Infants of believers dying in infancy

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Herald

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This is an expansion of the thread appearing in paedo answers. Edward made this statement:

Since we must make judgments about God's will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

First off, this topic has been discussed: Here and Here.

The question that all who believe in elect infants who die in infancy must wrestle with is how the infant is saved without exercising faith. How does one come to faith without hearing and believing in the means?
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I don't think we should presume that an infant cannot hear and believe in the gospel. After all God is sovereign; He can do anything. (see Exodus 4:11) Examples such as Psalm 22:9-10 and Psalm 71:5-6 indicate that such faith is possible for one who is yet not born or of an age that is capable of making an profession of faith.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I am all for the age of accountability. And I think it is evident in that the children of Israel were not held accountable that were 20 and under for the sin of disbelief when they didn't listen to Joshua and Caleb. I am not sticking to a specific age. It was a general age that might have been placed upon them by God. I also think that this would be applicable for the mentally problematic situations.

C - Infants and the Mentally Disabled - David said of his infant son who died, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me." We must assume that God, whose ways are higher than our ways, and who teaches man justice and mercy, will be gracious to those who die in infancy, or are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

2 Samuel 12:23 Isaiah 55:8-9 Psalm 103:8-14
Romans 9:14-21 Job 36:22-23 Psalm 94:8-11
Micah 6:8
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
This is an expansion of the thread appearing in paedo answers. Edward made this statement:

Since we must make judgments about God's will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

First off, this topic has been discussed: Here and Here.

The question that all who believe in elect infants who die in infancy must wrestle with is how the infant is saved without exercising faith. How does one come to faith without hearing and believing in the means?

To be fair about it, I didn't make that statement - it's a quote from the Canons of Dort, and I expressed less than unqualified endorsement for that wording (I embrace the Westminster formulation without quibble).

And I STILL don't think the whole subject of the salvation of infants has anything to do with Baptism.
 

Iconoclast

Puritan Board Junior
I am all for the age of accountability. And I think it is evident in that the children of Israel were not held accountable that were 20 and under for the sin of disbelief when they didn't listen to Joshua and Caleb. I am not sticking to a specific age. It was a general age that might have been placed upon them by God. I also think that this would be applicable for the mentally problematic situations.

C - Infants and the Mentally Disabled - David said of his infant son who died, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me." We must assume that God, whose ways are higher than our ways, and who teaches man justice and mercy, will be gracious to those who die in infancy, or are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

2 Samuel 12:23 Isaiah 55:8-9 Psalm 103:8-14
Romans 9:14-21 Job 36:22-23 Psalm 94:8-11
Micah 6:8

Randy,
I do not believe in an age of accountability as all died in Adam.Romans 5, Psalm 51:5 We know that anyone who is saved is saved by mercy. The language of the confessions is clear in that elect infants dying in infancy are saved. If God has purposed to save "all" "some" or "none" we know that the God of all the earth will do right, Gen 18:25.
Their sin would have been atoned for at the cross.
Those under 20 were preserved to continue the godly line. God always protected the godly line by bringing judgment to purge out the reprobates.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
This is an expansion of the thread appearing in paedo answers. Edward made this statement:

Since we must make judgments about God's will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.
First off, this topic has been discussed: Here and Here.

The question that all who believe in elect infants who die in infancy must wrestle with is how the infant is saved without exercising faith. How does one come to faith without hearing and believing in the means?

To be fair about it, I didn't make that statement - it's a quote from the Canons of Dort, and I expressed less than unqualified endorsement for that wording (I embrace the Westminster formulation without quibble).

And I STILL don't think the whole subject of the salvation of infants has anything to do with Baptism.

Edward, your clarification is noted. Thanks.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I don't think we should presume that an infant cannot hear and believe in the gospel. After all God is sovereign; He can do anything. (see Exodus 4:11) Examples such as Psalm 22:9-10 and Psalm 71:5-6 indicate that such faith is possible for one who is yet not born or of an age that is capable of making an profession of faith.

Daniel,

I'm not sure these are convincing passages for cognition which, I believe, is necessary for saving faith. However, I am not saying that there are not elect infants. Theologically I am left with the absence of a convincing scriptural argument for infant faith. I must throw my limited understanding on the mercy of Almighty God.

Genesis 18:25 "Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Why do you believe Eph 2:8,9 such a stretch for God in regards to Infants? Surely the God of miracles can give 'cognition' and the gift of faith to whomever he pleases at whatever time He pleases, i.e. infants, retarded.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Why do you believe Eph 2:8,9 such a stretch for God in regards to Infants? Surely the God of miracles can give 'cognition' and the gift of faith to whomever he pleases at whatever time He pleases, i.e. infants, retarded.

Scott,

I don't doubt for one moment that our sovereign God can do as He pleases. I also don't doubt that there are elect infants. But as far as the gifting of saving faith to infants; there are three reasons why I struggle with this. 1. There is no clear example of it in scripture. 2. Even the prenatal effect of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:37) on John the Baptist cannot be equated with faith. 3. Cognition among infants is not normative.

Now, does this mean that an elect infant dying in infancy is not saved by the same blood of Christ that saves a person who believes and confesses (Romans 10:9, 10)? No. For there is no other way for a person to be saved except by the blood of Christ. My problem is how that is applied to the elect infant in the absence of saving faith. I'm not saying that it is not applied, just that I don't have an answer for it.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
The question that all who believe in elect infants who die in infancy must wrestle with is how the infant is saved without exercising faith. How does one come to faith without hearing and believing in the means?

If hearing is necessary deaf people can't be saved. It's another example of how the main difference between Baptists and Reformed people look at the world, and that's the question of continuity between the OT and NT. Something like what happened to David

2Sa 12:22 He 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?'
2Sa 12:23 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."

was taken for granted by those in the OT, and for those seeing an uninterrupted line of teaching it's no more strange to think that someone can be saved without hearing or understanding than it is to see ethnic Jews as no different than any other group of non-Christians, or that children should be baptised.

Philip is sleeping now in the other room. He'll never understand the Gospel, but whether I'll see him after he dies has never concerned me a bit, nor do I feel the least bit guilty that he was baptised as a baby.

It's not a question of someone having to do this, that and the other thing. It's a question of a sovereign, covenant God.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
If hearing is necessary deaf people can't be saved. It's another example of how the main difference between Baptists and Reformed people look at the world, and that's the question of continuity between the OT and NT. Something like what happened to David

Tim,

My use of the word hearing is in the general sense of receiving the message. That doesn't mean a deaf person cannot receive the message through written means.

The 2 Samuel passage that everyone quotes; is David really saying he will see his child again, or that he will follow him to the grave? This passage is not the slam dunk that people think it is.

Regarding you son, Philip; brother, please understand that I am not saying that elect infants dying in infancy, or elect individuals who are incapable of understanding the gospel, are not capable of being saved. I joyously concur that our sovereign God gloriously saves all those whom He elects. My issue is that I don't see clear and convincing teaching from scripture on the matter. That is why I cast my lack of understanding in this area on the mercy of God. Because the issue is so personal for some, poor exegesis has been used to support their presuppositions.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
My use of the word hearing is in the general sense of receiving the message. That doesn't mean a deaf person cannot receive the message through written means.

There are literally millions of people who can't read/hear/comprehend. And it's not a question of exegesis as much as presuppositions. And believe me, it's not personal.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
My use of the word hearing is in the general sense of receiving the message. That doesn't mean a deaf person cannot receive the message through written means.
There are literally millions of people who can't read/hear/comprehend. And it's not a question of exegesis as much as presuppositions. And believe me, it's not personal.

Tim,

Then I send you back to my other comment:

I am not saying that elect infants dying in infancy, or elect individuals who are incapable of understanding the gospel, are not capable of being saved. I joyously concur that our sovereign God gloriously saves all those whom He elects. My issue is that I don't see clear and convincing teaching from scripture on the matter. That is why I cast my lack of understanding in this area on the mercy of God.

Brother, what I can't do is take this issue and remove it from the same care and scrutiny I would give any other doctrine. I must prove it from scripture, and scripture alone. Is God limited in saving those who die in infancy, or who otherwise cannot understand the gospel? Certainly not! How do we reconcile this, scripturally, in lieu of clear and convincing proof? That's my question. It's also the reason why I cast myself upon the mercy of God, because my understanding lacks in this area.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Is God limited in saving those who die in infancy, or who otherwise cannot understand the gospel? I joyously concur that our sovereign God gloriously saves all those whom He elects.

Bill,
Sounds like you have reconciled it.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Is God limited in saving those who die in infancy, or who otherwise cannot understand the gospel? I joyously concur that our sovereign God gloriously saves all those whom He elects.
Bill,
Sounds like you have reconciled it.

Only by faith, not by scripture.

This is not an easy thing to understand or reconcile.

That's why many reformed say, "we know elect infants who die in infancy are saved- but we do not know how many or how few those are."

Also, "The believing parent of a child who dies in infancy has reason to hope, but not demand."

(These are both rough summaries of GI Williamson in his book, The Westminster Confession for Study Classes.

One thing that might be helpful also is look at the assumption- it is based on our perception that an infant is not, cannot express faith or that saving faith is based on cognitive ability of the infant.

For example, do we really know what a baby "knows" or believes or even is saying? There are many cases where a child in the womb demonstrates they "know" their mother's voice, respond to it, interact with it, etc.

One might well deduce by good and necessary consequence from Scripture that John the Baptist in the womb was saved and had saving faith, in addition to his being elect at that time (remember one might be called "elect" before the inner calling regenerates them- another topic, but one might deduce both from John the Baptist's case of response in his mother's womb).

In the end, the reformed position is consistent with the sovereignty of God- God is not dependent on anything to save anyone, anytime as it is completely an act of the (good pleasure of) His will)
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Bill,
Sounds like you have reconciled it.

Only by faith, not by scripture.

This is not an easy thing to understand or reconcile.

That's why many reformed say, "we know elect infants who die in infancy are saved- but we do not know how many or how few those are."

Also, "The believing parent of a child who dies in infancy has reason to hope, but not demand."

(These are both rough summaries of GI Williamson in his book, The Westminster Confession for Study Classes.

One thing that might be helpful also is look at the assumption- it is based on our perception that an infant is not, cannot express faith or that saving faith is based on cognitive ability of the infant.

For example, do we really know what a baby "knows" or believes or even is saying? There are many cases where a child in the womb demonstrates they "know" their mother's voice, respond to it, interact with it, etc.

One might well deduce by good and necessary consequence from Scripture that John the Baptist in the womb was saved and had saving faith, in addition to his being elect at that time (remember one might be called "elect" before the inner calling regenerates them- another topic, but one might deduce both from John the Baptist's case of response in his mother's womb).

In the end, the reformed position is consistent with the sovereignty of God- God is not dependent on anything to save anyone, anytime as it is completely an act of the (good pleasure of) His will)

Scott, I understand the good and necessary consequence argument, although I do not find it convincing in this case. Also, whether one is paedo or credo seems to be superfluous. Either a person is elect or they're not. The application of a covenant sign doesn't change that fact.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Is God limited in saving those who die in infancy, or who otherwise cannot understand the gospel? I joyously concur that our sovereign God gloriously saves all those whom He elects.
Bill,
Sounds like you have reconciled it.

Only by faith, not by scripture.

Bill,
I don't intend to be argumentative nor derail this thread into an argument of exegesis. However, if you have come to this conclusion about Gods character and attributes, and that conclusion has driven you to the conclusion that God can and does save infants and the dumb, it sounds like you have your answer. I am sure you have not come to your conclusion about the above character of God by faith alone? Scripture supports it, no?
 

Webservant

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think it's arrogance to assume that only those who are capable of understanding (in the way we perceive it) are capable of having saving faith. If we're all "born dead" then that capability to understand is something which is given to us all - whether we're an adult or whether we are infants. Whatever additional insight we gain, even if we live to be 100 years old. is also given to us.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Bill,
Sounds like you have reconciled it.

Only by faith, not by scripture.

Bill,
I don't intend to be argumentative nor derail this thread into an argument of exegesis. However, if you have come to this conclusion about Gods character and attributes, and that conclusion has driven you to the conclusion that God can and does save infants and the dumb, it sounds like you have your answer. I am sure you have not come to your conclusion about the above character of God by faith alone? Scripture supports it, no?

Scott,

Scripture supports God's goodness, grace and mercy. Those things are beyond arguing. My hope is based on those three things, in the absence of any positive command given in scripture. Scripture does give a positive command that cognition is very much involved in regeneration (Acts 16:31 & Romans 10:9,10). I believe you and I are agreed that elect infants, and elect individuals who are incapable of comprehending the gospel, are saved; it's being able to tie it to scripture that alludes me. So, I leave it to faith.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I think it's arrogance to assume that only those who are capable of understanding (in the way we perceive it) are capable of having saving faith. If we're all "born dead" then that capability to understand is something which is given to us all - whether we're an adult or whether we are infants. Whatever additional insight we gain, even if we live to be 100 years old. is also given to us.

Rich, give me that argument from scripture; that's all I'm asking.

Romans 10:8-17 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart "-- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; 13 for "Whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved." 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" 16 However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, "LORD, who has believed our report?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Does the "our perception" of an infant's cognitive ability make any sense?

Brother Scott, our perception? I don't think our perception of what we cannot explain matters. Our perception of what we can explain? That certainly matters (Romans 10:8-17).
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Cognition is not necessary for the new birth. The reflex action of a soul that has been born again is faith in Christ.

John the Baptist was regenerated from his mothers womb and exercised faith in Christ - as best he could - which was demonstrated when Mary visited Elisabeth.

The Spirit can work in extraordinary ways in certain circumstances, although ordinarily works alongside the saving message of the Gospel.

Parents who are expecting a baby should pray for regeneration from the womb, since this is clearly possible.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Cognition is not necessary for the new birth. The reflex action of a soul that has been born again is faith in Christ.

John the Baptist was regenerated from his mothers womb and exercised faith in Christ - as best he could - which was demonstrated when Mary visited Elisabeth.

The Spirit can work in extraordinary ways in certain circumstances, although ordinarily works alongside the saving message of the Gospel.

Parents who are expecting a baby should pray for regeneration from the womb, since this is clearly possible.

Do you want to make you scriptural case for this? I am especially interested in your comments in light of Romans 10:8-17:

The Spirit can work in extraordinary ways in certain circumstances, although ordinarily works alongside the saving message of the Gospel.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Why do you believe Eph 2:8,9 such a stretch for God in regards to Infants? Surely the God of miracles can give 'cognition' and the gift of faith to whomever he pleases at whatever time He pleases, i.e. infants, retarded.

Scott,

I don't doubt for one moment that our sovereign God can do as He pleases. I also don't doubt that there are elect infants. But as far as the gifting of saving faith to infants; there are three reasons why I struggle with this. 1. There is no clear example of it in scripture. 2. Even the prenatal effect of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:37) on John the Baptist cannot be equated with faith. 3. Cognition among infants is not normative.

Now, does this mean that an elect infant dying in infancy is not saved by the same blood of Christ that saves a person who believes and confesses (Romans 10:9, 10)? No. For there is no other way for a person to be saved except by the blood of Christ. My problem is how that is applied to the elect infant in the absence of saving faith. I'm not saying that it is not applied, just that I don't have an answer for it.


Luke 1:15for 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.
As you know, this is the only way to be regenerated and to learn the Gospel.

Luke 1:41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.
Let's ask ourselves, "Why did he leap?"

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Here we see Elizabeth being filled with the Holy Spirit thus knowing that the Gospel lay within Mary. Elizabeth had visited with Mary many other times and never had she asked why Mary honored her with her presence. That is because it wasn't Mary's presence which was the honor but the Savior's presence.

44For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
I suppose we have our answer as to why John leaped in his mother's womb. It wasn't to find a better position....it was because of joy that he leaped. People don't leap for joy out of knowing nothing. They leap for joy out of knowing great things! John knew what the Holy Spirit had revealed to Elizabeth before she even knew... spilt seconds in between maybe but he knew.

Unborn children must hear the Gospel just like born children and adults must hear it to receive it and be born again. John the Baptist knew and understood what the Holy Spirit told him about the Child in Mary's womb and He does the same for the elect unborn/infant/child/mentally delayed/deaf/blind etc person.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Sarah,

Earlier in this thread I posted that the event in Luke 2 was not normative. We read of a divinely ordered circumstance that does translate into widespread practice; the same way that Lazarus being raised from the dead does not translate into a common practice.

Of course it isn't normative. All who are of the elect and become adults with a good intellect have to learn outside of the womb and at an understanding age. But we are not talking about us we... are talking about that which isn't normative.... elect babies dying in infancy. It's not normal for babies to die (although many many do). It's normal for ppl to grow up and become adults. God gave us an example of how He saves the "not normative" ppl and I don't think we should throw it out as just a one time deal. Nothing in Scripture says that it was a one time deal. If we throw out the "hearing of the Gospel" in the salvific process for infants, then we can't scold those who want to do the same for the "jungle man who never got the chance to hear the Gospel".
 

Webservant

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think it's arrogance to assume that only those who are capable of understanding (in the way we perceive it) are capable of having saving faith. If we're all "born dead" then that capability to understand is something which is given to us all - whether we're an adult or whether we are infants. Whatever additional insight we gain, even if we live to be 100 years old. is also given to us.

Rich, give me that argument from scripture; that's all I'm asking.

Romans 10:8-17 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart "-- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; 13 for "Whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved." 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" 16 However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, "LORD, who has believed our report?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
I saw what you posted about Luke 1:41 not being normative - but how do you know this? God gave us a unique opportunity to see His Spirit working in someone who cannot hear - though the baby was part of Elizabeth's body, and it's evident from the verse that she could hear (speculation on my part). My understanding of this has to do with my belief in total depravity - demonstrated in Genesis 8:21 and many other verses. I don't see in the Bible that God is any less charitable to an adult believer than he is to an infant. If I am wrong I am sure someone will correct me.
 
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