Age of Accountability, Believer’s Baptism, and Abortion

Many erring church bodies accept the idea of believer’s baptism on the premise that there is a certain amount of innocence in children until they reach a certain age (usually around 8).  In the Scriptures, you can find no such example, but it does make for wishful thinking (and a horrible false belief concerning Original Sin).

What is most interesting in these churches is that they heavily seek to use reason and rationale and logic to make their theology work together (they hate the paradoxes and distinctions in Lutheranism), and yet these groups do not apply their blanket doctrine of the innocence of children (or a lack of accountability for their actions) to their stance on abortion.  Logically speaking, wouldn’t a person who believes that every child who dies before age 8 goes automatically to heaven support abortion and even infanticide for the good of that person’s salvation?

A large part of a theologian’s (and every Christian is a theologian) task is to find the weak points in the false teacher’s teachings.  I believe that this is one of them in the theology that forms a large part of American Evangelicalism.  Most people when approached with this line of thought will think it crazy, but really it works to expose the false teaching of the age of accountability (as well as the weakness of relying upon reason to form your beliefs).  One must tear down the idols and false teachings in order to build up the right teachings sometimes (see God’s charge to Jeremiah in chapter 1).

Another one I have heard lately is the charge against God that He is unfair for allowing people who have not heard the Gospel to go to hell.  A quick response may be that if ignorance of God and the Gospel allows a person to be in heaven, then the best evangelism tool we have is to get rid of all churches and bibles and so forth.  The better question could be “What does every person (having heard the Gospel or not) deserve?”

What are some other logical or reasonable arguments which work to expose false teachings, please feel free to share them here.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Age of Accountability, Believer’s Baptism, and Abortion — 40 Comments

  1. 2 things-

    1) “Logically speaking, wouldn’t a person who believes that every child who dies before age 8 goes automatically to heaven support abortion and even infanticide for the good of that person’s salvation?”
    If you are going to make this claim and say it’s “logically speaking” you might want to provide a valid logical proof that demonstrates your point. As it is worded, that is not provided and frankly I am left unconvinced. You’ll have to word it better and form it into a valid logical proof if you want to convince me that it is a worthwhile argument to take into a discussion on the false teaching of the age of accountability.

    2) “What are some other logical or reasonable arguments which work to expose false teachings, please feel free to share them here.”
    I would encourage anyone who takes this task upon himself to do the same as requested above and insure that your argument is in fact valid and logical (meaning- a logical proof is provided that does not contain false premises or argumentation fallacies).

    Here is one example of a fallacy that is all too typical in these types of discussions- I have had people try to expose my “false” Lutheran teachings, but their limited knowledge of Lutheranism leaves them to do nothing more than expose a false straw-man of their own design. In all reality their argument had nothing to do with the actual Lutheran doctrine they thought they were attacking. We must guard against doing the same.

  2. @Young Blood #1
    Youngblood, my question flows from their belief – why would someone who believes every under 8 year old goes to heaven (and many 9 year olds do not) want anyone to reach the age of 9? Wouldn’t it be heartless to give them the chance to be damned by reaching an age where they were finally held accountable? This belief in the age of accountability demonstrates another way to heaven than faith in Jesus (it is about justification).

  3. Since we’re on the topic of sin, how about “My God hates sin but loves the sinner”. This false dichotomy fails the “birds – fly, fish – swim, sinners – sin” test. My preferred response to this foolishness is to inquire what they believe St. Paul meant in Rom 3:26 “he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Fasten your seatbelt for the coming explanation – it will be anything but good.

  4. @Dennis.
    If God hated the sinner, he would not have sent his son to die for any of us. But, being a just God as well as a loving God, he cannot allow sin to go unpunished.
    God does love the sinner but hate the sin, but His justice demands payment–without Christ as the sinner’s mediator, the sinner will go to hell. Jesus condemned the Pharisees, but loved them; He loved the young rich man who could not accept the truth.
    As our doctrine says, we can say “No” to God’s love, but that does not negate it.

  5. @PJS
    Your comment, “Logically speaking, wouldn’t a person who believes that every child who dies before age 8 goes automatically to heaven support abortion and even infanticide for the good of that person’s salvation?” I’m afraid goes beyond logic and into the realm of sarcasm and ridicule of our fellow Christians, the Baptists. Loving logic makes far more headway than sarcastic logic.

  6. @Sue Wilson #4

    The statement itself is not clear enough and causes division as such. The phrase, “God hates the sin, not the sinner” is meant to elicit a response that causes division. A reading of the blog entry at the Shepherd Study ( perhaps is a bit better.

    “God hates the sinner because of the sin. God loves the sinner because of the Savior.”

    In this way, Christ is not left out of the picture. God’s love is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and is found from Genesis through Revelation.

  7. This is how an LCMS Pastor, explained refuting “age of accountability”.
    If a true, the doctrinally pure explaination existed, no child under the age of accountability would or could die. Sadly, far too many do.

    Now, Baptistis, “dedicate” their infants. The words, are very similar, but not the same, they couldn’t be could they?

    To be fair: life begins at conception, if the unbaptized go to hell, what of stillborn, miscarried, and children lost before a breath is taken? Some LCMS Pastors, state without blinking those children are damned. If we are bold enough to refute others, we must state & explain our beliefs, as Lutherans, to those children we are questioned over.

    Are children who perish before their first breath damned?

  8. I have heard 2 Samuel 12:21–23 cited as a reference to support the age of accountability. David implies that he will see his child in heaven someday. How can a Lutheran explain what is going on there?

    God’s love is equal to his hate but he can perfectly love yet be perfectly just at the same time. As humans we can’t really understand that concept. When we experience hate we don’t have room for much love.

    Psalm 5:5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
    Psalm 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

    Romans 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

    If you look up any of these passages in The People’s Bible series there is great commentary written about God’s love and hate. There is a real danger to underemphasis God’s hate toward the sinner not just sinful action. When you overemphasis God’s love, God becomes a buddy figure rather than a just God. If you take away from the law, the Gospel becomes less precious.

    For further reading, I suggest Observing The Proper Distinction Between Law And Gospel In The Preaching And Teaching Ministry by Siegbert W. Becker

  9. Dutch :Are children who perish before their first breath damned?

    I think more importantly, are they damned before they are baptized? This catches all the pre-born, but also covers the sticky area of those born but not yet baptized.

    Primarily, that is in God’s hands, not ours. Our job is to teach and baptize, and this judgment call is one that gets into the gray area that Luther would have left as a mystery. All who believe and are baptized are saved; all who do not believe are condemned. Noticed it doesn’t say “and are not baptized.” Also, I remember David’s first son with Bathseeba. He died before he was circumcized, which was/is a big deal, back then and now for Jews today. But David tells his servants that he will see him again and go to him, since God has presumably taken him up to heaven. But in the end, this splitting hairs should NOT allow us to be lazy and not teach and baptize, as to get out of our calling from God.

  10. It’s Monday – I’ll try this some more. Let’s begin with the opening of DS III. After the invocation, I (as in Dennis) declare “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment.” Now, the Word clearly states Hell was prepared for “Satan and all his angels” (Matt 25:41) If we have difficulty with God’s understanding of Hell, consider what is recorded in Deut 32:22 or Jer 15:14. The fire’s of Hell are kindled by the anger of God. For me, this meaning God is less than pleased with whomever or whatever gets consigned to Sheol. God’s anger is justified against me as a poor, miserable sinner which is how I enter this world (Psalm 51:5).

    By myself, I have no merit before the Father – indeed, I should not be permitted to be in His presence nor will I be of my own accord. I fully realize I am but a poor, miserable sinner fully deserving of the wrath of God. By His mercy and steadfast love, the Father choose to send His Son to be my propitiation; the only thing I contributed to this was my sin. I can not speak to why Christ would suffer such a terrible death for me; I am not worthy because I am a sinner. All I can do is join with St. Paul in realizing I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want, I keep on doing. (Rom 7:19)

    It is solely for the sake of His Son that the Father loves me; apart from Christ I remain a poor, miserable sinner which angers the Father deeply. For sinners to understand where they stand in this fallen creation, they need the Law preached in it’s full severity. When the Law has done it’s proper work, then we can give them the good news of Christ. I would never tell a sinner of God’s love for them unless they first acknowledge they are sinners for God really does hate sinners – enough to commit them to the eternal fires of hell – forever.

  11. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #2

    “This belief in the age of accountability demonstrates another way to heaven than faith in Jesus (it is about justification).”

    I think that’s a better argument than implying they should by some logic be in support of abortion.

    If I may expand on that thought. You have to adopt the Rationalism of these proponents of an age of accountability. Sure, as a Lutheran you would take their age of accountability and say, kill them before age 9 and spare them the opportunity of rejecting God and becoming damned. I don’t know any who go that way and there has to be a reason why… and that’s where your question becomes somewhat untenable. You have to adopt their own Rationalism, and the faulty Jesus-less justification that you point out, then you’re in a position to point out the real faults in their teaching.

    In their system it is better for children to grow past the age of accountability, risk hell, all for the opportunity to become rational adults capable of making a decision to be saved (a Jesus-less justification).

  12. @Dutch #7
    Re: the explanation of the “proof” that children are sinful–my dad used to use that–Romans 6:23–the wages of sin is death. If there is no sin, there is no death. And you can’t use Jesus to refute it, because His death is precisely because He “takes/carries/bears away the sin of the world.” He becomes the Sinner in place of all sinners. (Oh, and that means, yes, you can say that God hates the sinner–look at the Man, the Worm on the center cross as He cries out the 22nd Psalm.–But Perry said it best above.)

    Does that mean that all unbaptized, all aborted (natural or induced) children go to hell? Not at all. We simply aren’t saying *anything* about where such *are*, rather, saying what the Scriptures say regarding where sin and sinfulness begins, not forgetting what it also says about the grace of God in Christ. And don’t forget John in Elizabeth’s womb. What *can* God do? He can create faith even for an unborn child. Both Elizabeth *and* John are “filled with the Holy Spirit.” I think this is about all we can say, and in specific circumstances, speak of God’s great mercy and love, and leave it in His hands (not forgetting that Christ did indeed die for the sin of even the unborn/pre-baptized).

    Dennis, simply “preach” the cross of Christ. there’s enough Law there and enough Gospel for the Holy Spirit to use when and where He will. Fwiw, I don’t *dare* *not* speak of forgiveness in Christ, waiting until they “first acknowledge they are sinners”.

  13. Has anyone here had to teach his/her children how to be naughty? This state of innocence is bunk, especially in light of Psalm 51:5.

  14. As we all know God’s Word says clearly that repentance and saving faith are His gifts to us generated by His Word and His Word also teaches the efficacy of the Sacraments. It is just as miraculous for a full reasoning adult to come to faith via The Word as an infant via Baptism .

  15. This coming to trust in Christ is “the first resurrection” Revelation speaks of – as great a miracle as our bodily resurrection will be. The resurrection of a spiritualy dead, blind, enemy of God. This is too much for human reason to take in so many redefine the terms to make it more “friendly” to human reason and in the process they loose all the gifts God has for them.

  16. @Russ Davis #14

    ad nauseum… Russ, we already have at least two active threads dealing with homosexuality. This is not the topic here, nor is it best to go off traget with multiple side “logic” arguments. Quit cutting and pasting your one specific view everytime you post. Your behaviour is becoming trollish.

  17. I have done a bunch of blogs on the Riddleblog website defending Lutheran Baptism with the Scriptures. I use all of our Baptism passages and explain them.

    How can there be an age of accountabilty doctrine when St. Paul says in Ephesians that we are by nature “children of wrath.” Romans 5 tells us that death came through one man Adam (original sin) to all men. David says in Psalm 51 that he was conceived in sin.

    The problem with the Baptists is they refuse to believe the passages on Baptism which clearly teach that the Sacrament 1. Creates faith, 2. Sustains faith, 3. Washes away sins, and 4. Gives the Holy Spirit.

    They don’t understand the Grace of God in applying His gifts. They don’t understand that Baptism is something that God does for us, not something that we do for him. They don’t understand that there is absolutely no age requirement mentioned in the Scriptures for Baptism. All need to be baptized, because all are sinners. (Yes, even new born babies.)

  18. @Anonymous #8
    2 Samuel 12 refers to a child who was not able to be circumcised, living only until the 7th day (one day short of his circumcision day – see Genesis 17). Thus, the verses can be used in the case of a child who doesn’t have the opportunity to be baptized (this does not excuse the evil neglect of parents whose false beliefs rob their children of the greatest gift that our God gives, Holy Baptism). Circumcision has been done away with (read Galatians) and baptism has been instituted in its place (see Colossians).

    Similarly, to comfort the parents who lose a child, the example of John’s faith in Jesus while still in Elizabeth’s womb is a good one. We know that a child can hear inside the womb, and hearing the Word of God can create faith (Romans 10) where and when the Holy Spirit pleases.

    Mark 16:16 hits the nail on the head in regards to salvation and damnation.

  19. @boogie #13
    I think that is why the evangelicals use the language of accountability instead of innocence. Because they are so young, God doesn’t hold them accountable for the things that they do.

  20. Pr. Scheer,

    “Logically speaking, wouldn’t a person who believes that every child who dies before age 8 goes automatically to heaven support abortion and even infanticide for the good of that person’s salvation?”

    I don’t think so; evangelicals who are opposed to abortion and infanticide aren’t opposed to it because they think the child might go to hell, they’re opposed to it because it violates God’s commandment: “thou shalt not kill.” The fact their belief in an age of accountability means that they believe that the unborn child or infant automatically goes to heaven doesn’t negate that fact. To me, I don’t think this conclusion is any more fair than saying that logically Lutherans should be OK with killing the baptized who cling to Christ because they’ll go to heaven once they die.

    Also, believer’s baptism baptism and a belief in an “age of accountability” don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. In my Baptist days, I heard plenty of people talk about an ‘age of accountability’, but I’d say that I heard just as many people (lay, pastors, and sem profs) condemn the idea as being un-Scriptural and completely at odds with the idea of man being conceived in sin, etc. My guess is that if I’d surveyed some of my classes when I was in seminary, probably 70-75% of the students would have rejected the idea. The same would go for the faculty. You’d even find some Baptists who would say that the unborn child who is aborted would go to hell since he/she never had the opportunity to make a decision for Christ.

    If you’re going to argue against an “age of accountability,” I think the best route you can take is just to go straight to Scripture and point out clear passages that militate against such an idea.

    Or, you could try this approach if you’re talking to a parent. Ask them if they didn’t hold their children accountable for their actions before they knew that they were wrong. Did they just let their children take toys from another child and bring them home simply because the child didn’t grasp the concept of ownership and what it means to steal? How old do they think their child was before they understood that stealing was wrong? Is it OK for your child to steal just because they don’t comprehend that it’s wrong?

  21. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #20

    So, Rom 5:13–14 issue a sharp correction to the evangelical. Even though there was no written Law between Adam and Sinai, still death still persisted as sin’s wages. As the Law is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15), so those living between Adam and Sinai were not held guiltless. (Gen. 6:5)

    The Law pointed its accusing finger at those who did not even know the revealed Ten Commandments. Indeed, no one is by our sin-nature righteous. (Eccles. 7:20, Rom. 3:19-20)

    When pegged to the wall, even evangelical proponents of an age of accountability will have to admit they must speculate as to when it is. They ignore the mountainous testimony of Scripture passages our Lord has given us to show that in sin our parents conceived us and in sin we are born. (Ps. 51:15)

    The mountainous multitude of Scriptures showing our original sin take our nose from sniffing speculation to seeing nothing good in us at all. That way, the promise given originally to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15) fixes our eyes on Jesus, who saves us from the curse of the Law. He was crucified for us from before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4) And, sinless, He took upon Himself the whole world’s sin on Himself. (John 1:29) At just the right (appointed) time, Christ died for the ungodly. He died for us sinners, to reconcile us through His blood. (Rom. 5:6-11)

  22. Thanks much, for all the posts about prior to breath. Will be making a phone call later this morning. I know for a fact, that will give a great deal of peace, after 45 years. And yes, it was their lost one, it was said over. Thanks again.

    Boogie #13, that was the best post!!! Having done the 0-5 twice (am not convinced 12 & 13 aren’t harder..) I can honestly say, young ones are the most selfish, self consumed, most manipulative creatures I’ve met, or seen! Dutch’s famous phrase, “you’re cute kiddo, but not that cute, now go &…”. Boogie, thanks for the smile.

  23. Wouldn’t the same argument logically hold if we accept that infants are absolutely saved in their baptism, and some grow to reject that baptism, we would be better off drowning infants in the font, not simply drowning the old man but the new creation in Christ as well, that we might be confident in the endurance of the faith baptism works?

    We don’t twist God’s arm by trying to trap him with the Means of Grace, why would they try to trap Him with the Means of Bypassing All Need for Grace?

  24. “I would never tell a sinner of God’s love for them unless they first acknowledge they are sinners for God really does hate sinners”

    How does that passage go? For God so hated the sinful world, that he withheld his only Son..

    Or that other one, Christ died for us, not while we were sinners, but only for those who repented…

    Or that one about the Lord being quick to anger and lacking in love…


    If God hated the sinner, and not only the sin in the person, he wouldn’t bother sending Christ to cover our sins. He’d just destroy us, the sinner, in the lake of fire. Of course, those people who reject God and his promises, and thereby ask to be judged according to their works under the law, incur God’s holy wrath, but only because they rejected God, and not because God did not love them and send Christ to die for them.

  25. The passage about David’s son dying on the 7th day is often cited by baptists as a source of trust that their undecided and unbaptized kids will go to heaven. I’m not a Hebrew interpreter, but there’s nothing in that passage suggesting the baby is in heaven, so far as I’ve ever heard. Jews believed in resurrection, but until then, the body sat in the ground, or Sheol/Hades, etc. That is where David was resigned to meet up with his dead son. With the worms.

  26. But that’s not to say the dead believer won’t experience paradise upon death, just that their bodies will not be in heaven until judgment.

  27. If children under “the age of accountability” really are without sin, someone could have thrown the first stone at the woman caught in adultery. And proved Jesus wrong. It didn’t happen that way.

  28. Boaz #26,
    I’ve gotta say, I’ve read thru 2 Samuel 12:15-23, and thru John 11:38-40, and I didn’t see the last three words in your post in 26.

    Boaz, remember, we are speaking of dead little ones here. If you wouldn’t say it to a parent’s face at their child’s funeral OR in a sermon, not wise to do it on the Net.

    The world calls it being sensitive, I think, we call it mercy.

  29. Maybe it is best to revisit, an old hymn, we rarely relate to, let alone use.

    I Leave All Things to God’s Direction

    Concordia Publishing House, 1941

  30. Oh my goodness, Pastor Scheer! I have used that exact same line of thinking myself when discussing the need for infant Baptism with a Christian of the Reformed persuasion. I have also made it a point to shift Christians’ thinking away from the idea that it is unfair that some are saved and others are not.

    The true unfairness is that any are saved at all! I just had an eighth grade confirmation student ask the question regarding that fairness of God. What an opportunity to present solid, Lutheran thinking on an often mistaught and misunderstood subject. The American idea of fairness has certainly worked its way as leaven into the dough of Lutheranism. Glad to hear someone else voice the same thinking!

  31. @Rev. David Mueller #12

    Hey Pastor,

    Help me with something. I have a friend of a denomination that also does not baptize children or believe in original sin. When I tried to discuss with him the need to baptize his infant son and daughter, he retorts that they are not sinners. If I quote passages like yours above, he agrees that there is sin in the world, but since his son does not INTENTIONALLY sin, he is not sinning.
    As far as original sin and the death of babies (sinners) he points out that plants die too, but they don’t sin, so original sin is not the reason for death, even of babies.

    Any thoughts?

  32. @jim_claybourn #31

    Pr. Mueller may have more, but for quick starters, go back to Genesis 3. “Cursed is the ground because of you.” Plants die because Adam sinned. All creation became broken because of the actions of man.

  33. Animals (except the serpent) didn’t sin, but God made clothing of animal skins for Adam and Eve before they left the Garden. So animals died.

    The whole creation will be something new and marvelous at the last day.

  34. Sometimes, I’m amazed at articles at BJS, being relavent in life.
    Here’s my problem. I & our family, will be attending a funeral, for someone who was not, repeat not, a believer. Last one I went to was at 15 & remember how horrid it was for my parents. Now it’s me, my family member, and my boys (12 & 13)

    How does one prime kids for this type of funeral, let alone prime myself, for this family who are not believers, nor was the one who is now separated from Christ for all time, in hell.
    The thought breaks my heart & makes me physically sick. One of the best human beings I’ve ever known, took heartfelt care of my Mum & us, when we said “see you back at Home” to my Dad, and now our goodbye is eternal, with him.

    How does one do this? How do Pastor’s do this or advise for this?

  35. Christ judges, we don’t need to worry about how the dead will be judged. Christ defeated death, he descended to hell and declared victory and preached to the spirits there. Those elected in the book of life were written there before they were conceived. Like David, we should not worry or suffer ourselves over the dead. They are in Christs hands.

    For the living, we trust the word in our baptism and have perfect assurance there.

  36. Dutch, our practice of marking babies on ash Wednesday and remarking to dust the baby will return is the same thing. I just added worms. Death is real, but nothing for Christians to fear. Christ conquered death. So I think dark humor about death is fine. Like we hope about the French army. Where is its sting?

  37. What Jeremy Clifton #21 said! As a former Baptist, I’d advise you not to use arguments that could just as easily be turned back around against Lutherans. Baptists are against murder and abortion because of the commandment of God, not because of logical deductions that certain “benefits” could result from it They are against not sharing the Gospel because there is a commandment for the dissemination of the Gospel.

    At the same time, I will say that “age of accountability” ideas get Baptists in trouble sometimes. I recall a pastor of mine saying that God’s command to slay the Canaanites, including children, was ultimately an act of mercy because those young children would go straight to heaven. That COULD have really stupid repercussions. Then again, so could someone defending forced baptisms and murder afterwards, which has happened in certain histories.

    As for those discussing David’s son who died, watch out for presuppositions. The text is not about heaven, but as Boaz says, it’s about a father in grief, mourning that he will join his son in the grave. Compare Genesis 37:35 and how Jacob mourns the alleged death of his son Joseph. “Going to my loved one who has died” does not mean, in the Bible, the modern “joining them in heaven someday” connotations that we tend to bring to the text. The story of David’s son is a sad story, and we don’t know the end outcome. Far be it from us to use such a vague interpretation of this text to try to comfort a grieving parent! There are much clearer and better things that can be said.

  38. @Sue Wilson #5
    @Sue – Just an FYI: Unfortunately, my friend *just* read an argument from a ‘Christian’ that argued that abortion was better than adoption b/c at least then the child would go to heaven, where as a child adopted into a non-Christian home may never hear the truth and would go to hell. While I expect (and hope) that this belief is not common, it is still out there with eternal consequences. This breaks me heart. 🙁 I pray that this does not become a norm!

  39. @Young Blood #1

    Though you have taken the author to task rightfully (in accordance with his comment about logic) I think that we “get” what he is saying. If I may take a stab at it:

    If there is an age of accountability and if persons that die before that age are understood to have a guarantee of going to heaven it does follow that a Bible believing Christian “ought” to support abortion and infanticide if their motivation is to have their children go to heaven. That is the problem with having an alternative method to the traditional understanding of Christian redemption (hear the word, believe, repent, be saved). There are implications to these kinds of Doctrines (Age of accountability). I think that theologically speaking it is a semi-Pelagian view of salvation at best, and a convolution of salvation at worst.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.