So said a caller on a recent Albert Mohler radio program, where the conversation was about age and moral responsibility (in light of the recent execution style shootings in Washington state, and the discussions of clemency that have surrounded that). Albert Mohler asked whether age mattered when dealing with moral accountability. Can persons be too old? Too young?
In this very interesting conversation, Mohler notes that we are all “sinners from the get go”. The question of each person’s sinfulness – and the need for many and various things to restrain us – is not in question. What is in question is the issue of moral responsibility, accountability, and punishment. In the program it is noted that “governments are often faced with deciding how society should punish both the young and the old for wrongs they have committed.”
Futher, “the difficulty comes in deciding how judgment should be carried out against those who are weak and immature” (these summaries are also found here). What I found particularly interesting is that Mohler did not limit the discussion only to matters of civil government, but also brought up passages from Deuteronomy chapter 1 (v. 35 and 39), which he often has.
In his article, The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?, he writes:
“God specifically exempted young children and infants from [dying in the Wilderness after 40 years of wandering — Deuteronomy 1:35], and even explained why He did so: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.” (Deuteronomy 1:39)
Mohler asserts that all of us are born in sin, are indeed sinners, and moreover die because of our own sin. And yet, he also believes that infants will be saved because they have never sinned consciously in the flesh. I have heard many Lutherans take on the notion of “the age of accountability”. Yet I have never seen anyone directly take on Mohler’s concerns here, which seem to be rooted in a rather clear passage of Scripture. It seems to be a unique challenge, and one worthy of addressing. Hopefully, sometime in the future, I can post on it again, but I certainly invite other’s thoughts about it now for the time being.