THE AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

 

by Dr. Ken Matto
 
The doctrine we are researching is known as The Age of Accountability (TAA). TAA stems from the belief within the doctrine of imputation that a young child is covered by the blood of Christ until they reach a certain age in which understanding takes place concerning sin, namely the difference between right and wrong. Until they reach that age, if the child dies, they immediately go into the presence of the Lord. TAA is also built upon the emotionally based belief that a loving God would not send anyone to Hell without the opportunity to accept or reject Christ. TAA is also said to differ with the academic abilities of each individual child to be able to understand the teachings of Scripture.
 
What surfaces at this point is a question of cruelty to a certain group of people. That group is the retarded, illiterate, deaf, and blind, or those who possess a learning disability are immediately disqualified because they may never understand the difference between good and bad. The question then remains, will God keep them under the blood for their entire life since they are incapable of understanding? The answer is a resounding no for two reasons: First, no human is ever granted salvation based on their physical handicaps; and secondly, this type of salvation is nowhere taught in Scripture.
 
If it is not taught in Scripture, then we cannot add our own ideas and teach it as doctrine. When man begins to espouse free will doctrines, he must actually create peripheral doctrines to sustain the main idea. This sad fact remains for any kind of created doctrine. TAA is an extremely popular teaching among many famous evangelists and pastors. Many denominational and non-denominational churches have accepted this unbiblical doctrine as fact, when in essence there is not one bit of Scripture to support it. I do not want to venture deeply into free will in this study but TAA is a child of this doctrine. It puts man as the captain of his own salvation, which is nowhere taught in Scripture either. To make created doctrine acceptable, it must have reference to the Bible somewhere, so let me discuss with you some Scripture which seems to support the TAA doctrine.
 
2 Samuel 12:13-23
(2 Sam 12:22-23 KJV) And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? {23} But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
 
As you probably know this section of Scripture deals with the death of Davidís son as a result of the adulterous sin of David and Bathsheba. David had pleaded with God to spare the life of the child, but Godís judgment was firm and could not be reversed. The child eventually died which caused David to cease mourning and clean himself up, which bewildered those around him. We come to verse 23 and this is the main verse used as biblical reference to "prove" the age of accountability. If we isolate this verse and remove it from its context, we can easily make it say what we want it to, but we cannot and will not. If you read the entire passage of Scripture, you will see that it plainly deals with Godís judgment on sin. God is not a respecter of persons, all who sin will face judgment.
 
This verse also reveals how our sins affect others, even if we sin in private. All one has to do is read the account of Achan in Joshua 7. When we read verse 23 in context we may arrive at two proper biblical conclusions:
 
First, David will someday die as his child did. The child will not return to him but he will go to the child. He is united with the child in the fact of death, which all humans must face.
 
Secondly, is that the child was saved and went to be with the Lord and David would someday follow him as he goes into the presence of Christ upon the moment of his physical death.
 
Nowhere in this passage or anywhere in the Bible is there a teaching that all children are under the blood of Christ. The only ones under the blood of Christ are those whom God has chosen before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4) So this verse falls way short as a proof text for the age of accountability. That philosophy must be built into the explanation because by the very context of Scripture, it does not exist.
 
Psalm 69:27-28
(Psa 69:27-28 KJV) Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. {28} Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.
 
These verses have been sparingly used to show when a person commits sin, they may be blotted out of the book of the living. These verses are part of an imprecatory prayer of David. David was seeking the physical death of his enemies. These verses have nothing to do with proving that a person can lose their saved status at a certain age. These verses are used as a hopeful foundation for TAA but as we have seen, they too fall short.
 
Luke 18:15-17
(Luke 18:15-17 KJV) And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. {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. {17} Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
 
As we survey these passages, we may conclude that the Lord Jesus Christ loved to tell stories to children and no doubt they were attracted to Him. Verse 16 states that the kingdom of God contains little children. If we were to isolate this verse, we could safely say that little children are in the kingdom of God, meaning they are all saved.
 
Remember in John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. As with all Scripture, every verse must be interpreted in context and according to Scripture. Verses 15 to 17 constitute an entire paragraph, so we cannot chop any verse out and gain proper understanding. Verse 17 goes on to state that the kingdom of God must be received with a child like perspective. Ephesians 5:1 applies here:
 
(Eph 5:1 KJV) Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; In other words, Christ is making a statement of humility to every believer that they must have the faith of a child. Children are very trusting and will believe what they are told. This is how the true believer is to receive the things of God. We are to believe God with simple trust and child-like faith. The Christians are referred to as the children of God in many places in the Bible. ( Matt. 5:9; Luke 20:36; John 11:52 and others) In these verses we may safely conclude that Jesus is speaking in parabolic language, that Christians in the kingdom of God are typified by little children in this world. (Mark 4:34) The key is faith without intellectual understanding.
 
As we have seen, when these verses are examined more closely, we may safely conclude that we cannot build the teaching of the age of accountability on them. If we forced these views on these verses, we would be guilty of eisegesis, which is putting ideas into the text which do not belong there. It is clear that the age of accountability is a created doctrine with no biblical foundation. This false doctrine was created out of an emotional belief that God would not send a child to hell, but we must keep in mind the whole human race is in rebellion against God and respect of age plays no part in that rebellion.
 
Does the Bible reveal at what age we are considered sinners by God? The answer is yes, at birth! Either we accept the biblical fact that the sin of Adam was imputed to every human being or we take the position of Unitarianism that sin is only folklore. Letís not be so hard on the official cults because whenever we create an unbiblical doctrine, we are doing the same thing we accuse them of doing, making the Bible say what we want it to say. Romans 3:10-12 states:
 
(Rom 3:10-12 KJV) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: {11} There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. {12} They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
 
Read the entire passage from Verse 10 to 19 but for brevity I want to focus in on these verses. What we have in these ten verses is Godís assessment of the human race before He chooses to save some. As we see in these verses, God is very careful to point out that not one person in the entire human race is righteous and not one does good. Are children part of the human race? Of course they are and there are no exceptions to the above verses? God did not exempt children from being a part of condemned humanity, because He emphatically states NO ONE, and we cannot ignore this truth for want of emotionalism. We have two choices, either we accept the teachings of Scripture or we become part of the "itching ears" crowd. (2 Tim. 4:3) Now let us explore some verses from Scripture which plainly teach that the age of accountability is a created doctrine. No one is going to argue that this teaching is not emotive, but we must remain true to Scripture no matter how hard the truth is.
 
Psalm 58:3-4
(Psa 58:3-4 KJV) The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. {4} Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
 
What a lovely assessment of humanity. This verse plainly tells us that we go speaking lies right from the moment of birth. When you were young, who taught you to lie to your parents? No one did, right? It is because of indwelt sin that we possess a natural proclivity to commit sin. The word "estranged" may also be translated "to turn aside," which means as soon as we are born, we turn away from God. Remember Revelation 21:27, which states that no liar will enter the kingdom of God. God is showing us that there is evil from the moment of birth. Since there is evil from the moment of birth, how can this person be considered saved up to a certain age?
 
God is making it very clear that all are under condemnation unless they are saved. If TAA was a true biblical doctrine, then wouldnít God have said, "that we go speaking lies from the moment of understanding" instead of the moment of birth? These types of questions must be faced before we can embrace any doctrine. Get into the habit of questioning doctrines with no biblical foundation and you will save yourself many headaches. Isn't it interesting that God likens babies to snakes? When a baby rattlesnake comes out of the egg, it is still a rattlesnake. When a human baby comes out of the womb, it is a sinner in diapers.
 
Psalm 51:5
(Psa 51:5 KJV) Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
 
In this verse David is speaking of his own birth as sin cursed. Now Davidís mother and father were married, so what sin was he speaking of? The sin he is speaking of is the imputed sin of Adam. David knew every human being is born with indwelling sin. He states that he was sinful at birth and sinful while still in the womb. David was probably saved at an early age. This verse in no way implies that David was not sinful from birth. His birth is typical of every human being. We are born under sin, not under the blood of Christ up to a certain age. Now it is true that God saves some right in the womb such as:
 
Jeremiah: (Jer 1:5 KJV) Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
 
Paul: (Gal 1:15 KJV) But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
 
John the Baptist: (Luke 1:15 KJV) For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
 
Another danger of this false doctrine
Another key danger of this false doctrine is that it gives parents the mistaken notion that if their child acts up or does something wrong, it is okay, since they are under the blood of Christ anyway. I have seen ungodly, rebellious children disturb church services by going up and down the center aisle and the mother sitting there throwing up her hands not knowing what to do. Children are nothing more than young sinners. If they grow up to adulthood and never become saved, they are as hell bound as if they died in childhood. No child comes in to this world in an innocent state as we have seen in Scripture.
 
Why a slaughter of the children?
(1 Sam 15:3 KJV) Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
 
Here is God giving the command to Saul to utterly destroy all the Amalekites and notice He even includes children and sucklings (babies). Is God being cruel? Of course not, God knows that if any of these ungodly children survive they will grow up to become Amalekites and continue in the evil tradition of their fathers. They would worship false gods and sacrifice human beings along with all the other things that go with false religion. God is showing us a principle that unless a child is one of Godís elect, they will be hell bound via false religions and philosophies. So if an unsaved child dies they go right to a place of silence and will await the judgment just as an unsaved adult would.
 
The Aborted Babies
Since our country (USA) allows wholesale slaughter of unborn babies, the question has arisen as to where all the aborted babies have gone? The pat answer which is given is "they all went to heaven." Unfortunately while that would be nice, it is a deceitful answer. The biblical truth on this matter is that if any of those aborted babies were Godís elect, they went right into the presence of the Lord. If they were not Godís elect, then they are awaiting judgment in a place of silence. If a baby is not Godís elect, they will not become saved even if they grow up to be 90 years old. This also applies to a baby that dies of natural causes. If they were Godís Elect, chosen from the foundation of the world, they go right into the presence of the Lord. (2 Cor 5:8 KJV) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. If they are not Elect, they will be raised on Judgment day to face the Judgment. (Luke 12:48 KJV) But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. As for the penalty, the Bible is not clear but according to Luke 12:48, it seems as if there will be levels of punishment in Hell.  If every aborted baby goes to Heaven, then that would make abortion the greatest evangelistic method. It would mean that parents should abort every baby and that would mean they would go to Heaven. The problem is that abortion is murder and murder is not an evangelistic method, it is heinous sin. Do you see what problems we get into when we try and create doctrines where there are none?
 
Specific Ages?
The Jews set the age of accountability at 13 at Bar Mitzvah. Reformed Judaism sets it at 16 or 18. Many Christians place it between the ages of 6 to 13. J. Vernon McGee believed it was 20 years old believing a person is in full adulthood at 21 and then responsible. In all these ages which are set by differing opinions and theologies, one thing remains the same and that is each group is basically stating that sin is free and without consequence up until whatever age is determined by whatever religious belief. Let us take it to the extreme. A person is born on February 29, a leap year. According to the age beliefs, a person could hit 21 years of age in their 84th year, which means they are exempt from judgment for 84 years of sin. Either the teaching applies to everyone or no one!
 
Whenever we create an emotional, non-biblical doctrine it will continue to be embellished and then entrenched as a believable doctrine. We need to accept what God has written on this subject and not circumvent it with emotions. We must always keep in mind that sin is universal whereas salvation is not, meaning everyone has sin but not everyone is saved and that includes babies since they too are part of the sin cursed human race.
 
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