What was Mohler Thinking?

Nearly 4 years ago, Albert Mohler and Danny Akins co-authored an article that never should have 1614332826_Do_Babies_go_to_Heaven_300x245_xlargebeen written. The Bible does not give enough information to be dogmatic about the eternal destiny of infants. It’s bad enough that Doug Wilson (of Federal Vision infamy) believes that a trinitarian baptism make babies (including Roman Catholic babies) Christian, we have otherwise sober Calvinist Baptists telling us ALL babies are saved – if they die before they sin. The hinge pin of Scripture they base this upon is 2 Cor 5:10, which, if taken as a solitary proof text, says one is judged for the deeds he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Their argument is that a baby is unable to do any evil deeds – yet they do not tell concerned parents at what age a baby is able to sin.

God chose before the foundation of the world those whom He would save. It is possible that omniscient God knew/ordained the early death of each infant who dies and sovereignly elected each one. But the Bible must be tortured to pull this doctrine out of it.

Mohler and Akins admit that every infant has the stain of original sin. They spend a few short paragraphs explaining the wretched state of unredeemed humanity – which includes infants. Then they have this:

What, then is our basis for claiming that all those who die in infancy are among the elect? First, the Bible teaches that we are to be judged on the basis of our deeds committed “in the body.”(2) That is, we will face the judgment seat of Christ and be judged, not on the basis of original sin, but for our sins committed during our own lifetimes. Each will answer “according to what he has done,”(3) and not for the sin of Adam. The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin. We will answer for our own. But what about infants? Have those who die in infancy committed such sins in the body? We believe not.

They claim that since the children of the Exodus were not killed, but allowed to go into the promised land – babies go to heaven. This interpretation is not found anywhere the Bible that I am aware of. They claim that since Jesus said “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these” that actual children go to heaven. Child-like faith is what the Lord was talking about – not having any guile. Yet though Mohler and Akins repeatedly state that infants go to heaven they do not address the question of age of accountability. For IF one teaches the salvation of infants who die, one MUST be able to tell parents how old the baby must be in order to be accountable – how else can this false comfort be provided? It is reasonable that man wants to comfort fellow man. Christian man must not make up doctrines to provide false comfort. The entire Bible tells us Christ is our refuge and in Him alone we are safe. He is our protector, provider, and shepherd. Tenuous “promises” taken from muddied waters into which Scripture was stirred is not how we are to seek understanding or comfort.

We must be content to trust God, rather than make up doctrines that our natural minds embrace. It is reasonable to infer than God puts children in Christian homes because children are a blessing from God and Christians will be able to train the children as God commands. It is a stretch beyond the snapping point to say that children of Christians are New Covenant members – yet this is what Mohler and Akins are saying, for none outside the New Covenant can be saved. But the authors go beyond that and claim that ALL infants who die as such (again – with no line drawn as to how old one can be and claim this promise) were elect.

I am not going to recap the entire article – please read it and decide for yourself. But it is not helpful at all, consisting of man’s reason in an area God has not spoken clearly on.

39 thoughts on “What was Mohler Thinking?

  1. Thanks for your encouragement, Kevin. I fear too many Christians accept teaching from beloved theologians without testing what is being taught. I fear too many biblically sound teachers get led astray by the fame they may not have even sought. None of us has perfect theology, and all of what gets taught must be tested. And matters of inference that are not clear nor critical ought to be talked about privately.

  2. For clarification, is your position that infants go to hell because they have not repented? If not, would you state your position on the matter?
    Thanks

  3. Melissa, my opinion is that the Bible is very clear that all are sinful from the moment of conception and none are good, that God chose those whom He would save before the foundation of the world and that we can neither add to nor subtract from that list, that we who have been saved are to proclaim the gospel to all people knowing God has ordained this method to save His elect. And I know presumption is a sin – we are not to presume to know who He will save nor who He will not. Finally, I know that the punishments of Hell vary according to the sins committed as do the rewards in Heaven vary according to the good works done here on Earth – and that God alone can separate the wheat from the chaff.

    I do not make a blanket statement about the salvation of children one way or the other because neither does the Bible.

  4. Manfred, I share Mohler’s conclusion, but the reasoning in that article is extremely disappointing, to say the least. II Cor. 5:10 is manifestly talking of believers being accountable for their actions, if the context of verses 8-9 means anything at all. Since it was all those under the age of 20 who were exempted from death in the wilderness, if that example is a good proof text for the salvation of infants then it is a good proof text for the salvation of those who die at the age of 19. No one believes that.

    Very poor work by Mohler. Macarthur had something on this that is a little better, I think, though I’m not convinced he really nailed everything.

    I do not believe there is a crystal-clear statement on this in Scripture (and I think there is a reason for that), but neither is the Scripture entirely silent. When I reach the point of being ready to elaborate, Lord willing I’ll contact you for feedback.

  5. I am having a difficult time with the question in light of some verses that raise sufficient doubt in my mind about where infants go?

    One is this verse that seems unequivocal to me that every soul is dead until Christ in god makes them alive:

    1Cor.15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

    Then there is this:

    Num.16:27 So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones.
    28 And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.
    29 If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me.
    30 But if the LORD creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the LORD.”
    31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart.
    32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.
    33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

    I’m just positive verse 27 includes infants and quite possibly newborns?

  6. Any religious activity that involves infants is sure to create tremendous emotional response. However there is no supporting Scripture that mandates or that determines whether to baptise infants, nor what happens to them if they die in infancy.
    If we believe in Sola Scriptura, then we are saying that if it is not supported by Scripture then we cannot make a doctrine out of it. It must be plainly established by Scripture, with supporting instances where there is no doubt. While it may not be directly stated, there must be enough plain reference inferences that it is not in question. The Trinity, and the Rapture, while not so stated in these words in Scripture, are examples that are very well supported in these concepts from other Scripture locations that leave no doubt of their validity.
    There are no such statements that can be so infered with such certaintly involving where infants go if they die in infancy, nor whether an infant should be baptised at any time before they have grown to the point they can make a profession of faith on their own. There is no “age of accountability” mentioned in Scripture. It merely speculation on all these attempts to pull the answers from Scripture.. As I said we have such an emotional response to either of these questions, that in my opinion, clergy have given in to the demands of parents in attempts to console and assure them, and to keep their alleigance or the good will of their peers.

  7. Let me try to defend the “all babies go to heaven” idea.

    1) While it is said in the Bible that we are all born in sin, it does not say that us being born in sin is the basis for judgment; indeed, The Great White Throne of Revelation 19 makes it clear that the unredeemed are being judged based on THEIR deeds, not the state under which we were born. Yes, that state of Total Depravity will direct people to sin, but that state is not, in and of itself, the sin. Theoretically, a person who did not sin would escape judgment. Naturally, that eliminates everybody who made the conscious decision to do something wrong – for God’s law is written even in the natural world – but what about those who committed no sin, say if they died before they could have chosen to? Backing this up is the command from God to the Israelites for children to not be punished for the sins of their fathers. God, being holy, cannot defy His own law.

    2) The chief purpose of humanity, creation, and judgment is to glorify God. How exactly would He be glorified by infants suffering eternal torment? God is a just God, and no one in Hell can claim that they were victims of injustice; they are receiving their just due for their sins against Him. But for infants to be in Hell and for God to be just, it would have to be concluded that they sinned against Him by simply being born. I have heard it argued that the unelect are living in sin by continuing to exist – the claim being that they are enjoying the blessings of life meant only for the elect – so for some, this would not be a stretch.

    BTW: I share your contempt for Federal Vision; if you’re interested sometime, I will gladly tell you why I view their patriocentric views as witchcraft.

  8. 072591 – Let me say it is good to see you back here, many thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    How do you recon with the notion that all sin is worthy of damnation if you write off the imputed sin we inherit from Adam?

    How do you reconcile with Romans 9:6-13?

    I would be interested in why you view the patriocentric views of Federal Visionists as witchcraft. Please email me at sbrogden at gmail dot com

  9. If we are born in sin, then how can one that is born into sin all of the sudden be saved when he dies? There is no Scripture that shows that a person is sinless until a certain age and will be saved if he/she dies before that age. We have to get past the cuteness and prettiness of babies and realize that babies are selfish, egotistical and mean at times. My little guy just threw a toy at my head and cut my chin the other day. What if he had the strength or an 18 year old? I would have probably lost an eye or have been hurt a whole lot worse. He was made because he was playing with something he wasn’t allowed to. Babies are not innocent by any stretch. Those who have a large family can attest to this.

  10. Manfred
    I’m confuse about this article first of all I lost a son at childbirth years ago, many times I look up at the stars and tell him I’ll be up there soon and feel he’s with my Lord.Even though it sounds stupid to most I ask him to find the best fishing holes so we can spend time together..
    I know the Bible doesn’t go into detail about things like this but yet we have confidence that the Lord wouldn’t send my son to hell just to get even with me or to just to prove a point.
    Is God so unjust to even consider an article such as this? How about a baby that is born into a Hindu family and dies before the age of accountabillity would the Lord send him to helll because he didn’t have a chance to sin as we do?
    No I don’t buy that God sends innocent babies to hell,what kind of God would this be that we serve?

  11. I know that I knew about sin at the age of 6, and knew what it meant. I was familiar with the King James Bible at age 5. I learned of sin from my grandmother’s Bible, and my father was so proud of my being able to read some of the King James Bible, and he showed me off to his friends. I joined the church at age 9.
    My wife’s grandson was very aware and was saved before age 7. He had a heart attack and died at age 7, but always had talked about going to be with Jesus, had talked to his grandfather about being saved, and had a marked up Bible, which is a treasure for his mother and grandmother.

  12. scrugg – I somewhat understand your pain at having lost a child. My wife and I lost one between our two. You say you talk with your son – this is against what the Bible teaches and is in line with what false religions teach. There is no such thing an innocent baby – they appear innocent to our human perception, but all persons are marked by sin from the womb. There is no “age of accountability” in the Bible – this is the logical construct of the extra-biblical belief that babies are innocent and must do or say or think something that they know is wrong before they can be held accountable for sin. As I asked earlier – how do you account for Romans 9:6-13?

    I know parents grieve over the loss of a child. Such grief does not constitute a foundation for biblical doctrine.

  13. Excellent discussion! I agree with you Bill Teal and have been disappointed at how a well respected teacher of the Word who had demonstrated careful exegesis suddenly states emphatically what God himself does not say clearly. God is sovereign and God is good, we can trust Him to judge rightly and He does not have to answer to us; Nor should we speak where He is silent.

  14. bobby – What response of mine are you talking about? Your rant of 8:20 AM is the first you’ve made on this article and it shows much your presumption, condescension, and bias – but does not shed light on what you think my error is. Neither did you provide any biblical rationale for your view. Assertions are not arguments or apologetics; they tend to reveal ignorance.

    If you want to call names and make up motives for others you will have to go elsewhere. Learn to communicate in a civil manner or you will be shut off.

  15. Your argument is not with Manfred, but with God. It shows your are not familiar with Scripture. It also shows you don’t know how to interperet what you have read. God is Sovereign, and can do what He wants to do, we do not tell Him what to do. He tells us what to do. He sets the rules even if you don’t agree. We have to do what He wants us to do, we have to do it His Way, and in His time. Sorry, we are not in charge, sir.

  16. Sorry don’t think the link works but copy and paste Wretched: What Happens to Babies Who Die? Into youtube search

  17. bra-dley – I listened to Todd’s wretched explanation. IMO, he’s wretched. Every verse he used was misused. He even misquoted Jonah 4:11, which makes no mention of children – God is therein referring to the whole population of Nineveh as people who do not know their left hand from their right. Each of the circumstances Todd used were in context of TEMPORAL consequences – people with no ability to comprehend right from wrong will not be held guilty of the crime. It is a wish to apply these to the spiritual condition of the PAGAN children or any other children Todd has imagined.

    All Todd has done is reduce the consequences of man’s sinful nature to an academic discussion. Not helpful at all.

  18. Salvation in Heaven? How about salvation in hell? How about purgatory? Hmm…kinda opens up a can of worms doesn’t it?

  19. I contacted Wretched radio about Doug Wilson and the Federal Vision. They were quite aware of the situation. Todd said that they have recnet a sermon by Doug wherin he steps back from the edge far enough to satify Todd.

  20. Ok Manfred, just thought it was something to consider, I don’t think he’s wretched, I love him in the Lord. But at the end it is our merciful God who decides where babies go. God bless

  21. I apologize for misinterpreting you Manfred! I thought you meant that as a direct attack on Todd’s character!

  22. I know I’m late to the conversation, but I think it helps to remember what the WCF says: those elect infants who die in infancy are still saved because the Spirit moves when and where and how He pleases (very loose quote). The point is that if a child is saved because they die in infancy, the Spirit still has to move in that child to convert that child just as HE has to move in a grown person. We know of one instance in which this took place: John the Baptist. Yes, he was and is the only example we know of, but this shows that salvation is possible from birth because it’s the Spirit’s work, therefore the same can be said of infants who die in infancy. This is not saying that all babies go to heaven, but if they do, then the Spirit must move in them as well.

    I don’t believe that they need to actually commit a sin for God to pour out His wrath on them. Their hearts are already sinful, they just lack the ability to act on that sinfulness. God is just in either saving them or pouring out His wrath on them, blessed by the name of the LORD.

    The absolute tragedy of Mohler’s position is that if it is true, then why fight against abortion? Just asking for argument’s sake. After all, the unbelieving woman is not very likely to raise believing children since she is committed to her sinful lifestyle, so this just assures us that her child is in heaven. Again, I don’t believe that but those who listen to Mohler can come to that conclusion.

    Andrea Pea Yates came to that same conclusion and drowned her five children in a bathtub so they wouldn’t get to the age of accountability.

    It saddens me that Mohler and others put forth such spurious doctrines.

  23. Comment on last statement first. There is no Scriptural basis for any “age of accountablity.” There is no Scriptural basis for “all infants go to heaven when they die.” So much of the infant baptism basis is from examples that are given of household baptisms and those examples are true from Scripture of events that happened. However these examples are not directive as commands to baptism infants. There is no carryover from the Old Testament directive to baptize infants becasue of a mistaken idea that circumcision of young boys is directly tranlated to baptism of infants. Circumcision of the heart is the theme of the New Testament, and it can occur in any age of person. The only baptism command that Jesus gave was in Matthew 28. The only other baptisms mentioned were of adults. No where is infant baptism even mentioned or alluded to. No one can be “saved” because they die as an infant. That is a foolish idea. We have no idea of whether someone will be saved or not, child or adult, for that matter. We can only go on profession and works as best we can, and there still can be false followers. Only the Holy Spirit knows.
    All God has called to Himself will be saved. Jesus died for these called ones. The Holy Spirit keeps them. They perservere because of the “keeping” of the Spirit. They will never fall away.
    The elect will always be saved, no matter what or where they die. Mothers who kill their offspring are a work of Satan, not a caring spritual mother.
    Indeed the Spirit moves when and where He pleases. It is not up to us to decide where or what He does. We can write anything we want but His Work is His alone. We cannot assume anything.

  24. My wife read the original article from Dr. Mohler’s website to me the other night. There are many places he went off the rails, but the first is when he makes the statement about Ambrose: “His first error was believing in infant baptism, and thus in baptismal regeneration. Baptism does not save, and it is reserved for believers – not for infants.”

    This is a blatant refutation of Scripture which says Baptism is for sinners and for the forgiveness of sins, and according to 1 Peter 3:21, most certainly does save.

    We can’t know the fate of all infants, Scripture is replete with examples of infants suffering the same fate as their parents (the Amalekites, all the infants in the flood, etc.), but we can believe the promises of God, that his Salvation lies in the finished work of his Son, and that work is applied to us in our baptism (Romans 6).

    We can trust that infants baptized into Christ will be with Christ should they die in infancy. When it comes to un-baptized infants of believers (and non-believers), we just have to trust that God is more merciful than we can imagine.

  25. Paul – Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that Mohler ran off the rails in many places, but you err in thinking baptism saves. Peter is not saying that – for in the very verse you cite, he says it is not the removal of filth from the flesh (which corresponds to water baptism) but one’s clean conscience towards God. Baptism in water SIGNIFIES the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is that work of regeneration which gives life to sinners that God is calling to new life in Christ.

  26. This is a fine example of taking one instance of a subject (baptism) and building a whole doctrine on this one verse, rather than taking all that is written about baptism, getting all facets of it in Scripture, and letting this whole body of work explain the one instance. Scripture will interpret Scripture. Don’t take one verse, most times the context is ignored, and use it dogmatically to cover all instances or situations that is involved. Let all Scripture on a subject interpret how to understand that one verse in context of all of Scripture on that subject. There are too many instances where baptism is explained that is contrary to this post of infants, or anyone, being saved by baptism, to take this verse literally. The thief on the cross was not baptized. Disciples are to be baptized. Repentance is required before baptism. No infant can repent, nor be a disciple. It all has to be understood in context. Baptism is a done as an obedient act after one has repented and believed. Baptism does not save.

  27. I found this after looking for the original article by Albert Mohler – who I respect deeply but I can’t say I am convinced by his argument, or a similar argument made by other pastors I respect like John Piper and Mark Driscoll. To me there seems to be a specific order to how salvation proceeds. If that has not happened and the person dies they are not elect. It’s hard but that’s what I see in scripture. You may quibble over the exact step-by-step process of Ordo Salutis but the process certainly seems to exist in scripture if plainly read.

    Though I am willing to admit that I wouldn’t argue that vehemently because it’s not clearly argued in scripture it’s just an observation of what is written. Ultimately God does as he pleases – we are all saved by grace. What is clear is that we are all sinners from the very beginning and the ordo salutis seems to harmonize with this.

    Having said that it certainly makes me chose my words carefully when speaking to people who have lost children who were not saved by any outward indication (for example due to a miscarriage).

    @Pastor Timothy the John the Baptist reference isn’t pertinent because he didn’t die as a child, he grew up and was clearly saved. My view is that if God chooses someone to be saved they will not die until that happens. Man, nature, doctors, parents, abortionists etc. have no say in the matter.

  28. @Solomani – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. As Scripture tells us, be not disciples of any man, but of the Lord only and test all things, cling to that which is good (true).

    Soli Deo Gloria!

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