Allow me to define this term for some who may wonder what the issue is all about. The "age of accountability" is the idea that there is an age where an individual becomes responsible for being able to distinguish between right and wrong. It suggests that until that point in time, children cannot be held accountable for their actions that would condemn them to Hell. Please know that there are overwhelming emotions that can get stirred in talking about this issue, but please allow me to pull some ideas from Scripture in order to help develop our theology.
What we do know:
- It cannot be refuted that everyone has a sin nature. David says, "Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). In another place he says, "The wicked go astray from the womb, they err from their birth," (Ps. 58:3). "For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God" (Ro. 3:23; 3:10).
- No one is saved on their own merits--it is entirely on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It is the through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit within them. Paul says, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Christ even said, "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3).
- Everyone's sins must be forgiven (even infants) since no unclean thing can stand in the presence of a holy God (Ro. 3:23; 1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 21:27).
- There are glimpses in Scripture where infants and children are shown special grace.
- John the Baptist. The Angel Gabriel said, before John the Baptist was born, "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). In some sense God brought about regeneration prior to John's birth.
- The Psalmist David. He said in Psalm 22:10, "since my mother bore me you have been my God." There is some sense where God is at work prior to an infant's ability to even reason.
- David when he sinned with Bathsheba. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and the infant died, he said, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Sam. 12:23). The assumption could be made that David believed he would see his son again in the presence of the Lord.
- David as King. David reflects back on his relationship with God and says in Psalm 22:9, "Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts."
- We can also observe that there are frequent patterns throughout Scripture where God saved the entire household of a believing family. I want to be very careful not to imply salvation to the entire household because one parent believes. In fact, some believing parents have children who walk away from the Lord and reject Him. When Scripture is silent, it is unwise for us to make definitive statements. However, this can be seen in some of these passages: Gen. 7:1; Josh. 2:18; Ps. 103:17; John 4:53; Acts 2:39; and Acts 16:31.
- Lastly, who could ever measure the superseding act of the grace of God? Romans chapter 5 paints a beautiful picture of the depths of His love and kindness despite our sinful condition. We can trust God to be God.