Sin & Infant Salvation

It is a difficult thing to talk to parent who just lost a child. What do you say? How do you console them? Do you say anything? It’s even more difficult when they ask you how could God do this or is their child in heaven. How as a Christian can we hold to the truth of inherent sin and believe as well as assure people that their infants and small children go to heaven when they die without sounding contradictory? This question is what I will be answering in this blog article.

Without thinking, majority of Christians and non-Christians believe infants and small children are essentially innocent of sin and guiltless. And someone would say, “Aren’t they? Infants can’t sin right?” You’re absolutely right. An infant would be “innocent” of committing a sin. And yet, someone else would say, “But, wait, how can this be when the Bible teaches that everyone is born in sin?”

David said in Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (NLT).

Job speaks on this as well, “So no one can be good in the presence of God, and no one born to a woman can be pure.” (Job 25:4, NCV).

Right here is where it can get tricky if we don’t understand sound theology. Yes, an infant would be “innocent” of committing a sin, but they are not without sin. Every human born is born “in” sin because Adam’s sin has been imputed (transferred, credited) to everyone born of the seed of man (Rom. 3:9; 5:12-19, 1Cor. 15:21-22). This means no person, infant to adult, is “guiltless” or “innocent” (Ps. 143:2, Prov. 20:9, Eccl. 7:20).

Now this begs another question, is the atoning work of Christ somehow applied to infants without their making a volitional decision to trust in Christ for salvation?

This question is a much more difficult to answer. If I answer this from an Arminianist soteriological perspective, I’d say I believe God has some special grace for infants and somehow accounts the atoning work of Christ to them (cf. Matthew 18:14). If I answer this from a Calvinist soteriological perspective, I’d say only those infants whom God predestined does the atoning work of Christ apply to (cf. Ephesians 1:3-11). I do not identify as either an Arminianist or a Calvinist, but if I simply use both of the scripture references and arguments given I have a pretty good case for believing that the atoning work of Christ is somehow applied to infants without them making a volitional decision. Furthermore, David’s comment in 2Samuel 12:21-23 is very suggestive that he is speaking of seeing his dead child again in eternity. So between David’s story and what Jesus states in Matthew 18:14 is enough to make a case that in God’s sovereign plan, even though sin has been imputed to an infant, He—without violating His own law—makes some special provision for infants and small children who die. 

I believe this is one of those cases of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belongs to the LORD our God” (NKJV). I’m okay with giving reasonable answers to this question rather than definitive ones in this case.

I hope this has helped us as Christians know and more certainly assure someone who’s lost an infant or small child that their infants and small children go to heaven when they die without sounding contradictory.