Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 10 - Effectual Calling

10.3 Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases. The same is true of all elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called through the preaching of the gospel. [John 3:3,5,6,8.]

10.4 Men who are not elected, even though they may be called upon to embrace salvation by the preachers of the gospel, and may be the subjects of some common operations of the Spirit, cannot be saved, because they are not effectually drawn to Christ by the Father, for which reason they neither can, nor will, truly come to Him. Much less can men who do not receive the Christian religion be saved, no matter how diligent they are to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the teachings of the religion which they follow. [Matt. 13:20,21; 22:14; John 4:22; 6:44,45,65; 17:3; Acts 4:12; Heb. 6:4-6; 1 John 2:24,25.]

In section 10.3, the confession swims into some deep theological waters where the sunlight of revelation does not penetrate clearly. Not only are these deep theological waters, they are deep emotional waters. Who can go through the pain of a miscarriage or the death of a young child without that pain wrenching these kinds of questions from her mind? Who can view the horrors of abortion without wondering what becomes of all these poor children murdered in the womb? In light of this, it is tempting to try to squeeze something out of the Bible to answer our questions. However, the truth is that we simply do not have sufficient biblical revelation to be able to assert unequivocally what happens to children we know who die in infancy.

This does not mean, however, that we have no guidance from the Bible. There are some things that we do know which can help guide our thinking in this doctrinally and emotionally challenging area.
1. We do know that infants are not innocent and that they deserve God's wrath. From conception they are viewed by God as guilty (Ps 51:5) because the guilt of Adam's sin has been reckoned to their account (Rom 5:12), and their sin nature manifests itself immediately after birth (Ps 58:3). It is false to claim, as some have, that Christ's sacrifice wipes out Adamic guilt for everyone so that infants are considered innocent until they commit their own sins.
2. If infants are to be saved, it must be on the basis of Christ's redemptive work and the application of that work to the infant by the Holy Spirit. Without regeneration, there is no hope of salvation (John 3:3).
3. It is possible for God to elect, call, and regenerate infants. This is certainly not God's normal mode of operation, for he normally calls people to himself through the proclamation of the gospel. Yet there is no biblical reason to believe that he could not or would not regenerate infants.

Perhaps it is impossible for us to go much beyond this point with the revelation we have. We do know that God is a saving God who delights to display the glory of his grace, so we might suppose that he would elect, call, and regenerate multitudes (maybe all) of those who die in infancy. But we must also realize that God would be entirely just to leave all humans in their sin. So we cannot venture to predict what God would do in any given situation. We can be confident that God will do what will bring the most glory to him and be the most good for all of his creation. We must trust God, and, like Job, lay our hands on our mouths if we are tempted to question God's justice.

So, the statement of the confession proves to be a model of judicious theological statement. It affirms all that we do know from the Bible, without delving into speculation.

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