Sometimes it's hard to believe the persecution that goes on in other countries, since their lives are so much different than what we experience in the United States. This article explains what real life is like for Christians in Iraq. You can read the article in its original form HERE.
When the world’s attention shifted to Ukraine and Israel last week, the Islamic leaders in Iraq capitalized on the distraction. For weeks the functional government in central Iraq (ISIS) had told Christians they had to make one of four choices by this past Saturday: forfeit thier property as a “Christian” tax, convert to Islam, leave, or die. But a week ago ISIS revised their list, and said paying the “tax” was no longer an option.
When Friday came around, residents awoke to an Arabic “N” spray-painted on the houses, property, and farms of all suspected Christians. The government had come during the night to demonstrate that they knew who the Christians were, and the spray-painted N’s were a not-so-subtle reminder that the deadline to convert, flee, or die was only 24 hours away.
Why the N? Because in Arabic Christians are often simply called Nazarenes. And when this week began, so did the flight of the Nazarenes. All Christians were forced out of central Iraq, including Mosul, an historic city with several churches 1700 years old. One church there had practiced communion every Lord’s Day for 1,600 years…until last Sunday.
As Christians left Mosul, ISIS set up checkpoints outside the city, robbing the fleeing masses (although ISIS points out they weren’t robbing them, but by their law they had a right to “confiscate” all of their property as part of their Christian tax).
An ISIS check point looking for fleeing Christians.
ISIS controls much of central Iraq and Syria. According the New York Times, which had a reporter embedded with ISIS, they took a church in Syria and converted it into a theater to show films of suicide attacks.
Ten years ago, Iraq had about 1.4 million people who identified as Christians and 300 different registered churches. Today there are only 50 churches left, and the number of Christians is probably closer 140,000 than 1.4 million. There are almost zero Christians left in Central Iraq, which used to be a hub of historic Christianity.
This decline not only signals an end to a Christian presence in central Iraq, but it also marks a profound turning point for Islam, which for over 1,000 years had as its goal the establishment of an Islamic state in the cradle of the Euphrates River. Despite their intense effort, the possibility of completely eradicating crosses and churches from the area never seemed like a real possibility, until now.
In fairness, the Shari’a Law form of Islam that has now gripped Iraq is not looked upon favorably by most Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, or Turkey. So ISIS seems hedged in geographically. But it is the form of Islam embraced in much of Africa and Asia, especially in Pakistan. It is violent, and has as its goal the complete obliteration of Christians.
Christians fleeing Mosul on Saturday
The term Christian in Iraq is used to cover a small percentage of Roman Catholics, some Baptists, and some Orthodox Christians (very similar to Egyptian Christianity). But most of the churches were Assyrian Orthodox, which trace their roots to before the schism in Europe between East and West; in other words, they predated the Rome split from Constantinople, thus are not affiliated with either group.
And for that reason, this devastation of Christians does not garner much attention in the Western media. Many Evangelicals are slow to sympathize because they think “those people in Iraq are Christians by ethnicity, not by faith.” I’ve heard some believers say that as a way to guard their hearts—as if to think, “I don’t need to be grieved by what is happening there, because they don’t believe the same gospel I do.”
But remember, ISIS doesn’t understand nuances of Christian theology. They are not distinguishing between Catholics, Assyrians, Orthodox and Baptists. They are persecuting people who meet for worship in churches with crosses on the wall. They are exiling and executing those who at prayer time do not bow on rugs facing Mecca. They are killing people who refuse to say that Mohammad is greater than Jesus.
For the most part, the US government has remained silent about the elimination of Christianity in a place that was under American control only a few years ago. Ostensibly this is because drawing attention to the persecution there would only increase ISIS’ publicity, and make life even harder for Christians there (although it is difficult to imagine how that could possibly be the case). There are also obviously political and philosophical factors in play as well. The result though is that an entire religious group woke up last week to find a letter sprayed on their property, and then had only a day to flee for their lives or be slaughtered.
What can Christians do? There are several missions organizations in Turkey that minister to these Christian refugees (like this one, for example). We can give to those groups, we can give to missionaries who are trying to reach the Muslim world, and we can train up missionaries and send them to this part of the world. We can support political strategy that can protect religious freedom. But mostly, we can grieve that part of the church is under profound and unprecedented attack, and be moved to pray that the Lord would use this for his glory.
Pray that even in this persecution, many people would come to faith in Jesus.
One of the articles I used to prep for Sunday's Sermon called "Must I Choose Between the Bible and Evolution?" was written by Kevin DeYoung. I think he makes a compelling argument about the historicity of Adam. You can read it in its original form HERE.
I’ll point to some books at the end which deal with the science end of the question, but the most important question is what does the Bible teach. Without detailing a complete answer to that question, let me suggest ten reasons why we should believe that Adam was a true historical person and the first human being.
1. The Bible does not put an artificial wedge between history and theology. Of course, Genesis is not a history textbook or a science textbook, but that is far from saying we ought to separate the theological wheat from the historical chaff. Such a division owes to the Enlightenment more than the Bible.
2. The biblical story of creation is meant to supplant other ancient creation stories more than imitate them. Moses wants to show God’s people “this is how things really happened.” The Pentateuch is full of warnings against compromise with the pagan culture. It would be surprising, then, for Genesis to start with one more mythical account of creation like the rest of the ANE.
3. The opening chapters of Genesis are stylized, but they show no signs of being poetry. Compare Genesis 1 with Psalm 104, for example, and you’ll see how different these texts are. It’s simply not accurate to call Genesis poetry. And even if it were, who says poetry has to be less historically accurate?
4. There is a seamless strand of history from Adam in Genesis 2 to Abraham in Genesis 12. You can’t set Genesis 1-11 aside as prehistory, not in the sense of being less than historically true as we normally understand those terms. Moses deliberately connects Abram with all the history that comes before him, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden.
5. The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3 treat Adam as historical.
7. The weight of the history of interpretation points to the historicity of Adam. The literature of second temple Judaism affirmed an historical Adam. The history of the church’s interpretation also assumes it.
8. Without a common descent we lose any firm basis for believing that all people regardless of race or ethnicity have the same nature, the same inherent dignity, the same image of God, the same sin problem, and that despite our divisions we are all part of the same family coming from the same parents.
9. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together.
10. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of the second Adam does not hold together.
Christians may disagree on the age of the earth, but whether Adam ever existed is a gospel issue. Tim Keller is right:
[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority. . . .If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work ‘covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that ‘Paul was a man of his time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching. (Christianity Today June 2011)
For more on the relationship between faith and science, you may want to look at Should Christians Embrace Evolution: Biblical and Scientific Responses, edited by Norman C. Nevin.
Those of you that attend Northridge Church probably recognize Sean Bennett. He has served at Northridge in a variety of ways over the past year. Recently we hired part-time Sean to be our Webster Campus Director of Worship and he will also be doing some graphic design work for us. We are very excited to have Sean on board! Here are a few facts about Sean to help you get to know him a little bit better...
In a sentence or two, what does your job look like at Northridge?
I’ll be leading the music and directing the awesome volunteer teams in the auditorium at the new Webster Campus, and I get to direct an ANOTHER awesome group of volunteers to create the visuals for all three campuses.
Where did you grow up?
Here in Rochester
Put your iTunes on shuffle. What are the first 3 songs to pop up?
"Awesome is The Lord" (Chris Tomlin)
“Blessed Be” (InToOne - my and my wife’s band)
“Say It To Me Now" (Glen Hansard)
What’s your favorite ice cream?
The kind that’s in front of me
Where is the farthest you have ever traveled?
Senegal/Morocco (they’re about the same distance from here)
What kind of car do you drive?
1993 Honda Accord
What does an ideal day off look like for you?
Going on a family adventure with my wife and kids.
What is one thing about you people would be surprised to learn?
I really like to cook, especially for large numbers of people.
What’s your favorite thing about Northridge?
The commitment to pursuing excellence in EVERYTHING.
What is your family like?
I’m married to my amazing wife of 5 years (Becky). We have two daughters (Ava, 4 and Avianna, 2) and a son (Jack, 6 months).
Have you ever won anything? If so, what did you win?
I won a “Battle of the Bands” with my high school band back in ’05. We got some free recording time at a local studio.
Have you ever collected anything? If so, what was it?
Not really. I usually lose stuff I’m trying to “collect”.
Why did you want to work at Northridge?
When I first visited I thought, “This is what church is SUPPOSED to look like.” From that moment I wanted to be a part of it in any way possible.
Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?
Occasionally David Cook from American Idol.
When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?
How did you meet your spouse?
Wendy’s in Bangor, Maine. Seriously.
What is one food that you will not eat?
Olives. I’ve tried many times to like them, but I just can’t do it.
What is your favorite type of exercise?
What is one book are you reading right now?
“Spirituality for the Rest of Us” (Larry Osborne)
What is one thing you love about Rochester?
What was your first job?
Mowing lawns - my dad used to cart me around the city to do his friend’s lawns, and then we’d go out for a Whopper and strawberry shake at Burger King.
What’s your favorite sandwich?
Crunchy peanut butter on whole wheat.
What inspires you?
People who abandon comfort for the sake of the Gospel
What is your biggest challenge?
Probably not taking on too much at once. I love to say “yes.”
What is one hobby you have?
My wife and I write and record our own music in our home studio.
What is something God has been teaching you in recent days?
How to best cherish my time with my kids
On June 15th we announced our plan to launch our third campus of Northridge Church in Webster, NY. In some home meetings, we showed the video below. I would love our entire church to see the video - so here it is. We didn't show it on Sunday morning - so if you weren't part of a home meeting, take a look.
If you receive this blog via email or are having trouble viewing the video, you can watch it HERE.
In case you are wondering, since that time we have had 289 adults and children volunteer to help launch the Webster Campus!
Please join me in praying for our Webster Campus!
Yesterday I posted Jesse Johnson's article that looked at the Old Testament to answer the question "What happens to infants who die?". You can see that post HERE.
Today's article looks at the New Testament to answer that same question. You can find the original of this article HERE. There are a lot of passages in the Bible that point to answers for this question, so I hope it is encouraging that you really can answer this question and know with certainty. The end of this article gives a great summary of the Biblical findings - it's highlighted in yellow for you.
Yesterday we saw 16 verses in the OT that address the issue of what happens to little children who die. I hope you saw that the OT lays the groundwork for a category distinction: there are two kinds of sinners who die. There are those who die because of their sin nature, namely infants. And there are those who die because they love sin, and actively embrace it; namely, adults. This distinction is important to grasp because the NT does not reestablish it from the ground up but rather Jesus and Paul both teach in such a way that the distinction is reinforced.
Again, if any of these verses trouble you, simply skip them, and let the weight of the full list be enough to convince you. The numbering picks up where yesterday left off.
17) Jesus blessed little children. There are no examples of Jesus blessing anyone who was in open rebellion to God. Again, much like Jonah 4, Jeremiah 19, 1 Kings 11, this (at the very least) creates a category distinction between sinful adults in rebellion against God, and the childlike innocence of children (Matt 18:3-5).
18) In Matthew 18, Jesus not only blesses the children, but uses them as an earthly analogy of childlike faith. He says that “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child– this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Everyone is free to debate what exactly Jesus means here, and there are Christian answers all over the spectrum. But at the very least, Jesus has to be implying that children in their current state would go to heaven if they died. Consider this statement: “my car is as fast as a cheetah, and unless your car is like a cheetah too, it can never be fast.” Everyone can debate what it means to be fast, or how fast my car really is, or if your car even should be fast. But the entire analogy would break down if cheetahs were not indeed fast to begin with. That is the assumption that makes the analogy make sense. Whatever Jesus is saying Matthew 18, it only makes sense if the destination of children who die is an enviable one.
19) Romans 5:13-14 makes the category distinction between those who sin like Adam (adults) and those who sin because of the imputation of Adam’s sin (infants). In making this distinction, Paul is carefully showing how death can reign even over those who don’t sin like Adam. He is repeating the theological distinctions made in Duet 1:39, 24:16, Jer 19:4 and Jonah 4:11, and lending theological support to the understanding that infants will not be punished in hell for their sins. (John Piper explains why it is best to understand Romans 5:13-14 as reference to infant death in Counted Righteous in Christ, 95-100).
20) That category distinction (between those who sin willingly and those who are born with a sin nature) is further strengthened by Paul’s introduction of those who sin by searing their conscience, and how that sin is seen in idolatry and sexual immorality—both sins that infants are incapable of. Because that passage sets the stage for understanding the soteriology of Romans, it is significant for this discussion that out of the gate, Paul frames the conversation in terms that exclude infants, and then seals that exclusion explicitly in Romans 5:13-14.
21) Jesus also validates this category distinction when he declares that there are people who die “in their sins” (John 8:24). Everyone who dies, dies because they are sinners by nature. If infants weren’t sinners by nature, they wouldn’t die! But there is a particular class of sinners—namely cognizant adults—that actively reject God. Those ones not only die, but they “die in their sins” because of their unbelief.
22) John 3 furthers this category distinction by teaching that “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). This simply does not describe infants who die, and the proximity to judgment passages (vv 18-19) validates this distinction.
23) Jesus lays claim in a particular way to the concept that children have a unique relationship to the Father. He declares that we should watch out for “children” in the faith, and it is best to see that admonition as applying to immature believers, rather than to actual children. But the analogy only works if actual immature children are to be the recipients of special care from people and God both. As MacArthur wrote, “No parent with six children is going to discover one of them missing and callously say ‘oh well, we still have five more’.” The analogy makes sense only if children are under God’s care in a special way.
24) People from every tribe, language, nation and ethnicity will be in heaven (Rev 5:10). Because so many languages and tribes have died out, this is only feasible through the salvation of infants. By the way, this is certainly given as a powerful claim to the glory of God’s saving nature.
25) All judgment passages in the Bible make clear that people go to hell for their active sin. This is especially clear in the description of hell in Revelation 21:8. People go to hell for what they have done, and this truth would be incomprehensible if infants were sent there.
26) The lists that are found in judgment passages are sins that infants lack the ability to commit. Jesus gives his list in Matt 15:19-20: “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Let me ask this question: which category of sins best describe the way infants sin? Do they murder and lust, or do they eat with unwashed hands?
At the end of this list, two things should be crystal clear. First, the Bible makes a category distinction between those who sin willingly (adults) and those who sin by their nature (infants). Adults can discern between right and wrong, and they love the wrong. They rebel against God despite natural revelation, and they will be judged for their works. Infants have a sin nature (that is why some of them die), but they do not sin IN THE SAME WAY as adults.
Second: with the exception of Job 3, there are not any passages that say “infants go to heaven when they die.” However, given the category distinction just made, it is obvious that every single time the Bible mentions infants who die, there is some indication that they receive mercy. It is not like there are six verses that talk about them going to heaven, and six that imply hell, and we are left to wrestle through. Every single verse that mentions this offers hope of heaven, and the cumulative weight should be overwhelming. There are other theological truths we agree to that are developed from way fewer references than this. Thus, the case for infant salvation is unassailable, as there are literally no verses that teach the contrary.
This is an article I used to help me write my sermon on what happens to babies when they die. It was written 2 years ago but it is still one fo the best that I've seen. Tomorrow I will post the article that looks at New Testament to answer this question. You can read the original article HERE.
There is a tendency to think that the Bible is silent about the issue of what happens to infants who die. However, there are at least 26 different passages that address this issue. In all of them, the implication is that infants who die are returned to the Lord.
As you go through this list, don’t get caught up on one or two particular ones if you disagree. Simply skip those, and let the weight of the others give you confidence. Today we will look at the OT, and tomorrow the NT:
1) Infants belong to God in a special and particular way. In Ezekiel, God describes the slaughter of children born into pagan families as a slaughter of “my children” (Ezek 16:21). This expression of ownership by God over children born into idol worshiping families is stark, and implies God’s care for those children in a personal way.
2) God describes children as “having no knowledge of good and evil” (Deut 1:39). They have a sin nature, but they sin in the way that gravity works: they are pulled down. They do not sin in the way that adults do: adults love sin. Children default to sin, while adults run there.
3) God refers to Gentile children as unable to discern the difference between right and wrong (Jonah 4:11). Children are born with a sin nature, and even babies love to sin. But they do so without appreciating why they are doing it. Adults sin because they discern what truth is, and have a disdain for it. Infants sin because they are unable to discern. There is a difference.
4) God refers to children in pagan families who are murdered as “innocents” (Jer 19:4). Obviously this does not mean that they were born without a sin nature, but simply that they had a certain degree of moral innocence. God does not throw around the term “innocent” loosely (nor does he send “innocent” people to hell).
5) God regards infants as victims of the fallen world. This is the example in Ezek 16:4, which is clearly an allegory, but an allegory that only makes sense if children are innocent victims.
6) When God punished the entire nation of Israel for their disobedience in the wilderness, he only took the lives of those who were of fighting age or older (Deut 1:39). This shows that the culpability of those under fighting age is different than the adults, and that accordingly they should not be punished as adults are. If they didn’t deserve to die in the wilderness, they certainly didn’t deserve to go to hell.
7) Babies will not be punished in hell for the sins of their parents—even of Adam. Deuteronomy 24:16 explains that God will not punish children for what their parents did. That does not mean that there are no consequences for sin—a parent who lives a sin filled life will reap the consequences of that life, and one of those consequences is that the children will be raised apart from the knowledge of God. But that is the consequence of sin, and is manifestly different than God judicially punishing someone for sins they did not commit. The consequence of Adam’s sin is that we all are born with a sin nature, but not that God will send us all to hell irrespective of our own actions (more on this one tomorrow when we look at NT judgment passages).
8) This same truth is repeated in Ezekiel 18:20. There, God expressly says that while death is the consequence of a sin nature, God does not execute a second death a person because of his parent’s sin.
9) When God’s prophet told King Jeroboam that his entire family line would be killed, he expanded on this category distinction. He said that all of Jeroboam’s relatives would be punished by a humiliating burial (or lack thereof), but that there was an exception for Jeroboam’s infant son. He would be buried, and people would mourn, “because in him there is found something good toward Yahweh, God of Israel” (1 Kings 14:13). It is not that the infant was crawling around chewing down the high places, but rather that his sin was by his nature, not by his willful rebellion. He was an “innocent” infant, to borrow Jeremiah’s language, and so he will still die, but will be spared the judicial punishment reserved for those who willingly revolted against God. Again, notice that in both this passage and in Jeremiah 19, God uses positive moral terms to apply to infants who die—“innocent” and “good.” Those are moral terms that God does not use willy-nilly.
10) God created all people personally, and designed them to glorify him forever—either by justly suffering in hell, or by giving glory to them in heaven (Ps 139:13-15; Rom 9:224). If infants who died were sent to hell, they would not be suffering justly, as they did not sin in a willful way. In other words, the very justification for hell (namely, and expression of God’s justice) is thwarted if infants go there.
11) Job was a righteous man (Job 2:9), but he suffered tremendously. Job knew what the afterlife was like—after all, it was Job who wrote:
I know my redeemer lives, and in the end he will stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, I will see God in my flesh. I will look at him myself, my eyes will look at him, and not as I look at a stranger. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Yet Job also wished that he would have been still-born. He says in Job 3:11-15 that he honestly thought that his life would be easier had he died in the womb. He is not some gothic poet, but is a godly man, who understand the afterlife, the reality of hell, and the need for a redeemer.
12) Job 3:16-19 is the most explicit passage in the Bible concerning the fate of infants who die. Job declares that dead infants go to a place where “There the wicked cease to make trouble, and there the weary find rest. The captives are completely at ease; they do not hear the voice of their oppressor. Both the small and the great are there, and the slave is set free from his master.”
Obviously Job is not describing hell, and his generic use of “infants” as well as “a stillborn child” implies that this is a statement with universal application. All infants who die or who are stillborn go to a place of rest, where there are kings, rich, poor, and the afflicted, and they are all free from torment. This is obviously not a description of hell.
13) Solomon makes a similar and explicit proclamation about the fate of dead infants. He expressly contrasts the fate of the wicked who labor in vain with a dead infant fathered by that wicked person. He concludes that it would be better to be the dead child, because he at least will go to a place of “rest” (Ecc 6:5). Solomon goes on to say that both the child and the father will die, but only the dead child will experience rest.
14) When David’s infant son was sick, David fasted and prayed frantically. When he died, David was at peace and worshiped. His attendants were shocked by this act of worship, and asked what could possibly provoke a loving father to worship at his child’s death. David’s response is well-known: “I’ll go to him, but he will never return to me” (2 Sam 12:23). This is not the despondent response of a mourning parent. It is the confident response of a man after God’s own heart.
By the way, the idea that David was worshiping because he too was one day going to die is so twisted and out of touch with reality that it is difficult to understand. Have you ever seen a parent respond to a child’s death with joy because, hey–after all–that parent is going to one day die too? Moreover, that kind of anti-supernaturalism requires us to believe that David (David!) did not understand the afterlife. Hardly.
15) Moreover, contrast his response to his infant son’s death—for which David was primarily responsible—with his response to his other sons’ death. When Absalom died, there was no death-bed conversion, and there was no mystery about his relationship with the Yahweh. David, who had done everything possible to spare Absalom’s life, was so despondent that Joab had to warn him that unless he changed his attitude, he risked a coup by the troops. Meanwhile, David was shrieking, “My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!” If David’s response to his infant’s death was simply “I’ll die too one day” then his response to Absalom’s death is incomprehensible.
16) Isaiah refers to an age where children learn “the difference between good and evil” (Isa 7:16). In other words, there is an age where children still sin, but not because of their knowledge of sin. At the very least, this lets us know that God views the sins of infants as coming from a form of innocence, rather than from a discernment of good and evil.
A couple weeks ago, I spoke on the FAQ "What Happens to Babies Who Die?". If you are interested in watching it you can find the video HERE.
Tim Challies has a blog that I read quite often. In this article he summarized some of the different viewpoints Christians take on babies that die. If you were at Northridge a couple Sundays ago or watched the video, you will know which stance I take. You can read the original article HERE.
What happens to infants who die? This is an issue almost every Christian faces at some point during his pilgrimage and it is one for which there is no easy answer. What’s more, surveying the writings of the great Christians of the past or present produces no clear consensus. Here are the predominant views found amongst believers:
All children who die in infancy are saved. If one view holds an edge on the others in terms of the quantity of adherents, this would likely be it. While all admit the Bible is not explicit here, they believe it can be deduced from a study of relevant passages in Scripture.
The children of believers are saved. This view, held by a minority of believers, depends on a belief in covenant theology and holds that the children of believers are ushered into heaven; it takes no clear stand on what happens to the children of unbelievers.
We can have no assurance. This view simply states that there is not sufficient evidence in Scripture to make a firm determination. Eventually we must simply state that we do not know and leave it to God to work out.
Unbaptized infants are not saved while baptized infants are (or may be). This is the view of the Roman Catholic church and Protestant denominations which teach some form of baptismal regeneration. Because this view clashes with the beliefs of the vast majority of Protestants I will not address it at this time.
As mentioned earlier, this seems to be the predominant view in Christian circles, both Evangelical and Reformed. Among those who hold to this view are R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, John Piper, B.B. Warfield and Charles Spurgeon.
This view teaches that God, in his grace, chooses to save all who die in infancy. While adherents affirm the seriousness of original sin and acknowledge that all infants have inherited a sin nature from Adam, they also teach that God extends special grace to these infants. Sproul says infants who die are given a special dispensation of the grace of God; it is not by their innocence but by God’s grace that they are received into heaven (see Now, That’s a Good Question!). Sinful nature, then, is not sufficient reason for God to condemn the child, for where salvation is by grace, damnation is by works.
John MacArthur, in his book Safe In The Arms of God, points out that the Bible consistently refers to the inhabitants of hell as being those who willfully committ sins and rebellion. He believes God does not condemn infants because: they have no willful rebellion or unbelief; they have never suppressed the truth; they have no understanding of sin’s impact or consequences; they have no debased behavior; and they have no ability to choose salvation. MacArthur concludes there is no place in Scripture in which a person suffers the judgment of damnation on the basis of anything other than sinful deeds, including the sinful deed of disbelief, which is a conscious, willful, intentional choice to disbelieve.
John Piper, after acknowledging the presence and importance of original sin, says that if a person lacks the natural capacity to see the revelation of God’s will or God’s glory then that person’s sin would not remain—God would not bring the person into final judgment for not believing what he had no natural capacity to see. In response to Romans 1, which speaks of Gods revelation through nature as leaving those who have never heard the gospel without excuse, Piper says if a person did not have access to the revelation of God’s glory—did not have the natural capacity to see it and understand it—then Paul implies they would have an excuse at the judgment. He concludes:
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.
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.
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.
I read this over a year ago, and it has challenged me greatly every time I re-read it. I couldn't find the original post, but I know it was written by Jon Acuff.
Lately, I've been thinking about a few simple things. Lately as the volume of things turned up, there's a bit of a whisper that won't leave me alone. Here's what's bouncing around my head:
If at the end of my life, the only thing I've accomplished is a comfortable life, my days have been wasted.
If at the end of my life, the only thing I've fought for is my own name, my days have been wasted.
If at the end of my life, the only thing I've cared about is my own care, my days have been wasted.
If at the end of my life, the only thing I've stood for is my own reputation, my days have been wasted.
If at the end of my life, the only thing I've traded are works for rewards, my days have been wasted.
May we not go to the grave quietly.
May we not make refuse of the gifts we've been given.
May we never chase the shiny in place of the holy, the trend instead of the Truth, the immediate instead of the eternal.
Arrive empty to the grave, having given all you were given, stewarded all you were tasked with.
Give the grave only bones.