I was reading this article again [If a baby dies, does it go to Heaven or Hell?], and I was just thinking, what would be a Biblical answer to the question “Where do infants go when they die?” There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer in this article, but I see an excellent response to the Roman Catholic position of having to be baptized as an infant. Could you clear up the question with the Biblical mindset that we are all born into sin and that everyone needs a savior (including infants).
You are right; the article was focused more on addressing Martignoni’s assertions rather than addressing the actual question. That being the case, I thought I would post my response to your question here so I could properly address it. Thanks for your feedback!
I know there are a lot of varying opinions out there concerning this question. My philosophy is to just stick with what I understand. So I will try to answer your question using biblical examples and logic, and you can decide whether or not it makes sense.
The big question is: do infants inherit Adam’s sin and therefore considered (by God) guilty of sin? We cannot answer for God, who ultimately is the Judge of such things, but I think we can understand what the answer might be from biblical study; and the answer for me comes down to one word: law. Paul said, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Rom. 5:13) So the question becomes, if sin is not imputed without law, what law, if any, is an infant under?
Adam, as soon as he was formed, was placed in the garden and put under law. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17) Adam’s innocence was conditional; so long as he was obedient to the law over him, he remained without sin. But as we know, Adam disobeyed God. His disobedience brought about the promise God made to him, that he would surely die.
Adam and Eve’s nature changed the moment they disobeyed God; at that moment they knew they were naked and experienced shame and regret. And although God promised they would surely die, He also promised that He would save them through their posterity. Therefore, the descendants of Adam are not descendants of innocent Adam, but descendants of fallen Adam.
The curse placed upon Adam is placed upon his descendants, which is all of mankind. It is the curse, not the sin that is passed on throughout our generations. When God’s Law came through Moses sin was once again revealed, because God commanded the children of Israel to obey His commandments. So disobedience to the Law imputes sin upon those who disobey, just like Adam did.
So what about those who were not under the Law of Moses; how is sin imputed to them in light of what Paul said, that sin is not imputed where there is no law? Paul himself answers that question in Romans, chapter 2.
“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (v 12-16)
Adam and Eve did not need God to tell them they should feel guilty over their sin; it came naturally. As soon as they disobeyed God, Adam and Eve’s conscience bared witness to them of their sin. The same is true of those who are ignorant of the Law of God, or His grace. So the similitude of Adam’s sin is found in disobedience to the law of nature and is witnessed by the conscience.
When we consider what Paul said, “…their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men,” what does it mean for those whose thoughts cannot accuse them? It can only mean that they are excused on the Day of Judgment because they did not disobey the law, which, according to Paul, is the only way sin could be imputed to them. Nevertheless, as Paul also taught in Romans 5, death reigns over those who do not sin in the similitude of Adam because Adam brought death into the world, which was conquered by Christ at His resurrection. Therefore, all who are justified, whether by forgiveness or by innocence, are made alive through Christ’s obedience.
One more thing to consider: Christ possessed the same humanity we do. Although He is God, He became a man, born under the Law and prevailed over the Law, which rather than having the power to condemn Him it declared Him righteous through obedience. Nevertheless, even Jesus, in His humanity, was stricken with Adam’s disease. Likewise, every human being drinks from the dregs of Adam’s curse, and those who are disobedient to the law will suffer condemnation. That condemnation falls upon all people whose conscience has witnessed to them of their sin; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20)
An infant, though seemingly under natural law, has no knowledge of sin; and where there is no knowledge of sin and no conviction of conscience, there is no condemnation from law. But that is only true because of Christ. I think what we need to understand is that humanity was separated from God through Adam’s sin. Only God could reconcile that separation. And without God’s intervention no one, including infants, could be united with Him. Thanks and reverence be to God that He loved us enough to send His Son to reconcile us back to Himself!