CM's view of human nature?

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  • Beth Covalt

    I have read Charlotte Mason’s original books, and I am wondering if anyone else has had a sort of gut level reaction to her view of human nature, specifically in children.  There are a couple of sentences here and there that seem to imply that children are born without sin.  Again, I am just wondering if I am misreading her.  I would love some discussion on the board about this, and in the meantime, I will try to locate the specific quotes to help the discussion along.

    I do not profess to be an expert on this topic, but I think that as Christians we all know we are born with the stain of sin.  However in my mind there is no doubt that a baby is born innocent – still  with that stain of sin, but no baby or little child is evil, they are innocents.  The training of that child makes a huge difference to the way the child will grow up, for example, children are not born racist, they are taught that – likewise, children are not born to be cruel, they are allowed to get away with cruelty as they grow.  I wonder if this is what CM meant  – I will be interested to hear other responses, this is just my thoughts on the topic.

    My feeling on this is alongside missingtheshire.  While babies are born with sin due to the sin of our original parents, they are innocent, they do not act on that sin.  We as parents have been given the awesome responsiblity of training them in the way they should go.  I feel, although I am not professing to know, that CM is referring to the fact that we have have the job to train them not to act on their sin throughout their childhood.  It is the training we give them that will guide them through this process until they reach the realization that they need a saviour just as we do.

    Sonya Shafer

    It’s a great question. In the research that I’ve done, I’ve come to the conclusion that Charlotte’s remarks about a child being born neither good or bad has to do with character, rather than theology. It seems that during the era in which she lived, there was a mind-set that if a child inherited a particular trait that ran in the family (for example, a bad temper), there was nothing the parent could do to change that. The child was “born bad” and would be “bad” his entire life. Charlotte’s emphasis on habit-training focuses on many character traits and demonstrates that a parent can help a child change a negative trait. So as far as character issues go, a child is not locked in to natural tendencies. Habit is stronger than natural tendencies and can change those inherited traits for the better.

    In Volume 4, page 180, Charlotte talks about the sin nature that we all have:

    “There is in human nature an aversion to God. Whether it be, according to the Article, that ‘original sin which is the natural fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam,’ or whether it is that jerk of the shoulder from the hand of authority which belongs to freewill, we need not stop to inquire. Anyway, there is in human nature, as well as a deep-seated craving for God, a natural and obstinate aversion to Him.”


    This is just what I was wondering and I am so glad that you touched on it.  I was almost put of CM when I heard that she supposedly believed children were sinless.  I almost wrote her off before I took a look and I am glad I gave her a chance.


    You also have to consider the time period in which she lived.  At this particular time in her culture, children as a whole were not worth much.  Nannies had the bulk of child-rearing for wealthier parents and poor parents didn’t have time to give much attention to their children.  Not only that, but according to society, the only children worth giving any amount of thought to were the wealthier children, and the poor children were truly worthless and considered evil (read “Jane Eyre” or Dickens’ “Oliver” for some examples).  No matter how hard the poorer child tried, the child was useless, but richer children could get away with anything.  I think that she is reacting against her society.  She wants all children to be valued as persons, not good or bad because of their societal level of birth. 


    Marie Vrabely

    This is obviously an ancient post, but I just wanted to express my gratitude and relief at having found your wonderful and helpful thoughts on the matter.  I just started reading the original series and was disturbed and confused by Charlotte’s Pelagian-like statements.  I knew this forum would get me straightened out!  Thanks and blessings.

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