By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist theologian and seminary president says new research finding that “relational aggression” — a psychological term to describe using the threat of removing friendship as a tactical weapon — appears in children younger than 3 supports the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a podcast May 29 there is nothing new in a Wall Street Journal article headlined “Very Little and Acting Mean” reporting that children forming cliques and intentionally excluding others — generally thought of as a middle-school phenomenon — is being detected in children as young as 2½ years.
“It’s Genesis 3 old,” Mohler said, referring to the Old Testament story about how sin entered the world through the first man, Adam, and was passed on to all his descendants.
“What we’re looking at here is the fact that these children are, as the secular worldview fails to understand, sinners,” Mohler said. “They’re not morally neutral. They’re not morally good.”
Mohler said Bible-believing Christians “shouldn’t be surprised to find any kind of sinful impulse coming out in any of us at any age.”
“Somehow there’s the idea that children have to learn bad behavior, that something has to happen to them, that turns on a switch for bad behavior, for evil intent and sin,” he said.
“It’s the Christian worldview that comes along and very importantly affirms the biblical understanding of sin, that doesn’t say we learn how to be sinners,” Mohler said. “It’s that we are sinners, we just learn how to sin more boldly, and perhaps with greater complexity and sophistication.”
While it comes as no surprise “that toddlers can be mean,” Mohler said, the new research might help even Christian parents “understand why sending their little boys to timeout doesn’t have the effect that they want.”
That’s because research shows that girls are more affected than boys by relational aggression, a new term to differentiate from physical aggression. Mohler said that doesn’t mean either gender is morally superior to the other, but research indicates boys are far more prone to physical aggression and girls to relational aggression.
Mohler said even Christian parents may sometimes find themselves wondering: “How in the world did this child that I seem to know so well; how did this child all of a sudden turn into such a sinful little critter?”
“Well, that’s where you need the Bible to correct our misperception and to let us know that that critter that looks so cute in the crib was a sinner all along,” he said.