human nature, a baby has the propensity of and proclivity for sin, and it would have sinned following birth. (The only exception was the Man Jesus Christ—even though He, too, was conceived with human nature, God the Father’s Holy Spirit dwelt within Him from inception without measure, enabling Him to overcome sin in the flesh—including His own human nature—so that He NEVER sinned.)

In the Great White Throne Judgment period, resurrected human beings (including those who died through abortion or miscarriage) will be given their opportunity to recognize and overcome their human nature, so that they can acquire a divine nature and ultimately be born into the Kingdom of God as immortal God beings.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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