Monday, May 14, 2007

Some questions, pt. 3

5. If we hold to Sola Fide, that people are saved only through faith in Jesus, apart from but evidenced by good works, can we also hold, as credo-baptists, that those who die in infancy are saved in every case? This is, of course, rightly an emotional issue, but it addresses important implications of our doctrines of salvation and original sin.

It's my understanding that credo-baptists (of which I am one) don't recognize the ability of infants to exercise saving faith. Yet, the most common evangelical response (that I've heard) to the question of infant salvation is that all babies are saved who die in infancy, sometimes with reference to an "age of accountability," sometimes without such a reference. The problem I see with both of those answers, (which are really the same answer, as far as I've heard), is that they both neglect to explain how such an infant, who is clearly affected by and is guilty of sin in Adam (Gen. 6:5, Rom. 5:12), is made right with God in the absence of the exercise of saving faith.

I've made a point of emphasizing the exercise of saving faith as that which we understand not to be present in infants. I did this because we are told to use the fruits of a professed or assumed believer to judge the validity of their profession (or, in this case, our assumption) of faith.

So, will we assume that all (or some, elect) infants have faith (albeit apart from the hearing and understanding of the Word?) and are just unable to give evidence, all being elect and therefore recipients of the gift of saving faith? Or, will we hold a doctrine of an "age of accountability" that effectively negates the effects of the fall on infants, or provides a way to redemption apart from saving faith?

Some things are simply beyond what God has chosen to reveal to us. This question may fall into that category. I'm just asking in case it doesn't, and in order to get us thinking about the consequences of our ideas. Please, fire away!


Aaron said...

Like controversy?

Scripture is clear that faith cannot come except through hearing the Word, and hearing through proclamation. None of the elect will be lost, yet none will be won withouth hearing the Word. So what of infants?

The Bible is largely silent on the issue of infant salvation. I do not believe that any infant is deserving of salvation. I do believe, on the basis of one Scripture (2Sam 12:23), that infants, some, if not all, who die will enter the presence of the Lord Jesus justified.

The issue for me is not one of whether or not infants are elect or reprobate. We don't know. Only God knows. If God damns an infant, it does not make God cruel or unjust. The infant was conceived in sin and shared in the sins of Adam at conception (Rom 5). Yet King David's son was conceived in the sin of adultery, died prematurely, a death that David realized was God's judgment for his sin, and yet David felt assured that he would be reunited with the infant.

I don't think the age of accountability has anything to do with this issue. It's an issue of God's mercy and it is an issue about which God is largely silent. Developing a firm doctrinal position on the basis of only one verse is typically unwise, so it seems that it may be best to defer to Deut 29:29 on this one, trust the confidence of David in 2Sam 12, and wholeheartedly put our hope in God who is merciful and compassionate toward orphans and widows. If God has a heart for downtrodden adults in this world, it is probably safe to assume he is equally concerned about the unborn, infants and toddlers.

Paul Cable said...

Aaron- Thanks for responding so thoughtfully!

Well, not controversy for the sake of controversy...

Like I said before I started posting these questions, I certainly don't have any new insight to add on any theological issue, so I tend to ask questions that I've personally relegated to Deut. 29:29 land (like this one, for the most part), just to see if other people do the same or have any insight that could help me, as I don't like to quickly dismiss an issue as unknowable to anyone just because it's stumped me.

That said, your response definitely helped me flesh out the issue some, and I appreciate it, especially your reluctance hastily to base a firm doctrinal position on one verse, without a strong witness from the rest of scripture. Thanks!

Glenn said...

Paul, I agree with most of Aaron's sentiments. I would add...

Whether you are credo-baptist or not, the most Biblically legitimate view that I am comfortable with is the idea that God will save the children of believers who have remained faithful in their loyalty to God. I think that we can see this throughout Scripture is we look carefully enough.

When Aaron mentions David, he's talking about an example of the confidence of a believer who is in covenant with God. In contrast, you have God commanding the Israelites to destroy everything in the land when they enter Canaan (including children and babies). I doubt that God intended to redeem these children.

Once again, most of the Scirpture that speaks positively towards infants is dealing with the infants/children of the covenant community. I think it's a strech to conclude that all infants/children that die young will be saved. Instead, God will be faithful to the children of His people because of His own Son, Jesus.

Just some thoughts. =)

Paul Cable said...

Glenn- thanks for adding!

The account of David is interesting in that, even though his child's death itself was part of God's judgement against his murder and adultery, he still had confidence in God's faithfulness to save his child. At the same time, the Canaanite children who were destroyed were killed in God's judgement on sin, too, like David's child. The children are being distinguished based on the covenant relationship of their parents to God (or the lack thereof), regardless of the personal moral faithfullness of the parents.

I do think, though, that the issue will be viewed differently by folks who hold differing views on baptism, because the it addresses the question of covenant membership. If we take the account of David's assurance of reunion with his child as normative, there's a kind of objectivity to salvation and covenant membership that a credobaptist would probably be uncomfortable with. Does that make sense?

Glenn said...

Yes Paul, that makes perfect sense. =) I agree very much with your analysis.

To that extent, one's view of baptism does come into play. Thanks for the reply!

Trey said...

There are certain issues which are very dangerous to discuss, because of your natural tendency to insert our own rights and wrongs into the situation, rather than being subservient to the Word of God. This is certainly one of them. I don't think any of us could deny that there is a part of us that balks at the idea that any child would not be saved. Questions of God's goodness, benevolence and love inevitably arise. It is precisely because of this that I think the advice of Aaron and some others is good to hold onto. I don't think we shoud ever be to quick to relegate some issue to the "Mystery of God" pile. We should always be willing to invest the time, effort, prayer and study into the subject to satisfy ourselves to the best of our ability that the Wrod is indeed silent on the issue.

I think in the issue of infants it becomes especially pronounced, but like any person we can not know the state of their soul. Only God can save, and we can only see the fruits and external manifestations. We can do out best to affirm their confession and regeneration, but that can only go so far. In the case of infants we cannot even go there. It is important that we continue to preach the gospel to ourselves, that we are all sinful and deserving of death and that God is good, loving and faithful to redeem His people.

As far as the benefits conveyed from baptism and being a child of a covenant family, I would be inclined to affirm that God does is faithful to families of believers. This is in no way saying that every member of family will be saved, but the scriptures seem to consistently teach a special grace is found in that communion and in the sacraments. I think it unwise to say that either the Lord's Supper or Baptism are mere memorium as I believe Zwingli held. After all Jesus himself instituted both the sacraments and baptism plays a large role in the Great Commission. I guess in summary, I am saying that I believe that the children of covenant believers should be baptized, after all why would you not want them to receive the benefits of the covenant family; however, one should never believe that that alone is enough to secure salvation.