Questions and Answers
Babies and Free Will
by Paul Hazelden


Question

Dear Paul,

I read your article, What Happens to Babies When They Die? in which you graciously say that "I welcome your comments and feedback." Here is my feedback -this is a letter I wrote to a pastor friend of mine -and I have redacted all names but my own, -and I likewise would like your feedback -and, yes, you may republish this on your site or wherever if you like: Babies upon death go to neither heaven nor hell: God doesn't deny their free will since, of course, he is just and fair:

Pastor XXX: Last week, in your Sun 17 Jan 2010 sermon (it WAS included as an email attachment -but bounced back -see above -resending now without the large file), at 22 minutes and 10 seconds in, you say that babies that die go to heaven. We discussed this very topic in Dr. XXXX XXXXXXXX "Intro To Prophecy" class at Evangelical U (XXXXX YYYY Baptist Church), and when I heard your sermon last week, I cringed with fear -my email to you is very hard because my conscience is telling me that you made a grave error -but, frankly, I consider you a friend and mentor -and I cringe also at the thought of offending you or our other mutual brothers in the Lord. Now, I know it's "politically correct" to say that children go to heaven upon death, but this would be structurally unfounded: It would rob them of their free will - and make them into robots. Why, even the angels had a 'free will' chance to accept or reject -and we know that roughly 1-third of angels made a bad choice. (However, to send the children to hell also would be unjust -for they have not rejected Jesus.) Now, I don't believe in "purgatory," a Catholic belief, although there are possibly 'places of holding' with which I am not familiar -you know? The dry bones of those (humans) who slept in the Valley of Bones -and, as you mentioned, the pit for those (demons) who are held in abeyance for now -etc. In any event, it would be unjust of God to send some to heaven without giving them a chance to reject Jesus -it is also **very dangerous** theology: If this were true, a mother who lived in poverty and was afraid her son might get into drugs would be better off killing him before he reached the age of accountability -or better yet -while in the womb: Evangelism by abortion . . . now there's a thought.

Since we have children that live and die -at a very old age ("And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Will be thought accursed." ISAIAH 65:20b, NASB ) in the 1,000 Millennium Reign -and people who EVEN STILL are rebelling! ("And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them." Revelation 20:9, NASB) -doesn't it make more sense that the Bible is referring to these children? They will, according to scripture, either accept or reject Christ -and Free Will is not denied them. Passages about the 1,000 Year millennium include Rev 20:1-15 and Isaiah 65:17-25. Oh, this Monday, I had a FRIGHTENING dream about you -some of my dreams have come true -others have not, but in the dream, an old man told you to go into a room, and you did so. I remember you telling us from the pulpit how you took prescription drugs for depression -and you looked, in the dream, like you were having a panic attack. I don't know if there's any truth to it, but I wondered afterward if you realized you may have made a mistake about the babies going to heaven and got nervous about it. Rest assured, if you tell us you made a mistake, we wont think less of you: In fact, three of your strongest strengths are (in no particular order), your brilliant knowledge of the Bible, your willingness to tackle tough, controversial subjects (like you did with the Gay Marriage amendment and like I did in my Terri Schiavo lawsuit, remember?) --but last and not the least, your generous humility to admit when you're wrong. If you wish to get a "doctor's second opinion," you might either do online Bible research or ask some of my XXXXX YYYY Baptist friends their opinions: Dr. XXXX XXXX, Dr. YYYY YYYY, or ZZZZ ZZZZ who has a masters and is both smart and a man of integrity. I don't know what they'd say, but I'd value their opinions highly -as I do yours.

Response

I'm not sure I understand much of this email, as most of it seems addressed to someone else. And I am afraid that I cannot go along with the bits I do understand.

The parts which seem relevant to the question do not argue for an alternative to the position I put forward: they simply state that you think differently. Which is fair enough - many people disagree with me, on many issues. But without explaining to me why you think differently, I can't really respond in much detail.

It is hard for me to respond constructively to much of what you say, as your interpretation of the Biblical passages you quote makes various assumptions which I do not share. For example, you say:

"("And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them." Revelation 20:9, NASB) -doesn't it make more sense that the Bible is referring to these children? They will, according to scripture, either accept or reject Christ -and Free Will is not denied them."

But the passage is clear that these people are the 'nations' Satan has deceived. They are not reincarnated dead children. Or, at least, if they are, the Bible does not tell us this. We read that fire comes down and devours them - all of them, presumably - but there is no mention of them exercising any free will as you suggest. Are you claiming that being deceived is an exercise of free will? In any case, nations do not exercise free will; individuals do. When nations go to war, soldiers must march. You may wish to argue that they march of their own free will, but that is not in the text. And the idea of God reincarnating dead children in order to burn them alive certainly does not make sense to me.

It seems clear to me that Isaiah 65:17-25 is not about the millennium: if you believe in a literal 1,000 years, then Revelation must be saying that the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1) come after the millennium, not during it. There is no way to reconcile Revelation 20:7 with the new Jerusalem. Or so it seems to me.

At a more abstract level, you present free will as an absolute, but this is not the doctrine I find in the Bible. You may 'know' it is so, because you know what God is like, but I must base my doctrine on scripture and not on what other people tell me is true.

And I do not accept that God, in acting graciously towards us, either denies our free will or turns us into robots. When my wife and I welcomed our children into our family, we did not consult them, we did not deny their free will, and we certainly did not turn them into robots.

Your 'evangelism by abortion' idea has, as far as I can tell, no scriptural justification. It is similar to the "let us sin that grace may abound" argument that Paul faced. It may seem like a logical consequence of a scriptural doctrine, but in reality it displays a profound misunderstanding of God's character. Biblical doctrines can be twisted for evil ends, but that does not make them un-Biblical, or untrue.

I hope and pray you find this helpful.

Every blessing,

Paul.

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Copyright © 2010 Paul Hazelden
 
http://hazelden.org.uk/pt05/art_pt230_qa_babies_free_will.htm was last updated 23 January 2010
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