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Author Topic: The fate of unbaptized infants  (Read 1944 times) Average Rating: 0
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Doubting Thomas
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« on: August 02, 2003, 11:24:45 AM »

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?

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?

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"?

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?

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.
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Linus7
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2003, 04:23:24 PM »

Quote
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.

Quote
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:Cool.

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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2003, 04:49:03 PM by Linus7 » Logged

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truthseeker32
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2014, 01:45:42 PM »

I thought I would bump this rather than starting a new thread. Are there any patristic sources that state unbaptized infants goto heaven?
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NicholasMyra
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2014, 01:49:37 PM »

There is no doctrinal stance on the topic, afaik.

But ask yourself: What would God do?
« Last Edit: May 31, 2014, 01:49:52 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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xOrthodox4Christx
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2014, 01:58:05 PM »

1. The Church teaches nothing. It's God's job to figure that out, not ours.

2. Possibly. More likely than not, as per "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." But it's still God that decides that.

3. An event that may or may not have happened doesn't affect the fate of any individual infant. Stop with the scholastic logic, and start with the mysteries of God.

4. That those events are historically suspect. That those were different times and places, and that the Jews may have been putting words into God's mouth to justify their conquests.

« Last Edit: May 31, 2014, 01:59:58 PM by xOrthodox4Christx » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2014, 02:09:23 PM »

There is no doctrinal stance on the topic, afaik.

But ask yourself: What would God do?
I am not necessarily looking for a doctrinal stance, but for personal beliefs of respected patristics. For example, one can find both universalists and exclusivists among patristic writers, but the Orthodox Church has not officially come out in support of one view or the other.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2014, 02:23:15 PM »

One document often brought up in these discussions is On Infants' Early Deaths by St. Gregory of Nyssa. Also keep in mind that through at least the late 4th century infant baptism wasn't always the norm, such that almost all infants would have been unbaptized. Surely if it was necessary in a rigid and unbending way infants would have all been baptized, and probably immediately so considering the chances of a baby dying early in that day and age. That baptism saves and us necessary must be understood in a different way IMO. Fwiw here are some thought I posted elsewhere:

For various reasons, God chose the practice of baptism as a way of incorporating people in the body body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus commanded the Church to baptize (Matt. 28:19), and the book of Acts repeatedly mentions the early Church baptizing people who wished to convert (Acts 2:38-41; 8:5-12; 10:48; 18:7-8; 22:16; etc.). Baptism was more than just a sign of conversion, however, but also according to Scripture has a part to play in the life in Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27), and even ultimately has a part to play in the salvation of most Christians (Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:17-22).

What about infant baptism?

As a follow-up to the question about sacraments, it might be asked why the Orthodox baptize (and also chrismate and commune) infants. Don’t you have to have faith and believe in God before you get baptized? What good does it do an infant? And what happens if an infant doesn’t get baptized?

The explicit evidence for infant baptism in the New Testament is somewhat underwhelming, but there are some passages pointing to the practice being in place. The book of Acts, for example, records that the households of Lydia (Acts 16:15)  and a jailor (Acts 16:33) had their families baptized. Paul also mentions that he baptized “the household of Stephanas” (1 Cor. 1:16). However, these passages are obviously weak on their own: after all, while it is very unlikely that all three households had no children, it’s not impossible.

We also find another clue in the epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, in which Paul speaks of baptism as the “circumcision made without hands” (Col. 2:9-12). Thus does St. Paul makes explicit to the Gentiles that which must have been blatantly obvious to Jewish Christians at the time: Christian baptism is a replacement for Jewish circumcision. Both are used to signify the beginning of a relationship between a person and the people of God on earth, and both are used to signify that a relationship between the person and God should be developed. And the relevant bit, of course, is that circumcision was performed on infants. (Gen. 17:9-13) So, while this is obviously not a proof text for infant baptism, it does add piece to the puzzle being put together.

Another piece that we need to have in place is the fact that someone does not have to have faith, or even understand or be aware of what is going on, for God’s grace to be effectual. Regarding the former, all converts should be acutely aware of this point, for it is God’s grace which leads us to Him even when we do not believe (1 Tim. 1:12-14). As for the latter point, we find it said in Rom. 9:16 that God’s compassion does not depend on human desire or effort, but rather “on God’s mercy”. That is to say, grace does not come because we say a sinners prayer, or even because we dunk someone under water: no, God’s grace comes because he wants to bestow it.

This is important to remember because it reminds us that the sacraments are not magical, as though our words or actions forces God to give us grace. God is the one who decides whether or not to give the grace, and our sacraments are more like prayerful requests to him. Thankfully God wants us to be spiritually healed and for all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9), and so grants our request when we, following His will, ask in faith and love. It is also important because it shows that even if someone is in a coma, or mentally handicapped, or an infant, and cannot desire or ask for grace, God can and will still give it.

Another question is what happens if a person is not baptized (or in this case, if an infant is not baptized)? If baptism saves, then are infants not baptized destined for hell? In my opinion they are not destined for hell. Yet how can that be, if baptism saves? The answer is in how we speak of salvation. For the Orthodox, salvation is a process, and baptism is one part of that process. An important part, yes, and baptism does have a salvific element to it, but not to the extent that not getting baptized automatically damns you. (I'm planning on making a post on the thread about salvation, and will hopefully expand on the point then). Also, damnation comes from, and is itself a state of, a willfull separation from God, either from outright rejection of God, or rejection of His truth, or rejection of His way (Jn. 3:18-19; Rom. 2:7-9; 6:23; etc.)  Infants, however, cannot be guilty of any of these things, and so have nothing to be condemned for (I am also assuming here that they are not judged as having some guilt because of the original sin, but I’ll give my thoughts on that in another post).
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2014, 02:37:38 PM »

There is no doctrinal stance on the topic, afaik.

But ask yourself: What would God do?
I am not necessarily looking for a doctrinal stance, but for personal beliefs of respected patristics. For example, one can find both universalists and exclusivists among patristic writers, but the Orthodox Church has not officially come out in support of one view or the other.

Exactly. That's the nature of the Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2014, 01:56:59 AM »

There is no doctrinal stance on the topic, afaik.

But ask yourself: What would God do?

Perhaps something unreasonable
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2014, 09:59:35 PM »

Anyone have some thoughts on how passages like the following fit into this discussion?

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will... In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" - Ephesians 1:4-5, 11
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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2014, 10:42:04 AM »

Here are some points I found & used in another forum:


And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.

^^From the apology of St. Aristides (ca. 125 AD)

The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher     http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/aristides-kay.html

 

From what I understand from St. John Chrysostom re the murder of the holy innocents (Matthew 2:16), it seems that innocents have already paid the price & await a reward for their tragedy:


3. “But what kind of sin had these children,” it may be said, “that they should do it away? for touching those who are of full age, and have been guilty of many negligences, one might with show of reason speak thus: but they who so underwent premature death, what sort of sins did they by their sufferings put away?” Didst thou not hear me say, that though there were no sins, there is a recompense of rewards hereafter for them that suffer ill here? Wherein then were the young children hurt in being slain for such a cause, and borne away speedily into that waveless harbor? “Because,” sayest thou, “they would in many instances have achieved, had they lived, many and great deeds of goodness.” Why, for this cause He lays up for them beforehand no small reward, the ending their lives for such a cause. Besides, if the children were to have been any great persons, He would not have suffered them to be snatched away beforehand. For if they that eventually will live in continual wickedness are endured by Him with so great long-sufferings, much more would He not have suffered these to be so taken off had He foreknown they would accomplish any great things.

NPNF1-10. St. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew - Christian Classics Ethereal Library
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf110.iii.IX.html
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd.html
As




The Shepherd of Hermas

The Shepherd of Hermasht

Ninth Similitude

THE GREAT MYSTERIES IN THE BUILDING OF THE MILITANT AND TRIUMPHANT CHURCH,


CHAPTER XXIX. "And they who believed from the twelfth mountain, which was white, are the following: they are as infant children, in whose hearts no evil originates; nor did they know what wickedness is, but always remained as children. Such accordingly, without doubt, dwell in the kingdom of God, because they defiled in nothing the commandments of God; but they remained like children all the days of their life in the same mind. All of you, then, who shall remain stedfast, and be as children, without doing evil, will be more honoured than all who have been previously mentioned; for all infants are honourable before God, and are the first persons with Him. Blessed, then, are ye who put away wickedness from yourselves, and put on innocence. As the first of all will you live unto God."


ht   


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