Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Father of the fatherless

1. In this post I'm going to present my own arguments for infant salvation. I'm using "infant" as shorthand for children who die below the age of reason. That includes miscarriage. I think universal infant salvation is possible, but I'm skeptical about that. However, I think God saves many dying infants. 

2. If Scripture affirms something, then we have assurance on that point. If Scripture denies something, then that's out of bounds. 

If Scripture is doesn't answer certain questions one way or another, then that leaves the door open to consider the logical possibilities. That's in the realm of theological speculation. Some theological conjectures are more reasonable than others, but we can't be dogmatic. 

3. Both Calvinists and freewill theists usually think some or all dying infants are heavenbound, but for different reasons. 

i) Calvinists believe infants are liable to original sin, but elect infants are redeemed by the atonement of Christ.

ii) Modern-day freewill theists usually deny that infants are guilty of original sin.

iii) On the other hand, traditional freewill theists like John and Charles Wesley probably took a sterner view. They were Anglican clergymen. If you read the ordinance of baptism, it teaches baptismal regeneration, and implies that unbaptized infants are doomed:

4. Calvinists typically think some or all dying infants are elect. In my experience, many Calvinists think that dying infants of believers (or "covenant children") are presumptively elect. Depending on the Calvinist, they may not think there's the same presumption concerning dying infants of unbelievers. 

5. Is there any reason to suppose that God is more likely to save the dying infants of believers? The only reason I can think of is that Christian parents wish to be reunited with their children. End up in the same place. That's understandable, and God may honor that up to a point. Of course, some grown children of Christians are infidels, so God doesn't necessarily honor parental wishes in that regard.

6. What about the dying infants of unbelievers? There the comparison seems to be asymmetrical. Why should the fate of infants be chained to the fate of unbelieving parents? If God saves the dying infants of believers, that benefits both parties. But that doesn't work in reverse. To damn the infants of unbelieving parents doesn't benefit either party. Should infants suffer for the sake of their godless parents? 

I'm not saying that means God saves all the dying infants of unbelieving parents–any more than I'm saying he saves all the dying infants of believing parents. The question is why God should care whether their parents are believers or unbelievers. He might care if the parents are believers for the sake of the parents. But does that mean he shouldn't care for the sake of the infants? 

Suppose I'm a soldier who discovers a war orphan. His parents aren't necessarily dead. They may have been separated. One motivation for me to rescue the child is in hopes of finding his parents and reuniting him to his parents. That's good for the parents and child alike.

However, that shouldn't be my only incentive. I can't count on finding his parents. Maybe they're dead. Or maybe there's no possibility of locating them. That doesn't mean I should leave him behind. I should still rescue him for his own benefit.

So even if God has an additional reason to save some or all dying infants of believing parents, I don't see how that's a necessary reason in the sense that he wouldn't save the infants of unbelieving parents. There can be multiple motivations, any one of which might be sufficient. To suppose that God cares about the fate of kids by believing parents doesn't imply that he has no regard for the fate of the kids by unbelieving parents. Those are separate issues. Affirming one doesn't disaffirm the other. 

My point is not to take a position on percentages, but to reject the linkage, as if the fate of kids by believing parents is inversely linked to the fate of kids by unbelieving parents. Seems to me that the cases are independent of each other. 

7. In addition, God might save some dying infants of unbelieving parents to show that salvation is a matter of grace rather than parentage. We see the same pattern among adults. God saves some grown children of unbelieving parents while some grown children of believing parents are infidels. Election and reprobation cut across bloodlines in both directions. 

8. If you have parents, they can make a big difference. That has a tremendous conditioning influence on kids. Parents and children are psychologically linked in life. But dying infants no longer have their parents. So why would their eternal fate still be tied to their parents? That doesn't settle the question of their eternal fate. Rather, that must be settled on grounds other than parentage.

9. As I've said on multiple occasions, I don't see why election has an age cutoff. Take two brothers: Bobby and Billy. Bobby is 6 while Billy is 7. Suppose for argument's sake we say the age of reason is 7. Both die. Lucky for Bobby that he gets in just under the wire while his brother just misses the chronological boat. 

So my objection cuts both ways. Just as it's ad hoc to suppose that everyone who dies below a certain age is heavenbound, it's at least equally ac hoc if not more so to suppose that everyone who dies below a certain age is hellbound. Why would an age boundary be germane to God? How is that an intrinsic criterion? 

10. Those are some considerations from philosophical theology. What about exegetical theology? Here's one consideration: in Scripture, God is the God of orphans. He expresses a particular concern for the plight of orphans. 

Now there are different ways to become an orphan. You can be a lost child, permanently separated from your parents. Or your parents may die. Or you may die. 

If your parents die, you lose your parents in this life. You are still alive while they are dead. But if you die, you lose your parents in the afterlife. They are still alive while you are dead. Death separates parent and child in either direction–whether by his death or their death. Death orphans a child in one direction or the other. Either they pass out of your life or you pass out of theirs. 

According to Scripture, few things are worse than to be an orphan. You have no one to look out for you at a very vulnerable stage of life–physically and emotionally. 

But what about a dead child. He's orphaned on the other side of the grave. If there's no one waiting to adopt him in the afterlife, he's incomparably worse off than if he was orphaned on this side of the grave. But if God is the God of orphans in the lesser case of dead parents, is he not the God of orphans in the greater case of dying children–greater where the need is greater? If God has a merciful disposition towards living orphans, is he suddenly unmerciful towards dead orphans? Like what Jesus said: if God was Lord of the patriarchs while they were alive, will that not carry through into the afterlife? 

I'm not saying that's an argument for universal infant salvation, but I think it's a neglected consideration in the salvation of at least some dying infants. 

11. In addition, Scripture rages against child sacrifice. But what happens to the victims of child sacrifice? If all victims of child sacrifice go to hell, they suffer a fate even worse than their harrowing experience as sacrificial victims. But if Scripture treats child sacrifice as especially abominable, is God even harsher to them than their heathen executioners? 

I'm not saying that's an argument for universal infant salvation. The pagan priests used to be children, too–who grew up to be child-killers. But I think it's a neglected consideration in the salvation of at least some dying infants.


  1. Reprobated - Hey God! Why is he entitled to live forever in paradise and I dont?

    God - Because he died at age 3 and you with 25.

    Reprobated - Nice, very fair.

    1. That's not a serious response to what I posted. If you're going to litter my posts with snide caricatures, you will be banned.

    2. That's a crude caricature of the very nuanced post you're responding to. But let's roll with the caricature.

      Since a common argument of unbelievers is that it is unfair for infants to be damned to hell for eternity, and since this argument is often wielded in an attempt to corner the Christian, then, prima facie, yes, the reprobate ought to think that God is being *very* fair.

  2. Reprobate - Hey God! Why is he entitled to live forever in paradise and I dont?

    God - Romans 1 & 9

  3. Reprobate - Kind of a paraphrase of Romans 1 & 9 that faith alchemist posted - It's an inferred belief of Christianity that all of us, from the first breath drawn to the last dying moment deserve nothing except Hell. God told Moses I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. As someone who has received mercy, I am disinclined to say anyone doesn't deserve because I know I certainly didn't. As someone who has received mercy, I'm disinclined to say anyone does deserve it, again, because I certainly didn't. I don't think anyone can make any value judgement until it's all over. I know that things happened in my past that, at the time, had me almost panicking and asking "Why?" (Actually add some profanity to that question and it's more accurate). Looking back now, I see why & I'm extremey grateful that those things did happen. Not because all of them turned out good. But all of them turned out to be for my benefit. Even the hard situations that had no good outcome helped me to grow & learn & build things like patience, understanding, etc. Finally, when it IS all over and we are before the judgement seat, I believe even the best of us will be down on our faces and not spouting glib questions & comments :)

  4. //Is there any reason to suppose that God is more likely to save the dying infants of believers?//

    I think that's extrapolated from David and Bathsheba. Is that a correct extrapolation? I'm inclined to think so but I don't hold to it dogmatically.

    What gives me pause is the assumption that Satan supports abortion. If all unborn babies go to heaven, why would Satan support that? Again not determinative.

    1. It's extrapolated from the covenant promise, " I will be a God to you and to your children after you"

    2. In Scripture, that promise was given to Abraham. It has a two-fold realisation, to his physical offspring, and to those who become his offspring by having like faith with him. The move to seeing the promise as made afresh, independent of that original context, in each new generation of believers is illegitimate; not supported by Scripture. The extrapolation, to Abraham's "step-grandchildren" (the physical seed of the spiritual seed), needs a sufficient supporting argument to carry it.

    3. Regarding David's words concerning the infant born to Bathsheba who died, I used to think they were a good argument for infant salvation. However, later, I came to see that they are sufficiently explained as meaning "I will die/leave this earth ; he will not return to it". To pack in the meaning "he's gone to bliss, and I'll meet him there" needs an argument that there's insufficient data to carry.

    4. I'm not particularly interested in rehashing the centuries old debate re: infant baptism based on the covenant promise. That's basic Presbyterian covenant theology. If you aren't Presbyterian, I'm not surprised the covenant promise angle isn't sufficient.

      That's my error, though. My statement implied universality when I should have indicated that was the case for traditional Presbyterian covenant theology. Mea culpa.

    5. Well, it's not that I'm not convinced by the argument because I'm not Presbyterian; it's the other way round.

    6. I'm sure that's the case.

    7. 'Well, it's not that I'm not convinced by the argument because I'm not Presbyterian; it's the other way round.'

      A lot of nots in there :)

      There's still hope for you, brother. I'll pray :)

  5. I think Steve's made an argument as to why infant salvation could be possible. I think that's legitimate. But I don't see a way to take it further. It would be just like our heavenly Father to be so exceedingly merciful and kind to infants and to save many of them through Christ. However, it would also be a mercy from him to them to cut those who were not elect off when young, to lessen the accumulated sin of their (counter-factual) lifetimes.

  6. If faith is superfluous for justification (as is evidently the case of infant salvation), why is it required as a condition for the justification of adults?

    1. Because infants aren't required to think like adults. The requirements for infants are...infantile.

      There's nothing arbitrary about raising the standard for individuals who have greater abilities. What's age-appropriate is a widely-applied category.

      Moreover, what God may require of infants while they remain infants isn't the same as what he requires as the same infants mature into adulthood.

    2. You treat infants as if they are different from adults and therefore deserve special treatment. But in the order of salvation infants and adults are equal. They are both sinners. If God saves one without justification, there is no reason to not save the others.

    3. Your objection is simple-minded, as if there's only one relevant variable. Try to keep more than one idea in your head at a time.

      You fallaciously infer that because God justifies adults on condition of faith, he must justify infants on condition of faith, or else justify both apart from faith. That's grossly simplistic.

      I treat like things alike and unlike things unalike. I think blind people deserve special treatment. People with Down Syndrome deserve special treatment.

      Your one-track mind is tedious. I've spend at lot of time responding to your formulaic objections. You've done nothing to advance the original argument. It's time for you to take a break. Change the subject or you will be banned.

  7. I tend to agree with David's interpretation of David's sentiment. Certainly God alone is just, so I'm not particularly worried about infant's final outcome. But I admit I certainly *hope* my miscarried child is there! But I actually have no idea at all. I don't find "suffer not the little children to come to me" to be a valid argument in favor of salvation. What I find myself more concerned with is how to minister to parents when you have no idea if the little one is in Heaven or not. They hold on to every scrap of hope possible, so I'm not inclined to say "Well, we just don't know" even though I'm thinking it! This is one topic I really wish I understood better. Steve's arguments are reasoned arguments, but I'm not sure they can carry the weight in the absence of Biblical certainty.

    1. I tend to think now that it's something analogous (at certain points, not others) to what Job had to face. God has kept the key facts of the matter hidden. Our role, when there are things he has chosen not to reveal, is to trust him in a general way based upon what we know about him (as opposed to trust him over particular revealed truths about the thing we wished we knew); content to park on the shelf something that there is nothing else we can do with, until the times and seasons change; and to get on with doing today whatever he has given us to do today.

    2. In some situations it's sufficient to have a basis of hope. That falls short of certainty, but is better than nothing.

    3. Corey Fleig, you wrote: //I don't find "suffer not the little children to come to me" to be a valid argument in favor of salvation.//

      But you didn't quote the entire verse of Matt. 19:14:

      English Standard Version
      but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

      New International Version
      Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

      New American Standard Bible
      But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

      Holman Christian Standard Bible
      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."

      I fully agree with Steve's blogpost. Though, I think Matt. 19:14 is more hopeful than you've cited Corey.