Do All Infants Who Die Go to Heaven?

gravestones-1This is a repost from last summer with a few slight revisions. 
In light of the millions of babies that have been killed by abortion since 1973 Pastor Sam Storms asks the question, “Do All Infants Who Die Go to Heaven?”  He is tentative with his argument, but still believes that “all who die in infancy…are among the elect of God.”

He gives eight arguments to prove his point, which I summarize below. All Scripture references are his.

1. Romans 1:20 says that all who are exposed to general revelation are without excuse. Since infants are not “recipients of general revelation” then they have an excuse and are therefore “not accountable to God or subject to wrath.”

2. There are passages that assert that infants do not know good from evil (Deut. 1:39).

3. The story of David’s son dying after David’s adultery with Bathsheba. David says he will go to his son, which would indicate that his son with God.

4. There is the consistent testimony of Scripture that we will be judged according to our works (II Cor. 5:10, I Cor. 6:9-10, Rev. 20:11-12).

5. An infant sent to Hell would know pain and suffering, but would not know why he was there. He would be conscious of his suffering, but not conscious of his sin.

6. Some infants are clearly regenerate in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:15).

7.  Honestly, I am not sure what he is arguing with his 7th point. He talks about Matthew 19:13-15. But what he is trying to prove or disprove from the passage is unclear. If someone can explain his point to me, please do.

8. Here is a direct quote from his 8th point, “Given our understanding of God’s character as presented in Scripture, does he appear as the kind of God who would eternally condemn infants on no other ground than that of Adam’s transgression? Again, this is a subjective (and perhaps sentimental) question. But it deserves an answer nonetheless.”

Storms believes “the first, third, fourth, fifth, and eighth points sufficiently convincing” to prove “the salvation of those dying in infancy.”

Let’s walk through his points one by one.

Number 1: Infants as soon as they are conceived receive and respond to general revelation. Do they understand it all? Well no, but many adults don’t either. As a soon as someone exists in the world they are exposed to general revelation.  A baby in the womb is a human being. He is a person. He has a conscience. This is essentially a maturity argument. Storms is saying a baby is not mature enough to receive and respond to general revelation therefore they are excused. The question, which naturally follows is when do they become “without excuse?” At what point does a child move from “not receiving or responding to general revelation” to doing so? To put it in more familiar terms, what is the age of accountability? This argument does not work because there is no indication in  Scripture of a particular point in a child’s life when they all of the sudden become “without excuse.” We are born in sin.

Deuteronomy 1:39 is the passage cited in number 2. There Moses recites the failure of Israel to enter the land and God’s subsequent punishment of making them wander for forty years in the wilderness.   This passage does indicate a higher level of responsibility for adults for certain sins than for children. But there are numerous problems with using this to prove the salvation of all infants. First, you are dealing with covenant children. Second, the age of those who were not punished for Israel’s failure to enter the land was twenty and under, not just infants. In other words, it proves too much. Are all those under the age of 20 who die elect? Third, this passage does not seem to be saying that children cannot sin, but rather that they are innocent of the specific sin of failing to enter the land. This is similar to David’s comment that he is righteous (Psalm 18:20, 24).  David is not saying he never sins. He is saying that in this particular circumstance he is righteous. Finally, the parents used their children as an excuse for not entering the land (Number 14:3).  God preserving the young was an appropriate punishment for the parents who did not trust God to preserve the young.

Numbers 3 and 6 are the same argument: Some children in the womb are clearly elect. But like the Deuteronomy passage this is undermined by the fact that all the infants involved are covenant children. They are children of believers. Storms is a Baptist so his failure to understand this is not surprising. But God does not treat the children of believers the same way he treats the children of pagans (I Cor. 7:14).  Storms must prove that all infants, including those of pagans, are elect, not just covenant children.

Numbers 4, 5, and 8 are the same argument coming from different directions. The assumption is that the only reason God would send someone to Hell is because they have willfully and consciously rejected divine revelation, not because they were born sinners. Original sin is not enough for God’s eternal wrath to justly rest upon an individual. My first point below addresses this.

None of these arguments are strong enough to assert what Pastor Storms does. I understand why he wants to say this. We all do. We want to say all babies who die are in Heaven. But the Bible, not our feelings must guide us. Here are my counter arguments that will lead to my final position.

First, Storms wants to say that God would not condemn people who do not willfully sin against divine revelation therefore infants cannot be condemned. But God already has condemned them. Every child is conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). Why? Because Adam sinned. No one chooses to be born under the wrath of God (Eph. 2:3). God has determined that for them. God has already condemned the entire human race, infants included, for a sin they did not willfully commit. Why would it be wrong to send them to Hell when they did not willfully choose to sin?

The second point builds on the first. All men are sinners from the moment of conception. There are no exceptions to this. Storms agrees with this. They must be cleansed by the blood of Christ to enter everlasting life. What in the Bible indicates that children of pagans are automatically covered in Christ’s blood? Nothing.

Third, here is where the covenant is so helpful. God separates children of Christians from those who are outside the covenant (I Cor 7:14, Psalm 22:9). Children conceived by one parent who believes in Jesus belong to Christ. They are in the covenant.  If they die in the womb or while young a minister can say with confidence based on Scripture that the child belongs to God. There is no such confidence for non-believing children. Storms passes over the fact that God specifically commands the destruction of non-covenant infants in passages such as Deuteronomy 20:16-17 and Joshua 6. Many, many infants would have died in the flood, which God brought with his own hand. He also blesses those who destroy pagan infants in passages such as Psalm 137:8-9 and Isaiah 13:16-18. The flip side of I Cor. 7:14 is that if there is no Christian parent the child is not holy, not in the covenant.

Based on Scripture here is what I would say.

Infants and those in the womb who die where one parent is a Christian can be assured the child will be ushered into the presence of God. The Synod of Dordt says it well:

Since we are to judge of the will of God from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children, whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy.(1st Head of Doctrine, Article 17)

For Christian parents the covenant brings great comfort during the loss of a child by miscarriage or some other tragedy. Our children are set apart. Not because of us. But because of God’s mercy and his covenant. We will see them again.

For infants outside of the covenant there is no such assurance. God might show them mercy, but he has given no promises to. Scripture does not give guidance on this point. If anything the Scriptures point the other direction. Nothing in the Bible indicates he will save the children of pagans simply because they have not willfully sinned against him.

For more on this you can read Mark Jones’ (no relation) excellent article over at Reformation 21.