Answering Prooftexts for Inherited Condemnation

Gen. 18:32
“And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.”

Because we sinned in Adam, we are conceived in a spiritually fallen state. In the zygote, that is not a state of active, rebellious wickedness; but rather, it is a state which will inevitably and eventually result in active, rebellious wickedness, as soon as the child’s development allows it to gain an accountable understanding of good and evil. Being born fallen, we are not conceived as righteous. Having sinned in Adam, we are not conceived as “innocent.” However, since it was not our personal sin, but Adam’s, we are not held guilty (or, liable to penal sanction) by the God “who will judge every man according to his deeds.” Therefore, we are conceived in the unique position of both having no righteousness, and no sinful deeds for which to be held accountable.

God’s destruction of the people of Sodom was a temporal judgment against that city. It was not an eternal punishment. God numbers all our days, and has the right to end them when and how He sees fit. Ending the life of those children was not the same as sending them to hell. God has at times judged groups (nations, cities, etc.) with temporal consequences that also fell on the children and those who were not guilty of the offense that caused the judgment; however, the Bible, throughout, affirms that when it comes to eternal judgment, every man will stand alone and be judged for his own deeds.

Num. 15:28
And the Priest shall make atonement for the Soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the lord, to make atonement for him. and it shall be forgiven him.”

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for those who have the capacity to understand it. Go back one verse, to Num. 15:27… “If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering.” So then, how many infants do you think would line up outside the temple every day, with female goats in tow? If God considered infants to be guilty of unintentional sins, then He would have made provisions in the law for their parents to bring them to the temple for this sacrifice, but He did not.

2 Kings 2:23-24
“And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”

Are we to believe that these were toddlers in this passage? John Gill, in his Exposition of the Entire Bible, speaks of this passage:

There came forth little children out of the city; the word for “children” is used of persons of thirty or forty years of age; and though these are said to be “little”, they were so well grown as to be able to go forth out of the city of themselves, without any to guide them, or to take care of them; and were of an age capable not only of taking notice of Elijah’s baldness, but knew him to be a prophet, and were able to distinguish between good and evil; and, from a malignant spirit in them, mocked at him as such, and at the assumption of Elijah; which they had knowledge of, and to whom, taught by their idolatrous parents, they had an aversion: some Jewish writers say, they were called “Naarim“, which we render “children”, because shaken from the commandments, or had shaken off the yoke of the commands; and “little”, because they were of little faith:

So these were not toddlers at all.

Ps. 51:5-7
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

What is traced to conception by David in this psalm is the root and cause of eventual sinful actions. Notice that it does not say, “In condemnation did my mother conceive me…” A child is not conceived WITH sin, but IN sin. They are conceived spiritually dead, or separated from God, and thus they are by nature bent toward sin and self-centeredness. But the question here is, does God condemn them merely for this nature, or does God only condemn them when they have personally committed sin? WHOSE sin were they conceived in? WHOSE iniquity were they shaped in?–None other than the sin of Adam. All are born spiritually dead, self-centered, and bent toward sin, as the natural result of the fact that we all sinned while in the loins of Adam. This is the condition of our birth that the Psalmist speaks of. Though we have been conceived in sin and shaped in iniquity, God does not hold us accountable for this “sin nature.” The Psalmist is not speaking of condemnation but only of the source of our sinfulness. We sin because that sinful tendency was “woven” into us from our conception onward, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Ps. 58-3-5
“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.

It does not say that the wicked are wicked from the womb. It only says that they are estranged from the womb, and they go astray from birth. That word, “from,” in, “from birth,” indicates an ongoing, continuing action, just as in the case of stating that they grow old from birth. Just as they do not grow old immediately AT their birth, they do not speak lies immediately AT their birth. (Going astray from birth is like an arrow that is shot from a bow, but with an incorrect aim. The straying arrow began its journey from the same bow as the one that is correctly aimed, but as time goes on, the deviation becomes apparent, and the arrow eventually misses its mark).

David’s description is of those who are wicked now, as adults, whom he hates. He does not consider himself to be a part of those whom he calls the wicked, much less does he consider all men to be a part of these wicked. As such, his description is not a progressive one, where he speaks of the birth of the wicked and then describes the future of their life. Rather, his description is a regressive one, looking back upon the lives of real, wicked adult men whom he has in mind, and describes how these men who are wicked have been estranged from the womb and have gone astray from the moment of birth. This description explains why it is that these men are now wicked liars, but it does not portray infants and unborn as wicked or speaking lies. The fact that an infant cannot speak should have been a clue. Look at the next verse, 58:6…

Ps. 58:6
6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!

Is David telling God to break the teeth in the mouths of every infant that is ever born (even David’s children)?–or of any infant, for that matter? Obviously not (infants don’t even have teeth)! Now, why is David telling God to break their teeth? Two reasons are given in verses 4 and 5: “Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;” You see, verses 4-6 all speak of the wicked adults that David has had in mind from the beginning of this psalm. He describes their birth in v. 3, and then goes back to describing them as adults in v.4.

Men are estranged from the womb because all men sinned while in the loins of Adam, and thus are born spiritually dead, or separated from God. However, the Bible nowhere establishes that God will hold an infant accountable for the state of estrangement into which he is born. Rather, the Bible is explicitly clear in telling us that God will judge every man according to his deeds (and not the deeds of anyone else, such as Adam).

Proverbs 20:11
“Even a Child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.”

This verse speaks of children (the word means, a boy, lad, servant, youth, retainer–BDB) who are at least old enough to have acts for which to be judged. No one judges an infant’s acts to see whether they are pure and upright, and certainly no one judges a zygote in such a way. Also, the issue is not the “purity” of a child’s works, but the accountability.

Rom. 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

Paul uses the same aorist tense here, in “all have sinned,” as he uses in Rom. 5:12. It refers to the single past action of the race sinning in Adam. This verse does not say that “all have sinned and are condemned,” but only, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All mankind sinned in Adam and falls short of the glory of God because of it. However, corporate sin in Adam does not make one personally and individually responsible before the eternal judgment of God, who will judge every man according to his deeds (Ps. 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:12-13).

1 Cor. 7:14
“For the Unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the Husband: else were your children unclean, but now are they Holy.”

Children are not conceived as already “holy.” They are also not conceived as already guilty of sin. The only way that this can support inherited condemnation is if it is contended that the children of believers are saved, while the children of unbelievers are not saved. The utter injustice of basing a child’s eternal judgment on his parents needs no further opposition. It sinks itself. Besides, if this verse were speaking of salvation, then the unbelieving spouse would also be saved, having been sanctified by the believing spouse.

Eph. 2:3
“We . . . were by nature the children of wrath.”

To be a child of wrath does not mean that one is physically a child, any more than to be a child of God means that one is physically a child.

Eph. 5:5-6
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Because of these things [sexual immorality, covetousness, idolatry] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” One can only be a child of wrath by disobeying the law, and examples of such are here given. That disobedience which causes us to be children of wrath stems from our nature; however, it is not our nature that brought the wrath, but the disobedience!

Ken Hamrick

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