It is a very familiar objection levied from many Anti-Calvinists. We in the reformed camp all hear it eventually, and may have raised the same objection ourselves at one point. What objection? This one:
If God predestined and elected every person to salvation or condemnation before time began, this makes God a monster who has doomed everyone from the womb. John Calvin said that you know!
When I first heard this objection it resonated with me. Something seemed emotionally off, and there seemed to be some truth to the objection. So I found where John Calvin said this and read it. Upon reading it I began to see what all the fuss was about. In reality what Calvin was doing was responding to that very objection. A strange thing emerged as I gleaned the sections pertinent in his Institutes. Here is the full section:
"Now, since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, since to him belongs the disposal of life and death, he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. If any one alleges that no necessity is laid upon them by the providence of God, but rather that they are created by him in that condition, because he foresaw their future depravity, he says something, but does not say enough. Ancient writers, indeed, occasionally employ this solution, though with some degree of hesitation. The Schoolmen, again, rest in it as if it could not be gainsaid. I, for my part, am willing to admit, that mere prescience lays no necessity on the creatures; though some do not assent to this, but hold that it is itself the cause of things. But Valla, though otherwise not greatly skilled in sacred matters, seems to me to have taken a shrewder and more acute view, when he shows that the dispute is superfluous since life and death are acts of the divine will rather than of prescience. If God merely foresaw human events, and did not also arrange and dispose of them at his pleasure, there might be room for agitating the question, how far his foreknowledge amounts to necessity; but since he foresees the things which are to happen, simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it is vain to debate about prescience, while it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.”
(John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)
Calvin was saying given the fact that this is true on all views accepting God's exhaustive foreknowledge and fore-ordination, we all must have a solution of resolving responsibility. He then points out various attempts to solve the problem. This leads me to explain how I solve this issue and how I find that it is the other positions other than Calvinism and Universalism which "Doom from the Womb". Sounds a bit like a strong claim doesn't it? I know! Let me explain, and maybe you will find this interesting.
According to the synergistic view of salvation Christ died to secure the possibility of salvation for all individuals, who through belief in the Gospel upon hearing it and accepting it will be saved. This is over and against the Reformed view which says Christ died to secure salvation and consequently some will believe. On both views there must be more than mere assent but also understanding of the Gospel message in order to be legitimately justified. Moreover on the synergistic view it is our belief in the Gospel after preveniant grace has done it's part that secures salvation. Now we arrive at the problem. If Jesus only died to make salvation possible, and this requires cognitive comprehension and freedom of choice upon reception of the gospel, then what about people who will never hear the gospel, are disabled, or die in infancy? To put it another way, if a libertarian freewill belief is necessary to complete this transaction, how can those who cannot possibly believe or comprehend the Gospel be saved?
1. All are born innocent and it is not until we commit sin that we can be held responsible. We are born with a sinful nature but we do not inherit the guilt of Adam. So all this means is that we will inevitably sin as life progresses.
2. Original sin is a doctrine invented by Augustine and it is wrong because we cannot be punished for another person's sin.
3. God's character is so loving and merciful that he would not allow children and the disabled to suffer. This is also why he gave us libertarian freewill because forced love is akin to rape.
All of these responses are simply wrong, and unbiblical. The bible is very clear that we are born "in" sin, with the guilt of Adam imputed to us. We are not merely born with inevitability to sin, but were actually "made" sinners as a result of the fall. Look at the way the progression of biblical anthropology is set forth. The marred image of God in man is imputed to Adam's descendants (Genesis 5:3). Next mankind inherited this condition (Genesis 6:5). Also note that from early childhood and infancy this is true even in the universal Noahide covenant that applies to us today:
And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. (Gen 8:21 NAS)
Jonathan Edwards, in his classic work The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, remarks that on this verse: "The word translated youth, signifies the whole of the former part of the age of man, which commences from the beginning of life. The word in its derivation, has reference to the birth or beginning of existence . . . so that the word here translated youth, comprehends not only what we in English most commonly call the time of youth, but also childhood and infancy.”
While this concept of original sin is clarified by Augustine, it is scripture that declares this to be the case and he simply recognized it. The same word for youth in the Genesis passage above is clarified more in Genesis 46:34 where it clearly means every second before the present age extending back to infancy. This is why the myth of age of accountability is clearly something read into scripture. You see if all mankind is wicked except children then not all mankind is wicked, and verses like Psalm 58:3 become contradictions when they say things like "The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth".
That we have inherited the guilt of Adam and not simply the inevitable propensity to sin after being born innocent is shown in the fact that we die as a result of being made sinners under the headship of Adam and are condemned because of it. This is clearly seen in two specific texts in the Pauline corpus. In Romans and 1 Corinthians we read:
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (1Co 15:22 NAS)
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19 NAS)
Notice Romans 5 clearly says "Made sinners BECAUSE of Adam's Sin instead of ours". This conveys imputed guilt because it sets condemnation in contrast with justification. Thomas Schreiner notes, “Verses 15-19 do not ascribe death and condemnation to the individual sins of human beings (though Paul would not deny such a thesis; cf. the exegesis and exposition of 1:18-3:20). Instead, death and condemnation are traced again and again to Adam’s sin. All people die because of “the transgression of the one man” (v. 15). Condemnation was pronounced because of the one sin of Adam (v. 16). Death reigned through the transgression of one man (v. 17). Condemnation was upon all people because of the transgression of the one man (v. 18). All ‘became’ sinners because of the disobedience of the one man (v. 19)” (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, ed. Moises Silva, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, [Baker Academic, 1998], p. 288)
Regarding v. 19’s mention of Adam’s disobedience making “the many” sinners, we must interpret “the many” here as referring to all mankind and not some of mankind because of the parallelism in v. 15 which says the “many” died through one man’s trespass which obviously refers to all mankind. Plus v. 17 speaks of death reigning to all mankind since Adam and v. 18 mentions “all men” being condemned because of Adam’s trespass. Thus, the context and flow of the text shows “the many” in v. 19 who are made sinners refers to all humanity in Adam. Now, when v. 19 says “by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners,” the word for “made” is katestathēsan and it means to appoint or consider someone as something as a judgement because of their state (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, ed. Moises Silva, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, [Baker Academic, 1998], p. 288; Garlington, 1994:104; Moo, 1991: 358). This is evident from the vast majority of the New Testament texts that use the word (Matthew 24:45, 47; 25:21, 23; Luke 12:14; Acts 6:3; 7:10, 27, 35; Titus 1:5; Hebrews 5:1; 7:28; 8:3).
“The verb were made. . . . does not mean that sinless people were compelled to become sinners, but rather that Adam’s sin constituted them as sinners. They were born as members of a race already separated from God” (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, [W. B. Eerdmans, 1988], p. 240).
In our modern individualistic society the claim that it is unjust to punish societies corporately for a single person's fault is foreign but not illogical. Notice this is also along side the claim that you cannot justly punish a person unless that person is the one who committed the offense in question. Firstly, numerous examples of corporate punishment do abound in scripture such as the fact that each evil king of Israel and Judah brought punishment to their nations (i.e. no rain because of King Ahab 1 Kings 17f). All the nation of Egypt was punished for Pharoah's stubborness (Exod. 7-11). Those who followed Korah and others received the same fate (Numbers 16). Regarding the logic of this position think of the fact that in a basketball game if one player fouls, the whole team gets penalized.
In fact the bible is very clear that all of us as Christians were once in this sinful state in Ephesians 2:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
(Eph 2:1-3 NAS)
The word for “by nature” is physei and as Frank Thielman notes, “. . .the dative singular of the word, the form Paul uses here, often meant ‘by birth’” (Frank Thielman, Ephesians, eds. Robert Yarborough, Robert H. Stein, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, [Baker Academic, 2010], p. 127).
Thielman then offers biblical and extrabiblical examples showing this is the meaning of the Greek word: “See e. g. Gal. 2:15 (. . .Jews by birth); Sophocles, Oed. col. 1295 (. . .younger by birth); Aj. 1301 (. . . a queen by birth); and Herodotus, Hist. 7.134.2 (. . .noble by birth)” (Frank Thielman, Ephesians, eds. Robert Yarborough, Robert H. Stein, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, [Baker Academic, 2010], p. 127 n. 29).
Regarding the last response it is simply ludicrous to claim that forced love is akin to rape. This type of thinking would mean that things like self sacrifice, such as pushing people out of the way of cars, jumping on grenades in war, and God commanding us to love him and others are illogical. But because of such sloppy thinking in an effort to hold on to absolute autonomy, opponents of Reformed theology are rarely reflective of how their many objections hold far more problematic to their own position. This "doomed from the womb" objection is just such a scenario. Autonomous reasoning without foundation in scripture leads to false doctrine and unbelief which scripture bears out.
6 But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,
7 "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?"
8 And immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?
(Mar 2:6-8 NAS)
15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he might be the Christ, (Luk 3:15 NAS)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. (Pro 3:5 NAS)
26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered. (Pro 28:26 NAS)
In conclusion, the cooperative salvation position dooms from the womb in the following way. If one MUST believe in order to be saved, every infant is doomed due to the sin of unbelief. One may respond that infants are born innocent so all infants are saved, and while I have shown that to be false, if we assume that it is true, why shouldn't abortion be the greatest heaven filling venue? Would it not follow that we should refrain from allowing children to enter this world because it would deprive them of heaven? Moreover if we don't kill them to secure their salvation wouldn't we be sinning by enabling others to sin? This would mean that it would be a sin to not kill infants.
The position I maintain is more coherent in that God can cause infants to believe and comprehend without introducing libertarian freedom or some ad-hoc age of accountability. So while I would like to think all infants are elect I cannot prove it from scripture. I therefore maintain that God has the same freedom to elect some infants and not others, just as he has the absolute freedom to choose any adult over another. Therefore because God is just, faithful, and knows all things, we can only rely on his judgement on this matter. So while you may disagree with Reformed theology please drop this canard. Neither the synergist nor the monergist can deny that God could of taken many little Hitlers out in infancy, but I know many that would be glad to know that such is the case. What I can prove is that libertarian freewill is not required to be saved, nor some mythical age of accountability.
But you are he that took me out of the womb: you did make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. -Psalm 22:9