What you believe about yourself and your fellow man shapes how you live. It shapes how you approach marriage, child-rearing, education, criminal justice, evangelism, preaching, and worship. In other words, what you believe about mankind affects everything.
When it comes to anthropology (the doctrine of man), Southern Evangelicals don’t fare so well. 53% agree with the statement, “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. 68% agree that “Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God.”
Previously, we’ve reviewed how this affects our understanding of the Gospel. If man is born innocent and can go on in sinless perfection, then there is no need for the cross of Christ. Jesus’ atoning work is simply Plan B.
The view that men are born innocent, and naturally good, creates a strange paradox. If children are innocent, why withhold church membership from them as some denominations do? After all, they have the same righteous standing before God as the parents who dedicate them, don’t they? They just don’t need a mediator yet. Odd.
In Psalm 51, David sought the Lord’s forgiveness after his sin with Bathsheba. In verse 5, David wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This verse does not suggest that David sinned when he was in his mother’s womb. What it teaches is that sinfulness begins at the moment of our conception.
First, we are guilty of Adam’s sin. When he ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, we ate with him and fell with him in his sin. Sinfulness doesn’t just float into our children like Avian Flu when they turn 12. This is why Paul wrote that “deal spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). When did we sin? We sinned when Adam did. From the moment you and I come into existence, God considered us unrighteous in his sight. Why?
We not only inherit Adam’s guilt, but we also inherit the corruption of his heart, mind, and soul. We are filled with sinful thoughts and desires even from the very beginning.
You know this is true. We have all witnessed very young children acting out in rebellion. Consider the newborn child who wails because his parents don’t feed him exactly when he wants it. And, there is no such thing as “terrible twos.” What you observe as children grow they get better and better at demonstrating the sinfulness of their minds and hearts. No, children are not born innocent.
In Psalm 51, David is expressing the fact that, in truth, he has been sinful from birth and needs God’s total cleansing. He goes on to pray, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).
This is why Christ is so precious to us. Through faith, we set aside Adam’s unrighteous clothing and God clothes us in the righteousness of Christ. But if children are innocent, and men are naturally good, they don’t need the Gospel. They are just fine in their own clothes.