A question I have had by several lately relates to the “age of accountability” question, or the more difficult question underlying it, “What happens to infants who die?” This is one of the most difficult questions a Christian (perhaps especially a pastor) must face. Obviously, it is a highly emotionally charged issue, and rightly so. At the heart of this question are doctrines related to the nature of evil, total depravity (or “total inability” as I like to call it), and the goodness of God.
Some clear truths we must establish in the process follows:
1) God is in control of all of life and death (Psalm 139… and thousands of other passages)
2) God is always good (1 Timothy 4:4)
3) Those who love God and are called will experience God’s good in every situation somehow (Romans 8:26-30)
4) God’s ways are beyond man’s understanding (Ecclesiastes 8:14-17)
5) All men are born sinners (Romans 3:9-20,23)
6) Salvation is only through Christ (Romans 3:21-26)
So, what are we left with when it comes to children who die prior to and soon after being born? Baptists seemed to have adopted the particular phrase “age of accountability” in order to deal with this difficult issue. While I hope we can see that there is some evidence to support this phrase, it is NOT in the way that the phrase seems to support, which is basically that up to a certain “age” children are innocent.
Scripture makes plain again and again that we are sinners from birth. So, we can’t say we are “innocent” until a certain age. However, there is some evidence that there is a connection between our sin nature and the expression of that sin nature in willfully disobedient ways (that will be addressed later). The “bottom line” in this issue is that there is no single passage of scripture that gives us an absolutely clear position on whether or not infants who die are in heaven. However, there is more heavily weighted evidence in the scriptures that would give us hope that all infants (pre and post birth) and those who are mentally incapacitated are “saved”.
First of all, I have needed help in understanding this issue. Not being satisfied with a coined phrase from my youth, I wanted to know what did scripture say. What I would like to direct you to are two very important and concise resources to help you understand this issue and decide for yourself. Just remember this, you have to consider the implications of your position on the gospel itself. If you say that God is just too nice to let some go to hell, where (and with whom) does that logic stop? If you say that we are without sin until a certain age, then how do you handle the plethora of scriptures that speak of original sin and our sin nature because of Adam?
May God bless you in your journey. My position is in line with the conclusions in the following articles:
1) Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries (HERE)
2) John Piper of Desiring God Ministries (HERE)