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The imputed sin but not imputed guilt argument made here is still and argument from silence. Its just speculating. It still does not address the federal headship of Adam. Answer me this, is the typical traditionalist denying total depravity and the plain teaching of Romans 5 just because they want to tell a grieving mother their dead baby is in heaven? Can we just trust the infants to God without having to do Biblical gymnastics as demonstrated above?

Steve Martin

The Bible clearly states that "none are righteous, no not one", and that "in my mother's womb I was conceived in sin".

John the Baptist seemed to have some measure of trust in the Savior, while he was still in the womb.

The Holy Spirit is able to speak to us "in sighs too deep for words". So while we may not understand how, we have to say that little ones, babies, are can receive a measure of faith.

The Lord even told us that "we must become as these little ones...". If little ones were not capable of faith, then Jesus gave us a misleading picture of what faith is all about.

And finally, what kind of a God do we have? A gracious one.

I would hope and pray that He would, out of his kindly heart, take the little ones unto Himself. But no one can say for sure...about anyone...but the Lord Himself.

Randall Cofield
In the sight of God the redemptive work of Christ seems to have left the infant in a position comparable in some respects to that of the unfallen Adam. Before the commission of conscious, actual, willful sin he does not need to be saved by an act of faith, but is safe.

An infant can (and does) commit unconscious sin, rendering them, in fact, sinners. Yet by this reasoning infants--being, in fact, sinners--are granted entrance into the holy presence of God sans actual redemption through Jesus Christ.

This violates two cardinal truths of Scripture: The impenetrable holiness of God and the alone-sufficiency of Christ's redemptive work to bring us to God.

In other words, this "safe" paradigm creates "another" way to God than salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

This stretch is only necessary when faith is presumed to be entirely an act of libertarian free will. If, however, faith is a gift and creation of Almighty God, the salvation of infants is no difficulty at all.

Ron Hale

Thanks for your research and writing on this subject and thanks for introducing us to the work of C.W. Koller!

Blessings my Brother!

Jeremy Crowder

I will definitly be sharing this post. I find it very helpful as an advocate myself of an age of accountability.

peter lumpkins


I’ll try to address most of the questions logged. If I fail to address yours, please remind me.


No, Koller is not arguing from silence. Nor is he offering mere speculation. It’s true there is a measure of speculation on the subject of infant salvation because the Bible doesn’t seem to explicitly address it per se; yet most of us grant the legitimacy of proper inference from biblical texts. And, the question you ask only begs the question—“is the typical traditionalist denying total depravity and the plain teaching of Romans 5…?”—not to mention simplistically dismisses the argument of men like Koller as catering to sentimentalism rather than what they understand the Bible to teach. In short, no, it’s not just about answering a grieving mother. Finally, you ask why we just can’t “trust the infants to God without having to do Biblical gymnastics as demonstrated above?” First, you assume Koller’s interpretation to be “Biblical gymnastics” but offer no real reasons why.

Second, the same could be asked about people who’ve never heard the gospel—why not entrust them to God? Third, to ignore the eternal destiny of such a gargantuan demographic of the human race seems intuitively suspect. Infants who die in infancy—40 million+ alone since 1973’s right to abortion legislation, not to mention all the other deaths of children by accident, disease, and crime—cannot be ignored. Infants—including the unborn fetus—are people too; and all people are made in the image of God. And, since all people spend eternity in either one of two places—heaven or hell—infants spend eternity in either heaven or hell. Thus, the question possesses enormous significance


First, Koller did not deny the universality of sin. He explicitly affirms it.Second, you infer entirely too much from the passages you cite. Nothing indicates in Luke’s narrative about John “leap[ing] in her womb” to demonstrate he possessed “some measure of trust in Jesus as Savior” (1:42). The same goes for Jesus’ appeal to “become as these little ones.” You’re stretching beyond what may legitimately be inferred from the text. And, yes we do have a gracious God, something Koller presumes throughout his essay. Finally, I’m afraid I do not share the skepticism you apparently do that we cannot have confidence in personal relationship with God.


First, Koller does not argue infants are not sinners per se. “The sinful state of the infant, already established, is emphasized in Scripture by the doctrine of total depravity.” He clearly affirms infants are born in sinful flesh—original sin. What Koller denies is, infants are condemned for being guilty of original sin, a teaching having roots in Augustine. In fact, Augustine appears to have created the doctrine of imputed guilt during his debates with the Pelagians. And, it’s fairly established among a broad range of scholars that Augustine completely misread Romans 5:12 basing his interpretation upon the Latin rather than the Greek text, thereby insisting “all have sinned” to mean “all have sinned in Adam.”

Second, you assert “An infant can (and does) commit unconscious sin, rendering them, in fact, sinners.” First, whatever an “unconscious sin” is you’ll need to explain. Second, not even Augustine believed infants actually committed sin. You’ve out-Augustined Augustine! Rather, for Augustine, infants were guilty of original sin [i.e. because they were seminally in Adam as all human beings were and are] and therefore destined for eternal wrath unless they were baptized to wash away original sin [which, incidentally, given Augustine’s premises, apparently all aborted babies, still births, etc. would automatically be destined to hell since they could not have been baptized). However, infants dying in infancy would a) be granted a lessor portion of hell than mature adults who refused baptism would be; b) since infants had not reached an age of actually sinning, they would receive the lessor torment. Koller presumably is referring to Augustine when he speaks of the view--a view Koller rejects--which leaves unbaptized infants with "the easiest place in hell."

Third, the two cardinal truths you cite (God’s holiness & sufficiency of Christ’s cross-work) as being contradicted by Koller’s view are not well-taken. Koller’s position seems to argue that babies are safe because of Christ's cross-work not contrary to it. They are saved by sheer grace just like we are. As for there being “another” way to salvation I fear you do not understand. In other words, it’s no more “another” way to salvation than Classic Calvinism which insists a genuine faith is a working faith or a faith which must bear fruit and/or a repentant faith. When you can intelligently explain how an infant or unborn fetus displays a “working faith” and/or a “repentant faith” I’ll be glad to consider your assertion about “another” way to be saved.

Fourth, so-called “libertarian free will” is not the issue, Randall. Nor do I believe you can intelligently explain how faith is given to a newborn or pre-born infant. Nor is there the slightest biblical evidence that new borns, et all require faith unless you already presume the imputation of adamic guilt. But if you are presuming adamic guilt, you’re doing nothing but begging the question.

Finally, as for infant salvation being no difficulty at all, I think it happens to be one of the Achilles heels—perhaps the chief one at that—for mainstream historic Calvinism. For given their undue preoccupation with unconditional election, it seems to dictate the two-fold conclusion that a) elect babies who die in infancy go to heaven; b) non-elect babies who die in infancy burn in hell. Few Calvinists today embrace that view, however. Rather they insist all babies dying in infancy go to heaven.

Ron & Jeremy

Thank you brothers. I’m glad the essay was helpful. Peace…

With that, I am…


peter lumpkins

To all,

Actually, the point of his post was not to necessarily to make a biblical case for inherited sinful nature in contrast to imputed sinful guilt. Rather my point was to show, historically, that Southern Baptists have not been monolithic on this subject. Koller is an example as is Conner, Dargan, and Mullins for a version of the inherited sinful nature view. That is, infants possess original sin in the form of a sinful nature but Adam’s guilt does not transfer to them. On the other hand, earlier SBC theologians were more apt to embrace the idea of imputed guilt. Boyce would be representative of the latter. He wrote:

“The conscience of mankind has universally taught that this condition of their natures is sinful, and is as fully worthy of punishment as the personal transgressions which proceed from it.

The Scriptures plainly assume and declare that God righteously punishes all men, not only for what they do, but for what they are… It follows from the facts in these last two statements, that a corrupt nature makes a condition as truly sinful, and guilty, and liable to punishment, as actual transgressions. Consequently, at the very moment of birth, the presence and possession of such a nature shows that even the infant sons of Adam are born under all the penalties which befell their ancestor in the day of his sin. Actual transgression subsequently adds new guilt to guilt already existing, but does not substitute a state of guilt for one of innocence” (James Petigru Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, 249-50, emphasis mine).

Clearly, Boyce followed the Princeton theologians on this point. Nonetheless, as Calvinism waned more steadily as the 19th ended, Boyce’s federalism waned right along with it.

With that, I am…


Bennie Conkright

"Scripture nowhere expressly states that a child dying in infancy is saved, nor is it taught that the infant is lost." And, "While there is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that the infant has fulfilled the conditions of salvation there is also nothing to indicate that this was necessary." I appreciate the context of this post in the fact that I have mourned the death of a son at 12 hours of age. Each year on his birthday I rejoice in the fact that I believe I will see him again one day in heaven's glory. A verse that I have held on to is 2 Samuel 12:23. At the loss of his son, David found these words, "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." I must hold on to a merciful God being merciful to my 12 hour old son so that the works of God might be displayed in Him.
Hello, my brother. Blessings to you. Our date with a cup of coffee still holds.


Amen Bennie!

peter lumpkins


Brother, it's been too, too long. I trust you and K are well. Know I appreciate your sharing your heartfelt contribution. Much more frequently than we realize we realize, we roll our theological assertions in steel wrappers of theory and raw, lifeless propositions over which we tug back-n-forth, pulling, flinging, and socking each other with "points" as if theology is nothing more than a fun day picnic. And, it's living experience like you've just logged which makes our jousts appear futile. For you and K, Koller's 90 year old essay speaks hope not proposition. With Job, we place our hands over our mouths and remain silent--

"Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee?
I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Once have I spoken; but I will not answer:
Yea, twice; but I will proceed no further"(Job 40.3-5)

Grace, my brother. Yes, we need coffee. Soon...very soon.


I like the part of this essay in some respects, but not in others.

I cannot come to the conclusion that the infant is like Adam before the fall.

How about we simply affirm the good points in this article - that all humans have a sin nature that they cannot escape and that all humans will sin when the get the chance and that the infant is incapable of faith.

From there, why don't we leave this to God? God is loving and just. What He does is right.

This is a mystery.

We have the knowledge that God is just and will be just in his dealings with infants who die. That is a great comfort to give people.

We do not need to resort to guess work on this.

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