Inherited Depravity or Infantile Purity? 

“Total depravity” is not a term found in scripture, but one coined to consolidate the devastation of Adam’s fall and his impact upon the entire family of human beings since that time.  The two words encompass the whole of the position that man is depraved and inherits sin from Adam, and that all of mankind are born with and inherit that depraved nature. 

On the other side of the fence is the doctrine of “infantile purity,” which teaches man is born pure and innocent, but falls into sin of his own effort and by doing so, becomes a sinner.  The foundation of this position is that God does not hold man accountable for any one else’s sins, therefore Adam’s sin is not passed down. 

Supporting the doctrine of innocence leads to the necessity of a second error,  “the age of accountability, or the age of reason,” that is, God doesn’t hold one responsible for sin until they are of an age to comprehend the consequences of their actions and decisions.  It’s a noble idea, concocted to place children dying at a young age in the portals of heaven’s glory world.  It’s comforting to parents suffering loss, suggesting a child is pure and sinless until he learns to sin, but it’s in stark contrast with sound biblical teaching.  Proponents are forced to pick an arbitrary age of reason (twelve, thirteen, eighteen, twenty-one?) upon which to declare that the child is ‘aware’ or awake and capable of making eternal decisions, and having somehow learned to sin, assuming responsibility for his actions in this world. 

Age at Death Doesn’t Determine Your Destination 

We don’t preach infants into hell.  The scriptures provide sufficient evidence suggesting those who die at an early age are more likely to be children of God, elect before the foundation of the world, covered by the blood of Christ and likely included in the eternal covenant.  But infant purity is not what saves them.  The simplicity of the matter is Christ died for sinners, and you are either among that group for whom He died, or you are not.  Age at the time of death is irrelevant.  

We come into this world in a condition the bible calls dead in trespasses and in sins. 

Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  :2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:  :3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.  :4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, :5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 

One would think the verses above would be sufficient to discard the erroneous doctrine of infantile purity.  …and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.                                                                                                        

New Birth Unnecessary for the Pure and Sinless? 

We have a need to be born again, and Jesus taught clearly that it was necessary that one be born from above, (born of the spirit, regenerated or born again).  Jhn 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 

Even the requirement of the new birth is a revelation that life needs to be restored.  That clear sense, coupled with Eph 2:1 reveals that the new birth is life from the dead.  We refer to it as the first resurrection.   

King David knew depravity started at the earliest stages of existence:  Psa 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. He describes the condition in the womb as being in iniquity.  We’ll gaze into the eyes of a newborn and feel the joy that new life brings, perhaps even describing him as innocent, pure, and untouched by the world’s filth.  And outwardly, it appears so.  Yet David says the wicked – and that’s all of us at first – the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.  Psa 58: 3 

Defenders of purity will discard this verse and those similar with the wave of the hand calling it  Hebrew poetry.  “Why babies can’t speak for several months, years even.  That tells us it’s metaphorical language.”  Truthfully though, a baby knows that crying, even when it has no pain or needs, brings mother running, and before long, baby is in charge.  They lie, expressing pain or discomfort to get attention.   A child doesn’t have to be taught to do the wrong thing, (put two children in one room with one toy).  Those things are instinctive, and automatic.  They do have to be taught how to behave, tell the truth, share and be kind.  Why would a pure child without sin need such correction? 

Adam’s Fall as Our Federal Representative 

Adam was given one rule, one simple instruction.  He was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Gen 2:17  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  The consequences were clear and severe.  In the day that ye eat thereof, thou shall surely die.  The margin notes of the KJ translation tell us ‘in dying, thou shalt die.’  He not only died, he began a death process that his entire progeny would inherit.  (The Hebrew word translated as ‘surely’ means death, punishment, to die or slay.  “Thou shalt die die.”) 

And he did.  He died to the fellowship of God, fell under the condemnation of sin, came under bondage to sin and was lifelong susceptible to it; he became subject to the corruption of sin and except there was intervention, was under the curse of eternal death.  Adam’s nature fell to a sin-cursed condition, and we begin as sinners in Adam, receiving the same sin-cursed nature.   

Other Curses From the Fall 

The serpent was cursed ‘above all cattle,’ telling us that all animals were cursed.  The ground was cursed for Adam’s sake, and the woman was cursed to experience great sorrow in conception and in childbirth and become subject to her husband.  No believing Christian doubts these curses passed from Adam, yet they say Adam’s fall didn’t take us all. 

Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth…  “Evil from his youth” seems to belie purity and innocence. 

Adam, as our head, or first parent, would pass this death and corrupt nature to his entire family, and that meant everyone living.  The sin of Adam is passed by the father to the child.  Christ, the ‘last Adam,” avoided that curse by not having an earthly father.  The infant purity crowd would say an earthly father would be okay since sin is not passed down.  The number of changes one must make to scripture and sound doctrine once a heretical position is accepted grows and grows. 

Man is a sinner by his relationship with Adam.  He’s born a sinner, so he’s a sinner by nature, and quickly a sinner by practice.  Rom 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  :19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 

The purist camp must reject this verse – but in doing so, they must come up with a substitute explanation for how Adam’s offense brought judgment upon all men. 

Because of the fall and resulting condemnation, man is unable to do anything good. 

Gen 6:5; Job 15:14-16; Psa 130:3; Psa 143:2; Pro 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Isa 64:6; Jer 13:23; John 3:19; Rom 3:9-12; Jam 3:8; 1John 1:8 

He cannot believe in God or come to him on his own. John 6:44; John 6:65; John 8:43-45; John 10:26; John 12:37-41 

He cannot understand the truth: John 14:17; 1Cor 2:14  He cannot seek God.  Rom 3:10-11.

He is dead in sins. Gen 2:16-17; John 3:5-7; Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13 

He is blinded and corrupt in his heart. Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Ecc 9:3; Jer 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:19-21; Rom 8:7-8; Eph 4:17-19; Eph 5:8 

He is captive to sin and Satan.  John 8:34; John 8:44; Rom 6:20; 2Tim 2:25-26; Tit 3:3; 1John 5:19 

And while he may perform actions freely according to his nature, his nature is wholly evil.  Job 14:4; Mat 7:16-18; Mat 12:33; Mark 7:21-23; Jam 1:13-14

Eph 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

God is not to blame.

God’s wrath is not directed towards the innocent, nor did God create the human race to be sinful, but rather He created Adam upright.  Adam could have denied the temptation and kept from sinning. We sometimes use this phrase to describe Adam’s capacity:  Able to stand, liable to fall.  Much nonsense can be expressed by man’s attempt to define Adam’s capabilities.  “Adam’s fall is evidence he was not capable of standing.”  You can’t build a cohesive doctrinal position on straw arguments or nonsense.  The truth is:  God did not put Adam in a situation where he had no choice, nor did he test Adam or tempt him with sin.  Adam’s free will was not violated, nor was he pre-determined to sin and fall.  But Adam did fall in disobedience, and brought us all with him, and we are sinners by nature and practice due to Adam’s sin. 

That this depravity or propensity to sin in inherent in one born of a woman is sprinkled throughout scripture:

Pro 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Job 15:14 What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? 

1Jo 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  The rules of language allow that if one born of God cannot sin, that one who is not born of God does commit sin.  There is no age restriction here, and the verse would include all of us at our entrance to this world. 

The purists declare children do not inherit the guilt or sin of the parent, citing such verses as Deut 24:16, 2Kings 14:6, 2Chron 25:4, Jer 31:29-30, Eze 18: 2-4 and 19-20.  All these in context teach a personal responsibility, a biblical truth, but it’s not evidence for innocence or purity.   

Supporters of infantile purity claim the doctrine of depravity to be an Augustine invention, long after scripture was completed. 

Jer 4:22 For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. 

Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. 

Jeremiah teaches us:

a) they have no understanding – surely purity would give them a head start against sin.

b) they are wise (skillful, crafty, cunning, wily, shrewd, subtle) to do evil- how came such skill if they have not learned the law or been taught one way or another?    

c) they have no knowledge to do good – seems like sinless purity would instill that somehow, whether by nature (sinless nature) or sinless practice. 

d) whatever nature they have, be it sinless purity or depravity, they cannot change, but it says strongly here that they are already accustomed to doing evil. 

How is it men have the capacity to sin if born pure? Would that not be a flaw in God’s design? 

Deniers of total depravity try to include Adam by saying that through Adam’s leading, influence and example men choose to become sinners.  But how can Adam lead or influence me if I am born pure and sinless and never study or learn of Adam or the law?  Osmosis? (They insist sin eventually enters into one’s life, by the knowledge of the law.)   How is Adam able to pass death and the curse of sorrow in childbirth but not sin?  If he didn’t pass sin and the corrupt nature, neither did he pass death or the curse. 

Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Not all men – not babies!  How is that possible???  Rom 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Note it doesn’t say we were made likely to sin or given the propensity to sin, it clearly says, we WERE MADE SINNERS.  Adam’s disobedience made us sinners.  That disobedience is answered in Christ.  If you reject the concept of Adam and original sin, then must you not also reject the positioning of imputed righteousness on the reverse side of the coin?   

The obedience of one (Christ) making many righteous is necessary because the contrary action (Adam’s fall) made many sinners. 

Voluntary Sinners 

Continuing their argument: “ Men are not born dead in sins, they become dead in sins [“dead in sin” means morally depraved and relationally separated from God] when they voluntarily choose to sin: Isa. 59:2, Lk. 15:24, Rom. 5:12-14, Rom. 7:9,11, Col. 2:13. 

 Pure and innocent at birth, but sometime before the age of accountability they degrade to ‘becoming’ dead in sins.  Eph 2:1 says sins, plural, in addition to trespasses.  That’s Paul’s way of establishing your own personal sin in addition to what you inherited in nature.   

Regarding their position on Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses 

How can a man ‘born pure’ be dead in sins?  Does he die in sin after being born physically?  If so, we must increase the number of ‘deaths’ and resurrections he must experience.  Such would outnumber what the scripture describes.  And what of the uncircumcision of the flesh, which the context reveals is a horrible condition prior to being quickened to life?  Does the pure infant somehow on his own fall and become uncircumcised as he dies in sin? 

Romans 5:12 as a text proof doesn’t help their position either.  Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:  Who was that one man?  Claude, in accounting?  No, it was Adam.  But if he brought sin into the world and it stopped with him –which they insist – then he really didn’t bring sin into the world, he just brought it upon himself.  And it should go no further than Adam, so his children have no worries – oh wait, this just in:   

Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 

Adam experienced a change.  Not just death, and dying, but knowledge of good and evil.  Will he pass that knowledge down to his progeny?  Let’s find out. Gen 4:8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 

Why the difference?  Here are the first two born on the earth by natural parents.  One slew the other.  Were they not both born pure and sinless?  Who taught Cain sin and murder?  By what law did he acquire this skill?  We see the evidences of depravity in Cain’s sin slaying his brother.  Adam passed his disobedience in sin to his children, who passed it to theirs and so it is to this day. 

But it gets deeper.  They say man is pure until the law is imparted to him, teaching him he’s a sinner, misunderstanding the context of Romans 5:13-14 For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law :14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.   

How is sin in the world from Adam to Moses with all these pure, innocent, sinless children being born?  Innocent and purity should begat more of the same, yet we find by the time of the flood, death (which is the penalty for sin) reigned.  So much so in the days before the flood there was only innocence and purity continually – wait, sorry, Gen 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.   

Next, they insist all men have voluntarily chosen to become sinners: Gen. 6:12, Ex. 32:7, Deut. 9:12, Deut. 32:5, Jdg. 2:19, Hos. 9:9, Ps. 14:2-3, Isa. 53:6, Ecc. 7:29, Rom. 3:23. 

Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; All, but not babies, not pure, innocent babies. 

And this incorrect usage:  Each individual originates their own sin: Mat 12:35A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.  

Matthew 12:35 doesn’t say a ‘pure man or innocent man’ nor does it explain how one is pure and the other not.  Their position fails to differentiate between one born pure or born evil or explain how one comes to the state where they have a good heart or an evil heart. Perhaps by the knowledge of the law?  The truth is, all are born sinful, enemies of God, and until the Spirit works within them, granting them a “circumcision of the heart” and giving them the capacity to do good, they will not.  Even with the new birth, (new heart) Paul still struggled to do good and was fearful he would become a castaway. 

“Infant children are morally innocent.” (2 Kng. 21:16; 24:4; Joel 3:19)  Innocent blood doesn’t mean purity and sinless.  Context is available for those scriptures if one will just read. 

And then this jump to claim children have not yet “done anything” morally “good or evil” (Rom. 9:11)   Twins in the womb?  Not having done any good or evil, that the supposition of Arminians might stand, but no – wait  - it’s for the purpose of election.  That’s a bad example because no one performs a moral act of any kind in the womb. 

until the age of accountability, which is the age of reason, when they know right from wrong (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16), and choose to do wrong (Jas. 4:17), which all do because all fall short.   

Wait?  All fall short?  Shouldn’t infant purity and innocence prevent that from happening?

The age of accountability is a Christian heresy with roots in the Jewish bar mitzvah, (age 13, where he will learn the law as a man, and no longer be taught as a child.) Folks unskilled in scripture attempt to assuage their conscience by declaring all dying young before “accepting Christ” or being born again end up in heaven’s glory world.  You can’t be responsible for what you haven’t been taught.  

The age of accountability forces man to ascribe different ways or conditions to classes of people:  young/infants; Old Testament saints; the mentally incapable; folks who don’t hear the gospel; people hearing the wrong gospel!; sinners that missionaries never reach; Jews in the modern age; those who fail to keep the gospel in memory; those who hear and don’t respond the first or second time… 

God has one method of saving His children.  That method redeemed Adam (if he’s included) David, Noah, John the Baptist, Paul, Timothy, Job and Abraham in the exact same manner.  

Rom 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. Conversely, he that is alive is in bondage to sin.