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But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:16, NIV)

To those Christians who believe in Original Sin, what did Jesus mean by saying that the kingdom of God belongs to children?

Do they believe that innocent* children will also go to Hell?

(* Innocent in the sense that they have not started the first act of sin.)

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Most groups who believe in Original Sin say that it is a Sin Nature that we inherit from Adam by virtue of being human, not by "starting an act of sin" ourselves. As such the question is moot for most of us because there are none innocent. Is this what you would like explained in an answer or is this directed at some subset who believe in original sin but not a sin nature (I'm not sure who that would be...)? –  Caleb Feb 19 at 14:11
    
@Caleb I don't know how many types of theology are there regarding Original Sin. –  Mawia Feb 19 at 14:16

2 Answers 2

Jesus' remarks were that those who would receive his teachings would be like little children. Also see the Beatitudes, which provides more detail about the simple childlike faith (my words) of those that would receive him (meek, pure in heart, peacemakers, etc.).

The Kingdom of God belongs to those who can accept Christ in the same way a little child simply believes an elder.

On the topic of original sin, Protestant teachings (although there are obviously exceptions) from approximately Martin Luther onward are along the lines that Christ's blood atones for children until the age at which they are capable of making a conscious decision to accept or reject His Grace. This is commonly referred to as the Age of Accountability. The doctrine of Age of Accountability is that there comes a point in your life when you must make a choice for which you will be judged (see Romans 14:12); the actual point in a child's life at which one becomes capable of decision making is not specified in scripture, and in my opinion would differ for each individual. Prior to this age, Christ's blood atones for "original sin" having paid the price "once for all" (Hebrews 10:10).

Romans 14:12 - So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.


Roman Catholic teachings, on the other hand, states that those who die without first being baptized remain under original sin, and therefore descend to hell (or Limbo, in some interpretations).

Council of Lyons II: “…The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, to be punished with different punishments…-- (Denzinger 464)

Council of Florence: “…Moreover, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds.— (Denzinger 693)

Pope John XXII: “It (The Roman Church) teaches… that the souls… of those who die in mortal sin, or with only original sin descend immediately into hell; however, to be punished with different penalties and in different places.” (Denzinger 493(a).

"It has been decided likewise that if anyone says that for this reason the Lord said: "In my father's house there are many mansions"(JN14:2): that it might be understood that in the kingdom of heaven there will be some middle place or some place anywhere where the blessed infants live who departed from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life, let him be anathema. For when the lord says :"Unless a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God"(Jn3:5), what Catholic will doubt that he will be partner of the devil who has not deserved to be a co-heir of Christ? For he who lacks the right part will without doubt run into the left" (Denzinger 102 fn.2; 30th edition)

Note that current Roman Catholic church doctrine makes allowance for the possibility of cleansing from original sin for unbaptized children. Source.

In the documents of the magisterium in the Middle Ages, the mention of “different punishments” for those who die in actual mortal sin or with original sin only (“As for the souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, they go down immediately to hell, to be punished, however, with different punishments")[66] must be interpreted according to the common teaching of the time. Historically, these affirmations have certainly been applied to unbaptised infants, with the conclusion that these infants suffer punishment for original sin. It must be observed however that, in a general way, the focus of these Church pronouncements was not on the lack of salvation for unbaptised infants, but on the immediacy of the particular judgment after death and the assignment of souls to heaven or hell. These magisterial statements do not oblige us to think that these infants necessarily die with original sin, so that there would be no way of salvation for them.

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Your block on "Protestants" is definitely not representative of Reformed Protestants, nor indeed of many other not so Reformed groups. I can's speak for the Catholic section, but I don't think this answer as put is useful for de-mystifying the terminology problem the OP is stuck on. –  Caleb Feb 19 at 14:29
    
I added clarification to my answer that there are exceptions to the Protestant belief I outlined. I am attempting to answer the question "Can innocent children go to hell" from both the Protestant and Catholic viewpoints (generally, although there are obviously going to be exceptions). Can you help clarify anything I could have expressed better? –  Bob Black Feb 19 at 14:47
    
In this context, it should also be mentioned that the Catholic Church doesn't hold that unbaptized children necessarily die in the state of original sin. Catholicism allows for the possibility that there may be a way for God to cleanse unbaptized children of original sin before death. "These magisterial statements do not oblige us to think that these infants necessarily die with original sin, so that there would be no way of salvation for them." - vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/… –  LoveTheFaith Feb 20 at 2:23
    
@BobBlack Vatican II people don't believe those Dogmas anymore, you could maybe say traditionalists believe that. –  apocalypse_info_click_here Feb 20 at 3:59
    
@LoveTheFaith thanks for the correction, I have edited based on the source you provided. –  Bob Black Feb 20 at 21:18

I am reminded of another saying of Jesus -

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

Now, I know a lot of people who are poor in spirit and they're not even Christians. Does that mean they automatically go to heaven without Christ? I do not think so. Put it differently- if merely being poor in spirit is enough to go to heaven, what is the need for Jesus Christ?

I therefore think Jesus is suggesting that heaven is surely made for people who are poor in spirit, but merely being poor in spirit may not suffice to get them there - they need the way (John 14:6) - Jesus Christ.

In the same way,

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Luke 18:16) means that the kingdom of God is surely made for those like little children, but merely being little children may not suffice to get them there.

I believe in Original Sin and I am a Catholic.

Catholicism holds that every human is born in a state deprived of grace, called original sin. We see Paul mention that we are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). If we are children of wrath by nature, then it also means that little children are children of wrath by nature. It would therefore seem contrary to think that children of wrath automatically make it to heaven if they die in that state.

Therefore, cleansing from original sin seems to be a necessity to enter heaven. Another poster mentioned that Catholic teaching says that "infants who die without first being baptized remain under original sin, and therefore descend to hell". However, this is not true.

While it's true that the Catholic church does hold that "those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, they go down immediately to hell, to be punished, however, with different punishments" (Council of Lyons II), it does not hold that unbaptized children necessarily die in the state of original sin.

The current Catholic understanding is articulated in the document called THE HOPE OF SALVATION FOR INFANTS WHO DIE WITHOUT BEING BAPTISED

The affirmation that “the punishment for original sin is the loss of the beatific vision”, formulated by Innocent III,[65] pertains to the faith: original sin is of itself an impediment to the beatific vision. Grace is necessary in order to be purified of original sin and to be raised to communion with God so as to be able to enter into eternal life and enjoy the vision of God. Historically, the common doctrine applied this affirmation to the fate of unbaptised infants and concluded that these infants lack the beatific vision. But Pope Innocent’s teaching, in its content of faith, does not necessarily imply that infants who die without sacramental Baptism are deprived of grace and condemned to the loss of the beatific vision; it allows us to hope that God who wants all to be saved, provides some merciful remedy for their purification from original sin and their access to the beatific vision. (36. b)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states -

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. - (CCC 1261)

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