Opinion | Family

Are Infants Sinful? How Not to Talk about Original Sin

There are better ways to explain human fallenness than pointing to needy babies and clumsy toddlers.

Before going to seminary and then having children, I worked in youth ministry with teenagers for five years. As such, I sat through countless systematic presentations of the gospel in which someone was assigned "the sin talk." These talks varied from camp to camp and speaker to speaker, but a handful of them included a defense of the doctrine of original sin based on the clear sinfulness of small children. It usually began with a reminder of infants crying, demanding attention, and refusing to quiet down until fed. It progressed to toddlers squabbling and shouting, "Mine!" And it concluded with examples of how we as adults or, in this case, teenagers, cry until we get what we want and shout "mine!" though in more culturally acceptable ways. On the final point I can certainly agree: The most obvious case for my sin is my own selfishness.

But as the mother of three children, I've started to wonder if children are really the best example of the doctrine of original sin—the traditional ...

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