Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Abortion and infant salvation

Some Christians espouse two positions: (i) they oppose abortion; (ii) they espouse universal infant salvation. 
Some proabortionists recast this as a dilemma for Christians: if you espouse universal infant salvation, then you ought to support abortion, for abortion ensures their salvation. 
Obviously, this is not a dilemma for Christians who espouse (i) but don't espouse (ii). But what about Christians who espouse both?
To even begin to make this a true dilemma, we need to add a missing premise. A Christian would also have to believe the following: If the same person who died in childhood died later, he'd be damned. 
In other words, if you die in childhood, you go to heaven. But if you die later, you may wind up in hell. Once you pass the age of discretion or age of accountability, you are suddenly at risk of damnation. You lose your chronological immunity to damnation. You acquire that fearful liability. 
And there may, indeed, be Christians who think this way. Of course, that may be because they haven't thought it through.
I'd simply point out that that's not a necessary implication of universal infant salvation. Universal infant salvation doesn't entail that if everyone who died in childhood died later, some of them would go to hell. Universal infant salvation doesn't imply that there's a subset of infants who, if they hadn't died in infancy, would be damned.
Although that's logically consistent with universal infant salvation, it's also logically consistent with universal infant salvation that only those who actually die in infancy are automatically heavenbound.
Put another way, a Christian who espouses universal infant salvation could, in principle, believe that anyone who is heavenbound as an infant is heavenbound as an adult. Anyone who would have gone to heaven had he died in infancy would likewise go to heaven had he died later.
Of course, that's speculative, but then, the alternative is speculative. And we shouldn't kill people based on unverifiable conjectures. 
Thus far I haven't said anything that turns on the Arminian/Calvinist debate. But I'd add that, from a Reformed perspective, salvation or damnation doesn't turn on lucky or unlucky timing. From a Reformed perspective, your eternal fate was sealed before you ever came into existence. Dying young or old doesn't ipso facto change that. 
At most, it would be a question of whether, in his providence, God takes some of the elect to himself sooner rather than later because, counterfactually speaking, had they lived longer, they'd suffer a crisis of faith. 
There are, of course, Christians who think a born-again believer can lose his salvation. If they also believe in universal infant salvation, then they may believe that some people lose their salvation when they grow up. And that's a pressure point when it comes to abortion.
Mind you, they could still take the position that it's not our prerogative to take life absent divine authorization. The ends don't justify murder. 


  1. Steve:

    Long time reader/first time poster. Thank you for posting this article as this has been a major talking point in my household for the last few days. The conversation started when one of the blogs I follow posted an article by Danny Akin/Albert Mohler on infant salvation. That led us to look up what our confessions teach. We learned that both the 2nd London Baptist of 1689 and the WCF refer to elect infants. While I cannot remember where I learned that particular teaching, we wholeheartedly agree with the "elect infants" teaching.

    You say, "In other words, if you die in childhood, you go to heaven. But if you die later, you may wind up in hell. Once you pass the age of discretion or age of accountability, you are suddenly at risk of damnation. You lose your chronological immunity to damnation."

    I understand that the average pew-sitting Christian has probably not pondered this apparent dilemma, but this is the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night. Many times I have thought about going to seminary to get the correct answers. But then I read papers from reformed theologians, for whom I hold a great deal of respect, and they don't seem to have the answers either. So I ask what the average pew-sitting Christian, of which I am one, is supposed to do.

    I often question if pastors and theologians are susceptible to the desire to appeal to the masses - sort of a theological populism. Do they not really think through the logical implications of their teachings?

    One of my favorite movie lines is, "You can't handle the truth." I wish that line did not so frequently apply to us believers.

    Sincere Regards.

    1. I so do identify with what you have written! and I love that line too.

    2. I'm not Steve, but as friends with some seminary professors: they are human and their areas of specialization are limited (as they should be). They will have certain thoughts or beliefs that are in tension with or outright contradictory to other positions they hold; in fact, they may even be wrong from time to time. Unless they are specialists, whatever they say or write might better be taken as the reflections of a sophisticated lay person. (This is not to denigrate their position, but to appreciate their limitations.)

      They are also motivated by the same motivations we are, and enjoy different degrees of sanctification. For the teacher and writer, the lure of influence is strong, even overwhelming if not properly addressed, and some professors will engage in populism for the deceptive and fleeting promise of popularity and celebrity. (This can be justified under the guise of doing much good for the church, but is often just an exercise in ego fulfillment.)

      As a seminary student, I will tell you that you don't need to go to seminary to get the correct answers. Two or three years of fairly light coursework, especially at today's seminaries, is good mostly for a broad overview of theology (and maybe some philosophy and church history). It won't provide many detailed answers. I would read a couple of the best papers on the subject and come to your own conclusion (as we must do for so many difficult subjects), and then trust God's judgment on the matter. (Easier said than done, of course.)

    3. This is wise advice.

  2. Steve~ Thanks for this (overdo) posting. I have wondered about this for years.