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Question

Why am I held accountable for my sin when I didn’t ask to be born?

I did not ask to be born
Answer


Many parents have heard some version of “I didn’t ask to be born!” from their children. This comes up when the child objects to something like accountability or an unpleasant chore. Of course, the same logic never leads the child to politely refuse a gift, decline help, or give up their preferences. Logically, there’s an inherent self-contradiction in the complaint that “no one asked if I wanted to be born.” Beyond that, the concept is irrelevant. Using the same standards applied to everything else, God is entirely justified for holding His creations accountable. And, as His creations, we should recognize the benefits of existence with as much clarity as the difficulties.

First, “asking to exist” is a contradiction in terms. If someone or something “asks,” that thing exists already. If it does not exist, it can neither accept nor dispute being created. In the strictest logical terms, saying, “I did not ask to be born,” is either irrational or obvious, but is in any case meaningless. When we are conceived, we come to exist as living souls—there is no one to “ask” prior to that.

This is the brute fact of existence itself. Whether or not one is happy about existing, he still exists. What a person chooses to do with his or her existence is all that matters. Both Christian and non-Christian philosophies have grappled with this issue and come to generally the same conclusion. In strident terms, we exist, so we must “cope with” existence. Even if we’d prefer to have never existed, we do exist, and that cannot be changed.

The book of Romans indirectly touches on the complaint “I didn’t ask to be born.” Speaking to those who object to God’s sovereignty, Paul says this:

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20–21).


When we create something, we presume—correctly—the right to decide its purpose. No one “asks” a pot, a computer, or a painting for permission to be created. Nor do we assume the created thing has more authority than we do. As fallible people, we often struggle to remember that we are created beings, and God is our Creator. There is nothing contradictory or unfair about God holding us accountable for sin, “even if” we were not involved in beginning our own existence.

It's important to recognize that not all complaints about life are petty. Nor are they always childish or shallow. Some who wish they’d never been born are responding to intense personal tragedy and pain (see Job 3:1–3). And yet, the same basic concepts apply. Further, even those grappling with horrific life circumstances were created by God for a purpose—and that purpose includes not only choice, but the potential for eternal happiness.

The other side of the “I never asked God to create me” argument is the benefits involved. Those who claim they did not want to be created always do so in the context of rejecting God’s morality, exclusive salvation, or an eternal hell. Yet being created also provides us the opportunity for eternal bliss (Deuteronomy 30:15; Acts 16:31). All sin is a choice (1 Corinthians 10:31), and those who choose to reject Christ’s offer of salvation (John 3:36) are very much “choosing.” Responding to God’s judgment with, “I never asked for this choice,” is really to say, “I want to do things my own way and still get the results I want.”

There is no meaningful way for someone to “ask to be created.” That God alone decides when we start to exist does not remove our culpability when it comes to sin or salvation. The only way it could be better for us to not have been created is if we choose to reject the One who created us. Rather than complain that we have a choice between eternal misery and eternal joy, we should rejoice that we have the opportunity for an unending existence with God.

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Why am I held accountable for my sin when I didn’t ask to be born?
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This page last updated: August 17, 2021