Friday, August 14, 2009

Where Do Infants Go When They Die?

This is a question that I haven't given much thought, at least for the last few years. Then, less than two weeks ago, a three-month-old boy died suddenly. Because his mother has attended our church recently and because they live in the community, I was asked to speak at the funeral. It was my privilege. It was also difficult.

This got me thinking about where infants go when they die. Many people quickly (almost automatically) answer this question by saying that all babies who die go to heaven. Keep in mind that many people who say this have no biblical basis for saying it. They give this answer because it makes them feel better about the situation.

But what does the bible tell us?

Based on what I have studied, I do not think the bible addresses this issue directly. In other words, there is no direct statement about the issue.

Despite this, we can come to conclusions based on broad teachings of scripture.

First, we know that only the elect go to heaven. There are arguments over how a person comes to be part of the elect, but I think all Christians agree that only the elect are saved.

Second, we know that sin (rebellion against the revealed will of God) separates us from God. It is our sin that causes us to deserve hell. Although we are corrupt at the point of conception, it is this corruption acted out as sin that actually merits us hell. Romans 6:23 is clear on this.

Keeping the above two concepts in mind, what conclusion can we come to? We know that infants do not sin (toddlers, on the other hand, are good at rebelling by saying, "No!") Infants, therefore, do nothing to deserve separation from God.

If the above is true - and it seems to be - then it must be true that all infants who die are of the elect. If they are all elect, then they must go to heaven when they die.

This is one of those difficult issues where we must show restraint and humility when giving answers. Compounding the difficulty of this question is the fact that it is obviously very emotionally-charged.

In the end, I believe that all infants who die go to heaven. I think I'm correct, but I humbly submit that I'm also not certain.

8 comments:

Jeff Nelson said...

Eric,

I think you have it right, but we could be wrong. This is a tough issue...

-jeff

Eric said...

Jeff,

I agree completely. This is tough. I want to be able to tell parents for certain that their infant is in heaven, but I sure would be more confident if the bible was clearer on the issue.

Strong Tower said...

"Second, we know that sin (rebellion against the revealed will of God) separates us from God. It is our sin that causes us to deserve hell. Although we are corrupt at the point of conception, it is this corruption acted out as sin that actually merits us hell. Romans 6:23 is clear on this." I don't think Romans 6 only testifies to that: "was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin." This surely is tied to condemnation and is speaking of nature, not individual acts. Beside, if it were speaking of individual acts, then Wesley wasn't wrong concerning his doctrine of sinless perfection, and John the beloved disciple was wrong concerning the impossibility of it.

I guess the real question is Adam's sin. Was it his sin imputed, or was it ours. Are we born innocent, morally neutral but with even less a hope than he being already subject to a corrupt nature? Or, do we inherit, as imputed, both the nature and the guilt or just the nature? But the further question must then be: is the possession of what is forbidden a sin whether or not it is wilfully committed? That is, does Scritpure hold accountable men for sins of ignorance? I think the answer is an unequivocally, yes: "You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple." The law contained provisions for the atonement of unconscious sins. We might recall: "And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled." This was an unconscious act, a reflex, and not contemplated error on Uzzah's part. It didn't matter. The penalty was the same.

Since the heart is so deceitful, we cannot even surely know what the motivations for any certain act we do, are. Even the righteous acts of the sin nature are sin. It is not enough to ask the question concerning conscious sins. For they alone are not the only sins for which we are condemned.

Eric said...

Strong Tower,

I agree with you about being accountable for sins of ignorance. Uzzah's case is a good one.

I'm referring to the fact that infants cannot sin in thought or action. They are corrupt from conception, but do not outwardly sin. I do believe Adam's sin, imputed to us, certainly leads to our sinning.

Are we condemned (if we are apart from Christ) for Adam's sin or for our own?

Elder's Wife said...

Hi Eric-
Haven't kept up with many blogs for awhile, but saw your post linked on Alan Knox' blog.
My refuge when considering this one (and I've had2 miscarriages myself) is Abraham's appeal to the character of God...Genesis 18:25 ..."Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
It is not my place to judge.

Eric said...

Elder's Wife,

This is certainly a difficult subject. I agree with you - and Abraham - that God always does right. The struggle for me is that the bible is not crystal clear on this subject. I'm not faulting the bible, but rather my inability to interpret it correctly.

In the end, God always does right.

Nicholas said...

Eric,

What do you mean by "We know that infants do not sin... Infants, therefore, do nothing to deserve separation from God"? I guess the important distinction here is how you are defining sin. To say that one does not sin is to claim that they are perfect and innocent, correct? I suppose I'm struggling with how you are separating out the imputed sin of Adam from the willful rebellion of man. One is the result of the other, thus making them inseparable. To say that infants do not sin is to say that they have a moral capacity within them to do good or to do what is right, but I know you don't believe that so I guess I'm struggling with how you're defining these things... Am I tracking with you, or no?

Eric said...

Nick,

I'm sure we agree on this issue. I'm simply stating that at an outward level, infants do not sin.

You wrote, "To say that infants do not sin is to say that they have a moral capacity within them to do good or to do what is right." I'm not sure I would go that far. I'm simply stating that infants have no capacity for willful behavior. I do not think infants have the moral capacity to do good - because of the imputed sin of Adam.

Do infants who die deserve heaven? No.

Do they go to heaven. I think so.