The Salvation of Infants and the Mentally Disabled

By | July 3, 2024

Good people disagree over what happens to infants and the mentally disabled when they pass away before their “the age of accountability,” the age when a child can realize the difference between right and wrong. Some emphasize the justice of God as to how to deal with the sin of the deceased, and others emphasize the goodness of God, knowing that He will do what is best and in keeping with His character.

Like others, I personally believe that God brings infants and the mentally disabled immediately into presence after death. I briefly explain my understanding of Scripture on this matter in what follows.

For a definition, infants and the mentally disabled (invalids) are those whose mental and moral capacity does not allow for the recognition of and thus response to God from either general or special revelation.

Salvation begins with the unconditional election of God to lovingly appoint some for salvation (Eph 1:4–5). In providing the means of salvation, He sent us His Son, “the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:5).

Based on His gracious choice and His provision for salvation in the life and death of Christ, God is free to unilaterally give new birth to infants and invalids (John 3:3) and thereby remove the condemnation attached to their Adamic guilt (Rom 5:12; cf. Ps 51:5), apart from faith and prior to death.

Though John the Baptist was uniquely and prophetically “filled with the Spirit, even in the womb” (Luke 1:15), this experience of the Spirit also moved him to joy to be in the presence of his unborn Savior (Luke 1:41, 44), an example of what I believe can take place for infants and the mentally disabled as I have described above.

This conclusion also rests upon other principles found in Scripture as well.

Infants and invalids have an inability for moral choice—they have not reached a point in which they consciously choose between right and wrong (Deut 1:39; Isa 7:14–16; Rom 9:11).

Infants and invalids enjoy a relative innocence—unable to choose wrong, though all mankind sinned in Adam (Rom 5:12), infants and invalids are not as sinful as others who consciously choose to do evil (1 Cor 14:20).

So, considering those two points, we can also say that infants and invalids enjoy an absence of accountable works—they have done nothing intentionally evil to store up wrath for themselves when God judges men for their works in time to come (Rom 2:5–6; Rev 20:12).

Finally, we take into account David’s comfort after his son’s death (2 Sam 12:22–23), an example of the comfort that bereaved parents can have today. David stopped grieving at his son’s death, stating, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam 12:23). If David’s death meant that he would “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps 23:6), then to “go to him” would mean to join him in Paradise after death.

My briefly stated thoughts above only scratch the surface of what others have addressed in full in books. However, as what I hope is an encouragement to others, this is a summary view of what many believe about the salvation of infants and the mentally disabled.

Photo by Irfan Hasic on Unsplash

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