Home > Theology > Infant Salvation: Infant Regeneration, Part 1

Infant Salvation: Infant Regeneration, Part 1

This time we will look at the concept of infant regeneration.

Infant regeneration must be distinguished from our heretical position (see the Beginning Assumptions post) on baptismal regeneration. While baptismal regeneration is simply the doctrine that “baptism saves you,” and by extension stating baptized infants are saved, infant regeneration does not use the crutch of baptism to support it.

Infant regeneration, simply stated, is the position 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 advocates of this position say these Scriptures seem to suggest 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.

Deconstructing The Position
Now, let us remember the principle I introduced you to in the previous post; namely that we do not necessarily have to infer an understanding of Scripture where Scripture does not support that understanding. We are attempting here to allow Scripture to speak for itself, not trying to read our own beliefs, wants, and desires into the text.

The main problem with this perspective is that it directly bypasses the means of salvation. What do I mean?

In Romans chapter 10 we find the following passage:

13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

So we see here that the only way for a person to be saved is through a direct response of faith that comes from hearing the Gospel preached. One must hear the Gospel and respond to it in order to be saved. That is the means by which God saves people. According to this passage, a baby must first have the Gospel preached to it, the baby must then hear (and by extension understand) the Gospel, and then the baby must respond in faith to the preaching of the Gospel.

For advocates of this position, this is not a problem. For those of us who have committed ourselves to “stick to Scripture,” this is a huge problem. A deeply important part of Scripture has been summarily crossed out of the Bible where infants are concerned! I do not want to accuse my brothers and sisters who hold this position of willfully ignoring the Bible. That will not help matters very much. But we cannot ignore that the means of salvation, according to the Bible, is through the preaching of the Gospel, and that this means has been ignored.

Immediately, however, we are faced with a problem. If Romans 10 is true, then how can a baby ever be saved?

Scripture is intensely silent on this matter. We are given hints at a solution by one of the verses used to support this perspective. In Psalm 22:9-10, David says that God “made him (David) trust God at his mother’s breasts,” that “God has been David’s God from the womb.” Advocates of infant regeneration will no doubt want to say, when faced with Romans 10, that God preached the Gospel to an unborn David, and caused David to believe in the womb.

If so, advocates of this position have fallen into a modification of another heretical position: post-mortem salvation. Instead of saying infants who die are given an opportunity to accept Christ after they die, they are saying that infants are given an opportunity to accept Christ before they are born!

This is totally absurd and violates one of our beginning assumptions, namely that Christ must be accepted in this life. How would you or I know if we accepted Christ before we were born? And why are we born without the quickened understanding given to us in the womb when the Gospel was preached to us? In addition, why does Scripture command that the Gospel be preached to us if we have already heard it and responded? No, this is an absurd and invalid position to take.

But here we have yet another error in thinking. We have, once again, been given an eisegesis, not an exegesis. This psalm in no way states that David was “saved from the womb,” nor does it say that “God preached the Gospel to David in utero (in the womb).” That has been read into the passage by advocates of infant regeneration. We have no idea from Scripture what God did to make David trust him from the womb, from birth. And as such, we cannot say with certainty that God brings the Gospel to an infant and allows the infant to understand and respond in faith. We will examine this verse more fully in Part 2.

We are also left with another problem given by such an odd interpretation of this Psalm in light of the Romans 10 objection. Who is responsible for our salvation?

Advocates of this position have no choice but to say that the baby is responsible. That is, the baby is responsible to respond once God makes the baby able to understand the Gospel. God is only responsible to preach the Gospel and enable the baby to understand it. We are left with no hope whatsoever that any pre-natal person is saved, just as in post-mortem salvation we are left with no hope that dead infants are saved! This is a direct contradiction of Scripture even for those who actually can understand the Gospel!

Scripture, instead, reveals that God is under no obligation to do anything to save us. That he saves anyone at all is a mystery! And it is just as clear from Scripture that we are all, from conception, children of wrath slated for destruction (see the post on original sin for more information). We are all going to hell! And we justly deserve hell. But God, in order to show his mercy, chose some of those children of wrath to become children of mercy (Romans 9:22-24) and graciously brings them to faith in Christ apart from any action on their part (Romans 3:20-28, 4:16; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

We are left in the same position we were in the last post. As Scripture does not say how God deals with an infant where the preaching of the Gospel is concerned, we must be silent where Scripture is silent.

We will continue our look at the Scriptures supporting this position in the next post.

Categories: Theology
  1. October 26, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Mr. Newell,

    Your post is quite true! At the end you say – “we must be silent where Scripture is silent” and I fully agree. The problem with teachers and preachers usually occurs when they seek to speak where the Scripture is silent. If we will seek to speak only where the Scripture speaks and remain silent elsewhere, we will save generations to come from heretical views and positions!

    This is a very touchy subject, but we must uphold the Scriptures and admit that often times we find mystery coupled with the operations of our great and merciful God. If we can’t even fully understand our children or our in-laws – how are we expected to fully understand our great and merciful God?

    For His Glory!

    Rev. Josh Buice

  2. John Treat AKA Lifesharer
    February 6, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Mr Newell,
    I find much of your writing to be confused and divided along strange lines. The concept of the regeneration ( literal human’s spirit rebirth ) of an individual, is entirely DIFFERENT from the concept of baptismal SALVATION or Salvation proper itself. The Doctrine of baptismal REGENERATION wherein God regenerates us at that time and NOT by water or incantations but by His own power ( Deut 30: 6, John 3:6 and Rom 6: 3-6 & Col 2: 10-13, is to be seen as clearly biblical.
    Where they ERR is in ADDING the concept of water baptism AS salvation or salvific. Now Infant Baptism is NOT salvific OR able to regenerate a infant since the blood of Christ must be FIRST applied to that life by grace through the individual’s faith. This is the same reason Calvinist pre-salvation regeneration is heretical. No matter how infinitesimal a time you interpret that regeneration precedes salvation, it MUST precede it, and thus the lack of the covering of the blood shall produce the same results of a loss of regeneration before the blood could be applied . SIN caused the sin nature of a dead spirit, and its instantaneous. It’s a irreconcilable paradox: no regeneration: no faith; … no faith: no blood, … no blood; no regeneration, ….no regeneration; no faith … and on and on.. it must be a real headache to have to constantly redacting your doctrines to try and cover the many biblical objections to it.
    Justin Martyr taught baptismal regeneration in 150 AD in his first apology section 61, but the addition of the heretical “baptismal salvation” doctrine was a product of the Nicolaitian spirit of the RCC some time AFTER Constantine. BTW Calvin taught baptismal regeneration as does many of the so called “reformed” regurgitated catholic cults. IN Calvinist Institutes in book 4. chapter 17 (possibly 16). article 1 : ” For as God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption, so we have said that he performs the office of a provident parent, in continually supplying the food by which he may sustain and preserve us in the life to which he has begotten us by his word. ” What he MEANS by the terms regenerates and” ingrafts us” is open to speculation, BUT since he is referring to biblical concepts; hopefully rightly divided, we must presume for the sake of intellectual validity he has some grasp of the BIBLICAL meaning of those terms, however poorly he eisogetes the scriptures otherwise. Calvin ALSO taught Infant Baptism… but i leave you to say: … WHY?
    Your mistake is to buy into the lie of it all by not rightly dividing these two doctrines and then agreeing with Gods word as to WHEN God says he will regenerate us.
    I fully deny the heretical doctrine of baptismal salvation on the works foundation of Eph 2: 8-9, but FULLY uphold the clear doctrine of regeneration at the time of water baptism. IF you find fault with this you are probably miss defining the concept of regeneration as being the linguistic equal to the concept of salvation. A patently confused scholarship and muddying of the word of God.
    You have already revealed that you HAVE read into the text with what you call ordo salutis as pre salvation regeneration: A ridiculous presumption at best. While i concur that infant baptism or regeneration is not biblical. I find your unwillingness to rightly divide these terms as a sad commentary on modern scholarship and indoctrinated thinking.
    god saving anyone? That’s not a mystery at all if you are not caught in Calvinist presumptions. John 3: 16 God so LOVED the world ( and all men 2 peter 3:9 and 1 Tim 2:4) that he gave his only begotten son , that WHOSOEVER believes in him shall not perish , but have everlasting life.
    John Calvin would disagree with you again on how he chose some of those “children of wrath” for salvation: Calvins limited atonement “. . . their doom was fixed from all eternity and nothing in them could transfer them to the contrary class . . .” (Calvin’s Institutes III, iii, Page 4). “FIXED from all eternity” does not sound at all like what you said. But what can you expect from such a man who idolized the pagan Augustine the father of the RCC Church theology?
    Scriptural evidence for infant regeneration is found primarily in the story of John the Baptist.
    You claimed that infant REGENERATION was revealed in this verse:
    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.” Based on your claim that being filled with the HS IS regeneration ( a completely false definition of it as seen in Deut 30:6, Ezekiel 11: 19 or in Acts 10: 44-47 wherein the indwelling of GOD as the person of the HS is NOT the same as the rebirth of our human spirit BY the HS, nor is EITHER of those the same as salvation ( John 8: 14-17.) I see you are also not rightly dividing regeneration FROM the indwelling of the HS from the meaning of salvation as the privileged to spend eternity with God SAVED from hell, hence: SALVATION. This knee jerk over reaction to the Biblical doctrine called “baptismal regeneration” joined to the false baptismal salvation doctrine ( when rightly separated from catholic and many protestant old line church’s doctrines of baptismal salvation) has created a monstrosity of theology where a Frankenstein of many different parts/concepts are loosely and rather crudely stitched together to create what can only be called: “neo evangelical salvation as regeneration as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit heretical theology”. Its nothing but spam and goulash and wresting of scriptures to someones damnation!
    We are told to ” Rightly DIVIDE the word of truth…” Satan was the one who blurred its distinctive sense and tenses and concepts to Eve. ( you will not surely die) Now start again from the beginning: Salvation IS? Regeneration IS … the holy Spirit IS..? And if i can help you identify these things or others, please ask me and i will show you what God has said.

  3. February 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

    First of all, sir, your reply is ample evidence you’ve ignored a few things. First of all, you ignore that I am not a Calvinist.

    You also ignore virtually my entire post. You did not read what I wrote with any degree of understanding, or you would not have written at least 99% of what you did, except to bash Calvinism. For example, where did I claim that being filled with the Holy Spirit equals regeneration? I claim no such thing. In fact, if you go back and read it again you will see that you were embarrassingly lazy in reading what I actually wrote.

    It’s amusing to me that you can be this lazy reading this post and claim to “help me identify what God has said.” I will pray that you take the time to read things carefully and prayerfully in the future.

    • John Treat AKA Lifesharer
      February 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Well SIR , if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck??? is it a duck? Secondly , ad Hominem attacks are not scholarly dialogue nor rebuttal to the errors i saw. I read your post and if that’s the best you can do to explain your self that i totally misunderstood everything you said… why are you trying to write theological statements?
      The points i make IF TRUE you should receive gladly. if wrong you should apply the principles to correct with humbleness .
      Calvinism is a completely heretical cult with another gospel , another atonement, another Jesus, another salvation, another God. why shouldn’t i “bash” as you so arrogantly call my exposing it’s foibles since you claim to not be one? i find that curious. Your reply to me is unsatisfactory and shows an inability to understand what you read. Further you reveal a petty and rather arrogant attitude.
      Your post is wrong in defining the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and you mislabeled it. You were wrong in every point you made Thereafter, you did not unravel anything but added a new layer of confusion to the entire subject. You further your sin by taking my clarifications for some offense and turning like a dog to rend me instead of seeking to understand what I posted and see if it gave a little light to your otherwise goulash doctrines. You seem to think you grew up in a theological vacuum, but your entire post stank of Calvinist presuppositions and arguments.
      I will pray that you actually learn to think for yourself and to rightly divide the word of truth. OH and to clarify your words so a reasonably intelligent man can grasp what you say. Since i could not apparently, because your so poorly written statement shows no clarity.
      BTW a child is not born WITH SIN , sin is an action, a transgression of God’s LAW ( do you remember the scripture?) not a disease. the sin nature is NOT inherited its acquired Rom 5: 12 Thus a child remains in innocence until they sin and can be saved WITHOUT regeneration or the indwelling of the HS. It’s generally called the age of accountability in Jewish tradition.Jesus said their “angels do always behold the face of the Father”. You really don’t understand what you read do you? Ye blind guide.

      • February 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm

        Sir, your response to mine is loaded with irony. I’ll let you figure out what’s ironic about it.

        You are demonstrably wrong on most of your points. For example, my post on original sin referenced in the post above refutes your claim that we are born without sin. Indeed, Scripture contradicts your assumption, which can be found nowhere in the Bible!

        The only point on which I agree with you is that Satan does, indeed, work to blur the truth – not only to Eve, but to all humanity, especially those who believe.

        I would encourage you to prayerfully consider what Scripture says, and on what godly men throughout history have written. Maybe pick up a few good books on theology and read them carefully and prayerfully as well.

      • John Treat AKA Lifesharer
        February 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

        After 50 years of being a christian , you think i haven’t? I suggest you put Down your doctrines of men and actually allow Gods HS to teach you all truth. The scriptures declares that GOD gave us our human spirit at conception and it goes back to him when we die. Eccl. 12:7 so you want me to accept a babbling proof texting and ignorant idea that is rooted in Augustinian paganism of an inherited sin nature ? I do not care HOW MANY men wrote about it its NONSENSE when you actually understand WHAT the sin nature IS. Nothing in your post actually defined any biblical term you used; correctly. Not you, not them NOTHING. And your answer to the false doctrine of infant regeneration is clearly just a lot of hoopla and babble that clarified nothing because you do not KNOW what the mechanics of these things are. I explained it in 3 sentences why it is impossible. You are still adding more layers of confusion to the subject. because the Blood must be applied to sin before regeneration no child can be regenerated unless they first understand that they sinned and have a faith in Jesus Christ.
        IF : God gave us a human spirit at conception, and the SIN NATURE is a dead spirit cut off from God because of sin when biblicaly defined. THEN you must accept that GOD gave us a dead spirit at conception. This is Calvinism and this is heresy. IF the so called sin nature as you understand it is inherited what are the physical mechanism this physical nature uses to pass it on? genetics? some quasi spiritual thing? how can a sin nature be passed on when God said that we have this because we sinned ( Rom 5: 12) and NOT as an inherited nature? IF a regenerated man and woman have a child ( and therefore had their natures changed) do they pass on a nature they DO NOT have any more ?) Why, since sin is a transgression of the law 1 Jn 3: 4, would a JUST GOD demand a innocent infant who never committed a sin Rom 9:11 to have a sin NATURE thus MAKING THEM SIN BY HIS OWN ACTIONS ? This DOCTRINE of inherited sin nature was RCC and Calvinist because JOHN was a follower OF Augustine. And you are just a stooge of the same mentally aberrant cult thinking . SO my biblical position is CLEARLY found in eccl 12:7 rom 5: 12 and in a number of places as a rational and logical conclusion by those who actually UNDERSTAND what they read. something you have failed to do yet.
        is John Calvin a ” godly man”? He hand a direct hand in 56 murders of people in heinous fashion. and so your commentators are also guilty of turning a blind eye to the wicked actions of their heroes just like you. how pathetic

      • February 6, 2012 at 11:50 pm

        Sir, your attitude clearly demonstrates you have not been careful at all. One could be 100 and still be a great deal wrong.

        I encourage you to meditate on 1 John 4 before you comment on this blog again.

      • John Treat AKA Lifesharer
        February 7, 2012 at 1:32 am

        sir your a carnal putz and unwilling to show the least admission that anyone might actualy know something better than you LOL i recommend you just repent before you try again to one up me with trite and self serving babble that ignores the actual points for ad Hom attacks
        grow up you religious heretic

  4. February 7, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Since you asked so kindly, sir, I’ll give you one hint. You explicitly endorse a central tenet of the heresy of Pelagianism in your comments. You don’t need to be a Calvinist to see that one from a mile away. Yet I doubt you yourself are a Pelagian in the way Pelagius was.

    Until you learn to bridle your tongue as Scripture commands, and until you’ve done as I suggested and meditated on 1 John 4, I’d appreciate if you kept your ravings to yourself. Good day. 😉

    • John Treat AKA Lifesharer
      February 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      Pelagian wasn’t a pelagian, if you actually read his own writings he denied the way they twisted what he said and believed. And it’s only heresy if it is un-biblical, not because a bunch of RCC heretics call it one. When you, like all Calvinist , try to pigeon hole and box someone into a name or stereotype, you show only that you cant make original thoughts so are limited to such infantile techniques to try and gain a upper hand over your antagonist. Such marginalizing is only a tool for those who claim to be ” masters” but are not. James 3: 1 Such actions again prove you have no facility with the actual things i wrote, or YOU wrote. I do not deny a sin nature , just how you and your Calvinist masters taught you to define it. I do not say that Adams actions were merely a bad example: they brought sin into the world and death where none had existed see again ROM 5: 12.
      i do not believe in mysticism, but in spirituality as defined in Isaiah 57: 15 and Ezekiel 11: 19 and Deut 30: 6. Ephesians 2: 1 and Rom 2: 29 and hundreds of other passages you obviously do not understand.
      i am not now nor ever was a pelagian, so STOP trying to diminish me with your Calvinist tactics. I am a biblicists: the BIBLE is my rule, not the comments of commentators and biblicaly illiterate teachers such as you appear to be.
      When Jesus told the pharisees that they were vipers and snakes ..THAT was love. when he told them they were blind guides ..THAT was LOVE. and your attempt to falsely accuse me of not loving my brother because i spoke the truth to you about you infantile theological abilities does not mean i did not LOVE you. Truth is Love even when its not your ecumenical, kiss up, actualy hidden condemnations.
      Deu_8:5 Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.
      Heb_12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
      Heb_12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
      LOL i do not stop loving the petulant and rebellious child so easily so as to think your ” Good day” was well meant nor was it even sincere. LOL. They called Jesus a raving lunatic as well. Oh well. If you had addressed even ONE of my points with the same rule you claim i lack from 1John 4 instead of that abusive and purposefully nicolaitian spirit of domination and Calvinist: “death to all heretics” ! attitude in your first post… you may have actually LEARNED something.
      The so called depraved nature of Calvinistic and Catholic , Augustinian descriptions was a product of Augustine’s Manichean and pagan thinking and was adopted by the RCC as foundational church theology and accepted by the neo catholic Calvin as fundamental to Calvinist doctrine. Contrary wise the biblical doctrine of the sin NATURE of a dead spirit cut off from God by sin ( Eph 2: 1 -2) is not such a nature as to make us INCAPABLE of knowing good from evil. Jesus said > “Mat_7:11 If ye then, being evil [unregenerate .. LOOK IT UP], know how to give good gifts unto your children, how …” OBVIOUSLY Jesus did not agree with Augustine or Calvin in their definition of that nature and its ability to do good.
      I leave you with this thought: Jas 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that WE shall receive the greater condemnation. Believeth thou this? Must be getting pretty HOT where you are at..LOLOL Do you even KNOW what the bible means by the concept of the putz? It’s a useless bit of flesh left over after the circumcision; which is itself worthless and useless .. BUT thankfully God has decreed that it be a sign of the circumcision of the Covenant. In Moses its outward and about the works of the law by the flesh . In the NEW Covenant, it’s the “heart of flesh” in Ezekiel 11: 19 called circumcision of the heart, in the (s)pirit..” Rom 2: 29. the circumcision of Christ Col 2: 10-12. newness of life Rom 6: 4 and newness of (s)pirit in Rom 7: 4-6. So be Glad i call you one. I am one. Any real christian knows that they are a useless bit of flesh apart from the work of God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Please stop obfuscating what you neither know or understand and just learn of Him . Maybe then you can actually be taught the milk of Gods word instead of your denominations cultic doctrines of men. I speak in LOVE to your chastisement , that perhaps you will humble yourself to Gods holy words rather than genuflect to the mass murderers of the pope and Calvin.

      • February 7, 2012 at 10:58 pm

        Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you The Angry Theology Geek. Note the inability to interact with the post and comments with anything resembling lucidity, intelligence, calmness, and most importantly Christian grace. It’s people like this that scare non-believers away from Jesus and make most believers tired of blogs.

        Please pray for this guy.

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