Are your Children Natural Born Sinners?

A few years ago, the Babylon Bee published a satirical article entitled “Woman Finally Accepts Doctrine of Total Depravity Now That Daughter Is Two.” The article was about a young mother who became convinced about the doctrine of total depravity after her child became a toddler:

I had the hardest time coming to grips with the idea that all the people I see around me are marred by sin and without hope but for the grace of God,” the young mother told reporters. “But now that Charlotte is two—hoo boy. That innate depravity is shining through with the brightness of a thousand suns.

It was a fictional piece but it carried a grain of truth. As many parents can attest, sweet babies sometimes turn into little monsters.

As soon as the child discovers their will, selfishness rears its ugly head. Tantrums, uneaten meals, and an all-round refusal to do what they are told seems to prove the existence of original sin.

“Little Johnny is proof positive that we’re born rebels. Grab the rod. We’re going to train that sinfulness right out of him!”

Or maybe there is another way to look at it.

If you have been following my series on original sin, you will know that I do not subscribe to the idea that we inherited a sinful nature from our parents. I am convinced that Augustine’s doctrine of original sin is unbiblical. And illogical.

So why do two-year olds act like selfish little sinners? Because that’s how they’ve been raised.

A selfish toddler is a product of their upbringing. For their entire life, they have been waited on hand and foot.

If they are hungry, an adult will feed them. If they are dirty, an adult will wash them. They have done little for themselves and nothing for others.

Their selfishness is not inherited but is a learned behavior, and one that has been reinforced every day of their lives.

And that is exactly what God intended.

A selfish toddler is basically a big baby because what else are they going to be? For every day of its life, the toddler has had one lesson reinforced again and again: crying and making a fuss gets results. So of course they are going to cry and act out. This is the only trick they know.

Once the toddler is over the infantile hump of helplessness, they can be taught other skills, like self-control, kindness, and consideration for others.

Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

The Scriptures exhort parents to train their children. But if original sin is true and little Johnny is genetically inclined to sin, how will training help? You might as well train him to be tall.

“But Paul, haven’t you heard of the terrible twos?”

As a father of four, I am well-acquainted with the ways of toddlers. I have learned that the terrible twos are largely an invention of parents who are overwhelmed by the considerable challenge of training toddlers.

God made parents stronger, smarter, and faster than their children, yet some parents act like their kids are on the throne.

It is a blessing to have strong-willed children, and the last thing we want to do is break their little spirits. (“Don’t exasperate your children” (Col. 3:21).) But you’d have to be nuts to let a small child run your life.

This is not the place where I discuss Parenting 101, but let me leave you with this: Jesus said make a tree good or make a tree bad (Matt. 12:33). We make our children good by teaching them the ways of the Lord and by leading them to One who is the Source of goodness. And we make our children bad by sending them unprepared into a corrupt world full of lies and deception.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

A child’s heart is like soil. Into this soil we can sow the good seed of God’s word or we can let the devil plant weeds. We can nurture our kids with love, or we can neglect them. We can bring them up in the ways of the Lord or we can leave them to be raised by wolves.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), the founder of the Jesuits, famously said, “Give me a child till he is seven years old, and I will show you the man.” He understood that who we become is determined in early childhood. We are not born with a sinful nature but we can be made into full-blown sinners and this process is hastened by parental neglect.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2, NIV)

When young children are raised well, it brings glory to their Maker. When they praise the Lord, it renders his enemies speechless.

I’ve seen young children heal the sick, prophesy, and lead people to Jesus. I am not surprised when this happens because I know God has chosen the foolish and the weak to confound the wise and the strong.

Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives me; and whoever receives me does not receive me, but him who sent me. (Mark 9:37)

In the Gospels there were some who wanted to keep the children out of sight. This displeased Jesus. He put children front and center and said things like “whoever receives one of them receives me.” How do we receive a child in Jesus’ name? By seeing them as ministers ordained to declare God’s praise.

Original sinners? Hardly. How about original masterpieces, ready to reveal the gifts of their Maker?

If you think your children were born with a sinful nature and innately rebellious it will limit your expectation of what God can do through them. You’ll see the folly in their youthful hearts and miss the praise that God has ordained to silence his enemies.

But if you see your children as gifts from God and ministers of his grace, your expectation will help release them into their God-given destiny.


Extracted and adapted from Paul’s ebook, Original Sin: What Does the Bible Really Say? available now on Patreon, along with these great titles:

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20 Comments on Are your Children Natural Born Sinners?

  1. How does one go from being born in Adam (natural, of the earth, earthy) to being born again in Christ, if one is not born originally in Adam with his nature? From your presentation, when does the baby/child/adolescent become a sinner?

    • The human race is born captive to sin and death (Rom. 5:12, 18). Every one of us needs salvation. It’s not Adam’s nature we need to be delivered from, but his captivity. When original sin says babies are born hell-bound rebels, it harms our children and diminishes the gravity of our fallen situation. Jesus did not die merely to excise a sinful nature, but to deliver us from sin and death. More here.

      • Never knew being born in Adam meant babies “are born hell bound rebels”. Perhaps they are born with the knowledge of good and evil, which comes from Adam. No doubt, Jesus came to save mankind from sin and death.

        Just confused as to when, scripturally, a child/adolescent is subject to being condemned to sin and death, and without Christ. Jewish law seemed to indicate a child was subject to the law…its blessings and cursings around the age of 13. In the New Testament, when does a person enter into Adam’s “captivity”; at physical birth or some other time?

      • The scriptures are quite clear that children are too young to know right from wrong (Deu. 1:39, Is. 7:16). I have written about the age of accountability in this article.

  2. William Rudd // February 16, 2023 at 3:49 am // Reply

    Is it possible that it is neither selfish nor sinful for a relatively helpless and dependent child to ask for, cry for, etc., what they need to live? They do not have the physical, mental, or emotional capacity to do otherwise.

  3. rebeccapiamonte // February 16, 2023 at 8:07 am // Reply

    Love this 💕.

  4. Yes, original masterpieces, I love that.

  5. I don’t like this, and that’s not a criticism – Paul or anyone else ok..I maybe childlike and naive to some.-I don’t come from a Christian,believing background all I knew was before” Jesus” I was being,doing things that I didn’t like and needed help,forgiveness but was powerless to changehelp myself or find real help also I felt lost,empty,icky inside like Something was missing but did not know what was missing or why,I felt like “ an alien
    “in the world that the world was not real or right somehow and that there was another,better reality somehow and thought I was just insane for thinking like this.Then at ABBA Gods perfect timing at the right TIME He revealed Jesus and Himself to me and I was saved. Now being a parent of two beautiful unbelieving kids all I know and trust is at ABBA Gods perfect timing with them He too will reveal Himself to them and to my unbelieving family. Because of my own experience pre/post Jesus I DO not see/treat/react to them as wrotten,depraved,evil etc but as (“sinners” ) lost,,disconnected spiritually from God ,in need of a Saviour as I was so I love/treat them as Gods lost kids who Jesus died and bled for holding with God the day when He reveals Himself to them waiting,trusting in His perfect timing. I have no room in my heart as Jesus doesn’t to see/treat them any other way as that’s how He saw/dealt with me.I trust HIM to love/witness to them through me.I’ve previously fallen for dirty wrotten sinful doctrines it chewed me up spat me out made me into apious,unloving,fearful,judgemental,legalistic,Jesusless stink as it’s not Grace but of the law. Trust God to know what His kids need saved/unsaved to draw them to Him no matter how old they are and while we wait us believers need to relax/rest,trust more in Jesus’ finished work at the cross for us all.Romans 7 and 8.

  6. From David’s first relations with Bathsheba, a child was produced which was very sick and died seven days after birth (see 2 Samuel 12:18-23). Seems clear that the child has gone to a place where David will see him again. I have used this scripture to help comfort people who have lost young ones.

  7. Margaret Knott // February 18, 2023 at 8:21 am // Reply

    “The worst kind of preaching is preaching backed up by scripture. Preaching should come out of scripture. You see you can back up anything if you are selective in how you back it up. It’s the scripture itself which is it’s own interpreter.” ~ Charles Price, former pastor of People’s Church, Toronto.
    A Christian may have an aspiration for academic intellectualism (unknowingly perhaps) which can steer one down a spurious path, while not minding the voice of the Spirit. But it’s never too late to realize one’s error and reverse course. God receives Glory from repentance.🤷‍♀️
    Margaret, a top fan!

    • Wise words, Margaret. Those who preach original sin latch onto isolated scriptures, such as the one where David said he was conceived in iniquity, while ignoring others, such as the one where David said he was fearfully and wonderfully made. In my book I cover every single scripture used to defend and refute original sin and there is simply no contest. Original sin is thoroughly unbiblical.

      I truly do not understand the appeal of original sin. Aside from being unscriptural and portraying Adam’s sin as greater than Christ’s righteousness, it’s internally inconsistent in the sense that it leads to conclusions that contradict each other. Original sin does not resonate with the spirit or appeal to any sense of academic rigor. So why do some still hold to it? I suspect it endures for the same reason religion endures – it appeals to our religious flesh.

      • Margaret Knott // February 18, 2023 at 7:06 pm //

        🤗 You misunderstood me, Paul, I was talking about you. Please read it again and think about it. Surely every Christian has a blind spot/s…whether an 83 yr old wife & mother like me or a Billy Graham. Surely every Christian has some wood, hay and stubble in our ministering?

        You said “original sin does not resonate with the spirit.” Maybe not with your spirit, Paul, but it does with God’s Spirit! It’s basic to His new covenant in Jesus’ blood. It’s the good news of the Gospel.🤷‍♀️

        📖 “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.” (Proverbs 20:27a)
        Adam & Eve we’re born with their candles lit…ie. their spirits were alive unto God. Their candles, however, were snuffed out, extinguished, when sin entered the picture. Satan lied and man died.

        📖 “By one man, Adam, sin entered into the world…and death by sin (both spiritual and physical). It passed upon all men for all have sinned.”
        (Romans 5:12)

        Simply, we were all born with our candles unlit, separated from our maker. This wasn’t God’s plan B. He planned mans reconciliation before He created us. He would send the Light of the world.
        📖 “Awake, o sleeper, arise from the dead and Christ shall give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14)
        📖 “You will light my candle…the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28)
        Thanks for listening to me.
        God bless, Margaret.

      • Hi Margaret, thank you for engaging with me on this topic. Those are some wonderful scriptures but with respect none of them says our children are born with sinful natures. If it were true that sinners could pass on a sinful nature, why can’t righteous parents pass on a righteous nature? Is Adam’s sin greater than Christ’s righteousness?

        Original sin says you were born corrupt, defiled and lost, but the Bible says we become corrupt and go astray and turn aside. “All have turned aside and become corrupt” (Ps. 14:3). There are many scriptures that describe how this happens (e.g., Ps. 14:3, Gal. 5:4, 6:8, 1 Tim. 6:10, 21, etc.).

        The issue, as I have said from the beginning, is that the human race was born under the condemnation of sin and death. I think you agree since you quote Romans 5:12. Paul wrote more about sin than any other New Testament writer, yet he never said we were born with a sinful nature. You don’t need to have a sinful nature to sin – Adam didn’t have one. What we inherited from Adam was a death sentence. “Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men” (Rom. 5:18).

        Jesus came to set us free from sin and death. That is the good news, and it is far better than any invention of man.

  8. Jim Hildreth // March 22, 2023 at 4:52 am // Reply

    Let’s say a pregnant woman is rightly found guilty of murder and is sentenced to life in prison. Is it just for that child to be held in prison for life because of something the mother did?

    • Let’s say a young woman is transported from England to a penal colony in New South Wales in the 19th century. Where are her children going to be born?

  9. Jim Hildreth // March 22, 2023 at 8:17 am // Reply

    Not sure the two questions are equivalent. On the one hand is the question of morality, is it right or wrong that the mothers child should be held accountable for the sin of the mother. The other ask’s where the children will be born, which is not a question of morality but of position. The children will be born wherever the mother gives birth to them, fairly obvious.
    I would still like an answer to my original question from someone who believes we are blameworthy, held accountable because of something Adam did. Anyone can have an opinion, what does the Bible say? Thank you for this discussion.

    • That is my point – it has nothing to do with blame and everything to do with pedigree. Those who are born of Adam are subject to the condemnation that Adam brought on himself and his family (Rom. 5:12, 19). This is why we need to be born of Christ and adopted into the family of God. More here.

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