Are Babies Born Totally Depraved?

Jesus told the Pharisees that, “If you were blind, you would not ever have sin. But now you say, ‘We see’, then your sin remains.” John 9:41

In other words, if any of His hearers had been incapable of seeing, they would not have been guilty of sin. Jesus is not referring to physical eyesight, but the ability to perceive and comprehend what sin is. Without that ability, a person does not have sin.

An infant is born completely incapable of such perception and comprehension, and lives a significant time before possessing those abilities. Consequently, an infant does NOT have sin at birth, nor does a child, until that time when they are capable of seeing, and comprehending what they see. That time or age is not specified in Scripture, although there is a potential suggestion in God’s provision under the Law to Israel for a young man being considered ready for adult service only at 20 years of age. Please notice that I did say “potential”; it may or may not be relevant.

Moreover, YWHW rebuked Israel for the same accusation that Calvinism makes against God’s imputation of the sin of the fathers onto the children. In Ezekiel 18, God clearly and repeatedly states that neither a child will die for the sin of his father, nor the father for the sin of a child, but every person will bear their own sin before the LORD. To accuse God of imputing another man’s sin onto an individual is to slander God’s character as an unjust judge.

Further to this, Paul repeats no fewer than 6 times in his letter to the Roman saints, that where no law is, sin is not imputed. To address this briefly, only God has the jurisdiction to impose law, and has sole jurisdiction whether to impute sin. God does not impute sin to the account of anyone who has not received a ‘law’ from God – the text does not refer to “The Law” of Moses but to “law” as a general concept, and “law” refers to any clearly-expressed precept by a legitimate authority; in this context, the authority is God. Therefore, if God has not presented a “law” to an individual, then God does not impute sin against that individual. “Sin” means to “miss the mark”, and the context is to knowingly break that law.

In this context, an infant is again incapable of receiving a law because he can neither comprehend nor meaningfully receive it. Because the child has no law, he is not considered by God to be a trespasser of it. He is not “guilty” of sin, nor condemned upon birth, nor as a child is he guilty and condemned, because God does not impute sin to one lacking the ability to perceive sin and righteousness.

Moreover, Jesus declared that the “kingdom of God belongs to such as these”, and that we must “receive the kingdom of God as a little child”. He warned that those who cause “one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin” would be better off being cast into the sea with a heavy stone tied to their necks. As far as Jesus is concerned, children are both capable of believing in Him, and are disposed to receive the kingdom of God, in contradiction to the claim of Calvinism that no one is either disposed toward God nor capable of believing in Him apart from Him causing them to do so.

Based on these three points: babies are “blind”, they have no law they are capable of following or disobeying, and Christ affirms their fitness for the kingdom of God, it is impossible that babies are born “totally depraved” as Calvin claimed.

In the greater context of the gospel of salvation, God did not call His saints to a new Law; He called us to Himself. We have no law; there are no “rules”, but we are to live in and by Christ Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, which, if we do so, we will live “godly in Christ Jesus” and “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its desires.” That is not to suggest that Christians will live 100% sinless lives; rather it is a statement about what God has called us to, which is fellowship with God and lives led by God. Following rules is of the flesh, and if we live according to flesh, we shall die.

As to the Calvinist “total depravity” concept, it is a reprehensible suggestion that contradicts multitudes of Scriptures in which the LORD God and His disciples refer to people who *do* desire and seek God, who desire good, who are ‘naturally’ inclined toward God, and who do find God because they ‘seek with [their] whole heart.’

John 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Romans 4:15  for the Law works indignation; for where no Law is, neither is transgression.

Romans 5:13  For until law, sin was in the world, yet not being accounted, (there) being no Law.

Mr 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
Mt 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Lu 18:16 But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.