The Age of Accountability
Christians who believe the immortal soul myth claim humans are born with an immortal soul living within their physical body. When the body dies, the soul lives on. At the resurrection, the soul is reunited with an incorruptible physical body which lives forever. This is the "resurrection of the body" doctrine. The soul, which then lives in this new physical body, spends eternity in heaven or hell depending on whether or not that human believed in Jesus before the death of his first physical body on earth.
There are many obvious flaws in the above beliefs. The flaw that worried Christians is what happened to the souls of humans who died too young to make a choice regarding Jesus. This affected them because many had children. Is it fair to have the souls of children and their attached incorruptible bodies burn in hell eternally if they died as babies? Of course not. Therefore, they fabricated the age of accountability doctrine to protect their children. This doctrine states that if a child dies before reaching the age of accountability, he or she goes immediately to heaven since they have never knowingly committed a sin. This is not a fixed age for all children. It is the age at which the child can distinguish good from evil and is capable of making a personal decision regarding accepting Jesus as his Savior from the consequences of sin. Thus the age will vary depending on intelligence, environment, etc. Suffice it to say the age of accountability might typically be in a range from six to eight years of age.
Based on the age of accountability doctrine, Andrea Pia Yates was logically justified in killing her five young children and sending them to heaven to be with God. Otherwise, one or all of them might have been condemned to an eternity in hellfire! Since Jews do not believe in Jesus as their Savior, should we thank the Nazis for murdering Jewish children during the Holocaust? After all, the only way any Jew is going to avoid hell is to die before reaching the age of accountability or convert to Christianity, since the only path to salvation is through Jesus:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
This is made even more tragic because the Jews are God's chosen people. Is it a blessing if most underprivileged children in third world countries die? After all, that may be the only way for them to avoid hell.
On the other hand, if a person lives to be a hundred years old, but never even hears the name Jesus mentioned, is it fair for him to spend eternity in hellfire? There is apparently no Christian doctrine to cover older humans who never hear the word of God. Christians reduce any guilt this causes by funding missionaries to foreign soil in an attempt to save these lost souls. Christians are content on the home front that the age of accountability doctrine protects their children. When someone deeply believes what is taught and acts by murdering their children and sending them to heaven while they are still innocent, the church is quick to respond that they do not teach the murder of children!
Although the age of accountability doctrine was created due to the immortal soul myth, there is actually some support for this theology in the scriptures. When the children of Israel rebelled against the commandments of God after departing Egypt, God let them wander in the wilderness so the sinful adults would die off and not see the Promised Land. However, those who were children and had no knowledge of good and evil were allowed to take possession of the Promised Land:
Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. (Deuteronomy 1:39)
There is further indication that these "children" were everyone under the age of twenty:
For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the lord... (Joshua 5:6)
These "men of war" are defined in the book of Numbers:
From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies. (Numbers 1:3)
There is evidence that this innocence of children applied to Jesus Christ also:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. (Isaiah 7:14-16)
Suppose that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are eating breakfast and Joseph instructs Jesus to stop playing with His food. If Jesus continues playing with His food, He has violated one of the Ten Commandments:
Honor thy father and thy mother... (Exodus 20:12)
However, if Jesus is six months of age at the time, it is not a sin, because sin is knowingly transgressing one of God's laws. Since a six-month-old baby does not understand His father's request, it is not a sin.
Today, the age of accountability theology is a moot point. Only under the Old Testament could one gain salvation by obeying all of the law. That is, by never sinning. However, the New Testament has now superseded the Old Testament:
In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13)
The only criteria for gaining salvation under the New Testament is a belief in Jesus. Even though a child might die before he ever commits a sin, he will not enter the Kingdom of God because he is sinless. That was the path to salvation under the Old Testament covenant which is no longer valid. Since the time of Jesus' crucifixion, the only path to salvation is to believe in Jesus, and babies do not believe in Jesus:
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Andrea Yates was misguided by her religion, as are most of us! When children die before reaching the age of accountability, they are simply dead. They will be resurrected at the second resurrection as mortal beings and make their choice about eternal life or the second death after that time. It is all about making choices, and man is the only animal which can choose.
Proceed to the next chapter.
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