Response to John Stebbe – Infant Salvation

(Reposted from Calvinist Gadfly…)

# John Stebbe Says:

Micah, I had said that I would respond on your other site (radongas). But I was about to post and saw that I have to set up an account for myself to post, and I just don’t want to do that. So I’ll respond here to comments you made on the other site, if that’s agreeable to you.

“I will go to him” (2 Sam 12:23) I agree with you that this verse does not teach universal salvation of those dying in infancy. I believe that we may possibly infer from this verse that there is an afterlife, but it would be difficult to go farther, based on this verse alone.

You wrote:
Mar 10:14 and Luke 18:16, wherein Christ says “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Christ’s point is not that all who die in infancy obtain “instant heaven” rather, that citizenship in the kingdom of God is based on child-like faith.

John here: I agree again.

Mohler cited Deut 1:39:
“And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad–they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.”

I think that this passage does teach that these little ones are in a state of innocence. Not that they do not possess a sin nature, but that they have not committed any actual sins. The question of whether a person is punished in hell because of their sinful nature, or their sins actually committed, or neither, or both, is not addressed by this passage, in my view.

You wrote:
Mohler goes on, “The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin.”

John here:
I think Mohler has a point here. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Christ condemns many people to eternal punishment because of their sins of omission (“You did not visit me in prison,” . . . etc.). In the parable, no one is condemned because of his sin nature inherited from Adam. Their condemnation is for events in their lives which they would have been aware of (in this case, sins of omission).

And MacArthur notes:
“Scripture teaches that all condemned sinners earned their eternal punishment by their sins.
“How do I know that? Because whenever you go to the judgment seat, this is what you see: Revelation 20, verses 11 and 12. Here’s the great, white throne, this is the final judgment of all the ungodly of all history, and the One sitting upon the throne from whose presence earth and heaven flood away and no place was found (for them, obviously), the great judge, God, has committed that judgment to Christ, it tells us in John 5. There is Christ, the great judge, on the throne, and verse 12, “I saw the dead, the great, the small standing before the throne and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged”–listen to this–“from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds; and the sea gave up the dead which were in it and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them and they were judged every one of them according to their”–what? “Deeds” or “works.”

And another point from MacArthur:
“Revelation, chapter 5, says, verses 9 and 10, that ‘In heaven there were people praising Christ from every tongue and tribe and people and nation.’ You know that passage? Revelation 5:9 and 10? Do you know there are tribes and nations that have never heard the gospel, but there will still be representatives from those tribes and nations in heaven praising Christ because they died in their infancy or childhood or without the ability to understand?”

You wrote:
Mohler seems to limit the extent of original sin so as to have it affect the will, but not actually transfer guilt. But this is not what the Bible presents. Romans 5 and elsewhere clearly express that “in Adam all die”, we who call ourselves Reformed acknowledge that this is spiritual death, but apart from being made “alive in Christ” there is no solution to spiritual death and its result is condemnation unto damnation. Unless one is graciously transferred from the headship of Adam into the headship of Christ, they will die… not just die physically, but they will face the second death. This is what the doctrine of imputation is about, Adam’s sin imputed to me (as well as my own sins being put in my acct) because Adam was my federal head. Likewise Christ’s obedience and death is credited to me, apart from my own actions, and His resurrection secures my justification resulting in salvation. If Adam’s sin doesn’t make me guilty, on what basis can I be declared righteous in the sight of God on the basis of Christ’s obedience in my stead? Imputation must work both ways, or its not imputation… if we want to seriously believe in the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer, we must also believe in the sinfulness of Adam imputed to the unbeliever.

John here:
Sure, in Adam all die. All are born spiritually dead. All are born unable to respond to the Gospel. I have heard of “double-predestination,” but I have not yet heard of “double-imputation.” I have heard of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, of course, but I have not as of yet heard of Adam’s sin being “imputed” to us. Reformed writers may have referred to this, but it has thus far escaped my notice.

You and I are born with a sinful nature, to be sure, but in all instances where Scripture speaks of people who are to be punished in hell, the rationale for the punishment is the person’s deeds, not his inherited predisposition.

You asked me to interact with the points you made on the Radongas site, and I have been happy to do so (though not exhaustively, I will admit). Now, Micah, I will ask you to interact with a point I raised here on the Gadfly site. You say that we don’t know with certainty that all those dying in infancy are among the elect. Imagine, then, that you are an aborted child who finds himself suffering in Hell. You may ask yourself, “Why am I here in this place of punishment?” What answer would there be? Everyone possesses a sin nature, that’s true, but these aborted children have not committed any actual sin, nor had they any opportunity for such sinning.

Thanks, Micah, for your willingness to work through this issue with me.

Blessings to you,

John Stebbe

Micah Says:

Deut 1:39 does not teach that all little ones are in a state of ‘innocence”. Remember that the reason God is sparing the young of Israel (notice, this applies to Israel only, not to the Amalekites, not the Egyptians etc) is that they’re not guilty of the *particular sin*, this says nothing about their salvation either, merely their mortal lives. This verse can teach us that God is gracious and gives us much leeway, but in no way can it teach universal-paedo-salvation.

Parable of Sheep and goats – remember Christ tells the Pharisees that they do not believe *because you are not my sheep*, not the other way around. The reason sheep are sheep is because they are chosen into His flock, the reason goats are goats is because they are not of His flock, Christ does describe what goats do, but it is because of their sinful nature and slavery to sin that they respond in that manner. We all inherit their goat-ness from Adam but we get to be sheep because God chooses us.

MacArthur is a five point Calvinist, thus he recognizes that justification is by the imputed righetousness of Christ… it therefore is reasonable to accept that he also believes in Adam’s sin imputed. He writes,

“All humans are born in sin. If infants were not sinful, if they were not morally corrupt, then they wouldn’t die. If they were born innocent or pure or morally neutral, there would be no basis for their death! The very fact that they die indicates that the disease of sin is there in them, because sin is the killer. It is in their inherited sin nature that the seeds of death are planted.” (”THE SALVATION OF BABIES WHO DIE”)

So while MacArthur recognizes original sin, he doesn’t consistently apply this to his understanding of salvation and infants. Regardless, he and Mohler differ on reasoning. MacArthur later states:

“…all children who die before they reach the condition of accountability, by which they convincingly understand their sin and corruption and embrace the gospel by faith, are graciously saved eternally by God through the work of Jesus Christ, being elect by sovereign choice.”

It is my position in my blog post that MacArthur’s reasoning for this is flawed.

(Just a note here, MacArthur’s flaw is this: “…all children who die before they reach the condition of accountability… are graciously saved eternally by God through the work of Jesus Christ, being elect by sovereign choice.” No where in Scripture does it suggest that the infants of the Amalekites or other lost groups were saved. I wonder if the Jews would have comforted their enemies with such a claim.)

MacArthur does not, as you indicate, believe that babies are saved because they didn’t commit sin or are innocent but rather because he cannot understand how they’re morally culpable having not heard or understood.

God rightly condemns men who do not hear the Gospel every day… so to say that He cannot justly condemn babies on the same basis is groundless. Since no one can understand the Gospel apart from the supernatural work of God in regeneration, could this not be said of adults?

MacArthur’s attempts to use Rev 5:9-10, while having nothing to do with the infant’s supposed innocence, are flawed because those verses do not even speak to the subject of infants. Sadly I find here again that he also without foundation.

You write:

“Sure, in Adam all die. All are born spiritually dead. All are born unable to respond to the Gospel. I have heard of “double-predestination,” but I have not yet heard of “double-imputation.””

Quoting MacArthur again:

Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb and those who speak lies go astray from birth.” Psalm 143:2, “In thy sight, no one living is righteous;” no one living! That is from conception on: in the womb, at birth, in infancy, in childhood, or adulthood–no one is righteous!”

Hopefully by now you can see MacArthur’s inconsistency. 😉

I was involved in an online debate, the entirety of which I have reposted at my blog regarding Total Depravity. In that debate the issue of “dobule imputation” comes up. You might read through it, though my final reply in the series perhaps explains this best.

Consider for a moment that you state: “Sure, in Adam all die. All are born spiritually dead.”

This indicates to me that at least you have some concept of federal headship, whereby Adam represented all mankind in Eden. In creating Adam and placing him in the garden, God selected a first representative for us. In falling Adam cast the whole human race into sin. Thus, all humans die, it is a result of Adam’s sin. As it is written, “…death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam…” Why is this the case? Because “…through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men…” and also “through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.”

As MacArthur notes, if Adam’s sin was not imputed to us, there would be no reason for infants to die at all.

Also, I firmly believe that infants and the infirm need a Savior. Far from innocent, everyone is “estranged from the womb” from God and requires the atoning death of Christ in order to reconcile them.

Thus, without the imputation of the sin of Adam, no one who does not physically commit a sin needs saving. Piper’s group writes: “…the consequences of Adam’s sin are twofold (original sin and imputed sin), the remedy of our salvation is also twofold…”

Like a person who becomes a citizen of a country at war with another, we are born at war with God. Our representative, Adam, was justly chosen by God to act on our behalf in the Garden. In Adam’s falling, his whole posterity fell and in Adam’s sin we all sinned.

This is how Christ is the “second Adam”. By God’s grace alone men, women and even children are placed into Christ and thus escape the final curse of the fall. Christ then is our second representative who was victorious where Adam failed. A.w. Pink notes: “…death furnished proof that sin was ‘imputed’—because men were guilty of Adam’s offence.”

You write:
“You and I are born with a sinful nature, to be sure, but in all instances where Scripture speaks of people who are to be punished in hell, the rationale for the punishment is the person’s deeds, not his inherited predisposition.”

Consider Romans 9,

” for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER. Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.””

Esau was condemned prior to his birth, not because God ‘foresaw’ that Esau would be the troublemaker, Jacob in fact turns out to be a rebellious liar who fights with God, but because God chose Jacob over Esau. Esau was justly condmened even before he was born, and yet God justly chose Jacob likewise before he was born, not on the basis of deeds they did or would do. Our sinful deeds therefore are results of our kinship to Adam and futher evidence of our guilt before God.

Finally you write:

“Imagine, then, that you are an aborted child who finds himself suffering in Hell. You may ask yourself, “Why am I here in this place of punishment?” What answer would there be? Everyone possesses a sin nature, that’s true, but these aborted children have not committed any actual sin, nor had they any opportunity for such sinning.”

These kinds of exercises, while emotionally gripping, are merely the philosophizing of men apart from Scriptural basis. Everyone who is sent to hell is sent there justly because Adam represented them in the fall and everyone who is sent to heaven is there justly because Christ represented them in His life, death, burial and resurrection. The evidence that one is in Adam is expressed throughout Paul’s letters, “the deeds of the flesh are evident” he writes. The evil we do is a result of our being “in the flesh”, that is, “in Adam.” Paul contrasts this with “the deeds of the Spirit…” which is evidence of our being “in Christ”.

If anyone is sent to hell, apart from commiting acutal sin on this temporal plane of existance, knows that they were justly represented by Adam in Eden, whom God chose to so represent them. Surely no one can talk back to God.

In Christ,
Micah

– also note, I don’t believe every infant is condemned… I just don’t believe it is proper to extend to unbelievers the hope that their children get “instant heaven” on the basis of Bible verses that say nothing of the sort.

4 thoughts to “Response to John Stebbe – Infant Salvation”

  1. I followed this discussion over from the Gadfly site.<BR/><BR/>Finding no justification to say that ALL infants are saved (and I find the attempts to do so a grasping at straws), I am pleased to believe that in Scripture there is hope that SOME infants are saved. This is the #2 position mentioned back at Gadfly.<BR/><BR/>I think we should be content with this position, and not try to push beyond

  2. <B>"…I am pleased to believe that in Scripture there is hope that SOME infants are saved. This is the #2 position mentioned back at Gadfly."</B><BR/><BR/>Yes!<BR/><BR/><B>Why MacArthur, Spurgeon, Piper work so hard at this is surprising to me…though I trust it is rooted in pastoral concern and, in that sense, well meaning.</B><BR/><BR/>Yeah… I agree totally.<BR/><BR/><B>However, by God’s

  3. If I understand MacArthur right, God saves all infants basically on account of the fact that they haven’t committed acts of sin. However, before Esau committed any acts of sin, God had already destined him for hell! (Romans 9:11-13) If God held MacArthur’s view, then God would not have "hated" Esau when He did, because at that time, Esau had not committed any acts of sin! There’s a small

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