On Infants, Heaven and Original Sin Part II

In the previous article, we considered some oppositions to infants who die in their infancy going to heaven, proposed the contrary view, and set out to resolve the bottlenecks from the Biblical standpoint. We begin part II of this series by considering Adam’s sin and its effect on his posterity.

Adam’s sin

The relevant passage is Genesis 3:1-19.

We see from the passage some immediate consequences of the sin of our first parents:

  1. The curse on the serpent (3:14)
  2. The curse of painful childbirth (3:16). This has been so since then.
  3. The curse on the ground (3:17-18). This is the reason the earth reverts to a wilderness condition whenever it is left unattended.
  4. All of creation was affected. Creation has never been the same after the fall, nor will it be when sin is removed. Romans 8 teaches that the whole of creation groans in expectation of the time when it will be redeemed (vv20-22).

Adam’s posterity and the universality of sin 

All people invariably agree that there is something universally lacking in man. Not all are prepared to call it sin, but by our own actions and inactions, we prove the Bible’s assertion that we are what we are because of the problem of sin.

Recently in Ghana where I come from, there was a scandal in the football federation involving some officials who were accused of bribery and corruption. For a while, this was the main subject of discussion on various social media platforms. In one group that I belong, nearly everybody was of the mind that what the officials did was wrong and contrary to the code of ethics of their job. However, almost all of us admitted we were equally guilty of similar offenses; howbeit of varying degrees of gravity. It was a unanimous consensus that none of us could cast the first stone, as we weren’t without fault. What this inadvertently means is that we each admitted our sinfulness and lack of perfection. Some were more outspoken and admitted quite frankly they would not act any differently if they were presented with a reward (a bribe) that was tempting enough.

Opponents of the concepts of sin have tried fruitlessly to explain it away. One popular explanation appeals to the scientific theory of evolution. They argue that having come out of the backwoods just a few millennia ago, all we need is time to slough off the remains of our bestial past.

Another school of thought holds that what man needs is enlightenment. If we attained to a higher level of ‘awareness’, through the reading of books or by other pursuits of knowledge, we would achieve the level of goodness that will make our world a better place. These all sound wonderful in their respective rights; however, history is there to prove that time and enlightenment are not enough to deal with the problem of sin.

Verses like Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23 and many others teach that all (the whole world) have sinned. We see from the Scriptures that all humans are affected, and our whole being is affected. James says in many things we offend all (James. 3:2). John corroborates all this when he says that if we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8-9). The Bible teaches that our sinful state is as a consequence of the sin of Adam. The definitive proof for this is in the fact that we all age and die. None of us can escape death, including even infants (Romans 5:14).

The nagging question, however, is how did Adam’s sin affect the whole of humanity?

The Bible puts forward two explanations. Firstly, the whole of human nature was in Adam’s loins when he sinned, and we fell with him (or in him) when he sinned in the garden of Eden; what is termed as ‘seminal identity’. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews teaches this when he asserts that Levi paid tithes in Abraham to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:9-10). This fits perfectly with the parallel which Paul provides in the passage in Romans 5 when he teaches that by our union with Christ through faith, we are made righteous. Not by our deeds, but purely based on the merit of Christ (grace).

The second explanation is one we are familiar with; the fact that as our federal head, when Adam sinned, all his posterity suffered the consequences. We see examples of this in our governments. If a parliamentarian who represents an area passes a law–whether good or bad, we all suffer the consequences. This is why the Bible doesn’t teach that our sinful state is on account of the sins of all our ancestors, but only that of Adam.

Thus, the phrase “we all sinned in Adam” (Romans 5:12). The term “original sin” therefore means sin originates from the original root of the human race. We are all born in this condition. As David put it, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51: 5).

With regards to infants

We have already established that infants, as well as adults, are born with the pollution and guilt of sin as a result of original sin.

My children are born Ghanaians based on the relationship they have with me as their father. They don’t get to choose to be Ghanaian at birth—they simply are born Ghanaians. Because they were in me, they are born as black Africans by default, and there’s nothing they can do to change their skin complexion at birth. As Ghanaians, certain privileges are due them because of their nationality; for example, they are entitled to a Ghanaian passport, and they qualify to vie for the highest office of the land or for any political position they desire.

However, if they want a Ghanaian passport, they will need to apply for it, and if any of them wishes to be president someday, they will need to contest for it and be voted in. So, despite their status at birth, they need to act in a certain way or other to accrue certain benefits or not.

This analogy, though limited, attempts to convey the truth of the scriptures with regards to the application of the sin of Adam. Although we are all born sinners, the Bible doesn’t call us to repent for the sins of Adam as it were. Having received through Adam the knowledge of good and evil, we at least once in our lifetime or mostly choose evil instead of right when faced with good and evil choices. The evil choices we make instead of the good ones is what the Bible calls us to repent from.

We are each held accountable for our own sins (Eccl. 12:14). In the Old Testament, we are taught that the son shall not die for the sins of the father, nor the father for the sins of the son (Ezekiel 18:20). Acting upon the good and evil we know is what affirms our guilt of sin, just as my children will have to work upon their citizenship to apply for a passport or stand for presidential election.

To be continued…

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