Do Babies Go To Heaven? First Rebuttal, Part 1
Today, we will look at a rebuttal to the affirmative position to the question posed in the title of this series.
Let us examine each point as it appears in the previous discussion.
The Age of Accountability
Firstly, it must be conceded that the verses commonly used to set forth this position actually do teach what they state. Namely, these verses (Deut. 1:39 and Isaiah 7:14-16) teach that there is a time in a person’s life when there is no conscious understanding of right and wrong. They do not have what I have termed moral consciousness. That is to say, infants and some small children do not know that sinful acts they commit are wrong.
However, the position continues by stating that as such, God cannot hold guilty those infants and small children whom do not have this ability. In this statement we find the first error of the proponents.
Nowhere do these verses state that God does not assign guilt, neither do these passages state that God cannot assign guilt. Such a statement is an eisegesis, not an exegesis. Eisegesis, for the laypeople among my readers, is reading one’s own bias–including worldview, tradition, philosophy, wishful thinking, what one would like to be true, etc.–into the passage of Scripture one is interpreting. Exegesis involves letting the text speak for itself, as apart from the personal bias and inferences of the interpreter as possible. Dr. Chad Brand introduced me to a principle that has created much simpler ways of reading Scripture; namely, “we do not have to infer” a reading of Scripture when Scripture does not support such an inference.
Allowing the text to speak for itself reveals that in the Deuteronomy passage, God is saying that the children of the Israelites of the Exodus will not be held responsible for their parents’ rebellion after the 12 spies were sent into the land. It does not say that God will not count them guilty of all sin committed before reaching moral consciousness. Such a position has been inferred by those who wish to make this passage say what they want it to say. And we do not have to infer this position from the passage. It is a logical leap to say that because the children are not guilty of the rebellion at the river, therefore they are not guilty of any sin committed before they understand right and wrong.
Given the above discussion, we do not need to examine Isaiah 7:14-16, as we can see that the affirmative position is an inference from this verse rather than the clear teaching of the passage. The clear teaching of these passages is simply that there is a point in a person’s life at which one becomes morally conscious, before which there is no moral consciousness.
However, this position is the strongest argument for infant salvation, since it is obvious that the works of such a one with no moral consciousness are not considered willful sin. But does that make such acts not sinful? This question will be discussed when we arrive at the contrary position on this issue.
Again, using the principle described above, we can clearly understand that infant regeneration does not have to be inferred from the passages quoted.
With Luke 1:15, we can clearly see that in no way, shape, or form do we read that John the Baptist was “saved” from his mother’s womb. In fact, if we read our Gospels, we see that John the Baptist had his doubts about whether Jesus was the Messiah! It is debatable as to whether John knew his cousin Jesus was the Lord until just before His baptism. But as Scripture is silent on both matters (John’s prenatal salvation and a priori knowledge of Jesus’ Messiahship), these are issues we do not have to infer from the text.
To be “filled with the Spirit” appears to be something very Old Testament-like, and very, very likely it is this understanding of being Spirit-filled that Luke is referring to. Remember, the Holy Spirit was not given to believers in the manner we understand as salvific until Pentecost. This explanation is the simpler – and much more Biblical – of the two possibilities. Therefore we cannot say that John the Baptist was “saved from his mother’s womb.”
In the same manner we cannot say that Psalm 22 states David was “saved” from his mother’s womb. We must understand that until the modern day, Israelites (or Hebrews, or in Jesus’ day until now, Jews) were raised from birth to worship Jehovah only. Think about this. A babe was circumcised on the 8th day and was also presented to the priest in the Temple. Worship of the one true God began the moment a child was born, not when they understood that it was right to worship. It is more likely that David is saying that he has been raised from birth to regard God as the only god worthy of worship.
Incidentally, Psalm 22 makes a stronger case for infant regeneration, since verse 9 says that God made David trust Him. But since it is not clear that trust is the regenerative trust of saving faith, we do not have to infer infant regeneration in this passage. Perhaps a better inference is to say that David learned what saving faith was like by trusting that he would be fed when suckled by his mother. Saving faith is utter dependency on the Lord, and a baby is utterly dependent on its mother for nourishment. Coupled with the understanding we have in the above paragraph, it is quite likely that David is saying he was raised from birth to be utterly dependent on the only God worthy of his worship.
We must, however, continue to say that it is entirely possible for God to regenerate an infant or small child unto salvation. An omnipotent God can most certainly save an infant or small child if He so chooses. Indeed, we must fervently hope and pray that such is the case. But since Scripture is glaringly silent, we must not make inferences into this issue.
I think here is a good place to stop and take a rest before dealing with the remainder of the affirmative position. Let us prayerfully meditate on what has been said thus far.