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Chosen7Stone
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Joined: 2003/7/21
Posts: 268
FL, USA

 Capacity to sin

Here's a weird question, but I'm sure I'm not the first -- just, use Bible verses if you claim to have the answer, please.
Do the mentally handicapped or retarded have the capacity to sin?


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Mary M.

 2003/12/24 16:39Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re: Capacity to sin

Mary
this is a question close to my heart. I have a 30 year old daughter with a mental age of about 2 years. Our family has been involved in 'special education' for many years. I have just recently relinquished a 7 year directorship of Prospects the leading UK Christian charity working with adults with 'learning disability' ( the current 'politically correct' language)

As far as I am aware there is not a single reference to such people in the Bible. So we have to examine what we understand about 'responsibility' for all individuals. I know several people with 'learning disabilities' who have a living faith in Christ and who came to Him conscious of their sin. The difficulty is that the terms (mental handicap, learning disability) have such wide parameters. Some have no means of communication, but that doesn't mean their spirits cannot respond to God. Others are very able to take responsibility for their lives in every area.

The Prospects charity has a special section called 'Causeway Prospects' which has special devotional items for people with learning disabilities, including some in Makaton (sign language). If you are interested a perusal of their website might be helpful for you.

In a nutshell, I would say that the kind of language used of children and the 'age of responsibility' would have its equivalent in people with learning disability. In other words, when a person (any person) is able to make informed choices. We have spent a fair bit of time on other threads discussing the nature of sin and sins, but in my view the essence of sins is a clash of wills; man's and God's.


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Ron Bailey

 2003/12/24 17:20Profile
InTheLight
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Joined: 2003/7/31
Posts: 2736
Phoenix, Arizona USA

 Re: Capacity to sin

This is a question of interest to me personally because I also have a mentally handicapped child.

I think the answer is difficult because I believe it depends on whether the person truly understands right from wrong.

Ezekiel 18:4 [i]Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.[/i]

The last part of that verse tells us that the soul that sins shall die. I don't believe a person can sin who doesn't know right from wrong. Consider that when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (right and wrong), they immediately realized their sin. Only a person who understands right from wrong understands sin. Even mans laws take into account the ability of a person to know right from wrong.

As Ron said there is no Scripture that specifically deals with this issue so anything I say on this matter is really little more than conjecture. God is sovereign and has the right to do what he pleases but I don't believe that the God revealed in the Bible would sentence those who don't know right from wrong to hell.

In Christ,

Ron



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Ron Halverson

 2003/12/24 20:08Profile
Chosen7Stone
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Joined: 2003/7/21
Posts: 268
FL, USA

 Re:

Wow, guys -- these responses were both quick and really good. Thanks for the link to Prospects, too. :-) I do know a bit about sign language -- it's one of my minors at college -- and I think I've always had a place in my heart for those with "learning disabilities".
Ron (philologos), I think your comparison to children and the "age of accountability" is the track my mind was taking. And just as with any human, I agree that it would be a case-by-case scenario in God's eyes, based on their level of understanding. Just as we can't group all lawyers or brunettes to be judged as a whole, we can't heap all with disabilities into a pile to be judged as a group either.
I know that God is just, and sometimes I think I see more light in those with mental handicaps than those who call themselves Christians. :-) I trust Him.


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Mary M.

 2003/12/24 21:50Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
I do know a bit about sign language -- it's one of my minors at college -- and I think I've always had a place in my heart for those with "learning disabilities".


I kinda have the same heart in some ways. When I was choosing what to do in college, it was either 'desktop publishing' (computers) or 'Child and Youth worker' (working with children). That child and youth program included alot of working with disabled or needy children. I went to work with computers but in my heart I still have a heart of servanthood for people. When I was saved I started right away working with kids clubs at our church, and ending up leading them for awhile.. what great memories and times :-D


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SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2003/12/24 23:15Profile
-David
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Joined: 2004/1/9
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 Re:

The problem with the "age of accountability" reasoning is that while it may be true God judges us each according to the light received, that doesn't necessarily mean he will ignore the sin each of us are automatically born into regardless of mental ability. We are all sinners and no matter what the mental ability we are all deserving of death and hell. So since all are automatically born into sin and deserving of death and hell what role does age play in being accountable for something all are automatically guilty of just upon birth? A mentally impaired person and a person without hindrance are equally born into equal condemnation aren't they? I think the only role age or mental faculties can play in judgment of the lost is the role of punishments severity in regard of awareness of premeditation of sin.

If mental abilities or lack thereof can lighten the load of sin and it's demand of justice then what about those who live a full mentally aware life paying no regard to Christ or their sin only to become impaired later in life due to Alzheimer's or some other injury or disease? Would their injury, disease or mental faculties somehow negate the sin they are lost in?

-David

 2004/1/12 21:26Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re: original sin and/or original guilt

David
The question of 'original' (or as I prefer 'congenital') sin has had its own thread previously, so I won't try to repeat it here. It can be found under 'Original Sin'. and at an earlier thread with the same name (these became separated)

As you have raised the question I wonder if you would say what you think the 'condemnation' is into which we are born. Let me say, to clarify, that I know that the scripture plainly teaches it to be so. My question is, what is the sentence? What is the condemnation? I do believe in congenital sin but not congenital guilt. This is the point at which the previous thread on Original Sin paused.

The Alzheimer sufferer of your question would, presumably, have previously reached an age of discretion when they became accountable for their own behaviour?


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Ron Bailey

 2004/1/13 4:08Profile
-David
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 Re: Capacity to sin

"My question is, what is the sentence? What is the condemnation? I do believe in congenital sin but not congenital guilt. This is the point at which the previous thread on Original Sin paused."


The sentence is death and that not only includes physical but also spiritual as in eternal separation from a Holy God.


"The Alzheimer sufferer of your question would, presumably, have previously reached an age of discretion when they became accountable for their own behaviour?"

Where though does the Bible teach any "age of accountability"? You can't find it taught in the Scriptures. The only thing you can find is that from birth all are sinful and rightly condemned to hell. It is from this condemnation that Christ saves us. I would say however that there does appear to be reasons to believe that somehow children do make it into Heaven such as with David and his child;

2 Sam 12:22 He said, "While the child was {still} alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.'

2 Sam 12:23 "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

I; being human and sinful cannot explain the incredible unmerited Grace and Mercy our Holy God gives freely to those whom He freely chooses according to His own good pleasure. I won't even dare to try and explain why or how God deals with the death of a child as well as that childs eternal condition.

If God is to be God then there must be things we cannot ever understand in our sinful state, God does not ask us to be able to explain His every action, reaction and decision. God does not feel obligated to inform us of all He does and why or how He does it. If we cannot be humble and say "I just do not have the answer" at times then God would not be God.

-David

 2004/1/15 21:49Profile
PreacherJury
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Joined: 2004/1/16
Posts: 10
Lewistown, PA

 Re:

I would have to say that the age of accountability issue is a demonstration of the mercy of God -- His lovingkindness. This does not throw His holiness out of the window. As for those that become mentally impaired later in life, they had the opportunity to accept Christ, but chose to reject Him. They will still be held accountable for their conscious decision against Christ.


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Matthew Jury

 2004/1/16 13:15Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

I wrote:
"My question is, what is the sentence? What is the condemnation? I do believe in congenital sin but not congenital guilt. This is the point at which the previous thread on Original Sin paused."

David wrote:
The sentence is death and that not only includes physical but also spiritual as in eternal separation from a Holy God.

Hi David,
Does that mean every single person who has been conceived? How would that affect the child who dies at, say, 10 days before birth? and 2 days old? and 2 years? and 10 years? and 20 years?

If there is a different answer to any of these ages, the next question is 'what changed?'

You're quite right that the Bible doesn't use the phrase 'age of discretion'. But there is a concept which indicates that our 'age' has something to do with the way God holds us accountable. Notice in this quote how God did not hold a certain group accountable, although everyone else was held accountable.

Deuteronomy 1:39 Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.

It is the reasoning behind this verse that caused me to use the phrase 'age of discretion'. It was just a form of theological shorthand.


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Ron Bailey

 2004/1/16 13:29Profile





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