Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Abortion, election, and apostasy

Abortionists sometimes cite popular belief in universal infant salvation as a wedge tactic to taunt Christians: If you believe all babies are heavenbound, why do you oppose abortion? This is meant to generate a dilemma: logically, you should either support both or oppose both. 

John Piper recently posted on this subject:

Given the cards he dealt himself, I think he played his hand fairly well. That said:

i) Speaking for myself, I'm dubious about universal infant salvation. All the world's worst people used to be cute little kids. I can't help mentally rewinding the clock. Go back in time from what they are to what they were. 

Seems arbitrary to say that if you die at seven you fly to heaven, but if you die at nine you fry. 

We see children as they are, not as they will be. At least initially. Sometimes we live long enough to see how they turn out–for better or worse. 

So I doubt a key premise of the argument. But even if I didn't, I don't think the argument goes through. 

ii) If this poses a dilemma at all, it only poses a dilemma for freewill theists rather than Calvinists. The unstated premise of the argument is that people can lose their salvation. Hence, if somebody is now saved, killing him now is the way to seal his salvation. If salvation can be lost, it is risky to live another day. To play it safe, die when you are saved. The longer you wait, the greater the risk that you will died unsaved. 

Incidentally, the logic of that argument is hardly confined to infants. It would apply just as well to born-again adults. 

iii) But, of course, Calvinism rejects the operating premise. What ensures your salvation is not when you die, but election–which is unalterable. Not, in the first instance, what happened in time, but what happened in eternity. The elect can't lose their salvation. You either have it or you don't.

From a Reformed standpoint, nothing you do can change the number of the elect. In the classic formulation of the Westminster Confession: "These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished" (WCF 3:4).

iv) But it might be argued that this misses the point. The claim is not that we retroactively cause God to elect more people if more babies die in the womb. The claim, rather, is that if more (elect) babies die in the womb, then that's how God predestined the end-result all along. Our alternate course of action (i.e. aborting elect babies) is the consequence of God's foreordination, rather than God's foreordination as the consequence of our alternate course of action. 

v) There is, however, a basic problem with that argument. It's a counterfactual scenario. As such, it doesn't refer to the world in which you and I actually live, but to an alternate timeline.

But even if you believe in universal infant salvation vis-a-vis the actual world, you can't just switch to an alternate timeline, yet assume everything else remains the same. Even if your thought-experiment only changes on variable, that's just a thought-experiment. You can conjecture that God might do it that way, but it's not as if you have given God a blueprint which he must follow. 

Suppose there's a possible world in which some people kill their children in the superstitious belief that doing so will ensure their salvation. It doesn't follow that in fact raises the number of the elect. For in that alternate timeline, God may not elect all dying infants, even if he does so in this world. 

vi) Furthermore, even if you subscribe to predestinarian universal infant salvation, that doesn't imply that more people are ultimately elect. It may simply mean a greater percentage of the elect die in infancy, and fewer in adulthood–even though the overall number is exactly the same. The sum is the same. All that's different is how the elect are distributed by time of death. Whether more die younger or older. 


  1. For a simple person like me, my simple answer to the challenging question is the following:

    #1 We don't know if all babies go to heaven when they die. Because of original sin all humans (including babies) are deserving of hell. There is good Biblical reason to believe that at least some infants go to heaven if they die in infancy, but there's nothing in Scripture whereby we can be sure that 100% of them do. That reality, coupled with the fact that God's ordinary and usual way of saving people is by exposing them to the gospel and bringing them to saving faith, is a reason why we should oppose abortion. God's preferred method is to use the means of hearing and believing the gospel to save people. If a person hasn't heard the gospel and hasn't believed/accepted/assented to it rationally and in an informed manner, then we should not have confidence that that person is going (or went) to heaven. If that's true for those who have reached the age of discretion, why take the risk and think that's not true for everyone or anyone who dies in infancy? That is, since we aren't sure that 100% of dying infants go to heaven.

    Since we don't know whether these babies are elect or not, and since we know God's normal way of saving the elect is by having them hear and believe the gospel, it's better to have them grow up and give them a chance to hear and respond to the gospel. God ordains both means and ends. We are not the ones to choose which means God will use, won't use or bypass altogether in any particular circumstance. For all we know, in some instances God may use the fact that a baby hasn't heard the gospel as a "means" not to save that particular baby. Conversely, in some instances God may use the hearing of the gospel to save a person who was once a baby.

    The issue seems to be analogous to missions. God sometimes uses the fact that a person lives and dies at a ripe old age never hearing the gospel to ensure that that person isn't saved. But we don't know that, and that's why we are motivated to send forth missionaries, since for all we know, that's the means God uses to save that person. Knowing also that God commands us to evangelize and informs us that's His usual means of saving people.

    God has orchestrated means and ends, causes and effects in such a way that though only (and always) what God ordains is what will happens, the means and causes are essential for the ends and effects to come about. They genuinely make a difference. Effects and ends will not come about without the necessary and sufficient causes and means.

    #2 abortion is contrary to God's revealed/prescriptive/preceptive. Even if we were assured that 100% of dying infants go to heaven, it's not a good reason to perform/promote abortion. That's a pragmatic and consequentialist approach to morality that's contrary to Christianity. Consequences factor into Christian morality, but Christian morality isn't consequentialist. Here's a link to my blogpost [Six] Distinctions in God's Will From a Calvinist Perspective

    #3 The challenging question/objection is sometimes used by atheists as well. When they do, then we can flip it around and point out that since you're going to die anyway, what's wrong with someone killing you and taking your belongings? If they argue that that takes away time they could have enjoyed the remainder of their lives, then that applies to the babies as well. Aborted babies are deprived of a life they could have enjoyed for decades. Sometimes longer than the adult atheists who make the objection, since babies have that much more time to live than those who have already reached adulthood. Babies have much more to potential time to lose.

    These reasons are in addition to John Piper's and Steve's good reasons why we should oppose abortion.

    1. I think Piper's #1 could have been more explicit in saying that since abortion is murder, those who have or perform abortions are murderers. So even if the babies go to heaven, the murderers are that much more guilty before God and deserving of greater punishment in hell. It's not only wrong to murder, but to promote murdering (i.e. pro choice).

      Also, if we are not only concerned about the eternal fate of infants but also adults, then we would be desirous to see people not perform/promote abortion and instead be saved. Being Pro Choice is antithetical to Pro Gospel, and vice versa.

  2. If the blood of righteous Abel cried out to the Lord from the ground how must the blood of millions of aborted children ring in His ears.

    His judgment must be swelling as a great torrent held back only by His patience until the appointed hour when He judges in flaming vengeance those who practice lawlessness.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I've engaged the miscarriage canard before, as well as theological voluntarism. Don't raise canned objections that this blog has already engaged. It's a lazy village atheist tactic to repeat objections while ignoring the replies.

    2. I don't see why you have to remove the comment when you could just provide the link that explains it. That would be much more helpful...

    3. Actually, what would be more helpful is for you to take the initiative to inform yourself.

    4. Unknown, for a more thorough search go to

      In the "site or domain:" field type


      Make sure to leave out "http://www." and only type ""

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