Any thoughts on this post that Dr. Riddlebarger put up…. ???? It’s something that has been weighing on my heart since I have two minis.
Article 17: The Salvation of the Infants of Believers
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.
Because of human sin, and the fact that the guilt of Adam’s sin is imputed to all of his descendants, unspeakable tragedies occur. Ours is a sinful and fallen race. We are weakened in body because of the inherited corruption passed down to us from our first father. Furthermore, we are subject to the sinful actions of our fellow sinners. Because we are under the curse, we will all die. As one of the sages of popular culture puts it, “nobody gets out of here alive.”
One of the worst consequences of the Fall is the death of a child. It is bad enough that children, now grown, must bury those who brought them into the world, and who have cared and provided for them. It is even worse when parents are forced to bury a child who never lived to adulthood. If such a tragedy is not a graphic picture of the reality which is the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his progeny, then I don’t know what is.
Having raised the brutal reality of the consequences of original sin (guilt, death, and final judgment), the authors of the Canons have also spoken of election (the exercise of God’s mercy) and reprobation (the exercise of God’s justice).
But at this point, the Canons address the very difficult subject of what happens when infants and small children of believers die in infancy, or in their youth, without ever having made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Are we to consider such children as elect (and saved)? Or as reprobate (and lost)? Even framing the question like this makes us shudder, but it is a question we have all asked (if the truth be known), and the Canons do not shirk from answering it.
While most American evangelicals can fall back upon their Pelagianism and argue for the innocence of such children, we have already seen that the Scriptures do not allow us such an unbiblical escape. If the Bible is clear about anything, it is clear that our children–however precious they are to us–are sinful from the time of their conception (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). Like their parents, they are by nature, children of wrath, and therefore subject to the curse, which is death (Romans 5:12).
Despite the widely accepted American dogma of an “age of accountability”–that unspecified moment when children supposedly become responsible for their sins, and for any possible rejection of Christ–there is no such doctrine taught anywhere in Scripture. Sadly, this unsupported dogma holds out the false promise of a salvation apart from Christ, and sets out the false hope that should our children die before they reach the age of accountability, they will automatically go to heaven, because they are “innocent” and never needed saving.
Realizing the myth of human innocence under any circumstances, the Canons point us to an even better source of comfort–not the supposed innocence of our children, but to the merciful God, who in Jesus Christ, provides the means of salvation for all of his elect, including the children of believers. God’s grace may even extend to all those who die in infancy, but since Scripture is silent on this matter, and all we have is human opinion, we’ll leave that discussion for another time, as the Canons themselves wisely do.
According to the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 7:14), the children of believers (even if only one parent is a Christian) are holy. They are “set apart” through the faith of a one believing parent, so that all promises made by God to his people under the covenant of grace apply to them. If we are believers in Jesus Christ, without hesitation we affirm that our children are members of the covenant of grace, the promises of which are signed and sealed unto them though baptism. As Christian parents, the Canons direct us to find comfort in the tragic case of the death of a child, in the fact that all of the promises of the covenant center in God’s unconditional promise, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” We need not count upon the false hope of the innocence of our child to save them. No, we count on something much, much, greater–the mercies of God in Christ!
It is because God is absolutely faithful to his covenant promises, and not because our children are somehow “innocent,” we can be confident that those children of believers who die in infancy are indeed numbered among the elect, and go to heaven when they die. The Canons wisely counsel us not to doubt the election of such children, but to be absolutely confident of being joined with them eternally in the “age to come.” Why? Because of God’s covenant promise! God’s grace in Christ trumps human sin.
The promises God makes to us under the covenant of grace give us wonderful comfort in the darkest of moments. These same promises remind us that God is gracious, and that death and the grave do not have the final word. God will raise all his own from the dead, ensuring that all his people will one day bask in their promised inheritance together–the children with their parents–as they enjoy their eternal Sabbath rest in the presence of the Savior.
While the promise never removes the pain of death–this side of Christ second coming–it certainly gives us a sure and certain hope. Far better to count on the blood and righteousness of Christ, than on the supposed “innocence” of those we love. And this is why we make our judgments from Scripture, where we find far better promises and a much greater hope. For it is Scripture which promises us, that should our children die, they are even now beholding the face of that one who redeemed them with his precious blood.