What Happens to Children Who Die?

Tim Challies, Author

The point for us is that even though we human beings are under the penalty of everlasting judgment and death because of the fall of our race into sin and the sinful nature that we all have, nevertheless God only executes this judgment on those who have the natural capacity to see his glory and understand his will, and refuse to embrace it as their treasure. Infants, I believe, do not yet have that capacity; and therefore, in God’s inscrutable way, he brings them under the forgiving blood of his Son.

View 2: The Children of Believers Are Saved

This view is held by many Reformed believers, especially those with firm beliefs in covenant theology. They believe Scripture teaches that God continues to work through covenants, much as he did in Old Testament times. As God made a covenant with Abraham that extended not only to him but to his children, and thus entered into a relationship with both Abraham and Isaac, in the same way he sets apart to himself the children of believers today.

This is the view of the writers of The Canons of Dort, which says,

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.

While it speaks of the salvation of infants of believers, it does not speak about the children of unbelievers.

The Westminster Confession takes a slightly different view, choosing not to explicitly mention the covenant.

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

The question that might arise in response to this answer is who are the elect infants? I believe the writers would answer in a similar fashion to the Canons of Dort, indicating that believing parents can have assurance where unbelieving parents can not.

View 3: We Simply Aren’t Told

Surprisingly, I was able to find little official support for this view. It is surprising because, generally, where Scripture does not explicitly state a doctrine, Christians are slow to speculate. It would seem that this view requires the least amount of speculation. Herman Bavinck believed we could have no assurance saying, “I would not wish to deny, nor am I able to affirm.” Cornelius Venema concurs, saying caution is preferable to the confident denial or affirmation of this possibility.

 

Tim Challies, a self-employed web designer, is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, having one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs anywhere (www.challies.com). He is also editor of Discerning Reader (www.discerningreader.com), a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. He is author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, published by Crossway.

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