When people have a question about the Bible, they often ask their pastor. When their pastors are not sure about the answer, they tend to ask a theologian who has studied the issue to help them formulate an answer.
One of the most painful and complicated questions that a pastor gets is what happens to a baby who dies in the womb (e.g. miscarriage or abortion) or dies at a young age. Unlike some questions like how old the earth is, or what happened to the dinosaurs, this question is loaded with incredible emotional intensity and pain. I have been asked this question maybe hundreds of times over a few decades as a pastor, and each time the look of anguish on the face of the person asking it reveals that this is a question asked in hopes of healing a broken soul.
There are a number of respected Bible teachers who have offered varying answers to the question of infants and eternity. Their insights can help us better understand how to think through the issue and give us hope which is what our soul needs as much as our lungs need air.
Pastor Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) believed in universal infant salvation arguing from the character of Jesus saying, “I cannot conceive it possible of him [Jesus] as the loving and tender one, that when he shall sit to judge all nations, he should put the little ones on the left hand, and should banish them for ever from his presence.” [FOOTNOTE: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/infant-salvation]
Likewise, the London Baptist Confession of 1689 says, “Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”
Theologian Millard Erickson holds the same view, albeit with much weaker theological reasoning. In an effort to provide strength to the concept of universal infant salvation, he weakens the sin nature inherited from our first father Adam in relation to unborn children.
Dr. John Piper holds to universal infant salvation, based on a reading of Romans 1:19-20, saying, “Because I don’t think little babies can process nature and make conclusions about God’s grace, glory or justice, it seems they would fall into the category of still having an excuse.” [FOOTNOTE: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/why-do-you-believe-that-infants-who-die-go-to-heaven]
Dr. Ronald Nash argues that all infants who die go to heaven because infants are incapable of moral good or evil. He cites Deuteronomy 1:39 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 and states, “Infants are innocent in the sense that whatever their natural disposition to sin may be, their status as infants makes it impossible for them to perform good or evil acts. Therefore they are not moral agents.” [FOOTNOTE: When a Baby Dies: Answers to Grieving Parents, by Ronald H. Nash. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.]
Dr. Wayne Grudem, agreeing with Spurgeon and Piper that infants are elected to salvation the same way that adults are, is far more reserved in his statements about whether or not all infants are saved. “How many infants does God save in this way?” he writes, “Scripture does not tell us, so we simply cannot know. Where Scripture is silent, it is unwise for us to make definitive pronouncements.” [FOOTNOTE: Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 500.]
Theologians like these have concluded, after a lifetime of biblical study, that there is great reason to hope that little ones who pass from this life pass into God’s presence forever. In the next daily devotional, we will examine what the Bible says from many of the same verses that these theologians emphasize in their conclusions.