As of late, I have been in several discussions on Universalism, Inclusionism, and Exclusionism. For some reason, everyone is worried about who does not get into Heaven. I can understand this to a point, but when Christians spend this much time on trying to define who does not go compared to who does, then we are clearly losing focus on what are mission is.
I like to play devil’s advocate at times and this time was no exception. When the discussion turned to infants and the mentally challenged automatically get in, I decided to wade in and challenge the assumption. Where in the Bible does it say all children go to heaven?
Several people agreed with my question as there is no passage that says all children go to heaven. Many more though were outraged at even suggesting that God would keep children out. I mean they were REALLY outraged and I can understand why.
My basic approach to this is the basic Christian concept that no one can be saved unless they believe in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, no human being will be justified in God’s sight by means of the works prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the full knowledge of sin. But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness is revealed and is attested by the Law and the Prophets- God’s righteousness through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God’s glory. By his grace they are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God offered as a place where atonement by Christ’s blood could occur through faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because he had waited patiently to deal with sins committed in the past. He wanted to demonstrate at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the person who has the faithfulness of Jesus. (Rom 3:20-26)
If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For a person believes with his heart and is justified, and a person declares with his mouth and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be ashamed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
So we get to a sticking point in the Christian message: if you do not believe in Jesus, you are going to hell. So that means all the children who die from disease and suffering or accidents or abortions go to hell because they did not proclaim Jesus. Hard to argue that the God is loving when you have something like this isn’t it? So we begin making exceptions for those who don’t proclaim Jesus, but we don’t make the exception for all of them.
When defending infants going to heaven, many reference Matthew 19:14
Jesus, however, said, “Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these.” (Mat 19:14)
but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 19:14)
The former one is from the ISV and the latter from the ESV. The justification is that the kingdom belongs to children such as these. Sounds great, but does it really prove the point? It doesn’t say that the kingdom belongs to all children or that all children go to heaven. This verse was showing that Jesus does not exclude based on age. The kingdom is not just for the important. It is not just for the rich. Not just for men and not just for adults. Jesus does not exclude people from the opportunity of being saved. So while I appreciate this verse, I do not feel like it shows that children go to heaven.
Here is my issue with this argument. If Christians believe that no one is saved except through Christ, then there are no exceptions. How can one dismiss claims of universalism if they themselves make exceptions? Whose exception is right? Once salvation comes from ways other than through Christ, then the message of Christianity is shown to be in error by its own efforts. Further more, if children are saved, they will lost that salvation when they can understand right from wrong, so salvation is not something that one can be secure in. The mixed messages from this stance do more damage than harm to the message of Christ.
For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not merely those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight. No, it is those who do the law, who will be justified. For whenever gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written in their hearts, a fact to which their own consciences testify, and their thoughts will either accuse or excuse them on that day when God, through Jesus Christ, will judge people’s secrets according to my gospel. (Rom 2:12-16)
Those who have not heard they law will still be judged based on their consciences. There will always be a judgment that is faced by all of mankind. How can a child’s conscience accuse it though? How does the conscience of one who is mentally challenged accuse them? I am not arguing that (most) children and the mentally challenged will go to hell because I fully believe that they will go to heaven on Judgment Day. There conscience will excuse them and Christ’s blood will cover them. This is not something I would want to rely on though as an adult.