In a recent blog article my good friend Peter Lumpkins debated infant salvation and the historic view that leads to the doctrine of infant baptism. The basic understanding of this doctrine is that the elect infants/children that die go to heaven but an infant/child not part of the elect goes to hell. Thus, the need for infant baptism because that infant in the home of the covenant parents was brought into the covenant through the salvific act of infant baptism. John Calvin himself argued for infant reprobation, as did the statements of both Dort and Westminster. Some “Reformed” theologians actually teach infants/children that are not in the homes of Christian parents are not part of the elect. For instance, popular Reformed theologian, R.C. Sproul, Jr. questions the salvation of all infants dying in infancy, taking evangelist Billy Graham to task for assuming without warrant the safeness or salvation of all infants. He writes:
“Mr. Graham reflected the general consensus not just of the world but of the evangelical church, when, in his laudable desire to comfort, he appeared to affirm a new gospel: justification by youth alone. Though Scripture is clear that in sin we are conceived, though it affirms that outside of faith in Christ alone there is no salvation, we comfort ourselves in the face of grim images of the dead children carried from the rubble with the biblically unwarranted assurance that if one only dies young enough, one will be saved.”
“The fact that the Westminster Confession speaks of God’s mercy on elect infants does not seem to impact … thinking, since, it seems fairly clear to me, anyway, his belief in original sin and the unity of mankind with Adam in his transgression is significantly less than…robust, shall we say? In any case, evidently, reasoned discussion on whether abortion is the best heaven-filling device ever devised by man or whether we should give the disposition of this issue into the hands of the judge of all the earth, trusting Him to do right, is not even allowed in … world. If you dare think past his simplistic solution, you are a baby-hating Calvinist. Very sad indeed.”
While James White was referencing Dr. Ergun Caner’s satire of White’s book in the above statement, one could place any name in the ellipses that disagrees that infants who die go to hell. It seems that White takes the view that only the “elect” infants that die spend eternity in Heaven. That leaves those infants that die which are not part of the Reformed definition of the infant elect. According to White the children that are not part of the elect are “the vessels of dishonor, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” Thus, it seems if one disagrees with that analysis then, according to White, one has found abortion as the best heaven filling device ever invented. Therefore, as the below quote proves, Dr. Mohler would be seen by James White as encouraging abortion in order to fill Heaven.
Some “Reformed” within our convention have posited the position that Zwingli held, basically that all infants/children who die before a time of understanding, some call it “age of accountability”, are the elect. Therefore, as the below quote proves, Dr. Mohler would be seen by James White as encouraging abortion in order to fill Heaven.
Consider Dr. Al Mohler’s conclusion:
“We believe that Scripture does indeed teach that all persons who die in infancy are among the elect. This must not be based only in our hope that it is true, but in a careful reading of the Bible”
Mohler goes on to deny embracing the eternal election of all infants dying in infancy affects in no significant way the Reformed understanding of predestination. However, while we agree with the ultimate conclusion to which Dr. Mohler came (i.e, all infants dying in infancy are under the gracious care of God), we are not as optimistic as is he that the idea “all infants dying in infancy are elect” does no harm to the Reformed view of election. In fact, while this is a pastoral way of dealing with the issue of election concerning infants/children, it seems illogical and appears to break down the entire Reformed position. Why would I say this?
Well, the Reformed doctrine of election holds tenaciously to God’s sovereignty and human inability to determine the elect. Almost all within the Reformed community hold that one cannot know who the elect are. Some hold to this position to the extent that they will say to share the Gospel with just anyone would be “casting pearl before the swine.” Of course the later is Hyper-Calvinism run amok but there are those that teach such. The basic Reformed doctrine would say; “If man can determine the elect then God is no longer sovereign.” Therefore, if we are able to identify a group of people and determine they are the elect based on their being in that group of people then we are tacitly teaching universalism. Why? God has identified in His foreknowledge a group of people that He elected in eternity past not based on his sovereignty but based on the dates people die. How absurd is it to say the God of life bases His sovereign election upon the death of a human being?
Of course according to one Reformed thinker, those that believe all infants go to heaven when they die are no more than offering an evangelistic proponent to abortion. As James White says:
“In any case, evidently, reasoned discussion on whether abortion is the best heaven-filling device ever devised by man or whether we should give the disposition of this issue into the hands of the judge of all the earth, trusting Him to do right…”
He seems to argue that the goals of Planned Parenthood are a viable remedy to evangelism for those who believe that infants/children go to heaven when they die. What do I mean? Well, it seems his argument would be, if all infants/children that die are the elect then we should not oppose abortion. As a matter of fact we should encourage abortion. Why? Many parents that choose abortion do not know Christ and their children, according to some in the Reformed community, would not be part of the elect. However, if Zwingli’s teaching that all infants/children before the age of understanding are the elect, we should applaud Planned Parenthood on the grounds that the little ones going through the horrible medical procedure we call abortion will spend eternity in heaven. We should not oppose late term abortions because those babies are part of the elect and thus make it to heaven and the mother has done a great service for that child. But, let’s take this further. Could it not be argued, if all infant/children are the elect, that the best way to ensure that Muslim children make it to heaven is to kill them while they are babies? If that child grows up to the age of accountability then that child will have a more difficult time of getting into heaven.
I know that this is the absurd and some may even accuse me of pushing the extreme while other may even charge me with making a straw man. However, this is not a straw man because it reveals the logical conclusion of the doctrine of Election when it is removed from the historic Reformed view. While some Reformed brothers may take this to task and charge me with not understanding Reformed doctrine, that is okay. However, my good friend Peter Lumpkins has certainly presented the historic position of Reformed doctrine concerning babies that die and going to hell. If one believes in the Reformed Doctrine of original sin, which as Calvin defines it;
“For if they (infants) bring innate corruption with them from their mother’s womb, they must be purified before they can be admitted into the kingdom of God, into which shall not enter anything that defileth (Rev. 21:27). If they are born sinners, as David and Paul affirm, they must either remain unaccepted and hated by God, or be justified.” (Inst. Book 4, Sec. 17 emphasis mine)
We have to ask the difference in the Zwinglian position versus the position of Baptists known as the Age of Accountability? Simple, the Age of Accountability is based on the understanding that
“In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race…” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Article 3)
We all understand this and can agree. However, Baptists go further concerning the position of sin.
“Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Article 3)
Here we see Southern Baptist take the position of humans having the ability to choose. While, because the nature is inclined to sin and the environment was affected by the fall, the choice humans make are sinful. One commenter in our post by Dr. Lemke said;
“Just last night I slipped into my 5-month-old baby’s room while he slept and just watched him, and marveled at how perfect he was. However he is not perfect. He is in fact a slave to sin. A sin nature resides in his heart at this very moment, and he has likely committed some sin in his body that I am unaware of.”
We would not agree with that statement because we would argue a 5 month-old baby does not have the capacity to make choices of sinful actions that are in rebellion against God. As Dr. Lemke eloquently argued, while we certainly are under the condemnation of the inherited sin, we also are under inherited guilt. That 5 month-old baby will choose to rebel against God when he/she is able to make to make a choice. However, until that time the infant/child is under the special grace of God. As David said in 2 Samuel 12:23, his child died and was in heaven. One commenter has stated that was not David’s intention in that statement. He reasons that David was referencing the Old Testament understanding of the grave. However, there are serious concerns in that reasoning. Joshua in Joshua 2:1 distinguishes Heaven is the place where God resides. David identified Heaven as the place where God resides in Psalm 11:4. In Psalm 57:3 David clearly identified that God was in Heaven and it was from there that God would send His mercy. For one to say;
“Even if we accept the point that David’s baby was saved (or will be saved on the day of resurrection), we still cannot draw a universal conclusion about all babies from it.”
This seems at best naive and at worst denying the prophetic words of David the Prophet. If Scripture is God’s inerrant word we interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. Jesus, in the New Testament, spoke about the angels in Heaven that beheld the face of the Father. This Scripture reveals that God certainly is intimately interested in what takes place in the life of these little ones. Let me be clear; I am not advocating salvation by angels. I am saying that if God has angels assigned to monitor the events in the lives of these little ones He certainly has provided a special Grace for them in the event of their untimely death.
Let’s face it, the Reformed view that some infant/children are the elect and some are not remains the more logical view within the system of Reformed Theology than the view that we can determine there is a group that are the elect. When one presents a group of humans as being the elect, the entire Doctrine of God’s sovereignty has been relegated to a man-made system.