If babies have no way of grasping morality, as I concluded in the previous post (here), then why even ask the question, “Are babies little sinners?” Is the notion of babies as “little sinners” just an exaggeration made up by parents who need to vent? Or is there real substance to it? I believe there must be, because of what God tells us in Scripture.
- Everyone is a sinner.
No one can claim to be without sin because all have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The world in Noah’s day is a good example: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). The recent film seems to be a good depiction of sin’s extent during that time (see this). Everyone sinned. Even Noah, who found favor in the eyes of the Lord, sinned in drunkenness (Gen. 9:21). This is still true today, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Eccles. 7:20).
- We are sinners because we are human.
It is not as if people start out neutral; we don’t get to choose whether to follow the dark side or not: humans are born sinners. Otherwise, Jesus would not have said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The new birth cleanses us of sin, but our first birth steeps us in it.
- We sin because we are sinners, not vice-versa.
Sin is not just an act, but a disposition, a spiritual condition of the heart. What we do flows out of who we are. Jesus explains, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matt. 12:35). Outward sins are the result of inner sin. The sinful nature, or “flesh,” produces sins, e.g. sexual immorality, debauchery, idolatry, hatred, rage, envy, etc. (Gal. 5:19-21).
- We are sinners because we are dead to God.
In our first post (here), we looked at the fact that sin is fundamentally about our relationship with God. We are sinners, therefore we sin. But why are we sinners in the first place? Because we are dead to God, meaning are hearts do not seek him (see Eph. 2:1-4). God made man to be satisfied in him, but since our hearts’ desires cannot be fulfilled by God, we will wander towards other things in search of life and happiness, leading to all sorts of sins.
If we consider these points together, I think we must conclude that babies are–in some sense at least–“little sinners.” No one can enter the kingdom unless he is born again, because our first birth was somehow spiritually deficient. In our final post, I will try to say in exactly what sense babies are sinners, and offer some implications for our lives as parents, aunts or uncles, grandparents, etc.