Skip to comments.CALVINISM: ITS DOCTRINE OF INFANT SALVATION
Posted on 10/15/2004 1:04:27 AM PDT by OrthodoxPresbyterian
Are persons who die in infancy saved? Holy Scriptures do not directly address this subject. But various indirect declarations give us every reason to rest assured that they are indeed saved.
The goodness of God suggests the salvation of those who die in infancy. We read in Job 38:41 that He provides food for newborn ravens when they cry unto Him. Surely He will not turn a deaf ear to the cries of infants and permit them to be cast from His presence! We read in Psalm 145:15f that He provides food for "every living thing," even the most loathsome of creatures. Surely He will provide salvation for those made in His own image who die in infancy!
In various passages, the number of the redeemed in glory is so large as to suggest the salvation of those persons who died in infancy. For example, they are described in Revelation 7:9 as "a great multitude which no man could number." It is thought by many theologians that the number of souls in glory will be greater than that of the souls in the regions of the damned on the grounds that Christ must have the preeminence. This certainly will be true if the number of the redeemed in glory will include all those who died in infancy and childhood, which was a vast part of humanity in former times when a great percentage of children did not live long enough to reach adulthood. This number would also include the untold millions who today are snatched from their mothers' wombs and sacrificed by abortionists.
In Ezekiel 16:21, God called the children sacrificed to heathen gods "My children": "you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire." God's children are received in glory, not consigned to hell.
In Jonah 4:11, we read that God had great pity on the citizens of Nineveh, especially upon its "more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left." Such pity suggests these infants would be received into glory if they died in infancy.
In Mark 10:14, Jesus Christ said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." He then admonished adults in the next verse, "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
In 2 Samuel 12:23, David expressed his own assurance that his own departed infant was received into heaven, and that he himself would later be forever reunited with him there: "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
The great question before us not is not whether persons dying in infancy are saved and received into glory. Holy Scriptures would seem to assure us that they indeed are. Rather, the question before us should be whether the parents and loved ones of those who die in infancy will be reunited with them in glory.
How are persons who die in infancy saved?
Arminians err when they aver that persons dying in infancy are saved because of their supposed innocence. Arminians are driven to this view because of a fatal flaw in their scheme of salvation. Arminians believe that God has done all He can to save sinners, and that the success of His desire and endeavor rests solely upon those sinners exercising their supposed "free will" in making what they call a "decision for Christ." Arminians declare that if sinners do not make such a conscious and deliberate decision to let God save them, God cannot do so.
This Arminian heresy mercilessly shuts the door of salvation to infants who are in every way incapable of their own will to make a "decision for Christ." Arminians admit this fatal flaw to their scheme of salvation, but they are not willing to concede that persons dying in infancy are forever lost and damned. Arminians therefore must devise another scheme by which God saves infants, thereby averring that God saves adults in one way, and infants in another.
This Arminian dilemma is compounded for Campbellites, the disciples of Alexander Campbell (1788-1866). Campbellites are not only Arminian, but also among the most strident proponents of the heresy of baptismal regeneration. They emphatically deny that anyone can be saved apart from baptism. This Campbellite heresy also mercilessly shuts the door of salvation to unbaptized infants unless another scheme of salvation can be devised for them.
Arminians generally believe the scheme for the salvation for infants involves their innocence and/or the fact that they have not reached the age of accountability whatever that is!
This Arminian scheme for the salvation of infants contradicts Holy Scriptures in at least two ways. First, it denies that God has but one plan for salvation, and posits instead that He saves adults in one way and infants in another.
Second, this Arminian scheme for the salvation of infants denies the Biblical doctrine of the sinfulness of the whole human race, including infants.
Romans 5:12-19 teaches us that we all, infants included, sinned and died in the fall of Adam, the first man.
Job (14:4) declared the sinfulness of infants when he said, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!"
The psalmist David declared the sinfulness of infants when he, speaking for us all, said in Psalm 51:5, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me."
And he poignantly declared the sinfulness of infants when he said in Psalm 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies."
Solomon includes infants when he teaches us in Ecclesiastes 7:20 that "there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin."
And Jesus Christ includes infants when He teaches us in John 3:1-7 that "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" and in need of being "born again" by the Holy Spirit if he or she is to see or enter God's kingdom.
Another flaw of the Arminian view is that it in reality denies infant salvation. There is no need of salvation for those who are innocent! "Infant salvation" is a misnomer for Arminians.
Roman Catholics err when they aver that persons dying in infancy are saved if they are baptized. One of the first great heresies to plague the church of Christ was the mistaken belief that salvation is obtained through baptism. Since those who embraced this heresy wished to prevent their children from dying unbaptized, and therefore unsaved, they baptized them as soon as they were born. Scriptures deny both the heresy of baptismal regeneration and of the baptism of infants.
Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church emphatically declares that infants and young children dying unbaptized are forbidden to enter heaven. According to the article "Infants, Unbaptized" in A Catholic Dictionary, "The Church has always taught that unbaptized children are excluded from heaven .... Heaven is a reward in no way due to their human nature as such."
Calvinists rightly teach that persons dying in infancy are saved in the same manner as are saved adults. God has only one plan of salvation. It teaches that sinners are saved by God's free and sovereign grace in Jesus Christ, totally apart from any works of righteousness they perform or any supposed virtue in them. Everyone who is saved including all persons dying in infancy is saved through being elected to salvation by God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and regenerated or born again by the Holy Spirit (as set forth in preceding messages).
Calvinists believe persons dying in infancy are saved in this manner. Contrary to the slanders of Arminians and Romanists, Calvinists do not believe any persons dying in infancy are damned.
One of the most glorious aspects of the Calvinist doctrine of infant salvation is that it magnifies the goodness and grace of God in salvation and in no way contradicts Holy Scriptures. To the contrary, Arminianism denies the need of God's grace for the salvation of infants. And Romanism exalts the work of parents in having their infants baptized, and bars from heaven the departed infants of those parents who did not do so.
We Calvinists alone can rightly assure the parents and friends of departed infants that they are saved and received into glory.
But we also exhort these same parents and friends to trust in Jesus Christ for their own salvation. None but such persons can say with assurance the words of David regarding his own departed infant, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
Most Calvinists whole-heartedly affirm that all persons dying in infancy are saved, even though they acknowledge the Bible has no definitive doctrine on this subject. Some Calvinists will go only so far as to acknowledge that the Bible definitely teaches that at least some persons dying in infancy are saved. But no representative Calvinist theologian declares that any person dying in infancy is damned. (See the preceding message, #171.)
Arminians nevertheless deliberately misrepresent Calvinists as believing persons dying in infancy are damned. Let the following quotations from some of the most renown Calvinists suffice to show that the Arminian accusation is false.
John Calvin, the sixteenth-century Reformer for whom Calvinism is named, asserted, "I do not doubt that the infants whom the Lord gathers together from this life are regenerated by a secret operation of the Holy Ghost." And "he speaks of the exemption of infants from the grace of salvation 'as an idea not free from execrable blasphemy'" (cited by Augustus Strong in Systematic Theology). He furthermore declared that "to say that the countless mortals taken from life while yet infants are precipitated from their mothers' arms into eternal death is a blasphemy to be universally detested" (quoted in Presbyterian and Reformed Review, Oct. 1890: pp.634-51).
Charles Hodge was a 19th-century professor of theology at Princeton Seminary, which was in those days a foremost American bastion of Calvinism. He wrote: "All who die in infancy are saved. This is inferred from what the Bible teaches of the analogy between Adam and Christ. 'As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.' (Rom. v.18,19.) We have no right to put any limit on these general terms, except what the Bible itself places upon them. The Scriptures nowhere exclude any class of infants, baptized or unbaptized, born in Christian or in heathen lands, of believing or unbelieving parents, from the benefits of the redemption of Christ. All the descendants of Adam, except Christ, are under condemnation; all the descendants of Adam, except those of whom it is expressly revealed that they cannot inherit the kingdom of God, are saved. This appears to be the clear meaning of the Apostle, and therefore he does not hesitate to say that where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded, that the benefits of redemption far exceed the evils of the fall; that the number of the saved far exceeds the number of the lost" (Systematic Theology, vol.I, p.26)
John Newton, author of the favorite hymn "Amazing Grace," became a Calvinistic Anglican minister in 1764, serving the English parishes in Olney, Buckinghamshire, and London. In a letter to a friend he wrote, "Nor can I doubt, in my private judgment, that [infants] are included in the election of grace. Perhaps those who die in infancy, are the exceeding great multitude of all people, nations, and languages mentioned, Revelations, vii.9, in distinction from the visible body of professing believers, who were marked in the foreheads, and openly known to be the Lord's" (The Works of John Newton, vol.VI, p.182)
Alvah Hovey was a 19th-century American Baptist who served many years in Newton Theological Institution, and edited The American Commentary. He wrote in one of his books: "Though the sacred writers say nothing in respect to the future condition of those who die in infancy, one can scarcely err in deriving from this silence a favorable conclusion. That no prophet or apostle, that no devout father or mother, should have expressed any solicitude as to those who die before they are able to discern good from evil is surprising, unless such solicitude was prevented by the Spirit of God. There are no instances of prayer for children taken away in infancy. The Savior nowhere teaches that they are in danger of being lost. We therefore heartily and confidently believe that they are redeemed by the blood of Christ and sanctified by His Spirit, so that when they enter the unseen world they will be found with the saints" (Biblical Eschatology, pp.170f).
Lorraine Boettner was a 20th-Century Presbyterian who taught Bible for eight years in Pikeville College, Kentucky. In his book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination he wrote at some length in defense of the Calvinist doctrine of infant salvation. We here quote from his remarks: "Calvinists, of course, hold that the doctrine of original sin applies to infants as well as to adults. Like all other sons of Adam, infants are truly culpable because of race sin and might be justly punished for it. Their 'salvation' is real. It is possible only through the grace of Christ and is as truly unmerited as is that of adults. Instead of minimizing the demerit and punishment due to them for original sin, Calvinism magnifies the mercy of God in their salvation. Their salvation means something, for it is the deliverance of guilty souls from eternal woe. And it is costly, for it was paid for by the suffering of Christ on the cross. Those who take the other view of original sin, namely, that it is not properly sin and does not deserve eternal punishment, make the evil from which infants are 'saved' to be very small, and consequently the love and gratitude which they owe to God to be small also.
"... Calvinism ... extends saving grace far beyond the boundaries of the visible church. If it is true that all of those who die in infancy, in heathen as well as in Christian lands, are saved, then more than half of the human race up to the present time has been among the elect."
B.B. Warfield, born in Kentucky in 1851, was along with Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck one of the three most outstanding Reformed theologians in his day. He wrote concerning those who die in infancy: "Their destiny is determined irrespective of their choice, by an unconditional decree of God, suspended for its execution on no act of their own; and their salvation is wrought by an unconditional application of the grace of Christ to their souls, through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit prior to and apart from any action of their own proper wills... And if death in infancy does depend on God's providence, it is assuredly God in His providence who selects this vast multitude to be made participants of His unconditional salvation.... This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestinated to salvation from the foundation of the world" (quoted in Boettner's book).
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is perhaps the most-widely recognized name among Calvinists next to John Calvin. He served many years in the 19th-century as pastor in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England. He preached on September 29, 1861, a message entitled "Infant Salvation" (#411 in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit). In this message, Mr. Spurgeon not only convincingly proved from Holy Scriptures the belief of Calvinists that all persons dying in infancy are saved, but also soundly rebuked those Arminians and others who wrongly accuse us otherwise:
"It has been wickedly, lyingly, and slanderously said of Calvinists, that we believe that some little children perish. Those who make the accusation know that their charge is false. I cannot even dare to hope, though I would wish to do so, that they ignorantly misrepresent us. They wickedly repeat what has been denied a thousand times, what they know is not true.... I know of no exception, but we all hope and believe that all persons dying in infancy are elect. Dr. Gill, who has been looked upon in late times as being a very standard of Calvinism, not to say of ultra-Calvinism, himself never hints for a moment the supposition that any infant has perished, but affirms of it that it is a dark and mysterious subject, but that it is his belief, and he thinks he has Scripture to warrant it, that they who have fallen asleep in infancy have not perished, but have been numbered with the chosen of God, and so have entered into eternal rest. We have never taught the contrary, and when the charge is brought, I repudiate it and say, 'You may have said so, we never did, and you know we never did. If you dare to repeat the slander again, let the lie stand in scarlet on your very cheek if you be capable of a blush.' We have never dreamed of such a thing. With very few and rare exceptions, so rare that I never heard of them except from the lips of slanderers, we have never imagined that infants dying as infants have perished, but we have believed that they enter into the paradise of God."
Whom will you believe: Calvinists speaking for themselves? or Arminians deliberately misrepresenting them?
Great article, OP. Touches a lot of bases. More in the AM.
Glad you're weathering the hurricanes and the engagement well. 8~)
For those who are keeping tabs, I anticipate returning to Oklahoma (God Willing) this coming Thursday. Kimmy and I will try to formalize a wedding date (probably for sometime in the spring) shortly thereafter.
Wow -- no Scripture, no analysis, no supporting evidences... for that matter, a Post even lacking an actual presentation of, y'know, an actual Argument. Just a raw assertion -- with a back-handed swipe at "denominationalism" (whatever that is), bereft of any consideration of the Biblical merits of the Essay under discussion.
We are truly blessed by your participation. A thousand thanks, and blessings.
Calvin changed the world.
His thoughts definitely ought to be viewed with more than a cursory glance!!!!!!!!
As far as infants are concerned, no man inherits any sin.(Ezekiel 18:19-20) The soul that sinneth shall die. Sin is trangression of the law. (I John 3:4)What is the law for the newborn that he has transgressed? Isaiah 7:16 teaches that there is a time before a child knows to to choose between good and evil.
Calvin, Campbell, Arminus, Spurgeon, Thomas Aquinas, all of them, who should care what any man says? We will be judged by the words of Christ, not by the doctrine of any man. (John 12:48)
You had me reading eagerly to this point - then you swipe needlessly to bolster the calvinist position
you if anyone can present a rational argument based on the merits of calvinism alone.
do you honestly feel our heresy is damning? and only double pre-dest 5pt OP's are non heretical and valid?
The thief on the Cross had no time to investigate theology - by grace alone is th e mantra, isn't it ?
I take issue with your application of......In Mark 10:14, Jesus Christ said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." He then admonished adults in the next verse, "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." .......clearly, "receiving" the kingdom of God as a child speaks to our complete surrender of will to that of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit - much in the same manner a young child relies completely upon the parents for their feeding and care - in this case, spiritual and eternal
In no way does it intimate that persons dying in infancy are saved and received into glory.
continuing - Old dead Calvinist, Matthew Henry (albeit a lukewarm 4pt T.U.L. P.) splashes water on your premise
Verses 13-16 Some parents or nurses brought little children to Christ, that he should touch them, in token of his blessing them. It does not appear that they needed bodily cures, nor were they capable of being taught: but those who had the care of them believed that Christ's blessing would do their souls good; therefore they brought them to him. Jesus ordered that they should be brought to him, and that nothing should be said or done to hinder it. Children should be directed to the Saviour as soon as they are able to understand his words. Also, we must receive the kingdom of God as little children; we must stand affected to Christ and his grace, as little children to their parents, nurses, and teachers.
"Christ's blessing would do their souls good" intimates there soul is in a condition that needs propitiation - and we know that to be true why ? .......the_doc told us about the damning nature of original sin.......bringing us to the the fork in the road.
Does God pardon that original sin in unbaptized infants? -or does He fully pardon the sins of those children despite the fact they have not been brough to Christ as Mark 10:14 so clearly presents as His desire?
I ask that honestly and seriously - not trying to be a smart alec
Hope you are feeling better.......I had opportunity to spend a few days in Jacksonville and St. Augustine last week - lovely area - and the locals were very polite and kind
Gods not going to cast them out of His presence because God is good???? Carry this out to its natural conclusion.
It was interesting but not surprising the author uses many of the same verses the Arminians use to support their views. These are all weak verses and text. Because there are no real substantive verses that children go to Heaven the author ends up quoting a number of theologians who happen to think this same thing as well.
It is regrettable in my mind that Calvins who pride (not a good word) themselves on strict scriptural interpretation would become mushy over this issue. I hate to sound like an ogre but there are no clear passages for children going to Heaven. In fact I would argue there is at least one scripture which would suggest, as shocking as this may sound, that not all children do in fact go to Heaven. When King Jeroboams son became sick and the mother went to the prophet Ahijah to see if the child would recover, Ahijah told her:
All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he alone of Jeroboams family will come to the grave, because in him something good was found toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam. 1 King 14:13
Im not exactly sure what something good was found toward the Lord God means (and I dont believe it has to do with works or merit) but the text tells us that God singled out this child to take him home rather than live under the evil rule of Jeroboam. Surely Jeroboam had other children. The "he alone" strongly implies that God didn't do it for any of Jeroboam other children and doesnt do this for all children as incomprehensible or unfair as that may seem to us.
Since the scriptures are silent on this issue all we can do is rest on the assurance that God is wise, merciful and just to make the right decisions and the right choices in the death of children. People are always telling God who needs to go to Heaven and thats not our business.
Pslam 58:3 teaches that infants come from the womb speaking lies.
Therefore, if you believe the Bible, you are required to believe that Infants are born Sinners. If you do not believe that Infants are born Sinners, it is because you wish to disbelieve the teachings of the Bible.
Er... I'm a Presbyterian Layman. I am not the Reverend Baptist Daniel Parks.
Rev. Parks wrote the article; I just posted it.
Does God pardon that original sin in unbaptized infants? -or does He fully pardon the sins of those children despite the fact they have not been brough to Christ as Mark 10:14 so clearly presents as His desire? I ask that honestly and seriously - not trying to be a smart alec
God brings His Own to Himself. If -- as John Calvin believed -- He has elected to salvation all those whom He has ordained to die in Infancy, then it logically follows that He effects His election by regenerating them in the womb (as he did John the Baptist and King David, so we know that there are Biblical examples thereof) prior to their death.
As Regeneration is purely divine-monergistic in every case, child or adult, this Regeneration is surely as efficacious as that created in an Adult (who is, admittedly, able to express his newly-wrought Belief in outward verbal confession, as an infant child is not; but such verbal profession of faith is the result of God's monergistic Regeneration, not the cause).
my oops - it seemed out of character for you of late
I think I can fully agree with that statement. I believe that it is God's sovereign will that infants are saved even without any exercise of faith and that adults are saved through the exercise of faith. In all cases God's election is predicated on God's terms.
That is teaching that the wicked have an early start on sin. That teaches that parents need to train their children early to avoid sin. Remember, the Bible teaches that young children are unable to choose between right and wrong.(Isaiah 7:16) Psalms 58 uses figurative language (which is proper for poetry) to make a point. Truth can be expressed in figurative or literal language. If one maintains that Pslams 58:3 is literal language, I ask if he has ever seen a talking newborn baby, much less a talking newborn speaking lies? A good hermeneutical rule is to consider scripture literal, unless literal interpretation would violate common sense. The idea of a talking, lying newborn violates common sense.
Also one thing that Psalms 58:3 clearly teaches is that children are NOT born inheriting sin. Look at the phrase "they go astray". How can one go astray unless they started in safety? How can sins separate one from God, (Isaiah 59:1-2) unless one started life joined to God and without sin?
Nope. Psalm 58:3 teaches that Infants proceed from the womb, speaking Lies.
The Bible teaches that Infants are certainly capable of communication, as is demonstrated by the Biblical example of John the Baptist, who was regenerated in his mother's womb and thus leapt for joy in the presence of Mary pregnant with His savior (Luke 1:15,44). And, the Psalms teach us that from the very womb, the communication of Human Infants is wicked and deceitful.
Ergo, we see the Bible teaches:
Therefore, all Humans born of Adam, are Born into the world as Sinners against God.
Thus the Bible clearly teaches.
Yes, and in all cases, Regeneration precedes Faith; for Faith is God-pleasing, and the Bible adamantly teaches that while a Human is yet Unregenerate, he NEVER, EVER chooses to perform anything that is God-pleasing in any circumstance whatsoever.
The point is whether it is a metaphorical or literal proposition that infants "speak lies."
Since infants don't speak, then they don't speak lies.
Speaking = verbalizing.
It's a metaphor, OP. Probably we'll disagree and this isn't worth carrying forward for me...the capabilities of infants are just too obvious, so the intent of the verse is too obvious.
No, "speaking" does not always equal "verbalizing". The great majority of all human communication is non-verbal.
Beyond which, if it's a "metaphor", then what is the meaning of the metaphor but simply this:
What other "metaphorical" meaning can you deliberately and artificially shoe-horn into the verse, without destroying the teaching thereof about infants?
Remember, the Verse is about the morality of Infants. Does it "metaphorically" describe the morality of Infants as SINFUL, or INNOCENT? Well, which is it, Xzins?
It's a simple question, and I want a straight answer.
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