Saturday, March 10, 2012

Are children capable of sinning?

Alternately, if "choosing" Christ is so all-fired important, why is it impossible for children to do?

I mean, it's so very lovely that God gives children a free pass because their poor little immature brains are incapable of the cognition required to have a *real* relationship with Him. Kind of a nice consolation prize - sure, you're incapable of making a meaningful, fully actualized choice, but, hey, at least you aren't penalized for it.

But that's kind of bass-ackwards, isn't it? *Salvation* being the consolation prize, while the ability to meaningful choose Christ is what determines whether someone has a "real" relationship with God.

And on top of that, that oh-so-kind exemption of children from the effects of having a sin nature - oh, yes, they are born with a *propensity* to sin, but they are incapable of *actively* sinning - the kind that counts - until they are cognitively capable of choosing to sin - has a dark side. Children are "saved" from sin - but the price is part of their humanity.

We are proclaiming them to be fundamentally *different* from adults, simultaneously less than human (inability to comprehend right/wrong, inability to meaningfully choose - that their experience of the world is so circumscribed as to cut them off from a huge swath of the human experience) and greater than human (that same lack renders them purer and above the fray of human fallenness), but in any case, not *fully* human.

Children might not be able to "really" sin, but that means they can't "really" do much of anything worth doing. They just exist in their little children's world, watching the goings-on of the "real world", but incapable of experiencing it themselves. They cannot do or think anything that *really* matters. Until that wonderful, terrible day of moral awakening, they are consigned to the ghetto of their immature minds.

And I just don't agree. Human development is a continuum, with children becoming more and more aware of the wider world, more able to deal with it as they grow, but they are still fundamentally themselves, fundamentally *human* from day one. They are lacking *no* essential quality of the human experience - the scope of their experience increases as the scope of their world increases, but the essential human nature, all its good and bad, is fully present and active from the start.

I look at my baby J, watch him explore his world with such intent, so seriously about his business of learning what's out here, and I can't see that he lacks *anything* of the human experience. We adults might look at the comparative simplicity of children's concerns and think the the simplicity of the object of their focus reflects the simplicity of their minds, but I do not believe that to be true at all. I remember being a child - everything was of the upmost importance, the upmost seriousness. I felt fully and deeply and I experienced the same range of human emotions and frailties and strengths then as I do now. All that has changed is the scope of my world.

I can remember back to age 4, and I knew right and wrong then . And it *mattered*. And my concept of right and wrong has matured as I have matured, but it fundamentally operates in the same way it ever has. And I look at my dc, and I can tell from how they react to the injustices they see that they, too, are aware of right and wrong, and it matters to them, too . From day 1 they have been *themselves*, they have fully experienced the core of what it is to be human, they lack *nothing*. The scope of their world might be small, their ability to communicate limited, but that is no cause to marginalize their experience.

People are people from the start. And have access to the complete human experience from the start, with all the good and bad that implies.

(And, food for thought, the lack of ability to make meaningful choices was *exactly* the criteria used to justify, theoretically (for now), "after-birth abortions" in an ethics journal. That lack rendered the infant less human in a way that justified parents choosing to kill them for the fully-human parents' benefit.

Not to mention the general idea behind abortion - that, despite being genetically a distinct human being, a fetus isn't *really* human until they *also* reach "x" level of development. How is this any different?)