Explaining Original Sin to My Six-Year-Old
"Rory doesn't need to be saved," Christian objected, "She's just a baby. She hasn't done anything wrong."
Abby and I initially said that we're pretty sure Aurora has done things that she knows are wrong. For example, when we tell her not to throw her cup of milk in the floor, and then we hand the cup back to her, sometimes she begins to immediately hold the cup over the edge of her tray. We say, "No," then she stares at us with a seemingly defiant look before throwing the milk once again. Repeated a few times, this process seems to indicate willful disobedience on the part of the child.
I also tried to explain that we all need Jesus as Savior because we are all dead in Adam. I employed the analogy of a tree. If the roots of a tree are poisoned, then the rest of the tree might look alive for awhile. But the dead roots begin to wither, and soon the rest of the tree looks dead as well, falling into pieces, because the tree was dead inside as soon as the roots were killed. Adam and Eve are the roots of the human race. When they sinned, they brought sin and death to all their children and children's children. Everyone is spiritually dead and everyone suffers death due to Adam's sin. We all need a Savior.
Christian looked somewhat thoughtful as we discussed these things. I felt, however, that I was not being as clear as I could be. I was concerned that my explanation did not really make sense to him.
After the Sunday evening service, rounding up the children and the baby, trying to get everyone home and ready for bed, my family usually does not have much time to visit with anyone at church. It is especially rare that we get to meaningfully converse with our pastors on Sunday nights, because so many others are needing their attention for various reasons. Therefore, I count it as an act of providence that-because children's choir had been brought into the sanctuary-I found Christian speaking to Pastor Keith Stell at the end of worship service last night. I mentioned the lunchtime conversation to Keith, saying that Christian did not think Aurora needs to be saved because, as a baby, she hasn't sinned.
Keith answered with more wisdom than I had displayed. He asked Christian, "Who 's going to teach Baby Rory to lie?"
"No one," said Christian.
"Who's going to teach her to disobey Mommy and Daddy?" Keith continued.
"No one," Christian responded.
"Who's going to teach her to hit you or Georgia?"
"No one's going to teach her that! No one wants her to do any of those things!" exclaimed Christian.
"That's right," said Keith, "No one taught you to do those things either, did they?"
"No," said Christian.
"But don't you do those things sometimes?"
Christian briefly hesitated, maybe worried he was going to get in trouble, but he admitted, "Yes."
"And Baby Rory will do those things as well, even though no one taught her to, just like we all do things we know are wrong. The problem is in our heart, and all we need Jesus to save us."
There was quite a hubbub going on in the sanctuary, and we weren't able to keep talking to Christian just then. However, the dialogue with Keith did seem to make him think. I am thankful for Keith being a model of how to communicate spiritual truth to my son.
I was reminded, too, of how Jonathan Edwards wrote of Original Sin. Near the beginning of The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, Edwards-before he got into exegesis of specific texts or the federal headship of Adam-argued for Original Sin due to the universal reality of sin: easily observed, and contrary to the character traits we desire to teach our children. Rather intuitively (I think), based on wisdom gained through doing ministry, Keith had used a similar approach.