Friday, October 28, 2005

"Instant Heaven"

A short time after 9/11 I saw John MacArthur on Larry King Live stating that every child who died in the 9/11 attacks obtained "instant heaven". Later I heard a sermon he gave and read some materials of his relating to this topic.

Today then I read a blog post by centuri0n about which some users commented and mentioned this topic again. I started to reply in his blog, but realized there's too much to say for such a forum, so I'm bringing it here.

Both
John MacArthur and R. Albert Mohler Jr. (along with Daniel Akin of SBTS), hold to the view that all those who die in infancy automatically go to heaven. Many of my good friends also hold this view.
I firmly believe that the Bible is SILENT on, not merely "quiet", but actually silent on this issue.
I may perhaps take time to further flesh out this discussion later, but I wanted to make some general comments tonight. (It's really late!)

Firstly, the meaning of the verse wherein
David laments the death of his son and says "I will go to him" (2 Sam 12:23) is disputable and does not have mean "my son is in heaven and when I die I'll be there too". David's mention in the previous verse of God's graciousness is directed specifically at the possibility of having another child, not in reference to his reuniting with his deceased child in heaven. It is therefore more likely that David is referring to the grave as he is by no means rejoicing in this verse. I would say that this verse is similar to that modern saying "it is not right for someone to outlive their child". Often in Scripture it is mentioned that so-and-so was buried "with their fathers", yet here David is noting that the opposite will occur, he will be buried with his son. Yet, regardless of how one views this verse, there is nothing in this verse to give any kind of hope to the unbeliever that their child is in heaven!

Another passage referred to in support of this universalist paedo-salvation view is
Mar 10:14 and Luke 18:16, wherein Christ says "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Clearly, there is again nothing here to give the unbeliever hope that their child has defacto salvation until reaching the mythical age of accountability. Keep in mind that this very same passage is used by paedobaptists to support a completely different theological point all together, that is that children are covenant members and should be baptized. I don't believe either view can be substantiated by this passage but rather this verse is speaking to the heart of individuals who desire to see the Savior, children and adults alike, thus it states "the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." In the very next verse Christ says, "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." Christ's point is not that all who die in infancy obtain "instant heaven" rather, that citizenship in the kingdom of God is based on child-like faith.

In his article, Dr.
Mohler first declares that all who are born of flesh are "marked with original sin" and that none are "born in a state of innocence", but later he states that because "these young children are incapable of committing sins in the body..." they "die secure in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ". While Dr. Mohler does say "Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die in infancy", but what is his basis for this claim? It seems that because these children are "incapable of committing sins in the body" that Christ "removed the stain of original sin", but what Biblical support does Dr. Mohler provide for this? Mohler turns to Deut 1:35-39.
He states, (on the basis of Deut 1:39):
"The key issue here is that God specifically exempted from the judgment those who "have no knowledge of good or evil" because of their age... We believe that this passage bears directly on the issue of infant salvation, and that the accomplished work of Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die in infancy"
Yet God's declaration that the children "have no knowledge of good or evil" is not the reason for His sparing them from the judgment. That is, it is not because the children have some general "innocence" that they're spared, rather it is because these young ones (not simply infants) were not guilty of this particular sin that God graciously keeps His promise He made to their forefathers and spares them. Why do I say this? Consider that God surely knew that the children of the sinning Israelites would none-the-less likewise sin yet He spares them graciously.

The JFB commentary states about this passage: "...who know not as yet good or evil." As the children had not been partakers of the sinful outbreak, they were spared to obtain the privilege which their unbelieving parents had forfeited. God’s ways are not as man’s ways"
Again does this verse really have to do with all infants obtaining eternal salvation? One could just as easily point to the fate that befell Sodom or any of the other cities in which God's wrath was so clearly displayed against adult and infant alike and declare just the opposite of Mohler's position.

Mohler goes on, "The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin."

Mohler seems to limit the extent of original sin so as to have it affect the will, but not actually trasnfer guilt. But this is not what the Bible presents. Romans 5 and elsewhere clearly express that "in Adam all die", we who call ourselves Reformed acknowledge that this is spiritual death, but apart from being made "alive in Christ" there is no solution to spiritual death and its result is condemnation unto damnation. Unless one is graciously transferred from the headship of Adam into the headship of Christ, they will die... not just die physically, but they will face the second death. This is what the doctrine of imputation is about, Adam's sin imputed to me (as well as my own sins being put in my acct) because Adam was my federal head. Likewise Christ's obedience and death is credited to me, apart from my own actions, and His resurrection secures my justification resulting in salvation. If Adam's sin doesn't make me guilty, on what basis can I be declared righteous in the sight of God on the basis of Christ's obedience in my stead? Imputation must work both ways, or its not imputation... if we want to seriously believe in the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer, we must also believe in the sinfulness of Adam imputed to the unbeliever.

While
I agree that each "will answer "according to what he has done," it is also written that "death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." Thus Adam's transgression was working already in his seed, condemning them regardless of their own actions. As one who has debated Pelagians of various stripes, I know that the doctrine of original sin and imputation are their primary targets and this misunderstanding of their nature plays right into the hands of the Pelagian apologist.

Yes, o
ne can and should make inferences from these various verses and say with certainty that the Bible supports the gracious salvation of some infants, but to make a blanket statement as John MacArthur did during a Larry King broadcast in stating that the children who died in the 9/11 attacks obtained "instant heaven" based on this filamentary and disputable evidence is irresponsible.

It seems there is a pastoral desire for many in caring for their flock and to comfort the emotional concerns of even unbelievers who consider the wrath of God somehow unjust when directed toward "innocent" infants. The fact of the matter is that Adam sinned in my stead, just as Christ obeyed in my stead. I am born a child of Adam but I am graciously made into a child of God by grace through faith. Declaring another means of universal salvation apart from the normative means expressed in Scripture flies in the face of what we who claim Sola Scriptura stand for.

There are proper times for the teacher of Scripture to acknowledge that there are some things that we simply don't know for certain. This is truly the only valid response to "what happens to infants who die". Yes you can discuss the various ideas, verses and such involved, give comfort to the grieving and such, but ultimately we must rely on our gracious God to do what is right in His eyes and not seek to speak out of place and put ourselves in judgement of the Almighty by telling Him what we would do in His place.

12 comments:

  1. This whole discussion winds up being a conflict between what we normally practice as exegetes and students of Scripture and the right-hearted willingness to provide pastoral answers to hard questions -- answers which satisfy, nurture and comfort.

    I am certain that the answer to this question is not "I think the dingo ate your baby," or some other such mindless dismissal of the real tragedy of infant death. But at the same time, I stand with Micah here to say that perhaps we have to admit that we have no direct teaching from Scripture on this matter and we trust God to be, as He always is, Holy and Just and Merciful.

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  2. Thanks, Centuri0n, I think you expressed what I was saying pretty well. God is just, Holy and merciful... He will do what is right, but that doesn't mean He will do what we think is right.

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  3. I lost a child in infancy, so I speak from personal experience... I also have counseled those who have lost infants...

    As painful as it is for us, we must be faithful to the teaching of the Scriptures, and they are SILENT! Therefore, I also second your comments centuri0n....

    Our human side wants to 'invent' ways to work through the pain of the loss of a child... I understand that, as I said, I have been there, but where do we stop trying to comfort with 'sweey nothings' and start providing real pastoral counsel?

    Is it not better to know that God is Holy and Just and Merciful in the long run, as opposed to being capricious?

    I preached at a beloved relative's funeral recently (she was not an infant). She was a 'godly' woman, in that she was always very loving and nice to everyone.

    The people were appalled when I told them that, as far as I knew she had no relationship with Christ..

    Now, before you beat me, I did not preach that (in those words)! However, the sermon caused many to question me afterwards as I had never said the obligatory 'We all know she is in heaven now' (rolling my eyes upward... It does not end with infants, it extends to those that we think 'merit' heaven, such as my wonderful, sweet, grandparent, or my aunt who 'never said a cross word to anyone'... moralism IS NOT Christianity!

    This does not mean that we are required to be cold, and hard, but it does mean that we are to be true to what God's Word teaches...

    Truth is such a rarity in 'Biblical' counseling today that our people perish for lack of it... They are told many things (including their PETS are going to heaven) and what they really need to know is that God is faithful and Holy and Just as brother centuri0n said...

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  4. I would disagree that the Scriptures are silent. I know that some groups have attempted to make the Scriptures silent on the issue--mainly Baptist groups. Jesus did say that children HAD angels watching over them and scorned those who would view such children as unholy. This is probably easier for me because I'm Lutheran. Ok, ravage me. ;-)

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  5. Did the children of the people of Sihon have angels watching over them?

    Deu 2:34 "So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor."

    If so, what exactly were the angels doing while the Israelites decimated them?

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  6. (NASB): Hebrews 1:14 - Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

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  7. Anonymous11:42 AM

    Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are save by faith through faith... It stands to reason that if an infant or a mentally challenged person of, let's say 46, cannot exercise faith in an abstract invisible God, or cannot possible know about the moral laws that are our tutors to led us to Christ, God will not hold that person accountable for their sins. God is Holy and just and merciful. I am not erecting a God in my mind to suit my own understanding. I know that the God of the Bible would never hold an infant, or a mentally handicapped person accountable for their sin(s). Call it what you will - age of accountability, age of innocense, whatever, God's inspired word tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. If one cannot exercise saving faith, how can one be held accountable? What a sadistic God we would be serving. God is not silent. Proverbs 25:2 says that God conceals a matter and it is the glory of kings to try and reveal it. Some secret things belong to God. I can't tell when I am going to die or the exact return of Christ, but God's ways and purposes are revealed in the Bible. God is just and merciful. Infants and severely handicapped people will go instantly to heaven when they die. That is the character of God.

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  8. Faith is the means by which we appropriate the redemption Christ paid for on the cross, however, prior to being regenerated supernaturally by the Holy Spirit, the Bible states we are "unable to please God" and "dead in our trespasses".

    It stands to reason that if an infant or a mentally challenged person of, let's say 46, cannot exercise faith in an abstract invisible God, or cannot possible know about the moral laws that are our tutors to led us to Christ, God will not hold that person accountable for their sins.

    Regardless of your opinion, the BIBLE declares that our representative, Adam, fell in sin in our stead. We are therefore justly condemned from birth because we are born at war and emnity with God.

    The Law of God is written on the hearts of all while formed in the womb, and they are guilty of it by their very connection to their father Adam.

    God is Holy and just and merciful. I am not erecting a God in my mind to suit my own understanding. I know that the God of the Bible would never hold an infant, or a mentally handicapped person accountable for their sin(s).

    Balogna... the God of the Bible holds all men responsible to the sin of Adam, their chosen representative.

    God's inspired word tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. If one cannot exercise saving faith, how can one be held accountable? What a sadistic God we would be serving.
    We are saved BY GRACE, you are assuming that God extends grace to every infant, handicapped or otherwise because of your flawed anthropology.

    While no one is able to come to God apart from His graciously regenerating their hearts, God still holds all men accountable for their sins.

    God is not obligated to save anyone, but only does so out of His grace.

    The "god" that does not justly rule against those enemies of His while requiring the death of His only begotten Son is truly the sadist... the God of the Bible however saves His church by the blood of His Son and justly condemns the rest to the fate to which they've been appointed.

    God is not silent. Proverbs 25:2 says that God conceals a matter and it is the glory of kings to try and reveal it. Some secret things belong to God.

    I really wish you would attempt to deal with my post rather than writing a scred of your own! God is not silent on this issue, rather He declares that "in Adam, all die".

    Now tell me, are babies and the handicapped "in Adam" or "in Christ", if you answer "in Christ", you must tell us how they got there.

    Infants and severely handicapped people will go instantly to heaven when they die. That is the character of God.

    That's the character of the god you've created, the God of the Bible however holds accountable all the sons of Adam for the guilt which they justly bear.

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  9. I'm clearly many months late in commenting but I just came across this post and this needed answering.

    Theophorus said...
    I would disagree that the Scriptures are silent. I know that some groups have attempted to make the Scriptures silent on the issue--mainly Baptist groups.

    I find this comment offensive - and I'm not even Baptist! You seem to suggest that scripture clearly speaks about infant salvation, yet Baptist groups deny the Scriptures and "attempt to make the Scriptures silent on the issue".

    I suppose you see those "Baptist groups" as denying Scripture because...well they're just sadistic people that love to crush any hope that grieving parents might be given.

    You've accused Baptist groups of activly denying scripture so that they can say God is silent on this issue.

    You need to back up your assertion or repent of your attitude.

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  10. Michael,

    Welcome! Theo's a newly minted Lutheran who left a calvinistic position and was once a baptist, so you'll have to forgive him if he repudiates his former positions.

    Read the newest post on the blog and let me know what you think. :)

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  11. Ya know, I've blogged about this (hi Micah) and I am completely comfortable sitting the fence on this issue. The Bible IS silent on infant salvation.

    When I became of a Calvinist bent I tried to reason through every theological tripwire in the Scriptures. Know what I came up with? The realization that I can't. (Hard thing for a Calvinist to acknowledge, believe me!)

    This issue has been a divisive one for centuries. The best theologians and church fathers have debated and lost sleep over it. But in the end...the Bible is still silent.

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  12. I am completely comfortable sitting the fence on this issue.

    I think that is the only "comfortable" position on this issue.

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