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The Fate of Infants and Unborn Children Who Die - Part 4

Concepts which seem restrictive

Posted Thursday, February 02, 2006 by Sam Yeiter

In this post and the next, we will look at concepts that seem to either restrict salvation from or extend it to the unborn.  This brief post deals with the former (bad news first).  Because of its brevity, I am including the Works Consulted in this post as well.  This might be helpful for those who have wanted to utilize my sources. 

The main objection to any sort of salvation of infants is found in the doctrines of original sin and total depravity.  Most agree that the unborn commit no personal sins, thus many find room to send them to heaven on this basis.  However, Paul is very clear in Romans 5:18 that all men receive condemnation because of Adam’s sin.  Also, Jesus said, “He who believes in Him [the Son] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Some are bothered by the concepts of total depravity and original sin and simply try to eradicate them.  Augustine, for his part, held that at baptism infants die to original sin.  My problem with infant baptism is that there is no scriptural basis for it.  If infant baptism accomplishes the task as Augustine sets forth, then it does so secretly.  Wesley developed a view of prevenient grace that, in effect, reverses the effects of original sin, thus allowing man to freely choose God.  These options are very attractive, but must be firmly rejected by the whole of the Word of God.  I would like to develop a post on this issue later (if no one else beats me to it), so for now I’m going to leave it at this.


Thus original sin remains, and even the unborn are totally depraved.  This would seem to comdemn the unborn as being without any hope.  Those who reject a Wesleyan prevenient grace do not always see infants as condemned to hell.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases.”   Erickson chimes in with an old stand-by:

The current form of my understanding is as follows: We all were involved in Adam’s sin, and thus receive both the corrupted nature that was his after the fall, and the guilt and condemnation that attach to his sin.  With this matter of guilt, however, just as with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, there must be some conscious and voluntary decision on our part.  Until this is the case, there is only a conditional imputation of guilt.  Thus there is no condemnation until one reaches the age of responsibility.  If a child dies before becoming capable of making genuine moral decisions, the contingent imputation of Adamic sin does not become actual, and the child will experience the same type of future existence with the Lord as will those who have reached the age of moral responsibility and had their sins forgiven as a result of accepting the offer of salvation based upon Christ’s atoning death (656). 

He goes on to correspond the age of responsibility with either our first sin, or more likely (according to him), when “we accept or approve of our corrupt nature” (656).  While the idea of an age of accountability should not be rejected out of hand (who am I to take on Ericson?), it does not have strong explicit biblical basis.  Many non-professionals in theologically conservative circles deal with the problem of original sin simply by saying that in some mysterious way God has applied Christ’s atonement to infants.  For some this may satisfy.  I’m not sure I would be comfortable with my response to the problem of total depravity if this were the end of the discussion.  However, I believe there are some scriptural concepts that go a bit toward answering the problem.  We will turn to those next time.



Works Consulted

Ackroyd, Peter R.  The Second Book of Samuel.  The Cambridge Bible Commentary.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Allen, Leslie C.  The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah.  New International Commentary on the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976.

Anderson, A. A.  2 Samuel.  Word Bible Commentary.  Dallas: Word, 1989.

Bergen, Robert D.  1, 2 Samuel.  Ed. E. Ray Clendenen.  The New American Commentary.  N.p.: Broadman and Holman, 1996.

Brooks, James A.  Mark.  The New American Commentary.  Nashville: Broadman, 1991.

Buttrick, George Arthur, Ed.  The Interpreter’s Bible.  Vol. 2.  New York: Abingdon, 1953.

Byrne, Brendan.  Romans.  Ed. Daniel J. Harrington.  Sacra Pagina.  Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1996.

Calvin, John.  The Gospels.  Calvin’s Commentary.  Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers, n.d.

Demarest, Bruce.  The Cross and Salvation.  Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997.

Erickson, Millard J.  Christian Theology.  2nd Ed.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Fernando, Ajith.  Acts.  The NIV Application Bible.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.

Garland, David E.  Mark.  The NIV Application Commentary.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.  Gaebelein, Frank E., Ed.  Deuteronomy - 1, 2 Samuel.  Expositor’s Bible Commentary.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992. 

- - -.  Daniel - Minor Prophets.  Expositor’s Bible Commentary.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Geldenhuys, Norval.  Commentary on the Gospel of Luke.  Ed.  F. F. Bruce.  New International Commentary on the

               Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972.

Gordon, Robert P.  I & II Samuel: A Commentary.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.

Harrington, Daniel J.  Gospel of Matthew.  Sacra Pagina.  Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

Johnson, Luke Timothy.  Acts.   Ed. Daniel J. Harrington.  Sacra Pagina.  Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992.

- - -.  Luke.  Ed. Daniel J. Harrington.  Sacra Pagina.  Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

Keener, Craig S.  Matthew.  Ed. Grant R. Osborne.  IVP New Testament Commentary Series.  Downer’s Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1997. 

Keil, C. F., and F. Delitzsch.  Minor Prophets.  Commentary on the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

- - -.  Joshua - 2 Samuel.  Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

McComiskey, Thomas Edward, Ed.  The Minor Prophets.  Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993.

Nolland, John.  Luke.  Ed. Ralph P. Martin.  Word Biblical Commentaries.  Dallas: Word, 1993.

Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm.  Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  Trans. Rob Ernest Wallis.  Ed. William P. Dickson.  1983 ed. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1983.

- - -.  Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Gospel of Matthew.  Trans. Peter Christie.  Ed. Frederick Crombie & William Stewart.  1983 ed. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1983.

Moo, Douglas J.  The Epistle to the Romans.  The New International Commentary on the New

Testament.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

Morris, Leon.  The Gospel According to John.  Rev. Ed.  New International Commentary on the New Testament.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

- - -.  The Gospel According to Luke.  Ed. R. V. G. Tasker. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

Stuart, Douglas.  Jonah.  Word Biblical Commentaries.  Waco: Word, 1987.


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