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2010.08.03

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Chris Roberts

Quick response in the midst of a busy day:

Any non-elect person who dies will not go to Heaven. That includes children. But no one knows who is elect and who is not. Children, infants included, are born into the world as sinners, both from their own sin and from the guilt of Adam, and by their sin would merit the judgment of God, any sentimentalism we may feel notwithstanding. As I stated in the discussion on Lemke's comments, I believe God does not hold children and infants accountable for their sins, so they will be saved - thus I believe infants who die are, indeed, elect, which from what you say would put me in line with Zwingly.

That said, Scripture is very quiet on the issue of the fate of children. The Bible just does not tell us. It tells us children are sinners and all sinners need the blood of Christ for salvation. It also tells us God is good, so whether all infants go to Heaven, some go to Hell, or every human being, infant or adult, goes to Hell, God is still good because God is just and we are sinners. Any grace we get is just that, grace.

volfan007

Chris,

King David, when talking about his baby that died, said that the baby could not come back to him, but that one day he would go to be with his baby.

I know that's not a definitive teaching on the subject, but that passage, along with God's goodness and mercy, and passages on Jesus loving the little children....all shout to me that children go to Heaven when they die.

I cant imagine God sending a little child...one who knows nothing about right and wrong...who has no concept about God...to Hell.

David

Darby Livingston

Peter,

I'm glad you posted this. This is one of the reasons I'm not fond of calling baptists reformed. There is too much covenant theology wrapped up in reformed religion to make it a redeemable term in my mind. I am stunned that so many of the "young restless and reformed" do indeed seem to be ignorant of the fathers' theology. Fortunately, many of the modern baptist Calvinists aren't afraid to jettison certain portions of covenant theology when they seem to press Scripture too far.

I have no problem saying that all infants are inherently depraved and destined to Hell apart from a miraculous work of grace. God is not mushy when looking at infants like we are. Infants are under the curse of Adam like everyone else. However, I also have nothing in my theological system that demands that certain infants are automatically non-elect. I believe that God is gracious; that no infant has the capacity to acknowledge the sinfulness destined to rage through him, let alone trust in Christ for deliverance from it; and that there are scriptural reasons to believe that all infants are elect.

Darby Livingston

I should clarify: that all infants who die in that state are elect.

peter lumpkins

Chris,

I did not know anything about this post pertained to what I think or you think Scripture teaches on the subject. Instead, the question was and remains, whether it is misinformed ignorance and skewing historic "Reformed theology" to suggest mainstream Calvinism embraces Infant Reprobation. Calvinists on the last thread claimed I misrepresented Reformed theology by asserting such a notion.

That aside, your conclusion that God is good regardless is laudable but simply misses the point entirely. Ignoring the question of Infant Salvation is hardly an answer to it.

Finally, you write "I believe God does not hold children and infants accountable for their sins, so they will be saved.." goes diametrically opposed to Calvin and Augustine who deduced such from original sin. Simply saying, "I fall with Zwingli" remains unconvincing, especially since Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Gomorus, in fact, the entire cabinet of Dort, not to mention virtually every Westminster Divine are against you (and Zwingli). Until you can show how Zwingli is right contra Calvin's et al doctrine of Original Sin, let's consider your comment "incomplete."

With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

Darby,

Thanks. The low level of awareness of historic theology is frightening much less actually understanding it. After 30 years I still feel overwhelmed trying to look at 'big picture' issues.

One of the problems Calvinism faces with this issue which you brought up but Chris apparently does not see (yet, to be fair he may not have had time to write at this time) is embedded in your statement: "no infant has the capacity to acknowledge the sinfulness destined to rage through him, let alone trust in Christ for deliverance from it."

While this is obviously true, and I fully agree, the difficulty is, how does this state differ, in substance, from any adult, given the Calvinist concept of total depravity? From my understanding, it differs nothing in the least. Total depravity demands no adult has the capacity to acknowledge the sinfulness destined to rage through him, let alone trust in Christ for deliverance from it. Yet, given Calvinist assumptions, the adult is nonetheless fully responsible for his or her sin and will suffer eternally for it apart from faith. But why would the infant garner a free pass but the adult held responsible *if* no difference exists between their status? Augustine, Calvin, Luther, et al answered the infant would not. All are sinners; all are guilty; all will pay--except the elect.

With that, I am...
Peter

Darby Livingston

I agree that the reformers would answer the infant would not get a pass. That's the pretty widely accepted reformed position on reprobation. However, the elect will be saved through Christ and there are a few texts, as David above pointed out, that lead me to believe that all infants are elect. I hope that doesn't sound like getting around the dilemma, because I'm just trying to reconcile all the texts while doing justice to each of them.

Eric

Peter - I realize that my question is someone off the topic of the post, but to interpret your answer/response to other comments I feel it is important to ask.

You seem to have a different view on depravity and election than the "T" and "U", so what system or view best fits your understanding of election (category, conditional, etc) and depravity? Even pointing me to a blog entry would be great (I'm new to reading your blog)

I ask simply to understand your commments/responses better.

Thanks.

Erik

King David lack full knowledge of heaven, only a concept of an afterlife (Sheol). David knew he'd die one day and join his child. I do not think that one could use that passage to describe children going to heaven due to context. I could be wrong, but perhaps someone could elaborate the point.

Calvinism is really quite simple. Christ died for some (the elect), but not all. Therefore the majority of people will burn in hell, not being chosen by God. God sits in heaven with His bingo cage, picks out a few people (unconditional election), and God gets glory for forcing His grace on the few He chose (irresistible grace). Those few didn't deserve it and those same few will sing a song of praise for all eternity (perseverance of the saints) grateful that God chose them.

The rest of humanity burns.

As Peter pointed out if man is totally reprobate, age does not matter. All are guilty and condemned before God (total depravity) unless God picked them (limited atonement). Even if some babies are elect like some would claim, the rest go to hell. Calvinist doctrine leads to that conclusion.

Ian D. Elsasser

Peter, thank you for picking up this discussion from the previous article and examining the historical and theological perspectives on it. This is one of the areas the Particular Baptists of the Second London Confession parted ways with the Westminster Assembly and the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), dropping "elect" before "elect infants dying in infancy" and therefore holding that all infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved through Christ (10.3 in both WCF and 1689 Baptist Confession). It does show a difference between "Reformed" and Baptist in these early days.

Ron Hale

Peter,

Dr. Steve Lemke, in his co-edited book Whosoever Will [p.132] mentions the writings of David Engelsma as he teaches ..."However, children of unbelievers who die in infancy are reprobate and go to hell." Dr. Engelsma's book was published by Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2005.

Dr. Lemke also reminds us [p.133]of the comments by Dr. R.C. Sproul as he took Dr. Billy Graham to task for comforting the parents of the children who died in the children's day care center during the Oklahoma City bombing. Sproul insisted that since we are born guilty of orginal sin, and infants have no opportunity for justification by faith, they have no real hope of salvation. He accused this great soul-winning evangelist of preaching a new gospel -- justification by youth alone.

Peter, recent history and much older reformed writings seem to prove your point. You Sir, speak the truth.

volfan007

Peter,

Another angle to this, and one that I hope you'll address for me, is about mentally challenged people? What do the Reformed Calvinists think about people, who have IQ's so low that they have no idea about right and wrong? Do they also teach that retarded adults...either go to Heaven or Hell? I think I already know the answer...since you've pointed out their thoughts on children; but I'd like to hear your take on this one.

For the record, I believe, IMHO, an opinion based on the goodness and mercy of God, that mentally challenged people also go to Heaven when they die. I absolutely do not believe that God would send mentally challenged adults, who have the minds of little children, to Hell. Nor do I believe that God would send little children to Hell. And, King David didnt have a good concept of Heaven? Really, Eric? King David, a man after God's own heart, didnt have a concept of Heaven after death? King David, a man that God used in so many great ways, didnt know that he'd go to Abraham's bosom, to Paradise, after he died? I think you are very wrong, Erik. I think King David meant Heaven when talking about his child. I think King David had full assurance of his salvation, and he knew that he was going to Heaven when he died, and that he would join his child in Heaven one day. Also, Jesus loved the little children, and talked a lot about little children. I really think that they go to Heaven.

David

peter lumpkins

Eric,

That's a fair question. My own take on total depravity, while very strong, is nevertheless not of the same ilk as so many in the "reformed" camp today whose view should not be taken as depravity but inability. Those who argue "dead means dead" (Eph 2.1 et al), making deadness into a state whereby one must experience the new birth prior to repentance and faith are, in my view, severely mistaken on a number of counts. I do not believe faith constitutes 'good works' by any biblical definition.

Hence, while the Holy Spirit *must* accompany the preaching of the gospel, and *must* convict the sinner of his hopelessness apart from the gospel, it nevertheless remains a real decision--in the classic libertarian sense--to surrender one's life to Christ, to believe.

As for unconditional election, I find no reference whatsoever to the term as its used in its decretal sense by modern Calvinists in the Bible. Furthermore, in light of several passages of Scripture (including Rm. 8), I cannot overlook the role foreknowledge plays in the doctrine of election.

Thanks for an honest question.

With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

Ron,

Thanks for the encouragement. Dr. Lemke, I think, got a hatchet job by some guys. His essay deserved more care in critiqing it...

David,

Honestly, in my own meager search, I found no references to the mentally challenged (though they used to call them 'imbeciles'). Admittedly, I wasn't looking either.

Now, Edwards seems to imply that diseases on children (which presumably includes mental diseases) was indicative of God's wrath and the presence of Original Sin. In that case, it seems the deduction is inescapable: mentally challenged people who are not elect will suffer in hell. I honestly do not see a way out of the dilemma, given the Calvinist assumptions men like Edwards embraced.

With that, I am...
Peter

volfan007

BTW, Eric and others, I dont believe that children and the mentally challenged go to HEaven based on thier youth, or their low IQ, as Sproul accused Billy Graham of. I believe that they are covered under God's grace. They are chosen by God to salvation, due to their complete inability to make choices.

DAvid

Ron Hale

Peter,
It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it! Thanks for being a student of history and the Word!

As a minister of the gospel for over thirty years, I've heard a few horror stories of parents losing an infant and not being consoled by certain ministers.

It can make parents and families bitter toward God and His Church.

I've seen a consistent inconsistency on this subject by reformed writers over the years.

Loraine Boettner writes[The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination; Infant Salvation] ..."The Scriptures seem to teach plainly enough that the children of believers are saved; but they are silent or practically so in regard to those of heathens."

Then he says when the scriptures are silent and the confessions are silent ... we should be silent.

Maybe Reformed theology can be new and exciting for some in a college or seminary class. But in the real world of death and dying ... Jesus always gives hope! "Let the little children come to me!"

Ian D. Elsasser

Peter:

I must make a correction to my comment about the Second London Confession on the issue of infants dying in infancy. There are two versions of the Confession, the original version and an edited version, and my comment was based on the edited version which omits "elect" before "infants," whereas the original version retains "elect" and is, therefore, identical to the Westminster Confession of Faith. I apologize for my mistake and any confusion is may have caused.

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