Saturday, November 5, 2016

Solus Cristus and the Eternal Destiny of Dying Infants

One of the most difficult and tricky questions one could ask a Calvinist is whether or not babies who die as babies automatically go to heaven. To the non-Calvinist, the question itself seems very trivial. What an insanity it is to insinuate that such cute little "angels" could possibly go to hell! The thought of babies being burned in hell is for some reason intuitively unbearable. And yet, Calvinists for many centuries since the Reformation, have always been divided over this issue.

Before we move along, I must candidly confess that I personally hope that all babies dying in infancy are indeed saved, and I say "hope" because I also acknowledge the fact that the Bible is simply silent on the issue. I am convinced that in any attempt to answer the question"are all dying babies saved?", one necessarily enters into the realm of speculations. That being said, I would want to make it clear that it is beyond the intention of this blog to offer an answer to that particular question. My concern here deals with something way more important than the dispute over whether or not all dying infants are saved. What I'm concerned about is the preservation of the purity of the Gospel message in all this.

A few days ago, I had a discussion with a certain Calvinist who claimed that all babies dying in infancy are saved. Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with that assertion (note that I personally have that hope myself!). What made his position wrong, however, is the reason that has been provided to justify it. My Calvinist friend made a bold assertion that it would be unjust for God to send dying infants—who have never committed any personal/actual sins—to hell. To state it positively, what he implies is that God's justice requires the salvation of dying infants by virtue of their innocence from the charge of having committed any actual/personal sins. This is tantamount to saying that some people (i.e. dying infants) are bound to go to heaven by the merit of their own innocence and not by the gracious redemption of Christ! I am convinced this is an implicit affront to the Gospel of Grace that Calvinists are expected to hold dearly.

During our discussion, my Calvinist friend also insisted that while it is God's justice that requires the salvation of dying infants, such supposedly innocent infants would nonetheless still be saved by grace. But I could only imagine a snake eating its own tail when I read that statement. It is a fatal self-contradiction that ultimately reveals a serious misunderstanding of why is it necessary for us to be saved "by grace" in the first place. 

Saved by Grace Alone

Salvation is by grace simply because we don't deserve it.. God's justice condemns us (Rom. 3:19-23). If we deserved anything, as far as divine justice is concerned, it is only death: "for the wages of sin is death" (v. 6:23). Thus, grace presupposes our unworthiness before God. It presupposes our just condemnation. No sinner who is saved by grace can claim that God saved him because he justly deserves it. It also follows that God is never under any moral obligation to save any sinner. He could have thrown us all to hell in an instant and yet remain perfectly holy and just. If this isn't the case, then our salvation becomes a matter of legal obligation on God's part, and grace would no longer be grace (Rom. 11:6).  The mere mention of grace assumes that the recipient of such a bounty is justly condemned before God. In other words, the person who receives saving grace from God, left in himself, is a guilty sinner, and being guilty he is NOT innocent. So how can it be argued that dying infants are justly saved because they were innocent, and yet their salvation is still by grace? One can already see the absurdity of such a position.

Can a Christian hope that all dying infants will enter the kingdom of God? Sure! But let him confess that such little ones must enter the kingdom of God by grace alone; and if by grace, then it is not by any merit of their own (e.g. merit of innocence). Nobody is innocent before God—even infants (Psa. 51:5). "Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath" (Eph. 2:3, NIV). If dying infants are innocent and must be saved by virtue of their innocence, then they are saved by bare justice, and not by grace.

Saved in Christ Alone

At this point one may ask: If salvation cannot be acquired by anyone on the basis of God's bare justice (which can pronounce nothing but condemnation for our sins), does this mean that "grace" is unjust? No. God's grace has been made available because God's justice has been answered for in and by the Cross. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Justice is served by Christ's death on behalf of His people so that salvation may come to them by grace alone (Rom. 3:23-26). No Cross, no grace.

Our need for a Savior presupposes the reality of both our depraved condition and our just condemnation apart from God's mercy. So, do babies need Christ and His grace? If the answer is "Yes," then it follows that they, too, are not innocent and are justly condemned; for "it is not the healthy who need a Physician, but the sick" (Mat. 9:12). But if the answer is "No," then Jesus was lying when he said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn. 14:6, NIV).

Conclusion

As a closing remark, let me suggest that whatever our position is concerning the eternal destiny of dying infants, we nevertheless ought to uphold the scriptural fact that heaven is a glorious place filled with people who are redeemed and forgiven by the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. No human being can be found in heaven who is not redeemed by Christ. If this declaration is true, then how can we imagine babies in heaven without also accepting the fact that even those babies were—as far as God's justice is concerned—guilty and condemned, so much so that they were not less in need of Christ's forgiveness as we are? Do you imagine babies in heaven? I do. But I imagine babies in heaven who are saved not because they were innocent, but because of God's grace in Christ.

-Jeph

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