We know from 1 Peter 2 that all Christians have come into the light from the darkness. At what point does a child enter into darkness? If it is at the point which they first sin, some children at the age of 4-5 commit willful sin, yet at that age they are not likely to understand the implications of devoting their lives to Christ. What are the spiritual implications of a child dying after knowledgeable sin but before the teen years where they are old enough to make a decision to come to Christ? -- Simon Chang (San Francisco)
The Bible simply does not say at which precise point a child "becomes lost," even though it seems a fair conclusion from our observations of kids' behavior and the requirements of the Gospel. Speaking of mankind, Genesis 8:21 says "every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood." Of course there's a difference between inclination and actual sin, or guilt. I actually believe our children commit willful sin long before age 5. The real question, though, is how God views them - are they accountable or not?
Yes, the kingdom of heaven belongs to "children," as Jesus put it. A basic biblical principle is, "Where the Bible is silent, we cannot be dogmatic". It would be wrong to insist that those who never had the ability to "process" the gospel are lost. That would presumably apply to those born retarded, and to young children. Anyway, it's really a moot point, because just as with adults who are "not ready" to listen to the Word, there is only so much you can do. The rest must be left in God's hands. And yet I believe it may be equally wrong to insist that all children, when they die, are saved. I tend to think they are, but it is difficult to prove that from the Bible. God's ways are inscrutable; only his revealed will gives us a solid basis for dogma.
I suspect that my wife and I will wrestle with this issue as our three children (two of them now "pre-teen") near the age when they make the vital decision to put Jesus first.
On a comforting note, the Bible does seem to say that we will see these "little ones" again, as David commented, "But now that my infant is dead. Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23). There will be a day when those of us who have lost young children will be reunited with them.
UPDATE: My wife and I wrote a book on parenting, Principle-Centered Parenting: Christian Parenting in a Non-Christian World.
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