I heard someone on the radio talk about people having a “sinful nature,” and as proof that we are all born sinners, he quoted Psalm 51:5 from the NIV. Are we really born sinners?—D. from Illinois.
Thanks for the question. This is one that has bothered people for many years. In fact, this one doctrine has led to all sorts of other doctrines and practices which are foreign to the Bible.
Before we go any further, let’s look at the passage, quoted in the NIV (since that was what the man referenced). This version of the Bible has David saying, “Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” When you read that passage by itself (which is questionably translated), it can sure make you think that we are all “born in sin.” But we need to look at the rest of the Bible first, then we’ll come back to this passage.
In order to understand where people are coming from when they say that we are all “born in sin,” we need to figure out how they came to that conclusion. They claim that all people are born sinful, condemned to hell from the time they were conceived (some say from the moment of birth) because of the sin of Adam. They claim that we all hell-bound sinners from birth because we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. This is why Catholics and Lutherans “baptize” (actually sprinkle) babies—to supposedly cleanse them of the sin of Adam.
But do we really bear the sins of Adam?
Let’s think this through for a moment. If every human is born sinful because of the sin of Adam, then that applies to everyone who has ever been born, starting with Adam and Eve’s first child. That would apply to every person under the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.
But this doctrine is 100% denied in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel, while speaking words directly from God, said, “the soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). And look at what else God says through this prophet: “The son will not bear the sin of the father, nor will the father bear the sin of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). God makes it incredibly clear that we do not “inherit” sin from any ancestors.
King David was incredibly upset, because his brand-new baby was incredibly sick. Then the baby ended up dying at just 7 days old. But, when the baby died, King David said these words: “Now he is dead…can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David, a prophet of God (Acts 2:29-30), said that he would be reunited with his son. Since David was a man after God’s own heart, and fully expected to go to heaven, that means he also fully expected his infant sin to be in heaven as well. This is because babies aren’t born in sin.
But suppose someone won’t accept these Old Testament examples as evidence. What then?
How about the New Testament, which clearly states that we will be judged on what we do, and not on what someone else does? All people will be judged, according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13, 2 Corinthians 5:10).
But let’s consider one more thing: if all babies are born sinful, bearing the guilt of Adam’s sin, then no one can be saved!
Whoa! Wait a minute! What do you mean by that???
If all babies are born in sin, born sinful, then that means Jesus Christ was a sinner from birth. That means Jesus wasn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice. And if Jesus isn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice then (1) His death on the cross couldn’t take away sin, and (2) the New Testament contains lie after lie when it says that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15).
So, which one are you going to believe: the Bible, which says Jesus never knew sin, or the people who claim all babies (which must include Jesus) are born in sin?
As for me and my house, we’ll believe the Bible.
But what about Psalm 51:5?
Yes, that’s where this question started, so let’s paint the picture. David has sinned, having committed adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan has confronted him and said, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s realization that he has sinned completely overwhelms him. And in that state, he writes Psalm 51.
He says, “blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me [that is, it’s all around me, it’s everywhere I look]. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me…purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:1-7).
David is poetically saying that all he can see is his sin. It’s like he’s always sinning. He’s such a horrible sinner, it’s like he’s done nothing but sinning. It’s like he’s been sinning since he was born. His sin is overwhelming him, and he’s begging for God’s forgiveness. He’s not saying, “I was a hell-bound sinner the instant I was conceived.” He’s saying, “I’m such a horrible sinner, it feels like that’s all I’ve done my entire life.”
And he’s not that different from us. Haven’t you ever said, thought, or heard the words, “I can’t do anything right”? Or perhaps, “All I ever do is mess up”? That’s how David was feeling when he wrote Psalm 51.
So, to answer the original question: No, we are not born sinners. We do not get our sin from someone else. We are born precious and free from sin. We become sinners when we ourselves disobey God’s law.
For further reading on this topic, check Luke 18:16 and Romans 7:7-9.
-Bradley S. Cobb
2 thoughts on “Bible Q&A – Are Babies Born in Sin?”
Hello Mr. Bradly,
I have read your article and I was a bit taken aback by your statement that babies are born sinless. then what age they become sinners? what makes them sinner anyway?
if so could you explain to me why then is the virgin birth of Jesus?
I am sure you may want to reconsider and edit this article, thank you
Let us examine a few things.
(1). consider Ezekiel 18, which says clearly – “The son does not inherit the sin of the father.”
Either you believe this, or you don’t. If you believe it, then the idea that babies are born in sin, somehow inheriting the sin of some forefather, is obviously wrong.
If, however, you believe that Ezekiel was wrong (even though these are God’s words to him), then you either believe he was (1) lying, and thus nothing he wrote is trustworthy, (2) mistaken, and thus nothing he wrote is trustworthy, or (3) telling the truth about what God said, but that it was God who was lying, and thus nothing Ezekiel wrote is trustworthy.
That passage in Ezekiel – even if there were no other passages to go along with it – is enough to prove that babies are not born in sin.
(2) Consider that David, who was a man after God’s own heart, said that he would see his infant son again. He said this with confidence. He said, “He shall not come to me, but I shall go to him.”
If babies are born in sin, then die in sin (which would have to be the case with all babies who die), then the only way David could see his infant son again was for David to go to hell.
Do you think, given how David is called “a man after God’s own heart,” that he would willingly reject God so he could go to hell? I really hope that the idea sounds as stupid to you as it does to me.
The only way David could have the confidence of seeing his dead son–while still being a “man after God’s own heart”–would be if he knew his son was going to be in heaven.
And the only way that is possible is if that baby was sinless.
(3) The promise of forgiveness of sins comes ONLY after repentance. This is true in the Old Testament (God never forgave unrepentant sinners), as well as the New Testament (God never forgave unrepentant sinners).
The only way someone can repent is if they have the mental capability to (1) recognize their sin, and (2) make the decision to change.
I am certain you would agree that babies do not have such capability.
Since babies cannot repent, only two options exist: (1) they are all eternally lost–no exceptions (for God is no respecter of persons), or (2) they are not guilty of sin.
(4) Consider the judgment verses in the New Testament. Each and every one of them speaks of a basis for judgment. Each one speaks of people being judged BASED ON THEIR OWN ACTIONS. “According to their works.” “On the deeds they have done in the body, whether they be good or evil.” “I was naked and you clothed me, etc.”
Never once in the Bible is someone told that they are being condemned because of the actions or sins of someone else. Why? Because that would be completely unfair and arbitrary–something God is not.
(5) The apostle Paul clearly states that before he knew the law, he was “alive,” that is, spiritually alive before God–he had not sinned and separated himself from God. But after he learned the law, he “died” because he sinned.
Either Paul was a liar, thus nothing he wrote can be trusted, or Paul was mistaken, thus nothing he wrote can be trusted, or God lied to him, thus nothing he wrote can be trusted, or else Paul spoke the truth, and anyone who disagrees with his statement cannot be trusted.
Either you agree with Paul that he was once “alive” prior to learning God’s word, or you believe Paul was wrong.
(6) A person becomes a sinner–when they sin. Sins done in ignorance (such as not realizing it was wrong) are always classified differently than sins done with intent. Hebrews 10:26 – “If we sin WILLFULLY…” Hebrews 9:27 – “the sins DONE IN IGNORANCE…”
Someone becomes a sinner when they (1) learn right and wrong, and (2) choose to do wrong. Babies do not know right from wrong, and thus cannot sin.
So, from all the above, the Bible teaches that (1) each person sins when they learn right from wrong and choose to do wrong, (2) that no one can inherit sin from their father, let alone their great, great, great, great, great, etc. grandfather, Adam, (3) that babies are sinless, and will be in heaven.
Why is there a virgin birth? Because in order for Jesus to be “God with us,” and to be “the Son of God,” then God had to be the Father. No human father could exist to bring about the Son of God.
In order for it to be completely clear that God was the Father of Jesus Christ, the mother had to be a virgin–someone who had never been with a man.
Thank you for writing, and I hope this gives you some more things to consider.