Friday, May 23, 2008

On the Nature of Babies

Before the day is out, Jackie and I will have the pleasure of seeing our fourth grandchild, Ava Annabelle Lee Bryant. Dewayne and Christa have arrived at the hospital, and the waiting has begun.

Singing Sam McAlley wrote this song just before Haydn (the big sister) was born in 2003:

The future looks much brighter;
There's hope within the world.
Today I held within my arms
A brand new baby girl.
And though I don't yet know her
I love her just the same.
What a blessing to watch her turn
When I call out her name.

{Chorus} Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God looked down on us and smiled.
Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God gave this precious child.

I pray that she will grow up strong,
I pray that she is wise,
I pray that she will find success
In a world filled with lies.
But most of all I pray that she
Will come to know the Lord,
To find the joy and happiness
That heaven will afford.

{Chorus} Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God looked down on us and smiled.
Fresh from heaven, such a blessin'.
God gave this precious child.

From the theological point of view, I have always regretted Augustine's wrongheaded assessment of children. He argued they must be evil, since they constantly cry and are so utterly selfish as infants. Augustine and Calvin promoted the "original sin" view of children, thinking they must be tainted somehow by coming into this sinful world. Sin is an act of will and cannot be inherited. You'd think to listen to some today that Adam & Eve ate of "the tree of the knowledge of evil and evil" instead of "good and evil."

Paul spoke clearly in Romans 7:9-11

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

The Law of God teaching Paul not to covet came inspired in the days of Moses (Romans 7:7-8), but for Paul it came when he was old and responsible enough to understand it. Before that time, as an infant and a small child, he was spiritually alive and precious to God. No sin was in his life at all. Yes, he like David was born into a world filled with sin (Psalm 51:5) and learned sin from those around him. God, however, did not make him wicked. He was alive spiritually at birth. This is why belief in "limbo" is a fantasy. When a little one dies, God takes him into heaven.

That all responsible people have weakness is altogether true. In Genesis 8:21 the Lord declared that man's intention is evil from his youth, but not at birth or from birth. Humans have to learn evil. Jesus understood that even his disciples could be weak. He said to his trained and closest friends and disciples at the Garden of Gethsemane, "Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation, for the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak" (Mt. 26:41).

Infants and small children are fresh from heaven and pure in heart. To such the kingdom of heaven already belongs (Mt. 19:14). They are alive to God, and their angels in heaven always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven (18:10). God is protecting and watching over them.

Well, pray for little ones to grow up and know the true and living God.

in Christian love,



Steve Higginbotham said...

Congratulations, Phil!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. We have several babies in the congregation where I preach. There was a time that there were few children and fewer babies. Now the sound of children and babies are in every corner. God has truly blessed us. May your children and your children's children be a blessing to you, the church and the world they live in.
Sonny Owens

Mark Littleton said...

Congratulations as well, Phil. I hope all goes smoothly.

Sonny, are you still in the Florence area? Where are you preaching now?

Terry said...

Congratulations, Phil!

Matthew said...

It is sad that Augustine made the innocent evil. Babies are pure, and a blessing. I am thankful that there is another grandchild in the family.

reborn1995 said...

i don't believe babies are born spiritually dead, nor the doctrine of original sin (whether formulated by the reformed or catholics), but do you think there are *no* internal consequences suffered by humans due to the fall? are all the consequences from the fall external/environmental?

Phil Sanders said...

Dear Reborn,
man was obviously and irreparably harmed by the fall (Rom. 5:12-19). Death passed on all men, because all sin. Little ones grow up in a sinful world and learn to sin--no doubt.

But man has weakness (Mt. 26:41). He wants to do right but finds himself often doing what he despises (Rom. 7:14-25). After the flood, God recognized that the "intention of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21). Man learns and lusts and goes astray (Rom. 7:7-11).

I am thankful we have a Savior, for we cannot save ourselves by ourselves.