August 20, 2007

Original Innocence?

Women will occasionally talk about the importance of protecting the "innocence" of their children -particularly their younger children. I've talked to Allen about this, and we both agree that theologically it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If we want to locate this philosophy in the history of ideas we would shelve it near Rousseau and Blake and at least half a dozen rows to the left of Augustine. The Apostle Paul would be in an entirely separate wing. Delve into any number of writers from the Romantic Era and you'll see blithe depictions of innocent man in his infancy. The varying shades in which their souls are painted may vary from the innocuous gray of a blank slate having no original bent or aim and guided solely by impressions and experiences, or their souls might be covered in the glittering white of primeval innocence whose pristine surface is smudged only by the black soot of civilization. In either case man is felt to arrive in a state of innocence or at least neutrality regarding moral issues. Contrast this with Ps. 58:3. "The wicked are estranged from the womb;they go astray from birth, speaking lies." Consider also Roman 5:12. "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." There are other verses of course, but these two make it pretty plain to me that, since we are sinful from birth, when we talk about the innocence of children we're really talking about something different than literal moral innocence. One of the things that emerged from my conversation with Allen is the idea that instead of protecting innocence we are training in innocence. How's that? Well indulge me a minute while I line up my axioms. 1. Christ being the perfect Son of God was innocent of all the charges brought against Him. 2. We have been clothed with Christ's righteousness, and 3. we are growing daily in the image of Christ (eg sanctification). Add to this a fourth premise that (4) we arrived on this earth already possessed of a fully functioning sin nature. The conclusion I draw from this is that it's the nature of the Gospel and the Christian life to grow more fully innocent the longer you live. Of course this is a different kind of innocence than the chasing after rainbows and puppy dogs sort that we associate with children, but I believe it's a Biblical definition.


Martha said...

A couple thoughts -

When I say I want to preserve my children's innocence, I mean I don't want them to learn about sex before they are ready. I don't think it is possible to protect from their own sin natures.

Also, does a child become sinful as it emerges from the womb? I think it is conceived in sin and is sinful from conception.

I don't believe we can become increasingly innocent. I believe all our good deeds are as filthy rags before the Creator. Only Christ's shed blood makes us innocent and we cannot become more innocent by anything we do.

On a side note, how is your pregnancy going? Or have you had the baby?

Natalie said...

Hi Martha! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I completely agree with what you're saying about their being some things that kids just aren't ready to know about -or at least know everything about.

I also want to reassure you that I don't believe that our own works count one wit towards our own redemption. However God does work in and through to accomplish our sanctification. My only point is that a lot of people throw around the word "innocent" and I'm not so sure that we're using it correctly. Think about Jesus for a sec. Even though He was the most innocent person to ever walk the earth He certainly wasn't naive or unknowledgeable about sin and its various manifestations. I just think we need to rethink how we as Christians understand innocence.

Ruth said...

It seems like we need a definition of words. What is innocence? Was Jesus really "innocent" being all knowing and understanding man's depravity?

I don't believe the theology that children are born sinless. I don't find that in scripture. Is that what you are touching on?

Anonymous said...

Please forgive the prying, but because you have kept us all up to date on your pregnancy...we are wondering how everything has gone. I would not ask...except I see that it is still mentioned in your description.

Natalie said...

Yes Ruth, slightly. I was merely musing on how we use the word "innocent" with regards to children and what it actually means as Christians to be innocent. I wrote this post as sort of a mental exercise to work through some of the implications of using that word in certain circumstances.

Anonymous said...

In support of your comments:

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. - Psalm 51:5

Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities. - Lamentations 5:7

TBE said...

Reminds me of what Liuzza said by way of explication when we were reading the Confessions--"If babies had guns, we'd all be dead."

Good to hear yer doin' well, sport!