Age of Accountability

June 26, 2015

For those of us who practice believer’s baptism, there is a corresponding belief that children are safe until they reach an age of accountability. Admittedly, the phrase, “age of accountability,” does not occur in scripture, but I believe the concept does. Age may also be a misleading word. It may imply that I can pick a number — say age 12. Rather, I think it indicates a period of maturity when discipleship, belief, and repentance can take place, and there may be some who never reach this stage in life.

First, I reject the idea that we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin. Ezekiel 18:20 makes this clear: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (ESV). This means we are not sinners at birth. For a full discussion, other passages would have to be examined, but I think the point of Romans 5:12-21 is to say that Adam’s sin had consequences for all, so that Paul can also say, Jesus’ one act of righteousness can have consequences for all.

Second, children grow in all aspects of life including spirituality. This was true even for Jesus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52, ESV) Just as I cannot expect fine motor skills in small children, there are some intellectual and spiritual abilities that have to grow and mature as well.

Third, the Bible gives an example of children not being accountable. Out of the adults only Caleb and Joshua were going to enter the Promised Land because of the response to the spies’s report, but note what is said about the children: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” (Deuteronomy 1:39 ESV)

Fourth, Jesus says the kingdom belongs to children, which would indicate their acceptance by God: “but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:14 ESV)

Fifth, the Bible indicates an innocence that is awakened to sin and guilt: “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died” (Romans 7:9, ESV). See also Ezekiel 28:15 and Isaiah 7:14-15.

Finally, even those who practice infant baptism have some concept of an age of accountability in that they do not expect the same participation as an adult until the child reaches “the age of reason,” to borrow a phrase from the Council of Trent. This is evidenced by confirmation.

I think it is more consistent with the evidence of scripture to maintain a believer’s baptism and acknowledge that children are spiritually safe until they mature to where they can do the things of conversion: discipleship, belief, and repentance.

“Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers”

June 19, 2015

The book, The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers by Ken Canfield, suggest seven “secrets” or aspects of a father’s role. Effective fathers raise spiritually and emotionally mature children. If we want to be effective fathers we need to think about these and act on them.

  1. Commitment. Fathers need to commit to the role of husband and father and recognize its importance. Our society faces a great deal of fatherlessness. In 1950, 3.9% of all births were by unmarried women. In 2005, that number has risen to 36.8%. 70% of juvenile delinquents are from fatherless homes. In a practical way, fathers must plan time with the family and balance busy priorities.
  2. Know your child. We need to know developmental stages of children, but we also need to know our children as individuals. Who are their friends? What are their interests? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their days like? We do this to protect them, encourage them, and show affection to them.
  3. Be Consistent. Children need to see strong character in their father. He should practice what he preaches. He should demonstrate emotional maturity being able to govern his own moods and behavior. He should be consistent in his word. In other words, he keeps the promises that he makes.
  4. Protect and Provide. If there is a noise in the middle of the night, who gets up to check on it and who stays under the covers by the phone? I suspect that in most two-parent homes, Dad is the one who gets up to check, and protection is a good masculine trait. Providing for our families is an important spiritual truth. Consider the following passages: Genesis 2:5, 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Timothy 5:8, and Matthew 7:9-11 (an analogy between human fathers and our Heavenly Father).
  5. Love Their Mother. Paul stresses the importance of husbands loving their wives. The husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church. He should love and care for his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-33).
  6. Listen Actively. Children want attention from their father. Misbehavior sometimes is directed at getting attention any way they can. Fathers need to be reminded to listen actively. We need to put down our phone or tablet, turn off the TV, and rid ourselves of distractions so that we can listen.
  7. Equip Spiritually. Bringing a life into the world is a big responsibility, but it pales in comparison to the fact that this life also has an eternal destination. Fathers should be spiritual leaders equipping their children spiritually. See Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Psalm 78:1-8, and Ephesians 6:4.