From Doubting Thomas:
1. Given the fact that baptism is taught to be necessary for salvation, what does the Orthodox Church teach about infants who die before being baptized (particularly in non-Christian societies)? What is there eternal fate?
As I understand the Orthodox teaching on Original Sin - and this is one question I consulted my priest on - it differs from the usual Evangelical Protestant conception. We do not believe that anyone inherits the guilt of someone else's sin, not even his parents' sin, let alone the sin of his extremely remote ancestors, Adam and Eve.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke fellowship with God. Sin, death, and all the other things that plague the world were consequences of it.
But no one is born guilty
for the sin of another.
All infants are innocent, though they are born into a world of broken fellowship, a world that has lost communion with the Lord.
Since Christ died for all people, the objective salvation of all of mankind is an accomplished fact. The reason that not all persons are saved is because God has chosen to apply His grace only to those who appropriate it through faith that produces good works, including prayer and participation in the sacraments.
Persons who die in infancy are never able to appropriate God's grace through faith, etc. However, since they are innocent, I believe (and I believe this is the faith of the Church) that God applies His grace to them freely, restoring them to fellowship with Him, which is salvation.
From Doubting Thomas: 2. Can it be said that since the "soul that sins shall die", and that since infants have no personal sin of their own, that infants will go to Heaven even without being baptized? If so, what does that say about the necessity of baptism?
Yes, infants who die, whether baptized or not, go to heaven.
Baptism is necessary for salvation for most
people. Most of us are able to follow the Lord's command to be baptized. Others are not.
I believe the Orthodox Church has martyrs on her calendar who died as catechumens, in other words, before
they were baptized; yet the Church recognizes them as saints. They were mostly adults.
Remember the "Good Thief" on the cross next to Jesus in Luke 23. He had no chance to be baptized, yet the Lord told him "today you will be with Me in paradise" (v. 43).
God can save any way He sees fit.
Salvation is not a once-for-all-let's-make-a-deal transaction, nor is it "one size fits all." It is different for each of us.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am talking about salvation in the subjective, personal sense. At the objective level, Christ has already paid it all and redeemed the whole world - salvation is by grace alone (Eph. 2:
But the ways in which each of us makes it our own may differ.
You may be called to endure an earthly life of 100 years and much suffering. Another Christian may die in a car wreck at 16. You are called to live as a married man. Another Christian may live out her life as a nun.
Yet all of us can be saved.
Those of us who are able to be baptized must
be baptized as the Lord commanded. It is the means of regeneration and the new birth (John 3:5; Acts 2:38).
Leave the exceptions to the Lord. He will take care of them. He is good and just.
From Doubting Thomas: 3. If it's true that the "soul that sins shall die" (as it says in more than one place in Scripture), what of God commanding the Israelites to kill even the infants when they were conquering Canaan? Does this violate the above principle of "the soul that sins shall die"?
I have no answer for this one, so I will leave it to someone else. I have read the OT many times and still must confess that I don't understand this. It's a problem, but I guess I don't expect to solve all of them. I still have faith in Christ.
From Doubting Thomas: 4. How would one answer the skeptic (atheist, agnostic, etc) who questions why God would command the "murder" of infants in O.T. while condemning abortion as "murder" today?
I would answer a skeptic by saying that I don't have all the answers. I live by faith and trust that God has good reasons for everything He does.
Such an answer probably won't satisfy most skeptics, but it's all I've got at this point.
From Doubting Thomas: Sorry, if these questions are too heavy on a Saturday morning. I'm just looking for an Orthodox answer specifically (especially for #1 & 2) and a "Christian" answer in general (particularly #3 & 4) to these tough questions folks (non-Christians) ask of believers.
The last two were very heavy.
If you are interested in a comprehensive Orthodox catechism, you might want to pick up a book called The Law of God
. It is available here