Paul's Passing Thoughts

Are Babies Totally Depraved? Follow the Protestant Money

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 1, 2014

PPT HandleNo, because man is not totally depraved. This is simple theological math. Man is not totally depraved by virtue of how God creates us. Every human being born into the world is born with the works of God written on their hearts. They are also born with a conscience that either excuses them or accuses them of wrongdoing.

Romans 2:14 – For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Those who have the law, that is, the written word of God plus the works of the law written on their hearts, are under the law’s judgment. This is why religious people will be judged more harshly than the nonreligious—they are responsible for two laws, not just one.

Christ came to die on the cross to end the law’s condemnation for those under it, or those under law, and was resurrected so that the same can find life in the law apart from any condemnation. Under grace means that we are now under the “law of the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2). What does that mean? It means the Spirit now imparts life to us through the same law that condemned us prior to our salvation (Jn 17:17, Eph 6:1-3). The old us that was under law literally dies with Christ, and is resurrected by the Spirit as a new creature who finds life in the law (see Psalms 119).

Andy Young and I were having this discussion this morning. In the garden, there was only one law: you may eat of any tree in the garden except the one. As long as they obeyed, there was life in that law; when they disobeyed, death came into the world.

But, back to babies. Babies are not totally depraved, and in fact go to heaven because they are not yet under law; where there is no law there is no sin (Rom 5:13). Don’t confuse this with the pre-fall of man where there was only one unbroken law. Babies do NOT have a developed conscience; therefore, they cannot negotiate right and wrong as administered by conscience according to the written law or the law written on their hearts. So, babies are born under law like all people, but are not accountable to it, and therefore NOT condemned by it until they have a developed conscience that can ascertain right from wrong. I believe mentally handicapped people would fall under this category as well.

Where there is no law, there is no sin. So if babies cannot know law, they have no sin. And if they have no sin—they are going to heaven:

Roman 7:7 – What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Babies have no concept of law. People are accountable to the law when their consciences are developed to the point of knowing right from wrong.

Follow The Protestant Money

Early in the Protestant Reformation the subject of total depravity was a big deal. This also included the total depravity of the saints. Simply stated, the Reformers believed little different than Rome in regard to salvation via church membership. The biggest draw for the Protestant Reformation was no fault salvation through church membership. The Reformers clearly stated that new sins committed by “believers” removed them from grace, and continued forgiveness of sins through the perpetual reappropriation of Christ’s death was needed to keep oneself saved (for example: The Calvin Institutes, 3.14.9-11). This reapplication of Christ’s death was only valid when administered by the institutional church through baptism, the Lord’s Table, and the grace-infusion of preaching by ordained Reformed elders, in today’s Neo-Calvinist vernacular, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” Why? Because we need the same gospel that saved us initially to keep us saved daily because the new sins we commit remove us from grace. This would seem fairly evident.

The Reformers believed that baptism initiated church membership, and as long as the baptized remained in good standing as church members, their baptism retained its saving efficacy (Calvin Inst. 4.15.1ff). Salvation is maintained within the institutional church, so baptism doesn’t save you per se, but is necessary for church membership which keeps you saved through faithful attendance to “gospel preaching” by ordained elders and the Lord’s Table. This ministry has compiled a mass of citations by “New” Calvinists who state this in no uncertain terms.

And this is the crux of the infant baptism debate. Protestants were big on baby baptism because it made the babies church members and therefore guaranteed them salvation as long as they remained faithful to the institutional church as they grow up. This led to the birth of Baptists who became half pregnant Protestants over the baby baptism issue. Unfortunately, this boiled down to when a child was old enough to be a church member which was also synonymous with being saved among the Baptists. This closer approximation to truth created the whole never ending “Do babies go to heaven?” debate.

No, Babies are not totally depraved, and yes, they go to heaven. The Baptists only focused on the baby baptism issue without further investigating what was driving the belief to begin with; i.e., salvation by institution.

This began a long deep-seated tradition by Baptists to focus on symptoms and not causes. This is why Presbyterians and Lutherans are far less confused than Baptists—Baptists are both confused and wrong, while the Protestants and Lutherans are just merely wrong…about the gospel.


11 Responses

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  1. Andy said, on December 1, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    Our discussion this morning prompted me to post this on my Facebook status. This sort of boiled everything we discussed down into one concluding thought:

    Prior to Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, there was no sin imputed to man, not becuase man was “sinless”, but because there was no law to condemn man. Actually that’s not entirely true: there was one law; God said don’t eat the fruit of that particular tree. This one law was enough to bring knowledge of sin, but it was the only law that could condemn. (Ironicly enough, it was man’s knowlege of this one law that Satan used to provoke man to sin.) But as long as Adam and Eve obeyed it, there was no judgment. But eating of the fruit brought knowledge of good and evil, thus making man accountable to it. Thus, knowledge of good and evil brought about knowledge of sin and its condemnation. The idea of man having a “fallen nature” is not biblical in this regard. Man himself has the same free will he always had. However his relationship to the law and what law he is now accountable to is what has changed since Adam and Eve sinned.

    Furthermore, not only was the tree a source of the knowledge of good and evil, it was a moral representation of the law itself. Adam and Eve could have learned good and evil even by not eating of the tree. God’s message to them was the same as Moses’ declaration to Israel in Deuteronomy 30:

    “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it…I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days:” ~ Deu 30:15-16, 19-20

    The Tree represented both Life/Good and Death/Evil. Obedience was good and would result in life. Disobedience was evil and would result in death. And God left the choice to them.

    To suggest that Adam and Eve were “sinless” prior to “the fall” or that they were incapable of sin is to suggest that they had no choice. The mere fact that they chose to sin suggestes that their capacity for sin or “depravity” was no different than yours or mine, which is to say that man is not really “depraved” at all. He is simply exercising his own free will. This really turns the idea of “original sin” or “the fall of man” entirely on its head.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 2, 2014 at 9:18 AM

      This is a good discussion. Freewill is not sin, its freewill. To your point, Adam and Eve knew of sin, because of the one law, but had never experienced sin. Before this discussion, I believed that Adam and Eve had no concept of sin. As long as they obeyed that one law, they were sinless. Regardless of their disobedience, they could have lived forever if God did not block them from the tree of life which shows cause and effect and refutes a plenary sovereignty by God. We also see God’s intervention at the Tower of Babel. Man has freewill, but God uses foreknowledge and intervention to achieve His preordained outcome.


  2. Andy said, on December 2, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    This really has an impact on how we view the unsaved specifically and humanity in general. Christians have to overcome this notion of inherent wickedness that leads many professing “chrsitians” to view the lost with contempt and a holier-than-thou attitude. It’s not a matter of a lost person being wicked. It is a matter of his lost condition being a function of his enslavement under the condemnation of the law to which God holds him accountable. The only solution for him is for the law to be ended for him so that there is therefore no more condemnation. (Romans 8:1)


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 2, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      and the ending of his present life under the law and resurrection to his/her new life. While far too much is made of “old nature” versus “new nature,” there is an old us and new us. There is a death with Christ and a resurrection with Christ.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 2, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Let me suggest that the contempt comes in with the whole idea of the “flesh” being inherently evil. The flesh is not evil, it is weak. Also, the idea that “secular” is evil. Secular does not equal evil. The governing authorities, as one example, are instituted by God for our good.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 2, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      what I am saying is that law is not the only linchpin between the lost and the saved. In order for the law to give life and not condemn, there must also be a new nature.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 2, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      I think one of the major impacts on evangelism is that sin makes man not totally depraved, but inclined to hide from God. But God seeks them out and this does not exclude a freewill to choose. When we don’t evangelize, we aren’t seeking men out on behalf of God. Rather, total depravity assumes there is no need to seek them out because they are not only hiding, but they cannot choose God unless elected.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 2, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      What I am doing is comparing evangelism to God seeking out Adam and Eve in the garden when they were hiding.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 2, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      and I am saying that the new birth comes with a new heart that loves the law and is focused on love and not condemnation. However, the accuser of the brethren wants to keep us under the law’s condemnation. And in essence, that’s what Reformed theology does as well.


  3. lydia said, on December 4, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    “Furthermore, not only was the tree a source of the knowledge of good and evil, it was a moral representation of the law itself. Adam and Eve could have learned good and evil even by not eating of the tree. ”

    I have a bit of a different take on your comment but agree with this totally. My take is that God wanted them to grow in wisdom HIS WAY. Wisdom seems to be something totally ignored by so many. Yes they would learn about evil but with God’s guidance. So do it HIS way which would produce maturity and wisdom. They didn’t. Humans have always had free will. Still do

    I don’t really read Gen literally anymore but see it as a narrative of humans deciding to do it their way and not seek God’s wisdom. They had choices and STILL we have choices.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on December 4, 2014 at 10:47 AM


      Be sure of this: Genesis is meant be taken literally unless the Bible itself states otherwise. I also think that any Christian now thinking for themselves are crawling out of a Protestant Dark Age. Hence, we need to let objective truth lead to what is inevitably mystery or not mystery. Bible as narrative will never get us there and is the orthodoxy of mythology. I strongly suspect that freewill is a metaphysical pillar, and why it is the focus of ill repute in the institutional church.


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