We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Friday, April 8, 2011

What About Babies and Salvation?

Over the years I have heard much debate as to the destination of young children, including those who died before birth (be it miscarriage or abortion); are they in heaven?
For those who believe in the unbiblical doctrine of baptismal regeneration, this becomes a real quandary.  The Roman Catholics invented a place called Limbo where these children go, which has been described variably as a place of natural happiness or of mild punishment.  Others, including a Lutheran pastor of a church we once attended, claim they go to hell.  Still others, like me, believe the destination of these children is heaven.
First, let me say that while I believe we are born with a sin nature and are “sinners” in that regard, I don’t believe that babies are sinners in regards to actually committing sins.  (For example, many people claim that when a baby cries for food it is demonstrating a sin of selfishness, but this is nonsense - it’s the only way a baby has of advising of its need!)
Let me give some thoughts from Scripture (HSCB).
+  Deuteronomy 1:39:  “Your little children who you said would be plunder, your sons who don’t know good from evil, will enter there....”  (my emphasis).  Notice how God said these “little children” didn’t “know good from evil.”  
+  Isaiah 7:15-16:  “By the time he learns to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will be eating butter and honey.  For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned.”  Again notice how God says young children do not know - have not learned - to choose between good and evil.
I think these passages talking about children not knowing good from evil, and not knowing to choose between them, demonstrates there is an age during which a child is innocent of being charged with sin - an age before “accountability.”
+  2 Corinthians 5:10:  “For we must all appear before the judgement sat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.”
+  Revelation 20:12-13 says that the dead are all “judged according to their works.”
These passages which state that we are judged according to our works imply that we have knowledge of right vs wrong, and a child not having this knowledge would be free from such judgement.
+  2 Samuel 12:23:  “But now that he is dead, why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I’ll to go to him, but he will never return to me.”  David is talking about the death of his son.  Notice he says that he will be able to go where his son is.  Where is his son?    Apparently with the Lord.
+  Matthew 19:13-14:  “Then Children were brought to Him so He might put His hands on them and pray.  But the disciples rebuked them.  Then Jesus said, ‘Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this.’”  Mark 10:13-15 is a parallel passage to the Matthew passage, and vs 14 gives this as Jesus’ response: “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”   This is repeated in Luke 18:15-17.
David believed that his child was with the Lord, and Jesus says that God’s kingdom is for “such as these” - not only children but those who become like children in their faith.
So let’s look at the issue of not only children, but also those with the mental capacity of a child - or even less.  There has been a long-standing teaching among Jews and Christians about an “age of accountability.”  Some give numbers such as 8 years old, but others don’t.  If there is such an age, I would say it would have to be variable because each person matures at a different rate, and some may be a genius at four years old while other may not have a clue until they are almost pubescent!  
The God of the Bible is a loving and merciful God, and not one who would condemn to hell the souls of children who never saw life, let alone children who not only never learned right from wrong, but also never matured enough to know anything about spiritual matters.  And this of course would apply to those with severe mental disabilities whose mental capacity is no more than a child’s.
I cannot be dogmatic about this subject because the Bible does not specifically state children are saved, but I think the implication is certainly there.

17 comments:

Drew said...

Good post.

There are also some other passages we could draw upon to show that God takes into account our state of mind and knowledge of morality in judging our actions.

I do think the words of Jesus, though, are referring to children's faith and not to their innocence, and so aren't real applicable to this issue.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think when Jesus says "such as these" while wanting bless the children, he is referring to two aspects: the children themselves, and those whose faith is like a child's. After all, he is telling them not to stop the children from coming to him, so the context has to include children as well as those like children in their faith.

I may come across other passages which may give support to my argument about the salvation of children, and can add them when I do. If you come across some, let me know.

Drew said...

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9:41)

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. (John 15:22)

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. (Romans 2:14-15)

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Drew,

I don’t think these are valid for my argument, although some may think so.

John 9:41 is about spiritual blindness. I think John 15:22 is speaking of the sin of rejecting Jesus, not sin in general. Romans 2:14-15 is explaining why Gentiles are just as guilty of sin without the Law as the Jews who have the Law, because the moral law is written on their hearts to show them right from wrong. And I think Luke 12:48 is discussing degrees of punishment based on works.

Drew said...

I think they clearly demonstrate the principle that God takes into account our knowledge and capabilities. Someone who thinks babies are damned would have to show that the baby has the moral law written on the baby's heart. But if you're unable to see any connection, that's fine. Don't worry about it.

Cherry Bieber said...

We, too, have heard many different thoughts on the destination of children who die and Gordon and I stand absolutely in agreement with you!

We went to see the Blood Money documentary about Planned Parenthood yesterday (A must-see for all!) and I was thinking about the millions upon millions of children in the Lord's presence for whose untimely deaths mankind will one day answer. Your post is such a help to women who have had abortions, have repented, and need to know where their children are.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Drew,

Actually babies DO have the moral law written on their hearts - Paul says everyone does. The problem is that although the moral law is written on their hearts from birth, they still need to be mature enough to understand it.

Drew said...

So you are saying that someone can have something written on his heart but not know it or understand it.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Yes, in regards to a baby or one with a baby's intellect. I can write the 10 commandments in ink on a baby's belly but until he is old enough to read he can't understand what they say. The information is written in the heart of mankind just as DNA information is. The information is there to accessed at the proper time.

Drew said...

//14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)//

Do babies do by nature the things required by the law?

Do babies' consciences bear witness to the truth and accuse them?


//From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.//

Are babies entrusted with much, with little, or with nothing?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Paul is saying that adults act in accordance with the law on their hearts - he doesn't mention infants. The point of the passage is that everyone has that law written on their hearts, but as I pointed out, there is a time when the child is still not accountable - he doesn't understand the written law or the law on his heart.

One having the law written on their heart does not make it "entrusted" to them until they've reached a reasoning age.

runlevelfivepointer said...

As I affirm Reformed theology, I would affirm that infants are fallen and have original sin through the Fall of Adam. On the other hand, as salvation is through grace and not by merit, I believe the blood of Christ covers the elect who die through miscarriage, childbirth, infancy, or early childhood.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

So if the child wasn't "elect" he went to hell?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Gary,
This blog, let alone this particular article, is not a forum for you to preach Calvinism. You chose to use it for that purpose and your comment will not be published.

Oh, and by the way, I am NOT an "Arminian." I am a Christian who follows no man's theological ramblings.

Gary said...

If you believe that man can make a decision to "accept" Christ you are an Arminian, whether you like it or not.

Decision Theology did not exist in the Christian Church until approximately 1,000 years after the Apostles. Neither Jesus nor his disciples taught Decision Theology. It is a new doctrine and therefore a FALSE doctrine.

I have found that Arminians become very cantankerous and belligerent whenever their belief system is challenged. A Calvinist, a Lutheran, and a Catholic are usually happy to have a free exchange/debate over their Christian beliefs, but not Arminians. Why do you think that is?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Gary,
I'm posting this one just to shut you up.

You are 100% WRONG in your historical claims. You will not find Calvinist-type teaching until Augustine, which then entered the Romanist church, and then was kept by Calvinists and Lutherans.

You will not find such nonsense in the Bible or the writings of the ante-Nicene Fathers.

And, NO, I am not an Arminian. I follow what the Bible teaches. Calvinists and Lutherans can't comprehend that we are able to find the truth on our own. Arminius wasn't totally correct either, which is why I am not a follower of him.

I find Lutherans and Calvinists to be the cantankerous ones, and the ones like you who rudely demand to debate what has been debated for five centuries. I find it to be fruitless and a waste of time.

It is Augustinianism which is the false teaching with a God who creates people just to send them to Hell, and lies throughout Scripture when He says people can seek Him but denies them the capability to do so, etc.

You are done here, sir. You are now totally banned from my blog, since you do not have enough respect to keep your Augustinian proselytizing to yourself.