Home > Theology > Infant Salvation: Infant Regeneration, Part 2

Infant Salvation: Infant Regeneration, Part 2

I said that in this installment we’d take a more direct look at the scriptures in question for this concept. Here’s a brief recap:

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.

Now, let us critique the interpretation of these verses. I think that we can clearly understand that infant regeneration does not have to be inferred from the passages quoted. Here is why.

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, be willing 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, nor can we state as fact that God does what this doctrine teaches.

So, I think that in conclusion we cannot accept the doctrine of infant regeneration. It is contrary to Scripture — it unwarrantedly bypasses the Scriptural means of salvation, it potentially (I won’t say ultimately) leads to a modification of post-mortem salvation (which is an un-Scriptural position), and it potentially takes the power of salvation out of God’s hands and puts it squarely in the infant’s. And we cannot accept a position that leaves us no hope that dead infants are with the Lord.

In the next post, we will look at a final position held by those who advocate infant salvation: the call of Christ to children.

Categories: Theology
  1. Frank Roy
    November 9, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I was pondering the abortion issue and the issue of salvation in the aborted. I am not about to dogmatic in regard to the intepretation of the scriptures cited.

    Our conception of reality in the natural is typically in space and time. Yet God existed before the material stuff of space and time. John Wesley spoke of God knowing from the end to the beginning.

    We can digress about free will and us humans as free moral agents. God allows things to happen, so His control can be seen in the big picture. Yet again, He knew what choice we would make before we physically existed.

    The following were two among others that include the phase such as “before the foundation of the world.”

    Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

    Determinism? Control? Romans 8:28-30 Ordo Salutis – http://www.theopedia.com/Ordo_salutis

    Revelation 17:7 But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. 8 “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. 9 “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. 10 “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. 11 “And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. 12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 “These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” 15 Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. 16 “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 “For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

    New King James Version

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