Home > Theology > Do Babies Go To Heaven? Pro

Do Babies Go To Heaven? Pro

Today, let us examine the evidence for the affirmative position on infant salvation. We will start with the two most common and strongest positions: the age of accountability and infant regeneration.

Age of Accountability

First of all, it is commonly believed and taught that there is an age at which children become responsible moral agents. That is to say, before a certain point in a child’s life, that child cannot be held as guilty of committing sin. This is because there is no conscious understanding of good and evil, right and wrong, sin and holiness on the part of the child.

There are a couple of Scriptural indicators of this position:

Deuteronomy 1:39: “And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.” This verse is the command of God that the children of the rebellious Israelites would be the ones to inherit the promised land, not their parents. The children would not be held responsible for the sins of the parents, by virtue of their inability to distinguish between right and wrong.

Isaiah 7:14-16: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.” In this messianic prophecy, Isaiah states that there will be a time when Jesus Himself will not be able to distinguish between wrong and right, and that a time would arrive when he would know consciously what was right and wrong.

These verses state that there is a time in a person’s life when one is unable to tell the difference between good and evil. Advocates of the affirmative position believe this means that until a child understands the difference, God cannot hold them guilty for sinful acts committed, because they are not sins consciously committed.

Infant Regeneration

Some hold that children who die before this age, especially infants, are saved by God. How is this so? They are saved on the basis of Christ’s redemptive work and regeneration by the work of the Holy Spirit within them. Remember, “unless one is born again, one cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). As such, infants and “innocent” children must be regenerated (born again) prior to their death.

Scriptural evidence for infant regeneration is found primarily in the story of John the Baptist.

Luke 1:15: “For he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” Here we see that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he was but a mass of rapidly dividing cells and growing tissue in his mother Elizabeth’s womb. Wayne Grudem quips that “we might say that John the Baptist was ‘born again’ before he was born! (Systematic Theology, 500)”

Another instance is found in the Psalms, where David says of himself (and prophetically, of Jesus): “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. (Psalm 22:9-10)” Note the similarities between David and John the Baptist.

So it seems to suggest here that God is able to save infants in an unusual way, a way that is distinctively separated from hearing the Gospel, repenting of sin, and trusting in Christ. It seems God is able to regenerate people early in life, in some cases even prior to birth.

Why would God do this? To quote Grudem again on the same page as above: “it certainly is possible that God would also do this where He knows the infant will die before hearing the Gospel.”

Incidentally, these verses have also been used to justify infant baptism and the baptism of small children. I also find it interesting that there are strong echoes of the Reformed ordo salutis (order of salvation) present here, namely, that one must be regenerated before one can willingly trust in Christ.

Other Considerations

Other conditions to consider also imply that children who do not reach an age of moral responsibility go to heaven. For example, consider once again the words of David after his first child with Bathsheba died:

2 Samuel 12:23: “He (David) said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” A glance at many of David’s psalms show that he fervently believed that the righteous would live in God’s presence forever, a condition which came to be known in later ages as heaven. As such, it is reasonable to infer that his statement here is a declaration that his dead child is living with the Lord forever in heaven; and that David had an expectation, a hope, of being reunited with him upon David’s own death.

Another verse used to claim infant salvation is found in Matthew 19:13-15:

“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away.” Many have claimed this verse is a clear indicator that children who die, specifically children who die before reaching an age of moral responsibility, will be taken to heaven by Christ. The kingdom of heaven is theirs, and we should do nothing or say nothing contrary to that. I will say only that this verse is a very poor choice to be used in defending this doctrine, for reasons that the text itself should make glaringly clear. But more on that later.

A final verse to consider comes from Matthew 18.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 18:1-6, 10)”

Many have also claimed this verse is clear evidence that children who die are granted entrance into our heavenly home. But again, I will say only that this verse is also a very poor choice to be used to defend this doctrine. It is a much stronger verse than Matthew 19 above, but poor nonetheless.

Conclusions

What can we conclude from the above discussion? I think we can safely conclude two things:

  1. First, we can conclude that there is a period in each person’s life when the taint of depravity does not render us morally conscious agents. I do not say morally responsible, as defenders of this doctrine would. I simply stick to the Scripture’s statement, namely before a certain age or point in our lives, we are not conscious or aware of moral values.
  2. Second, it is quite possible for God to regenerate a person who has not yet reached that point before death, and in some cases even before one is born. If we are to be a people who truly believe that “God is in control” and that He is an omnipotent (all-powerful, Almighty) God, then we must necessarily believe that He is capable of regenerating unto salvation such a one who has no ability to consciously and responsibly hear the Gospel, repent of their sinful state, and believe and trust in Christ.

According to the argument presented by the affirming position, do babies who die go to heaven? Given the evidence above, I would say it is plausible. There are strong indicators that this can be the actual case. But unfortunately, there is nothing in Scripture that explicitly states, “when Child X dies before becoming a morally responsible agent, Child X is saved by God and lives eternally in heaven.” The closest Scripture comes to that is David’s expectation of a heavenly reunion with his dead child. But even then, it is not a hard and fast declaration on which this doctrine may hang its hat. So it is plausible, even altogether likely, that under this evidence babies do go to heaven.

Join us later this week as I examine the weaknesses of this position.

Categories: Theology
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