The Age of Accountability

Jason was twelve years old when he was invited to Sanford Springs Life Church. It was his first time ever going to a church in his life except for a random time when one of his basketball practices was held in a gym of a community church in his town. Jason’s parents were atheists. They had both left cults in their early twenties that they were born into. They met in a support group and fell in love. Since then, they stayed away from anything that even looked like religion, so the decision to let Jason go to church with his friend was made after hours of intense conversation between themselves. They ultimately decided that Jason was getting old enough to begin to take responsibility for his beliefs, so they let him go to church with his friend. Besides, they reasoned, Sanford Springs Life Church was having a cookout and yard games that day, so how harmful could it be?

Jason went to church that day and heard a sermon that seemed to be the opposite of what a “Life Church” would teach. The pastor yelled, screamed, ranted, and raved about how evil the world was, and how the tribulation was going to start any day now. He talked about sinners in the hands of an angry God, and he talked about how people that don’t believe in God were ignorant, hateful, and consumed with sin. Those people, he said, would live in the hottest part of Hell for denying God’s son.

Needless to say, Jason was shaken to the core and not in the conversion way. He barely could enjoy the cookout, and he definitely didn’t feel like playing horseshoes. How could his friend say “amen” and “preach it!” to that message? Didn’t his friend know that he didn’t go to church regularly? That he was one of those that was apparently going to burn in Hell forever by a loving God?

Jason never went back. If that god exists, he didn’t want any part of it.

Four years later, Jason still hadn’t gone back to church, and he looked at all forms of religion as systems of control. He had no interest in Christianity because of the sermon he heard when he was twelve. You see, he knew his mom and dad weren’t evil. They cared for the poor, they volunteered regularly, and they weren’t alcoholics or any of the nasty things that the pastor had said about them. At least, he didn’t see it.

Driving home from school one day, Jason was killed by a drunk driver at sixteen years old. There was no chance; he died on the spot. He then realized he was standing before God in judgement. God tells him, “Jason, you reached the age of accountability four years ago yet you didn’t seek Me. Depart from me, you worker of iniquity.” God gave the order, and Jason was sent to Hell to burn for trillions upon trillions of years. The intensity of his burning was like that of Hitler or Genghis Khan just like that pastor said. After a trillion trillion years, he was told by the Devil that he had barely spent a day there.

In an alternative world, Jason died. He stood before God. God gave the order. And Jason was annihilated. “Sorry Jason,” God said, “You had four years.”

Is this what you would do? Are you more merciful than God? Is this justice? Did Jason ever have a chance?

“Well Jason rejected Jesus!”
No. He rejected a mockery of Jesus.

“Jason rejected the gospel truth!”
Nope. He rejected bad news, not good news.

What is the difference between Jason and his companions that were raised in a Christian home? You may not believe in predestination, but do you believe in geographical predestination? That some just win the lottery and happen to be born into a family that are believers? Did Jason ever really have a fair shot?

Or perhaps your situation is like mine and you were raised believing the lie that everyone else is going to Hell except for your fellowship because, even though they love God and have faith in Jesus, they don’t understand the Bible in the right way. What are the odds that you would be born into the one true church? Isn’t it interesting that everyone who views the body of Christ this way happens to be a member of the one true church?

YES. These are tough questions.
NO. We are not the judge.
But what kind of God do we serve?

This matters!

While the above story is fictional, it isn’t just a hypothetical situation unfortunately. Teenagers lose their lives in car crashes all the time. This is a reality that we have to face. Which means we must ask ourselves, “What kind of God do we serve?” Are thirteen-year-olds everywhere being sent to Hell left and right because they die after the age of accountability? That’s what a loving god would do?

Now, there is a story about the age of accountability in the Bible, but it was specifically about a group of people who raised their children in the teachings of the Lord.

So the LORD’S anger burned in that day, and He swore, saying, ‘None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.’

Numbers 32:10–12

Why was it that those twenty and older allowed into the land? Doesn’t God know that the age of accountability is seven, twelve, or thirteen? Does a nine year old know the difference between good and evil because he can answer all of the “Fishers of Men” questions correctly? (Fishers of Men is a Bible study program that asks yes or no questions to lead someone to be baptized)

The LORD was angry with me also on your account, saying, ‘Not even you shall enter there. ‘Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it. Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.’

Deuteronomy 1:37–39

So, those who were less than twenty would be allowed into the land because they had no knowledge of good or evil. Now, I don’t believe this was a strict rule. Undoubtedly, there are those who are nineteen who are more mature than those who are twenty, but this is a general statement about the younger generation. If Micah was born ten minutes after Andy, would Micah die in the wilderness because he was twenty and Andy was nineteen? You see my point?

Even in this case, however, everyone involved was raised in a nation that taught the teachings of the Law publicly. Applying this to a household that doesn’t have the same opportunities is not just, and I don’t believe it fits within the nature of God (Acts 17:30; Romans 2:14-16).

So, if there is an age of accountability, it seems to be around the age of twenty and specifically applies to those who were raised learning about God. Think back to your teenage years. You may have thought you knew a thing or two, but how ignorant were you? Also, what is conversion? Do ten year olds radically change their lives when they are baptized or is the only thing that changes is whether or not they pass communion trays standing up instead of sitting down?

But again, what does “learning about God” mean?

What if they learned awful things about God? Does that count?

Do you see how much more complicated this subject is? When we simplify it to the degree that we have, there will be situations where teenagers are afraid that their friends are burning in Hell forever and ever because their friend who was raised in the wrong fellowship died in a car crash. To make this situation even more obscene, they go and sing songs about how on a day of judgement they will stand before God and all of their friends will say, “You never mentioned Him to me.”

This seems like a recipe for a really healthy outlook on life, huh?

I find it despicable.

And I know. Just because I find it appalling doesn’t make it not true, right? I’m with you there, and I agree.

But do you see the flaws in this way of thinking? Do you see where it can lead? Do you see how it isn’t as simple as we let on?

This all boils down to an important question:

Would you let God babysit your thirteen year old?

One Reply to “The Age of Accountability”

  1. Daniel, surly God’s Spirit was with you as you sought His guidance on how to write this essay. This is the best that I have ever read dealing with this subject. Your thoughts are logical and true. I thank God that He has given you the ability to write as you do on a daily basis to cause God’s people to rethink what they have been taught through the centuries. I also thank God that He allowed our paths to cross. Yours because of Calvary, Dallas Burdette

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