In my theology class last week I had to answer a prompt regarding the practice of infant baptism and thus the question of infant salvation: if an infant dies before the “age of accountability” what is their destiny? Does the atoning work of Christ in someway apply to them?
I have posted my thoughts on the topic below (I was restrained by a word count, FYI) and want you to think about this topic during the week. I will say that my brief look a the topic is not at all complete and is something that I believe requires further study to understand at a deeper level. I will also say that I believe there are some things in life that we need to admit ignorance to and place completely in the hands of God.
I believe this is one of those areas, especially because God’s Word is silent on the matter regarding infant salvation. All of that said, I challenge you to do independent study on this (this replaces the weekly memory verse for this week).
Scripture is quite clear, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV), and “all have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). Where Scripture is clear on the state of humans, it is also clear on the special place that children hold. This is especially seen in the time that Christ had on earth (Matt 19:13-14; Mark 10:14; Luke 10:21; Matt. 21:16; Matt 18:6). Although it is clear that God loves children, Scripture is also clear that “all” (literally “everyone”) has sinned and falls short of His Glory, deserving death (Rom 6:23). This author does not see (in the scope of this study) how children (also infants) can be exempt from this judgement and penalty.
Another area where this author believes Scripture is clear is on that of God’s sovereign choice. “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion'” (Romans 9:14). Is it possible that the atoning work of Christ on the cross could somehow be applied to infants without the infant making a volitional decision to put their faith in Christ for salvation? This author will submit that yes, it may be possible. But what, then, is to be made of the action required to believe and have eternal life (John 5:24)?
Based on this brief study the conclusion that unborn infants, or infants who die shortly after birth, are sinners and thus deserve full judgement (as we all do), are subject to the full punishment (as we all are). Apart from faith in Christ there is no hope for salvation. Paul’s question (already stated) is appropriate here: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'”
Bromiley, G. W. “Baptism, Infant.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 132. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.
Do you believe that God allows an infant to die before being brought into this world to save them? That the child’s death is in fact their eternal salvation? Ultimately, that God knows what that child’s life will be like as they grow & rather than let them live, He chose to let them die to save them?
God is definitely sovereign in all matters and the death of an infant falls in that category (Eph. 1:11). There is no doubt that God’s word doesn’t say a lot on the matter of an infant’s death but where it does speak we receive much help and comfort in this life. The death of David’s illegitimate baby with Bathsheba is an example where David speaks of going to where that child will be-which would be heaven since David was a believer (2 Sam. 12:22,23). Ultimately we look to God’s merciful and gracious character for the answer to this question.
R.C. Sproul in his book, Now That’s a Good Question on pp. 294-5 answers the question “what happens to children who die before they can accept the gospel?” He emphasizes God’s character of mercy and grace as an answer as well as David’s situation as offering pastoral help in such circumstances.
I would like to reply/put my two cents into this conversation (which hopefully is allowed). While perhaps what you say is true, there is another side to the coin to this that being those who Baptize infants…there is no where in Scripture that says you should NOT baptize infants.
One could argue the Old Covenant of circumcision is analogous to baptism – if you are interesting in some reasoning behind this kind of Argument I would recommend R.C. Sproul on infant Baptism He goes through all the arguments for Paedobaptism:
Opinions are always welcome here!
Your point brings up the question of whether or not baptism carries with it what is necessary for salvation. I hold to the view that baptism does not bring with it salvation and believe there are many passages that speak to being saved by grace through faith. One example from Scripture is the thief on the cross. If baptism is required for salvation then he was not saved.
Just some thoughts. And thanks for sharing the article. I’ll give it a look.
Another un-requested commenter! 😉
With respect to salvation, to argue from silence is not warranted and dangerous. We cannot determine how God dispenses grace.
Grace and peace,
I completely agree I also believe that one cannot be saved by any kind of Baptism or works of their own only by Grace through Faith. God Bless 🙂
I like your honest analysis that infants are guilty because of original sin. They are guilty because Adam was our federal head, our representative, so even infants sinned in Adam, and therefore need the work of Christ’s atonement to remove their sin (Rom 5:12-21). And yes, that atonement is applied to infants by God sovereignly. God is God and as you quoted from Romans 9 he will show mercy to whom he wants. Though many of the Reformers baptized infants, they did not believe in baptismal regeneration. For them, it was a sign and seal of the covenant and not salvific as opposed to Roman Catholic views on infant baptism. I liked your article very much.
Thanks for the comment!
Pingback: Chew on this during your week – James 1:19-21 | Aaron Aiken