Infant Salvation

I want to be sensitive to the anguish of any who might have lost a child or a baby; if this is the case, please do not read the rest of this post. If the Infant Baptism discussion is any judge, the tone of the comments might get too raucous for those who have special reason to be sensitive about this topic. (In that light, I ask all commenters to also please keep it serious, sincere, and sensitive).

Due to a request to start a separate thread, here is a new post posing the following question which gives me trouble: Despite the fact that II Hesitations 4:13 clearly states that “All Dogs go to heaven”, do all babies go to heaven? I know that we all sincerely want to (and probably do) think that babies all end up in heaven, but I can’t think of any scriptural justification, other than Jesus comparing children to the kingdom of heaven. I don’t have any answers here, only questions.

For paedobaptists, can/do you claim that your answer has any relation to whether the baby is baptized (I am loath to make that claim). For credobaptists, how can you justify admission to heaven of your unsaved, pagan children? For anybody who might have been in the unfortunate position of performing such funeral services, how do you frame your homily? Is it easier or harder than performing a funeral (or wedding?) for an adult who did not exhibit any outward manifestations of saving faith?


14 Responses

  1. I am writing my thoughts on the subject, but also have to prepare a Bible study for tonight, among other things. Give me a few more hours (maybe even until morning).

  2. Take your time. I don’t have as much time to waste on this blog as I have been wasting on it.

  3. Have to leave the office to pay rent, pick up medicaire paperwork for my dad (the new system of prescription coverage is really hard to navigate!), and then I have a 1 pm tee-time for 18 holes at a beautiful course.

    It’s sunny and 60 degrees outside, so “what doth hinder us?” Obviously, I won’t be posting until tomorrow. But you will all miss me, right?

  4. ruberad,
    You makes some very good points. The stongest two I think are (1) the Bible is silent and (2)credo’s see the children being outside the covenant. It is ironic that credo’s are always talking about ALL babies going to heaven (for example John MacAthur’s book). But what is the justification of that if children are outside the covenant? There doesn’t seem to be any. Here is how I handle a funeral situation/death of a child. If the child is a child of a believer I comfort the parents with the doctrine of children in the covenant. If the parents are not believers I do not lie to them. I tell them that scripture is silent and that God is sovereign. Well gotta go to work. More on this later.


  5. BST,

    I was hoping you would show up.

    Is this hypothetical or have you actually been in both situations? Presumably, unbelievers either hold to annihilation, in which case comfort need not be grounded in religion and to say, ‘bummer, dude’ would be adequate, or they hold to ‘all dogs go to heaven’ in which case, having no heaven/hell dichotomy, no ‘spiritual’ comfort would be necessary.

    None of this discussion includes the age of the child. Should the age make a difference? In the orthodox view, the redemption is accomplished (in history, on the cross), the application of it only goes as far as God allows it, wants it, to be applied (since he is sovereign over both). I think the decisional regenerationists are screwed on this one.

  6. I really am going to weigh in here, guys, and, as you might have deduced, I do believe that infants go to heaven, but as you already know, there is no hard-and-fast Bible verse to quote, so my position cannot be etched in stone (meaning I don’t have a lot of theological trash-talking to do here).

    Spent the day at the hospital with dad yesterday (chemo side-effects), and now I’m preparing my sermon for tomorrow morning. I think what I’ll do is toss in a few verses for your comments, then write a more meaty response on Monday (as you know, preachers work weekends :-(

    As to what we say at funerals, regarding adults, we obviously do not announce that the loved one is in hell, but always “commit them to the love of God”. Of course we can make some educated guesses, but the hell/heaven thing is above my pay grade. Had a funeral last year of a drug dealer grandson of a fringe church member who led police on a high-speed chase, barricaded himself in his apartment, then blew himself away when the negotiator arrrived. We preached the Gospel to the family and hardly mentioned the guy. (I thought about saying that he was a good driver and remembered directions well.)

  7. This is my chance to try the blockquote trick. Stand back:

    we obviously do not announce that the loved one is in hell
    We preached the Gospel to the family

    So, you subtly announce that the loved one is in hell, eh?

    Serious bonus points for these:

    the hell/heaven thing is above my pay grade.
    he was a good driver

    And what was a fringe church member doing leading police on a high-speed chase?

  8. Ok, look at Deuteronomy 1. After the children of Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness, God sentenced that generation to die in the wilderness after forty years of wandering – verse 35: “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers”. But this was not all. God specifically exempted young children and infants from this sentence, and even explained why He did so: verse 39: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.” The key issue here is that God specifically exempted from the judgment those who “have no knowledge of good or evil” because of their age. These “little ones” would inherit the Promised Land, and would not be judged on the basis of their fathers’ sins.

    I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to tie this into the issue of infant salvation, and that the accomplished work of Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die in infancy. Knowing neither good nor evil, these young children are incapable of committing sins in the body – are not yet moral agents – and die secure in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Think about an aborted baby, let’s say a partial-birth abortion. The baby is about to come out of the womb when he is murdered. The hard-line Calvinist view would send this baby straight to hell. I don’t see how this child could be “without excuse” like those mentioned in Romans 1, without even having a chance to breathe air, see the majesty of God’s creation, or make a decision for Christ.

    I have some other verses to add, but, like I said, I don’t have a specific, clear verse to point out, so I remain flexible and am willing to be convinced.

    I certainly don’t believe that an infant’s baptism has anything to do with the baby’s eternal destiny. I have Lutheran friends who want their infant baptized IMMEDIATELY after birth, because they do believe the soul of the baby hangs in the balance. In my view, this is a misunderstanding of baptism.

    I also love the words of Abraham to God, “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” I trust God to make these hell/heaven decisions, but I do believe I have enough Scriptural evidence to comfort parents whose children die in infancy.

  9. “Grandson of a fringe church member” — We get these kinds of funerals all the time because according to the Catholics in the area, “The priest wants the money up front, but the evangelicals don’t charge!”

  10. Your insights expressed here:

    Think about an aborted baby, let’s say a partial-birth abortion. The baby is about to come out of the womb when he is murdered. The hard-line Calvinist view would send this baby straight to hell.

    deserve a hardy WTF?

  11. If the parents were not believers, not part of the “Covenant”, wouldn’t it logically follow doctrinally that the child would be “lost” according to Calvin’s Institutes?

  12. Calvin never shrank from the consequences of his propositions:

    If undeveloped nature is a “seed-bed of sin,” it follows logically that “infants . . . perish when they are accounted the sons of Adam.”

    Institutes: Volume 2, Page 540

  13. I don’t see what Calvin has to do with it. We all agree that Baptism (infant or otherwise) has nothing to do with salvation.

    Therefore, reformed people have the same right to make an exegesis from Deut (basically “no knowledge of good and evil” is just another way of saying “under the age of accountability”). And that’s a squishy concept, because no man can draw a line in the sand saying when any particular child has become responsible for his original sin, and when the child’s active sins begin to count against him. And I think we’re OK with that, because obviously God could draw that line, and draw it justly.

    As for whether Calvin was right in that case, I don’t know (nor can any of us). Indeed, the judge of all the earth will do right, but the rub is that, whatever God does, is right, because it is God that’s doing it! So that’s just equivalent to saying God will do whatever he wants. Or in a more pious tone, whatever he wills.

    There are legions of in-name-only Christians who believe that everybody will go to heaven, on the principle that God will do right (and God loves everybody, and it would be wrong to send people to hell). There are legions of arminian Christians (like yourself) who cannot believe that God would be so un-right as to send someone to hell for not believing in Christ, when it was clearly God’s “fault” for not electing him, and depriving him of saving faith.

    I think the problem is that we are leading with our desired conclusion of babies going to heaven, even though it contradicts our extremely biblical doctrines of original sin and justification by faith alone.

    Now the arminian position is the one who is really screwed, because, as you say, the baby has no option to make a choice for Christ.

    The predestinarian position, however (I won’t say Calvinist, because according to your quote, Calvin apparently didn’t believe this), allows for the Holy Spirit to grant saving faith, regeneration, and justification, to all of God’s elect — no matter the age! Why not? Just because an infant’s body and mind (spirit?) are underdeveloped, why would the soul be? Why could not an infant soul be graced with saving faith (even though it cannot express it publicly)?

    Does this mean that all babies go to heaven? Not necessarily. It merely allows for the possibility that God could elect none, few, some, many, most, or all babies. And the concept from Deut. allows us to comfort ourselves by believing that the tendency might be more in the “all” direction.

  14. Good point…I dont think I have to add any more here because I think we’ve sorted out the differences. I would just say this:I am NOT Armenian or Calvinist. It irritates me to be thrust into either of those cowboys’ camps…It’s as ludicrous as saying, “Your are all either Ostian or anti-Ostian in your theology”. Labels don’t fit me too well.

    As we previously discussed, I am a 1 1/2 point Calvinist. I believe in depravity and the older I get, believe more in the perserverence of the saints. That’s it… no irresistable grace, no limited atonement (vomit noises)…but that’s another discussion thread.

    Preaching on Romans 5:1-5 tomorrow….pray for me…my dad’s illness weighs heavy right now.

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