Over the years I’ve developed a growing passion for studying the bible, but I’ve also developed a deeper appreciation for how the scriptures are arranged. We know that the Old Testament tells the story of God’s family called through Abraham, but it also tells the story of the world and of our own lives. For example, the Garden of Eden is a story about the beginning of creation, but it’s also a story about the beginning of our creation. Adam and Eve struggle to obey God in the same way that we struggle or struggled to obey our parents or guardians. Abraham and Lot resisted the debauchery of Sodom and Gomorrah. How many of you struggled to resist a life of debauchery in your teens, twenties, thirties, or forties? Finally, Moses and Aaron, and the following kings and priests attempted to guide Israel in the ways of God, in much the same way that parents try to guide their own children.
For this very reason we should never diminish the value of the Old Testament, but instead interpret it through the revelation of Christ. There is, however, at least one major difference between the beginning of our lives and that of Adam and Eve. Many of us were not born into a paradise. Sadly, many children are born into the exact opposite. They’re born into lives of pain and suffering from the beginning. This surely is an effect of mankind’s sin, and a way in which children today are still bearing the weight of their ancestors. But there’s a way of teaching about the effects of sin, that terribly distorts the suffering of children. Unfortunately, it is a common teaching in many churches that children are born total depraved. That means not only are they born into a world full of darkness, bearing the weight of that darkness in their lives and in their bodies, but they are born spiritually dead, completely separated from God, and unable to respond to the gospel in faith by their own will.
John MacArthur puts it this way, “Infants seem to be the very epitome of chaste, precious, childlike innocence. But don’t let the cute cheeks, the playful coos, and the bright eyes fool you…the depravity that lives in their hearts is just waiting for the opportunity to express itself.” This teaching has caused many people to question whether their children who have died in infancy will go to heaven. Matt Pearman tried to explain the beliefs of John Piper and Charles Spurgeon (both men who taught/teach the depravity of children) about this question with the statement, “it is not that God chooses someone to salvation because they are going to die in infancy. Rather, He has ordained that only those who have been chosen for salvation will be allowed to die in infancy.”
By far the most common scripture to defend this view is Psalm 51:5 which some translations render as, “I was shaped in iniquity” and others, “I was sinful from birth.” But in Psalm 22:10 David says, “from birth you have been my God.” Many people who teach that children are total depraved from birth claim that it is not their opinion, but that it is so clearly taught in scripture no one should question it. Jesus teaches that the angels of children always behold the face of God, and that unless we become like children, we will not enter the kingdom. This last statement would make absolutely no sense if children were totally depraved, because that would mean unless we become totally depraved, we will not see the kingdom. Children are not born totally depraved, as I said before they’re born into a world of darkness and they bear the weight of that darkness. Their “cute cheeks” and “bright eyes” are truly indicators of their faith and innocence, and it is that faith and innocence that we desperately need in such a dark world.