Below is an article printed in The Baltimore Sun, May 26, 1908. The article reflects the turmoil among Presbyterians who desired to change the Westminster Confession because it taught the eternal damnation of some infants and those Presbyterians who insisted the Confession should remain as it was originally written.
According to Dr. J.B. Mack, a well-known Presbyterian theologian and evangelist in the south, those who wanted to retain the Confession as it was written by Westminster divines were called “I.D.P.’s” standing for “Infant Damnation Presbyterians” and those desiring to change the Westminster Confession to reflect that all infants dying in infancy were saved were called “I.S.P.’s” or “Infant Salvation Presbyterians.”1 Mack aligned with the latter.
Given Gerald Harris’ recent rhetorical wrangle concerning Frank Page’s Calvinism Advisory Team (here and here), perhaps we should form our own categories to reflect those in the convention who embrace either a) the belief that all infants dying in infancy are safe in the grace of God; or b) only elect infants dying in infancy are safe in the grace of God (implying, of course, that non-elect infants burn in hell).2 Using Mack’s model, we could categorize them like this:
I.D.S.B.’s = Infant Damnation Southern Baptists
I.S.S.B.’s = Infant Salvation Southern Baptists
Personally, I will break my normal aversion to aligning with any group-think category—Southern Baptist or otherwise--and instead dine with those Southern Baptists who will resist anyone or any theological ideology which entertains the monstrous theological notion that the God of the Bible burns babies in the flames of hell because of inherited sinful guilt.
The Baltimore Sun
Greensboro, N. C., May 25.—Without opposition, Savannah, Ga., was chosen as the place for the 1909 meeting at today's session of the Southern Presbyterian General Assembly. The sessions were featured by a lively discussion regarding Calvin's views on Infant salvation.
Just before the noon recess a motion was made by Prof. C. Alphonso Smith, of the University of North Carolina, that the program for Calvin Day at the next assembly be reconsidered and that the subject "Calvin and Infant Salvation" be eliminated therefrom. Professor Smith argued that it was hurting the church to keep up discussion as to Infant salvation and infant damnation, and that it was a dead Issue. He thought the church had reached the point where it did not care particularly what John Calvin believed upon the subject. Professor Smith said that for a long time he did not think that John Calvin believed in infant damnation, but as a result of research he is convinced that Calvin did believe this doctrine. "The discussion is doing harm," said Professor Smith. "We are here to consider live issues, and not dead ones."
After arguments upon both sides Professor Smith's motion was lost 86 to 65.
Most of the speakers expressed the opinion that the Presbyterian Church of' today does not teach nor believe in Infant damnation. A motion was made that a committee be appointed to express sympathy with the workers for prohibition in this State tomorrow. Objection was raised to such action, and a motion that the assembly shall not meet at 10 A. M. tomorrow, so that members of the assembly may join in the prohibition movement, was also objected to. The matter was finally disposed of by reaffirming the resolution adopted by the assembly of 1880 upon this subject. This decried the liquor evil, "and recommends to all our people the use of all legitimate means for its banishment from the land."
The complaint of Bennett H. Young against the Synod of Kentucky for making the board of trustees of Central University at Danville, Ky., self-perpetuating was heard this afternoon. There was promise of a battle royal in the argument between Colonel Young, of Louisville representing the complainants, and Col. Thomas W. Bullitt of Louisville, representing the synod. At 11 o'clock the moderator, Rev. Dr. W. Moore, of Richmond, Va.,, preached strong sermon from the text, "It is expedient for you that I go away.”
A telegram of greeting was received from, Bishop Edward Rondthaler, of the Moravian Church. By consent the complaint of W. A. Gill and others of Texas was withdrawn.
1The Atlanta Constitution, Dec. 23, 1900, page 20. I’ll post Mack’s article in Part 2
2some Reformed theologians haved argued that the souls of infants are annihilated upon death