The Damnable Doctrine of Infant Damnation
Any parent who has lost a young child can take comfort knowing that they are with the Father, who loves and treasures them. Moreover, their child is the standard which Jesus used for entrance into the Kingdom.
So, while this edition of Idol Killer will be addressing the ugly topic of infant damnation, it does so NOT in support of it but rather to rebuke it as being antithetical to the Living God revealed in Scripture. Here we call it for what it is – a doctrine of demons.
This is certainly a controversial (and heretical) doctrine which is part of a larger extra-Biblical Augustinian philosophical system through which many still interpret Scripture. These doctrines invaded the Church in the 4th and 5th century and have persisted in corrupting and misrepresenting Christian truth.
Here we will focus specifically on the topic of infant damnation, but will inevitably touch on concepts such as Original Sin and Baptismal Regeneration.
What is Infant Damnation?
Infant damnation is an extra-Biblical doctrine introduced to the Catholic Church around 380 ad in response to and in defense of Augustine’s doctrine of Original Sin. Since he concluded that sin was an inherited deviation in man’s nature he reasoned that everyone created in the womb was sin stained and guilty. Therefore everyone was created deserving damnation. The only means of escape was for an infant to be baptized into the Church which was believed to regenerate them, washing away Original Sin. Thus, according to Augustine, every baby who died without being baptized into the Church was damned to hell.
However, Augustine believed that not even baptism into the Church was a guarantee of salvation for infants. He argued “certain infants, even those baptized, God does not take from this life as adopted into the eternal kingdom.” So while every unbaptized infant went to hell, so too did some who were baptized but whom God did not regenerate.
According to Augustine & his followers hell is full of infants and children.
This wicked view of God and perverse understanding of sin has slandered the Holy and Living God for centuries, causing grieving parents to doubt and fear and served to drive a wedge between man and his only Savior.
“Hold most firmly and never doubt that, not only adults with the use of reason but also children who either begin to live in the womb of their mothers and who die there or, already born from their mothers, pass from this world without the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, which is given in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, must be punished with the endless penalty of eternal fire. Even if they have no sin from their own actions, still, by their carnal conception and birth, they have contracted the damnation of Original Sin.” Bishop Fulgentius of Ruspe
"It is most just, exceeding just, that God should take the soul of a new-born infant and cast it into eternal torments" Jonathan Edwards
"Presbyterianism without infant damnation would be like the dog on the train that couldn't be identified because it had lost its tag." Mark Twain
A Broken & Wicked Philosophy
As discussed in various other articles here on Idol Killer, Augustine invented a philosophy at odds with Scripture. This is NOT what Christ, His Apostles, the Prophets of Old or Christian orthodoxy taught. Rather than look to Scripture for truth, Augustine relied instead on Greek philosophy and incorporated elements of Manichaeism.
Though never an official Church dogma, this teaching was initially pushed to promote admittance into the Catholic Church and wielded to keep its members loyal. It then became a source of revenue as the inventions of Purgatory and Indulgences merged to teach “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” With the high infant mortality rate and grieving parents seeking to ensure their child’s place in heaven this was a profitable scheme for Rome.
However, as time progressed this false doctrine persisted in being a point of contention. Eventually various Popes would come forward in an effort to explain it, but inevitably ended up contradicting one another. Within Roman Catholicism some still believe unbaptized infants go to hell, while others claim they go to limbo, and others still chalk it all up to mystery.
Since Protestantism was born from an internal disagreement among Catholics, many Protestants like Martin Luther and John Calvin pushed infant baptism and its companion doctrines like infant damnation. However, within much of Protestantism over the years a new doctrine has been invented which seeks to explain away the conflict between affirming Original Sin and desiring children to be with the Lord – the Age of Accountability.
The Age of Accountability is most often understood as asserting that while God forms us in the womb, weaving in an inherited sin nature and imputed guilt thanks to Adam, that we are not condemned until we learn that we should be by reaching an unspecified age of reason. There are many problems with this teaching and they all stem from the adherent desiring to hold on to both Biblical truth and extra-Biblical philosophy simultaneously. All this ultimately accomplishes is corrupting the truth and promoting deception.
The State of Man
There is no age in which men are accountable for the sin or guilt of Adam. As we read in Ezekiel 18 the one who sins is guilty of sin. Our Heavenly Father does not condemn children on the basis of what Adam did all those years ago in Eden. Men rise and fall based on their own heart's intent and their self-determined actions: obedience or rebellion.
Scripture tells us children are born not knowing either good or evil and must be taught to embrace the good and reject the evil. When one knowingly sins, then one is guilty. However, God is not entirely just demanding the smallest sin be met with wrath, but rather He is equitable and delights in showing restorative mercy. This is revealed in the incarnation and self sacrificing love of Christ - God with us.
When a child grows up and learns what they should do and yet they do not do it, then it is sin for which they need to repent.
The Bible is clear on the matter and should serve as the final word.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10
“Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God.” Psalm 22:9-10
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14, Matthew 19:14 & Luke 18:16
“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.” Psalm 71:5-6
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-5
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:2-6
“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” Matthew 21:15-16