Why Do Baptists Need to Invent the Age of Accountability?
First, by their definition, the age of accountability means that one has reached the age where she is personally responsible for her decision to accept or reject the salvation made possible by Jesus Christ. (Author’s note: human free will decisionalism is a mythical way of salvation).
Until one reaches that age, she is automatically saved, especially if she is a newborn baby. This is true for them because many do not believe in original sin (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:12–21), let alone God’s eternal election and reprobation (Rom 9; Eph 1). Note the inconsistency in their message of salvation based on a person’s age!
What is the actual age of accountability? No one knows because this idea is not in the Bible. This idea is essential to Baptists, however, because they know toddlers have a problem with credible professions of faith in God’s salvation through Christ.
Most Baptists are unsure how young one can be to receive baptism. Can a five-year-old fully understand Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sins and propitiation of the wrath of God?
To avoid any suggestion of belief in the Roman Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which is Rome’s idea with infant baptism, conscientious Baptists will prolong baptism for candidates until they can judge the condition of the candidate’s heart and be sure of regeneration.
Again, how long? Who judges the heart? Is it God or a Baptist pastor? What if the candidate is a good liar or a rote learner? Or worse, what if he is perceived to be a good person!
The argument for age of accountability is highly suspect.
A better idea is infant baptism for believers’ children, in which baptism is seen for what it is — a sign of covenant entrance. When a baby is sprinkled with water, she is not saved. She has received the sign which signifies what God has done for His elect people through redemption and regeneration. He has given His Word of promise to save them from their sins by electing them, Christ dying for them, and the Spirit baptizing them.
Neither paedo nor credo-Baptists are infallible in their application of baptism.
For the credo Baptist, the elder has not discerned correctly, when a non-believer is mistakenly baptized.
For the paedo Baptist, there is little concern for baptized unbelievers, because the elder baptizing is not saying, “This is a confirmation of this child’s salvation.” Rather, he is saying, “Our God is faithful to do all He has said He will do in salvation, and this baby, born into a Christian family, is received into our Christian church family for nurture and admonition in the Lord.”
Whether the baptized baby is elect or reprobate is God’s decision, for He has said, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy (Rom 9:15–16).”
Salvation is by God’s grace (Eph 2:8–9), and it has nothing to do with age or human accountability to do something to make it happen.
At the end of the day, you may be a regenerate, unbaptized thief on a cross, or a wicked, greedy baptized magician. Baptism is still only a sign that God is faithful to His elect people, who eventually believe in their heart, because Spirit baptism has become a reality (Mt 3:11; Acts 2:38; 11:16, 18), and then confess with their mouth that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God (Rom 10:9–10).
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 8, 2022