14 May 2010

Question of the Week:
Default Destination

by Anne Lang Bundy

"Whoever be our people here—God's people or the devil's—
death will gather our souls to them."
~ Thomas Boston

If a child is sanctified by their believing parent, what about the children of the unbelieving?
~ Anonymous

This question was posed in response to the following statement from last week's Q&A about baptizing infants:

If infants are not baptized, are their souls in jeopardy? The Bible indicates that children are "sanctified" (made holy) by the believing parent (1 Corinthians 7:14). There is no indication of up to what age such sanctification continues. It might be: until an unspecified age of accountability; until a specific age of recognized maturity such as twelve or twenty; or for as long as the child remains in the believing parent’s house, under their "covering" of authority.

There is an ancient principle observed to this day in some cultures which offers protection to someone brought under the covering offered by another person. When Paul's ship faced destruction, God told him that all who sailed with him would be protected, and Paul warned the centurion: "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." (Acts 27:31 NKJV) Ruth asked Boaz to bring her under his covering: "Spread the corner of your garment over me." (Ruth 3:9 NIV) The principle was explicit when Lot brought two men into his home in evil Sodom: "Do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof." (Genesis 19:8 NKJV)

In numerous biblical examples, a person entering the walls of a city not only received the covering of protection from that city, but the entire city might be either spared or destroyed due to that person's presence—unless that person left the city. This is why the Lord did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah until righteous Lot (whose name means "covering") had departed from those cities. When Lot's wife looked back, she was displaying continuing alliance to Sodom and its wickedness rather than to her husband and his righteousness, so she was also destroyed.

I believe this principle is employed in the Scripture which speaks of children being sanctified by the faith of just one parent. The word "sanctified" means "made holy," which indicates a change from another condition.

We all start out evil.

Although humanity wants to see itself as basically good, we are inherently evil. We want to see infants as innocent, but they are born with the parents' DNA for evil. If at least one parent has been sanctified by the blood of Jesus and made holy, children are brought under the covering of the parent's faith and protected. If neither parent has been sanctified, then children have no spiritual protection from condemnation until they obtain sanctification on their own. (It cannot be obtained by baptizing them, because baptism is a personal testimony—see last week's post.)

My guess would be that this spiritual covering extends until children separate themselves from the parent spiritually in some way. Each individual must make a decision to turn from evil toward God, and obtain sanctification for oneself. If this occurs while still under the parent's covering, then there is no "lapse in coverage."

If it seems harsh for an infant to suffer condemnation, it might help to shift our perspective from an entitlement mentality which thinks Heaven is our right. Heaven is not the destiny for everyone who doesn't opt out, but the destiny of those who choose to be reconciled with their Creator and opt in. Heaven would be no better than Earth if filled with unsanctified, unholy, evil people.

God does not force people to dwell with Him for eternity who are united to those who oppose Him. Earth is the place to determine our alliance.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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  1. Thanks Anne,

    This is one of those questions many people think about, but do not always want answered.

    I have to admit that I do not entirely know what I believe on this topic. I can only focus on what I do know. God loves us. He wants us in a relationship with Him through His son. There is forgiveness for those who ask. And, these things I must "try" to teach my children.

    Thank you.

  2. This one is over my head. I'm thankful God makes the decisions and sometimes I am thankful I don't understand what all those decisions are.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Thanks. That makes sense.

  4. Russell ~ The toughest part of doing this Q&A isn't admitting I don't have all the answers, but knowing that the answers I do have won't always be the ones wanted. I do love my neighbor, and want to see asany as possible in Heaven. But I readily accept that my neighbor only belongs there because we share love for God and reconciliation to His great love.

    Wendy ~ This is the first time I've gone public with this topic. I've avoided it because it doesn't line up with the popular view that all babies go to Heaven, nor with the Roman Catholic view that baptizing infants solves the problem. The truth should make us all the more faithful to making disciples, aware that each person we reach out to affects other lives as well.

    Tricia ~ I'm most grateful to receive that comment. It makes it easier for me to share a hard answer.

  5. I would have to agree with Russell. This is not an easy subject to come to a Biblical conclusion about.

  6. Patty ~

    You're right--there isn't a satisfactory conclusion. But if we choose to believe that God would not condemn an infant, wouldn't abortion become merciful, since children would go to Heaven before they have a chance to lose their innocence? Wouldn't the devil prefer that babies live long enough to become condemned?

    What we believe has far-reaching implications for how we live.

  7. hmmm. ...don't know if i'm hearing/reading this correctly. far as this one is concerned, i believe that " the age of accountability" could/might be when he/she knows the difference between right and wrong. up until that point, i don't belive a child is condemned by God. although we're all born into an evil world. children can't be evil. that's my take...on this.

  8. you know...this is a bit tough because i've had issues about little children/kids going forward to "alter calls" and such. even for my daughter, i made it known to everyone that they were to keep their distance from Shannon. (first marriage) i didn't want anyone laying guilt trips on her. then after the divorce, the judge decreed that i was not to teach/instruct her in any means whatsoever with my beliefs. now i regret my earlier decision because her mom indoctrinated her to be as anti-God. i sowed...and now have reaped a lot of regret. i hope and pray that He puts someone in her path to bring her to the Truth.

  9. Thanks for sharing your wisdom on this subject sis, love you.

  10. ...having a tough time with this. should have known better then to start entertaining this question. then again, i was raised religeously. this just adds/gives credibility to the verse "people perish for lack of knowledge." it's like bein` born with the mafia`s cement shoes on. sorry to make so many comments concerning this. you certainly are brave, sis...to take this question on!

  11. Bud ~

    Please never regret searching for truth. And though this is Russell's site, he's graciously allowed me to share hosting it, so I feel free to say that you needn't apologize for the dialogue.

    Now that I'm back online, give me a few minutes to pray about and compose an answer for you. I plan to be back shortly.


  12. Dear Bud ~

    We all have regrets. Each of us has decisions we'd make differently if we knew then what we know now, and points in life about which we think "if I'd only..." If we allow it, the enemy uses those things to condemn us, tear us down, and render us ineffective. If we turn to God, He'll use those things to convict us of how we might repent and move forward in His will.

    The Gospel is foremost "Good News" of God's grace and love and salvation. But the message of condemnation is one necessary to salvation. Who will come to God to ask forgiveness without belief of being evil? The truth of our evil should never be used in an unloving way, but only if the heart lacking reconciliation to God must see the need for it.

    If we are to adequately share the Gospel of life with little ones, we must be diligent to search out truth in the Bible and rely on the Holy Spirit to share it appropriately. There is no "one size fits all" message for children or adults.

    To effectively convey the Good News to anyone, we need patience to listen to what a person already believes, sufficient knowledge and understanding to recognize what holes they might need filled, the love to share that truth for their benefit, and the humility to know that we have no power to "save" anyone, but are merely vessels for God's power to touch the lives of others.

    Whether they are our own offspring, Sunday School students, or little ones we encounter elsewhere, children are a trust from God to us, for however long we have them. We have no way of knowing in what way or for what time God may allow us to be used by Him in the lives of those we love, of any age. So in the time we have, it is important to search out truth (whether or not we find it comfortable), and share it as we have opportunity, as is appropriate for a person's age and existing knowledge.

    Beyond that, rather than worry about the bad seeds we've sown, we should pray that whatever good seeds we've sown are used by the Lord to produce life. He can bring life where seeds have long laid dormant, in soil that appears barren and hard, under circumstances that speak of only death.

    "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
    (Luke 12:32 NKJV)


  13. Ah Anne, what words of wisdom you share through God's grace. I just listened to the audiobook "One Minute After You Die", and it confirmed for me what I'd heard before: at the judgment, NO ONE will say they were unfairly treated. God is ultimately just, forever and ever. His quality of being just should condemn us all. It is only by His goodness and mercy that ANY are saved. I cling to that salvation daily. It is nothing I have or could ever earn; it is only through His love that I am spared from His wrath and called His own.

    Recently I heard an interesting discussion regarding sanctification and holiness. The Christian made the case that sanctification can be by proximity: the husband is sanctified by the wife; the child is sanctified by the parent. But that holiness--salvation--can only be a personal choice. Wondered your thoughts on this...

    Much love to you tonight, dearest Anne.

  14. thank you for the response,Anne.

  15. Gwen ~

    (I'm speaking to a school teacher, so ...)

    I'm unclear on how to make a distinction between sanctification and holiness, because in the Bible's original Greek, the passage from 1 Corinthians 7:14 uses different forms of the same word, hagios:

    For the unbelieving husband is sanctified [hagiazo] by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified [hagiazo] by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy [hagios].

    However, as far as when the action occurs, Paul makes a distinction in 1 Corinthians 7:16:

    For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

    In verse 14, "are holy" is present tense, [specifically: Greek present indicative active verb tense]. But in verse 16, "whether" [Greek ei] can also be translated "if," and "will save" is future tense [specifically, future active, possibly linear (ongoing) action but usually punctiliar (one point in time)].

    I've heard the assertion from this passage that simply being married to a person of faith is sufficient for salvation. It seems to me that an unsaved spouse is staking far too much on the temporal union of marriage. I'm more inclined to see that being joined as "one flesh" confers only a temporary sanctification for the sake of the believing spouse and children, and the future "if" for eternity depends on the unbelieving spouse coming to faith.

    The children, on the other hand, are part of the parent in a completely different way. The Bible calls children the man's seed, and the fruit of the woman's womb. My perspective is that because they are produced by and start out as part of a parent, their holiness is present tense, and most likely endures until they separate themselves from the parent (as I described above).

    All that said, the argument can be made that both children and spouses should make faith personal as soon as possible. Eternity is riding on it.

  16. An email sent to me privately offered this link, with the contrasting viewpoint that all babies go to Heaven:

    Babies Who Die

    It is good to look at contrasting viewpoints and use dialogue to search for truth, as long as Christians remain united on critical points of faith and do not allow such discussions to bring division.

    My response to the above link is simply to offer principles and Scriptures I didn't include in my original post:

    • As I mentioned in the last comment, throughout Scripture children are considered the fruit of the parent—though it is also recognized that they may later separate themselves from the parent and become what the parent is not. Jesus used the following proverb to refer to words and works, but it can obviously be applied to fruit of the Spirit, and I would also apply His proverb to children:
    "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit." (Luke 6:43-44 NKJV; also see Matthew 7:17-18)

    • Paul said: "As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one.' " (Romans 3:10 NKJV; he elaborates in Romans 5:12-14,18)

    • Psalm 58:3 says: "The wicked are estranged from the womb." (Also see Psalm 51:5)

    • Finally, the Old Testament offers physical illustrations of New Testament spiritual principles. The Lord may appear harsh to command the extermination of pagan peoples. But the New Testament Father is the same God who knows the evil of the human heart not turned toward Him, and the evil reproduced in children. Thus the command:
    "Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." (1 Samuel 15:3 NKJV; also see Deuteronomy 20:16-17; 7:2; 13:15)

  17. Wow Annie, it looks like you opened quite the can of worms! Sometimes the question in my mind is what is with our insatiable desire to be somewhat or completely omniscient ourselves (myself included)? Does God have this desire for us as well? While, deep theological discussions can be intriguing and perhaps even comforting, what is the real reason for our need to know the answer to this question? Can't we just rely on the fact that Our God is a just, loving, and faithful God, able to administer whatever judgment or lack thereof to each person as He sees fit? I am not trying to be controversial, just thought provoking. Perhaps this is too simple of an answer or not thought provoking enough...

  18. Mary ~

    "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach ..."

    I take most seriously the honor and privilege of doing this Q&A, and continually pray that God will give me wisdom to do it. I pray also that I never pretend to know more than I do, nor to use it self-servingly. As I've mentioned in other comments, I hold honest search for truth in highest regard, and welcome all sincere questions here. And as I also mentioned, what we believe does affect how we live and the decisions we make.

    On this question in particular, I see the belief that all babies go to heaven as dangerous if it produces any apathy toward abortion. If we seriously believe that all aborted babies receive eternal life, but many non-aborted babies will eventually grow up evil and go to Hell, isn't there a certain logic which can argue for ignoring abortion? One can, of course, argue that only the predestined go to Heaven or Hell if one is hyper-Calvinist without belief in free will. But that's another can of worms altogether.

    The purpose of asking and attempting to answer such questions, in my opinion, is to enable us to walk as closely as possible within the will of God.

  19. I haven't read all the comments, etc., as my brain is too mushy tonight. Will make a comment though. I have to trust the Lord to pour out His grace and bring the seed to fruition. My kids, both adults, came to the Lord and walked with Him as children... in spite of the difficult time we had with their dad ... but both of them have turned away from Him. They SAY they believe, but they both live lifestyles that are pretty extreme on the other side of things. All I can hope for as I watch their lives turn downhill and I see how their children are flooded with confusion -- in spite of the fact that all have been baptized and/or dedicated -- is that GOD is bigger than these messes, that He will drop people into their lives who can reach them in ways that my husband [not their dad] and I have done. He knows their hearts, He knows what happened that caused them to shut their spiritual doors [and I'm not sure what specific events caused that], He knows their future, and He can break through these messes and bring forth the redemption. That's all I can count on.

  20. I would never think that you don't take Q&A's seriously and would never think that you do it in a self serving way. I can already see that you possess much wisdom that has been granted to you by God. My comment was not aimed at you personally, just at "us" wanting to know more than what God might have in mind. Wisdom, however, is not the same as knowledge, though either one could help us walk within the will of God.

    You bring up a good point as to where aborted babies might go. Whether one believes that they automatically go to Heaven or Hell, it hardly seems like a good argument to tell someone not to have an abortion, less they are potentially sending a child to Hell. I still think that this is an extremely complicated topic that doesn't necessarily "need" a clear answer. Isn't that how so many topics are in the bible?

    I certainly meant no offense and I should probably sometimes keep my lengthy comments to myself. And don't think that I am offended either. I love you and I sometimes just feel like responding off the top of my head. I too desire to walk as closely as possible within the will of God.

  21. Caryjo ~ I appreciate everything you're saying here. My brain's pretty mushy myself, but be encouraged to remember that our God is a God of miracles and long waits. My alcoholic, abusive, finally homeless (ex-)brother-in-law came to Christ shortly before his death, after we continued to pray for him for nearly 20 yrs after my sister and he divorced. God hears our prayers!

  22. Mary ~ I love you too. Don't be afraid to comment, lengthy or otherwise.