Several years ago, Danny Akin and Albert Mohler wrote a short article explaining why they believe children who die go to heaven. Today, Danny Akin offers a revised version of that argument, and you can read it here. Akin writes:
I believe that there are good reasons biblically and theologically for believing that God saves all who die and who do not reach a stage of moral understanding and accountability. Scripture may not speak to this issue directly, but there is sufficient evidence that would lead us to affirm that God receives into heaven all who have died in infancy. Some evidence is stronger than others, but cumulatively they marshall strong support for infant salvation. I will note six of them.
Read the rest here.
Seemed weird that he declines to name R.C. Sproul as the “popular evangelical theologian” who gave the “justification by youth alone” quote in criticism of Billy Graham.
“there is sufficient evidence that would lead us to affirm that God receives into heaven all who have died in infancy.”
Well, some could say there’s just as much (or more) “evidence” “to lead us to affirm” the contrary. Seems like a slippery slope to be affirming things we want to be true by taking this and that from scripture to support what feels comfortable to us.
“Scripture may not speak to this issue directly” …okay, then let’s stick with that.
There are countless issues that scripture doesn’t speak to directly–i.e. in explicit terms. Think pedophilia, abortion, in vitro fertilization. But it would be unwise to say that scripture doesn’t speak to these issues at least at the principial level. The Bible’s teaching has implications beyond the issues addressed explicitly in the text. If that weren’t so, then the Bible would be altogether irrelevant to us.
It does speak explicitly about fornication and murder.
Surely in vitro fertilization isn’t in the same category as the others you mentioned.
They are not in the same category in the sense of moral equivalence. They are in the same category in that they present controversial ethical questions to people of conscience.
But since you brought it up, some IVF doctors create more human embryos than they intend to implant in a womb. These “spare” humans are often frozen indefinitely or destroyed–in which case the command against murder is relevant.
Yes, the Bible mentions fornication and murder. And I agree that the Bible’s teaching on those issues speaks authoritatively to the issues of pedophilia and abortion. But again, the terms pedophilia and abortion do not appear in scripture. That means that you are appealing to implications of scripture, not to the explicit terms of scripture when you relate the Bible to pedophilia and abortion.
The argument you’re making is actually quite good in making the opposition’s case. Just because we would like the Bible to speak on a subject does not mean the Bible does so. When the Bible is silent–as it often is on subjects–we should listen, instead, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But because flesh is weak we oftentimes fall back to what we “would like” the Bible to say instead of what the Bible actually says. The Catholic teaching that IVF is sinful has no Biblical basis. The idea that life begins at conception has no Biblical basis (unless we’re elevating Ronald Reagan from President to Apostle 😉 The Bible is always relevant but its also intentionally silent on much in the world, whether the subject is politics or science.
One of the things I try to teach my daughter is to not make a bad argument for a good point because it can undermine your entire line of reasoning.
Danny Akin uses Matthew 18:14 to argue that God does not want the “little ones” to perish. But that parable is teaching about the lost sheep. I checked two sources, and neither of them interpret “little ones” to be children. So I think his reasoning there is faulty.
If I understand him correctly, he then seems to follow that with the argument that we are not held accountable for sins unless they are volitional. So is he an inclusivist (i.e. those that have not heard go to heaven) as well?
Now don’t get me wrong, I agree with much he has said. I just think he has made some weak arguments and taken certain verses out of context. For the record, I believe that the verses regarding David support that the children of the elect go to heaven (when they die young). But I believe the Bible is silent on the children of the reprobate.
Michael writes: “But I believe the Bible is silent on the children of the reprobate.”
Let me make sure I understand what you’re implying: some infants who die in the womb, who are incapable of forming a sentence or even a coherent thought, were created by God as reprobates so He could condemn them to everlasting misery for a nature He decreed they have in the first place?
Why do you worship this god of yours? The only reason must be fear of finding yourself thrown into the very Hell you think everyone else is going to. Hey … as long as you make it in, tough luck to everyone else, I suppose?
Suppose your middle paragraph is theologically correct (I don’t agree it is)? What then? God is bad or evil? Your argument, even if correct, only proves that the creator God has determined for reasons beyond my reckoning or yours to take certain action.
Ultimately, we can only know about God what he has chosen to reveal of himself. Our inability to see everything clearly means the implications you’ve proposed don’t have to follow from your premise. It may be that God wants us to think through these issues in order to conclude we don’t and can’t know everything, which then pushes us toward him.
I read your comments regularly and appreciate that you are thinking (even when I don’t agree with you!).
I’m not trying to imply anything. I think the Bible is silent on the subject, and it is therefore inappropriate for us to speculate. I cannot tell if you are asking a serious question or not. I also cannot tell if you problem with what I said is limited to infants, or if maybe you have a seriouse disagreement with the whole issue of the reformed view of election/reprobation.
Regardless, I will try to clarify. (1) I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that “some” infants are elect. (2) I do not believe that the Bible teaches that “all” infants are elect, but that my be the reality. (3) I think that the whole concept of an “age of accountability” is complete nonsense and that we are all sinners from birth.
While I am not a Presbyterian, here is a great link that I found that pretty clearly explains my position: http://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=83
As you can see by the above link, even the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly refers to “elect infants”. So while you may strongly disagree with my statement, I respectfully hold that I am not outside the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.
James Harold Thomas
I’ve always wondered how “all children go to Heaven” worked vis the commands from God about the Amalekites etc.
you have mentioned something in sacred Scripture called ‘the ban’ which some take ‘literally’ and others take as an ‘allegory’ . . .
in the case you mention, it is a good thing to remember that the highest, ultimate, and best revelation of God we have is in the Person of Jesus Christ as He was when He came among us;
so that ANY interpretation of any Scripture which contradicts HIS teaching, HIS Words, HIS commands, or HIS example . . . cannot stand as ‘truth’ . . . and so must be re-examined in the light of Christ Who spoke and acted in the Person of God as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
My advice is to look to Christ. That is where you can find the answer to the question asked in this post. Take another look at all He has said about little ones and their place with Him. And then be at peace.
Why the constant facination or preoccupation of others going or not going to Heaven. Worry about yourself-only. Pray for yourself and others but let God judge others. Are you perfect as God is perfect-that is the question.
James Thomas writes: “I’ve always wondered how “all children go to Heaven” worked vis the commands from God about the Amalekites etc.”
Infants die in abortions and natural disasters every day. Since God ordained all these too, are you saying that all of these infants are as “guilty” as the Amalekite adults and are thus damned?
James Harold Thomas
First, I never said that any infants, Amalekite or not, are damned.
Second, all people, from infants to adults, are equally guilty of Original Sin. As Akin said in the article, “The Bible is clear that we are all born with a sin nature as a result of being in Adam (Roman 5:12). This is what is called the doctrine of original sin.” And also, “It is important for us to remember that anyone who is saved is saved because of the grace of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ. Like all who have ever lived, except for Jesus the sinless Savior, infants need to be saved. Only Jesus can take away their sin, and if they are saved it is because of His sovereign grace and abounding mercy.”
If infants automatically go to heaven, Planned Parenthood has put more souls in heaven than every church in American combined.
Thank you for this point.
What’s your point? The Bible says that murder is a sin. Period. Full stop. The Bible forbids murder no matter what the eternal destiny is of the person being murdered. So I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make. Are you suggesting that Planned Parenthood’s slaughter of innocents is justified if those innocents are heaven-bound? I can hardly imagine anything more inimical to the clear teaching of scripture.
Five-point calvinist/Southern Baptist here. I like your blog and probably agree with 95% of the stuff you post. Paul Reed can and probably will defend himself, but I think he is just stating the logical conclusion of the article.
Yes, you are correct that abortion is murder. But Planned Parenthood is already murdering, so that changes absolutely nothing. In 2011, there were a little more than 1,000,000 abortions in the U.S. I have no idea how many of these poor children would eventually be converted/saved, but let’s assume a very generous 40%. That’s 400,000. So from a very pragmatic standpoint and assuming that all infants go to heaven (which I don’t), Planned Parenthood sends a greater percentage of souls to heaven than the church.
Please know, Denny, this post is coming from a brother in Christ. But I think in this case, the idea of Justification by Youth Alone has negative consequences. While I understand a pastor’s desire to comfort people, I think he should focus on comforting the sheep (which matches my belief that the infants of the elect go to heaven). I don’t think we need to be teaching people that all aborted babies automatically go to heaven.
Michael, thank you for your comment. “Justification by youth alone” is effective rhetoric, bit it is not the position of the article linked above. Nor is it my position. This is a debate about what the biblical text says. If you disagree with the position, you should try to persuade by making a case for what the Bible teaches. In other words, you’ll have to show that Akin/Mohler have the exegesis wrong.
By the way, the article that cinches the issue for me was not this one. It is the one that Piper wrote on Romans 1. That’s the text that deals most profoundly with the accountability of those who have never heard the gospel.
Denny, thank you for your kind and gracious response. I will certainly try to find the article by Piper as he has cinched a few issues for me in the past.
I’m not going to try to prove Akin/Mohler incorrect because I’m probably not able. While my church does not subscribe to any confession, my family and I hold to the 2nd London Baptist of 1689. That refers to elect infants, which is good enough for me, so I’ll drop the issue and stop posting about it.
One thing I appreciate about this site and a few others: you expose me to theology. I am solidly into my middle years and was converted in my 30’s. I have never been a part of a church that regularly teaches theology. So whether I always agree or not, guys like you, Challies, Cripplegate, etc. expose me to things that make me think through tough issues. As you can see from my exchanges with James B., I am dealing with some tough issues in my house right now, and I sometimes don’t know where to go for answers. We are reading through some of Schaeffer’s stuff right now (of course in addition to Scripture), and it really helps.
Anyway, grace and peace to you.
What’s my point? Well, first, I think we should find it really odd that more souls are going to heaven after encountering Planned Parenthood than by encountering Christ’s Bride, the Church. And that the overwhelming majority of human souls in heaven are embryos. If nothing else, that is really odd. Second, if you’re like most Americans, you give relatively little any thought to where you will spend eternity. But historically Christians have considered the afterlife and the difference between an eternity of intense suffering and an eternity of bliss a huge deal. By your reasoning, an aborted child has no worries about hell. No worrying about Matthew 7:21. No carrying his cross. Just a quick bit of suffering (if the unborn child can even feel pain yet), and then instant bliss. For all eternity. A privilege that the Bible says that “few find”. So while I never said abortion is justified, my point is this: if aborted babies automatically go to heaven, then that’s one heck of a silver lining!
Michael writes: ” I cannot tell if you are asking a serious question or not. I also cannot tell if you problem with what I said is limited to infants … ”
If one is incapable of any conscious act, I find it difficult to see how one can be “guilty” of anything. You may as well suggest that a parent is within their rights to beat their blind and deaf child for not cleaning their room, despite the fact that the child could neither see the mess nor hear the command to clean it.
It’s these sort of discussions that make atheism understandable to me.
The story of a God who was apparently bored and decided to create devils upon whom He could inflict misery upon for all eternity (and who would inflict misery on others) but who is also somehow “good” is so absurd that only Lewis Carroll could have written it. I’d suggest that, from a human perspective, the word “good” as it relates to God has no meaning whatsoever. Make up some nonsense word instead.
You are correct, this is a very difficult issue. But let’s put the whole issue of infants aside because regardless of how many times I say the Bible is silent, you seem to think I’m saying they are going to hell. I am not – so let’s move on.
We are dealing with the issue of election and reprobation in my house now. My daughter cannot accept the theological teaching that an omnibenevolent God can make people that he has no intention to save. She does not think this falls within the definition of “good”. So we are having serious discussions about this subject.
I am not here to defend the doctrine at all as there is neither time nor space. But if a Christian holds to reformed thinking, then they do have to struggle with this issue.
I will say one thing in closing. There is a difference between an atheist and an anti-theist. One believes there is no god. The other believes in god, but thinks he’s a jerk. Which one are you?
So in our culture, we have a concept where no children are guilty — a small child could find a gun and kill someone, and he’s still not going to be sentenced. And then as children get older, they gradually become more accountable, until one day they are viewed as adults under the law. Read the Bible, and if you think this is God’s view. Start with the flood, where every child is killed. Or the final plague of Egypt. Or any of the military defeats the prophets warn of. I guarantee you, you will never hear the Bible once say, “When you take the city, kill every man and woman, but spare the children since they are innocent” or “God wrath’s will be severely visited on the people, but He will spare the children since they don’t know any better”.
Michael writes: ” My daughter cannot accept the theological teaching that an omnibenevolent God can make people that he has no intention to save. ”
Your daughter is correct. If God is “good”, then He must, by definition, desire the ultimate good of everyone, not just some. Now, if desiring the good of someone causes some suffering and difficulty, that is one matter. Sometimes, what is good for us hurts.
But the God of Calvinism desires no such thing. He wants souls to remain “bad” merely so He can display His ability to punish and inflict sorrow and misery for its own sake, because somehow this makes Him bigger and more glorious.
If this is “good”, I’d assert that the word has no meaning whatsoever. This theology is as bleak and hopeless as nihilism.
This is indeed the new line of reasoning for pro-arbortion–the child is going to Heeaven so what is the big deal.
Look at the PBS series–“After Tiller”. They were talking about it is ok because the child will go to Heaven.