AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY- Introduction
If Christ is the only way to salvation, what happens to children who die before they’ve had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ consciously as their Lord and Savior?
AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY- Children Innocent?
The question of children who die before consciously having had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ is one which I’m sure is on the heart of many parents. We find in Matthew 18:3-6 that Jesus pointed to children as examples of those who will inherit the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 19:14). David, of course, in 2 Samuel 12:23, expressed the belief that one day he would be with his child who had died. These passages are frequently used to argue that children are deemed innocent by God until they reach the “age of accountability.”
AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY- Is anyone really innocent?
But is this really the case? And more importantly, if this is the case, how do we reconcile this “period of innocence” with the fact that everyone is born and conceived in sin — and because of this is subject to condemnation (Rom. 5:12-19)? If, in fact, everyone stands guilty before God because of a corrupted nature, and if everyone is subject to the wages of sin — which means death — how can we truly say that the child I’ve described here is really innocent?
AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY- Varying Views
What makes this question even more challenging is the fact that Scripture remains largely silent on the subject. However, a variety of solutions have been proposed by theologians. For instance, some theologians say that if a child should die before reaching an age of accountability — an age when he or she is capable of making a conscious moral choice — then God, out of grace and mercy, will save that person. Still others believe that God knows (because of His foreknowledge) whether or not a child would have accepted Christ had he or she lived long enough to make a decision, and that God would judge them accordingly. Well, alongside these two positions are a host of other views.
AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY- God of Consummate Love
Although from a biblical perspective I can not tell you with certainty which view is correct, I can tell you that there is no denying that we are all born and conceived in sin. The comfort, however, comes from the very nature of God, because we know that God is a God of justice (Deut. 32:4). We also know that God is a God of consummate love; He’s loved us with an everlasting love and He’s drawn us by His loving kindness (Jer. 31:3). Therefore, we can rest assured that everyone, particularly children, will be judged fairly and in love.