My Egregious Public Error

I never really know what to do when I get comments like the one below on a post or my blog. Robert, who is a first-time visitor, was able to discern from my posts that not only do I believe in original sin (see Romans 5:12) but also the fact that all are conceived in iniquity, therefore sinners, even at their conception (see Psalm 51:5).

In other words, there are no innocent children. No one is born with a clean slate. We are all born into iniquity. In fact, Paul shows us in Ephesians 2 that we “were all by nature children of wrath” until we were made alive by the Spirit of God. The implication is that this is what we are born into because of the fallen nature we inherited from Adam (original sin). We start life in the realm of Satan, the flesh and the world, and it is by God’s mercy that we are moved from being dead in our trespasses and sins, to a state of salvation and new life.

A way to think about this is that we don’t have to sell our souls to the devil. When we are born into sin, we already live in his realm. It is only by God’s rich mercy and grace that we escape that realm and are made true children of God. That escape comes via the blood of Christ, who purchases us from the strong man’s realm and brings us into His own.

Now that I’ve stated very clearly what it is I believe, let’s look at Robert’s comments:

Hello Tim
I pray that your physical health is well. I have doubts about your spiritual soundness.

I think if we are honest with ourselves, as Christians, we probably always doubt our spiritual soundness. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His righteousness, not in my ability at all.

However, if it is my theology that Robert is doubting here, then I’m a bit more confident. Not that I have it all together, but I not only derive my beliefs and understanding from Scripture, but also look to solid pastors and teachers that have gone on before to check my understanding. I’m not devising my beliefs in a vacuum since the LORD was gracious and kind enough to the church to give us men of great understanding. So if I ever come up with something new, it’s probably heresy. This is why I spend so much time reading the Bible and great men of the faith, so that my understanding is solid in orthodox Christianity.

I read your article about children being born “sinners” and my heart sunk with sadness. The sad part is that you believe it therefore you think you have a right to teach such egregious error publicly .

Several things here: First, I don’t have a right to teach the truth publicly, I have a responsibility to do so.

For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away (Mark 4:25).

As a pastor, teaching faithfully is the burden the LORD has placed on me and I will do nothing less that teach the full counsel of God. What I teach is based on what orthodox Christians have believed since Christ’s ascension and this is why my confession is the Westminster Confession of Faith. You may disagree with it, but if so, you must show by Scripture where it is wrong. You may even make the claim that you do not believe in creeds, offering some self-refuting statement like, “no creed but the Bible.” If that is so, then how do we ever know what you actually believe?

As for the charge that my beliefs are egregious, again, Robert needs to back that up with Scripture. He did offer to correct me if I would kindly email him. I did email him, but have yet to receive a response.

But the charge is worthy of response. To be charged with error is the reason we have many of the letters we do from the Apostle Paul. He was charged with error over and over again; his response to those charges resulted in giving us much of the New Testament. I am aware that my response here is unworthy of the canon, but a response is still necessary.

Robert is assuming that since I’m a Calvinist in my understanding, then what I teach is egregious. If he teaches what I suspect him of teaching, then I too, would say that he is teaching that which is egregious. Any time we teach that which is an error, and mislead people, it is egregious. The question is: am I egregious in what I teach?

Let’s look at what Robert seems to be saying:

The other part that’s sad is that others will read it and believe it, and ignorantly spread that lie.

He calls what I teach, a lie, but has yet to make a case that it is. And I pray that since what I teach is based on the truth of Scripture, that many will indeed believe it.

I suggest that you read the narrative about David’s sin with bathasheba [sic] and don’t miss (2 Sam. 12:22-23). If you miss the point, send me an email and we will discuss it.

OK, it is in this paragraph that he gets to his point. I guess he derives from the passage he cites the belief that all babies who die in infancy go to heaven. To get this view of 2 Samuel 12:22-23, you have to do a bit of reading your beliefs into the verse. Here is the verse:

He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

There are quite a few people who hold to the view that this passage is giving us a glimpse of the afterlife for those children who die in infancy. They believe that since children have not sinned, there is no reason why they should not go to heaven. This is part of the Pelagianism debate that raged during Augustine’s day, and continues on into our day. To make it simple, the argument is: do we sin because we are sinners, or are we sinners because we sin? One side is at the root of our nature, while the other side is at the root of our actions. Those who believe in original sin, like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Spurgeon, do so because of Paul’s development of sin nature in his epistles (especially Romans). We don’t become sinners because we sin, we sin, because we are sinners. This is who we are by nature.

Others will argue that children are innocent because they have not committed any sins because of their (presumed) inability to do so. However, we know that when given the opportunity, they will sin. It is their sinful nature to do so. We see these darling little babies and wrongly assume that they are not sinners. But if we are honest, we see the sin nature, even in infants, when we don’t bring their milk quickly enough.

If there wasn’t the problem of original sin, then we could agree with people like Robert. But we cannot agree because Romans 5:12 negates this idea, as well as David’s own Psalm concerning his sin with Bathsheba. In Psalm 51, David made the truthful claim that he was conceived in iniquity and came forth in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). The reality is that we are conceived in iniquity and thereby destined for hell. Even though we may not have committed an actual sin, the original sin we inherited from Adam, via our parents, is enough to condemn us.

No let me ask an absurd question to make the point: if original sin is not true, then should we not support the abortion industry? After all, we are taking the lives of innocent children, before they have the chance to sin and fall into condemnation. Would we not be doing the children a favor? Would we not commend people like Andrea Pia Yates who murdered her six children before they reached the mythical age of accountability? After all, in her deranged mind, she was simply ushering her children on to glory.

Well, no we should not. I’m arguing from the absurd to make my point. We should do everything we can to make sure our children are raised in the admonition of the LORD, praying that He will show mercy to them, so that they come to know our Savior as their own.

Returning to the passage in 2 Samuel, David is not saying that the child is in heaven or hell, but in the place of the dead. That is the most we can say to his statement. David knows that he too will die and will go to the place where the child is. To take this statement and imply that children are innocent of sin, thereby defying Romans 5:12 (and other clear statements of Scripture), and that they all go to heaven because of their supposed sinlessness, is a huge stretch of the imagination and not supported by Scripture.

Now, I’m not denying that the Holy Spirit could have moved in the life of David’s son, giving him a heart of belief and imputing the righteousness of Christ to that child. We see belief inside the womb of Elizabeth with John the Baptist. As Reformed Presbyterians, we believe that the Spirit can move when and where and how He pleases. If that child were among the elect, then the Spirit would move in such a manner. For that to happen, it would be all of God’s grace and mercy alone.

We can teach that those who die in infancy, if they are elect, will be in heaven with our Savior. That is honest comfort given to the grieving parent. But to imply that all children receive this benefit is truly speculation and says too much. Here is how the Westminster standards puts it:

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit,[12] who works when, and where, and how He pleases:[13] so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

The hope we have for dying infants is based upon God’s election. It is by His mercy and grace that He saves any dying infants, just at it is His mercy and grace that He saves any of us. Salvation is of the LORD, clear and simple. We must look to Christ for our own salvation, and to impute salvation where we have no evidence of it is dangerous speculation.

Are we willing to trust in our LORD with the eternal destiny of those infants? Yes, our heart grieves at the loss of ones so little, but are we really willing to trust Our loving God for their eternal home? I think David was. We should do likewise.

Finally, Robert closed with this:

I thankful [sic] that you are interested in the things of God. Remember that Jesus was 100% human and he was sinless.

Here we can fully agree. Jesus was indeed sinless. But the problem is that Robert seems to be saying that since Jesus was sinless, we too can be sinless. I’m not sure if Robert believes that or not. He hasn’t responded to my email inquiry.

If he does believe that, then he is clearly wrong in several ways. First, Jesus was sinless because He was also fully God. As the WCF says:

The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature,[10] with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin;[11] being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance.[12] So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.[13] Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

Being of both natures is the reason that He never sinned. We do not have the benefit of being fully God as well as fully man. If someone assumes this, then they are truly egregious in their thinking and understanding. In fact, dangerously so.

Second, if Robert is pointing out that since Jesus was sinless, we too can be sinless, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross? If we can live sinless lives, thereby earning our own righteousness with God, then doesn’t that make God out to be dreadfully cruel toward His Son who really didn’t need to die on the cross to redeem sinners? Again, arguing from absurdity. The reason that Christ died was because all sin, all fall short, all have God’s wrath resting upon us, and we need a precious Mediator to stand between God and man. Only by being fully God and fully Man can Jesus be the Mediator that we need.

Finally, to assume that we can live sinless lives after our conversions is also problematic. The reality is that we are still sinners even though we are saved by grace. This is why the Apostle Paul calls himself the “chief of sinners” in his second letter to Timothy. Paul did not use the past tense, but the present tense. Even though he was saved, he was still a sinner. The same is true for us.

You know, given Robert’s arguments, I wonder if he is a Mormon. Judging from his comments, that would seem likely. However, I won’t really know since he hasn’t respond to my email.


6 thoughts on “My Egregious Public Error

  1. Some things are so difficult. I’ve wrestled with this since I saw an article by R. C. Junior, I think titled, By Youth Alone? You and McArthor part ways on this but I think you’ve handled it well. I think the biggest problem is that we really want God to be good according to our standards of good. And when it comes to issues like predestination, especially as it pertains to babies and the very young who perish, and even more especially when it’s combined with all the emotion that surrounds “the children”, these can be difficult teachings that cause us to rush in and defend God, not by defending his character, but rather by explaining that God would never do such a thing. At the root of that explanation is our own standards of what a good God would be like, not the explanation of goodness that the scriptures give. And at the tap root of it all is man’s inability to grasp who he actually is as a being as he stands before a holy and righteous God.

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    • Very well said. I think your last point is one of my sticking points with so man. We completely fail to see how sinful we truly are. Not that I want to. But when it comes to our sinfulness, it is far worse than we can imagine and it’s only be God’s grace that we are not completely overwhelmed by it.


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