Believe it or not, the Bible does not give a direct, straightforward
answer to this question, so one must infer the answer from passages
indirectly related to the question. Common sense tells us that God
definitely would not send a baby who never had the opportunity to even
know about God or to commit willful sin to hell, but common sense is not
as valuable a piece of evidence as scripture.

Jesus made a number of statements about children which seem relevant. For
example in Matthew 18:2f Jesus said, in answer to a question about who is
the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; “I tell you the truth, unless you
change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom
of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child
like this in my name welcomes me.” Further down, in 18:10 he says “See to
it that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you
that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
These passages tell us that God views children as humble and innocent. He
greatly values them as loved children and as examples to us adults! They
have angels watching over them, which may explain why it is that most of
us survived childhood alive, given some of the crazy things we did! In
these passages Jesus is not exactly saying they are bound for heaven if
they die while still children, but it seems impossible to move from here
to condemning children to hell. Indeed, in Matthew 19:13,14 Jesus said
concerning children who were brought to him, “Let the little children come
to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such
as these.”

Some would claim, based on Romans5:12-14 that children inherit the sin of
Adam, and are therefore condemned to hell because of the sin Adam
committed. This cannot be a correct interpretation of this admittedly
difficult passage, as it would contradict Ezekiel 18:19,20 which proclaims
in crystal clear words that the children do not inherit the sins of their
fathers, but that we are judged for our own actions.

So innocent children are already in the kingdom of God. Another question
which you did not get around to asking, but which naturally comes up is
when does a child lose his or her innocence. This is another question
which the Bible does not directly address. When does an innocent child
become accountable for his or her sins? Perhaps a parent of a stubborn two
year old might be tempted to label their child’s action sin. Perhaps when
a six year old son or daughter stubbornly refuses to empty the trash they
have crossed the threshold. In the end, I believe no one can give a
completely unambiguous answer to the question of the “age of
accountability,” but I would throw a thought out there. One should ask
oneself at what age a person would be intellectually able to make a
faithful choice to repent of their sins and to commit their whole life to
following Jesus: requirements for salvation through the blood of Jesus
Christ. Certainly no nine year old is capable of such a life-long
commitment. Certainly any eighteen year old is capable of such a decision
(assuming that they are not severely mentally retarded). Therefore,
somewhere in between these ages a person becomes accountable before God.
Because God, in his wisdom, does not supply an age, we should hesitate to
do so ourselves.

Please let me know if these answers leave any of your question unanswered.

John Oakes

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