Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Happens To Babies Who Die Before They Are Baptized?

"Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God" (Psalm 139:16-17).


My wife and I lost a baby to a miscarriage eight years ago on March 17.  It's been eight years and I still miss my little one whose face I never got to see.  For many of us who have had miscarriages, we suffer silently.  Very few people know.  And sometimes, those who do, don't really help.  They mean well with what they say, but sometimes, they make it worse.  If you've had a miscarriage, and you need someone to talk to who understands, let me know.  I'm always willing to listen.  So is my lovely wife, Jamie.  We'd be happy to share with you our journey and how our good and gracious God has slowly healed us.

If you've suffered from a miscarriage, stillbirth, or have even had an abortion, perhaps you have had the same burning question as me: where is my baby for all eternity?  What happens to babies who die before they are baptized?  It is the consistent deduction from Scripture that God creates the soul at the same time he creates the body - namely - at conception, through human parents.  In other words, we are a human being from the moment we are conceived.

In Psalm 51:5 King David, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, indicates that we are conceived as sinful human beings.  That shouldn't surprise us.  After all, can sinful parents conceive someone who is sinless?  No.  (The only exception is Jesus who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin, Mary.)  That means that unborn babies are sinful by nature and therefore deserve eternal punishment for sin, just like the rest of us.

At the same time, God also makes it explicitly clear in Scripture that "God, our Savior, wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  That's true for an unbaptized child as well.  In John 3:16, Jesus said, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  Unborn babies are a part of "the world" whom God loves.  They are a part of those for whom Jesus gave his life to save.

God tells us that "faith comes from hearing the message" (Romans 10:17).  God also tells us that He saves us through baptism (Titus 3:5 and 1 Peter 3:21) which links us by faith to Jesus.  Hearing the message and being baptized are all things that can happen once we're born.  God tells us nothing about the miracle of faith in those who are unborn.  Perhaps its because there is nothing we can do about it.  We do know from the account of John the Baptist leaping in his mother's womb at the sound of Mary's, the mother of Jesus, voice shows that babies can have spiritual responses in the womb (Luke 1:41-44).  But is that an example of faith that comes from hearing the message?  We just don't know for sure.

So what happens to a baby who dies before he is baptized?  God doesn't explicitly tell us in Scripture.  The answer is we don't know how, but we do know who.  I'm content to leave the fate of my child, and the myriads of others who have died before they were born, in the hands of the very same God whose hands were nailed to a cross for them.  He loves my child more than I do.  He loves all of them.  I can't think of better hands for them to be in than God's.  He is perfectly just, perfectly loving and always does the right thing.

So if you have lost a baby who died before he or she was baptized, I'm sorry for your loss.  I'm praying for you.  Please pray for me and my wife.  March 17 is always a very painful day for us.  But trust that God is just AND loving.  He does the right thing every time.  Your babies, and mine, are in good hands.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Age of Accountability???

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Q: I heard of some Christian parents that lost a young child and were certain the child was in heaven, as the child was below the "age of accountability". Further discussion revealed the parents believed the age of 12 was the maximum for this system. I hadn't heard of this concept before although I'm certain it's not scriptural, I'm just wondering where this comes from. Thank you.

A: You're absolutely right: the concept of an "age of accountability" is not Scriptural. The Bible's authors certainly realized that a child's moral sense undergoes a certain process of development, and that very young children are not aware of the moral seriousness of certain actions (Deuteronomy 1:39, Isaiah 7:115, 16). But the idea that a person has to understand that he's in the wrong in order to be guilty before God is not only illogical, but unscriptural (Psalm 19:12).

Worse, you can only accept the concept of an "age of accountability" if you deny Scripture's very clear teaching on original sin (Ps 51:5 et al.). Groups that teach an "age of accountability" invariably do just that. Typically, they also deny that a child can believe, since their understanding of faith is that it requires the ability to make a conscious "decision for Christ." In other words, in their view, a child can't believe and receive salvation, but that's OK because a child doesn't really need saving. According to Scripture, they're wrong on both counts (In addition to Psalm 51, see Matthew 18:2 and Luke 1:15).

Often these groups fix the "age of accountability" at 12 or 13, based on Jesus' first trip to Jerusalem as an active participant in the Passover ritual at that age (Luke 2:42). Some set it considerably lower. I have even seen at least one attempt, based on Numbers 14:20, to set it as high as age 20 (As both a student of Scripture and a father of teenagers I find that absurd). It is interesting to find these groups agreed that an "age of accountability" must be in the Bible somewhere, while at the same time they disagree widely about what it is or where it is.

We have solid, Scriptural comfort to offer grieving parents who have lost a young child when that child has been baptized. When the child hasn't, all we can do is to encourage the parents to commend the matter to a gracious, merciful God. But it saddens us that we can't say more.

Current Series (Huge response!!!!)

Spring often brings new opportunities to help friends and family members on a spiritual journey.  One of the best things you can do is invite them to attend a worship service with you.  Our current sermon series is designed to help believers experience a different quality of life and help others find new life in Christ.   I’m challenging you to bring at least one friend to this series:

"It's not my fault, my parents didn't have a lot of rules."  "I think it is a dumb law anyway."  "It’s not that bad, everyone does that!"  Personal responsibilities.  We all have them. But we don't to claim them. Let's remember when we point the finger of blame at someone else, three point back.  It's time to stop the excuse-making.  See you again this weekend!

“Grow & Go” Vision Update 

Any congregation needs to have a set of “anchors” based on core values through which all ministries are analyzed and established.  Our Grow & Go vision has three such anchors:

            1) offering compelling worship
            2) growing healthy adults
            3) intentionally serving others in Jesus’ name

The additions and expansions to the 2014-2015 budget will reflect these anchors.  As we continue to strive for maximum Kingdom impact.   Will must continually ask the question, “What is the best way to …?”