SPECIAL TOPIC: THE AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

The church, following Paul, has focused on Genesis 3 as the source of human sin/evil. This developed into an Augustinian/Calvinistic emphasis on total depravity (i.e., human inability to respond to God unaided). This became one of the five pillars of Calvinism and a basic principle of Reform Christianity.

However, the rabbis never focused on Genesis 3 as the source of evil (some did focus on Genesis 6), but on individual responsibility based on knowledge and commitment. They would posit two intents (yetzers), one good and one evil. The classical example would be the rabbinical saying, "In every human heart are two dogs, one evil and one good. The one that is fed the most becomes the biggest." Therefore, humans are only responsible after a period of maturity and covenant knowledge and commitment (i.e., Bar Mitzvah for boys at age 13 and Bat Mitzvah for girls at age 12). Other biblical examples of this theological perspective are Jonah 4:11 and Isaiah 7:15-16.

To put this is in contrasting terms:

1. Paul/Augustine/Calvin focused on God's sovereignty and human inability.

2. Rabbis/Jesus/Paul focused on covenantal responsibility.


It is not an either/or, but a both/and! Be careful of theological systems! Realize that biblical truth is presented in tension-filled pairs (see Special Topic: Paradox in Scripture). Believers are to live godly lives within the tension, not desire quick, easy answers or playing the blame game!  Although the Bible does not specifically address the question of the age of accountability, there are two texts that hint about it:

1.  Deut. 1:39

2.  Isa. 7:16

Judgment is related to knowledge.  One must have a knowledge of disobedience before one can rebel.  Those who, because of

1.  age

2.  environment

3.  disability

do not know about God's will and ways, will surely not be held responsible for violating or rejecting that which they did not know.

I have come to the place in my walk with God that I trust His mercy, grace, and compassion in areas such as this, where there is no specific revelation.

See Special Topic: Covenant