A recent issue of the Banner contained a heart-wrenching account by Gertrude Haan about an alcoholic. It was an account worth reading. However, in a later issue of the Banner (4/25/83), Rev. J. Tuininga, in a letter to “Voices,” presents a legitimate criticism against part of that presentation. He objects to the presentation that “alcoholism” is principally a “disease” or “disease oriented.” He states:
I realize that it behooves one to exercise restraint in making judgments about alcoholism, but it seems to me that Gertrude Haan is too “disease oriented” about alcoholism (3/21/83). I find the same weakness in the book of Dr. A.C. De Jong.
Is there really such a difference between a drunkard and an alcoholic? Surely when the Bible warns that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God,
it is not talking about one who occasionally falls into such a sin, but rather about one who lives in such a sin. And what about
The fact that the Bible warns us indicates that God holds us responsible for this sin, and that it is therefore not merely a disease. The Bible does not warn us about contracting leprosy or cancer.
Alcoholism is indeed a terrible and mystifying bondage, but we do not really help its victims by claiming that it is only a disease.
The above issue of the Banner presents another interesting, yet disturbing, article by Dr. Richard S. Wierenga, a retired dentist. He writes about the salvation of infants, perhaps all infants, who die in infancy. What he writes is not especially new, yet it is strange when it appears in a Reformed periodical. He states his position very briefly:
We have gravitated, somehow, to the position that most of the inhabitants of heaven are adults who died in the faith. But is this true?
My position is that (1) the majority of the inhabitants of heaven are those who died in infancy or early childhood; (2) unbelievers’ children who die in infancy or early youth can be saved; (3) many, if not all, of unbelievers’ children who die in infancy or early childhood are saved. I will elaborate on, and try to defend, these three propositions.
The first proposition can possibly stand. It might be only a matter of speculation, but the possibility exists that “the majority of the inhabitants of heaven are those who died in infancy or early childhood.” The second and third propositions are more disturbing. In essence, Wierenga states that most (if not all) of unbelievers’ children, dying in infancy shall go to heaven. One can assume, I believe, that his position would also be that all children of believing parents, who die in infancy, are brought to heaven. He presents some Scriptural references to support his propositions. With respect to proposition two, he states:
. . .Divine revelation, as given in
supports this view. This passage tells us that Abijah, a son of Jeroboam, was sick. Jeroboam was an unbeliever and an idolator who was cursed of God for turning his back upon God (v. 9). Abijah, the son of unbelieving parents, died, and the Bible tells us that he died “because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel. . .” (v. 13). What is pleasing or good in the child?. . . There is only one thing that can be pleasing to the Lord, and that was expressed to Nicodemus in
It is to be born again and to be engrafted by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.
For this third proposition, Wierenga presents various arguments. He quotes from Matthew 19:14, “Let the children come to Me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” He points too to Matthew 11:25-26 where Jesus speaks of revealing the things of the kingdom to babes. He refers, further, toRevelation 5:9 where we learn “that the saved inhabitants of heaven are made up of ‘every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'” He insists that “there are many tribes and nations that have never heard the message of the gospel. How then can they be saved?. . . The only conclusion I can come to is that this indicates the salvation of children who die in infancy or early youth.” The writer presents two final considerations:
The first concerns abortions recorded in the United States and Canada. Last year (1982) there were one and one-half million recorded abortions in the United States (Canadian statistics unavailable). Probably many more are not even given in the statistics. Is there a divine irony here that we are missing? Many are saying to the unborn, “We have no room for you on earth.” Is God saying, “Come to My home, I have room for you in My mansions.” Do you hear the words of
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision.”
. . .A second reason, and for me a very compelling one, is the following. If we know anything about Satan from the Scriptures, it is that he tries to taunt God . . . .
If only believers and their children are saved, Satan will be able to say after the last judgment, “I took the majority of the members of the human race with me.” But if unbelievers’ children who die in infancy or at an early age are saved, as well as children of believers, then the vast majority of the members of the human race are saved and the taunter is forever silenced. Then, too, the promises given to Abraham are fulfilled: “In your posterity, that is, Christ, according to
shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
as well as other places.
One regrets that a magazine which has purported to be a defender of the Reformed faith, increasingly includes articles which are inimical to that Reformed faith. There are plenty of magazines which will print the un-Reformed and heretical. Let Reformed magazines defend the Reformed faith—and not create doubt and confusion in the minds of the readers as to what is and what is not Reformed.
The writer presents in his article the same kinds of appeals to human “feelings” and philosophical reasonings and distortions of Scripture which have commonly been made when this subject is introduced. The Reformed man must not be swayed by these.
A host of questions and thoughts arise in response to the article. If the writer is correct, one would suppose that every Christian could really wish that all his children died in infancy. There would then be the certainty of glory in heaven. Those who grow up do not always remain in the faith. Should we not desire the death of our children then, for the sake of their eternal wellbeing? Further, if the writer is correct, there are far, far more brought to heaven through the death of infants than through the work of the missionaries who preach at great sacrifice and at great expense to the church. If only the missionaries would stay away from the heathen, if only world-relief organizations would not try to improve the health-conditions and alleviate poverty among the heathen—then likely far more children would die in infancy and enter glory.
And what of that horror of abortion? If the writer is correct, and most or all aborted babies go to glory —what a wonderful thing abortion turns out to be! Though it may be murder, the Christian could only hope the world continues this murderous practice! One might even pray God that the practice might grow—if only to bring more into heaven. But what a terrible thought this is!
Nor does the writer explain his hedging on the issue when he insists that most, if not all, children of unbelievers are saved when dying in their infancy. Ifmost, why not all? Let it then be all—but that must be shown from Scripture.
The arguments of Wierenga from Scripture certainly are not support for his propositions. As far as Abijah, the son of Jeroboam is concerned, a far more reasonable explanation can be given than that children of unbelievers are saved when they die in infancy. Consider first, Israel is the people of the Lord, the people of the covenant, though they had separated from Judah and the temple and line of David. The Word of God through prophecy still came there. Consider, secondly, that this son of Jeroboam was indeed a “child” but likely not a baby. One can, then, come far more easily to the conclusion that Abijah (though born of unbelieving parents) was also born in the line of the covenant. He is not one born of the heathen nations about Israel. Further, though Scripture presents no details, he could well have heard the Word of the Lord and believed—he was no baby but a “child” or youth. Why not? Such often occurs in the history of this world.
The writer, in speaking of the “babes” of whom are the kingdom of heaven, and of the gathering of God’s people from all nations and tongues, presents an altogether farfetched explanation. It does not even need refutation, I think.
His argument about Satan claiming victory if the “majority of the members of the human race are with me” is nonsense. If the argument were true, then Satan could claim victory if even one of the human race were taken with him to hell. Why could he claim victory only if the majority were taken? No; in the day of judgment the triumph of God in Christ will be evident in that Satan will not have taken even one of God’s elect into hell with him. Scripture constantly testifies that God does not work on the basis of “majorities.”
Positively, let us understand a couple of things. First, God gathers His people in the line of generations within the covenant God establishes (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39). And in Scripture, when the head of the household believed, he and his household were baptized. The adult, first, is brought into the church before one can speak of the salvation of infants (which baptism does). Nor does Scripture tell us that every child of believers, dying in infancy, is saved. In Genesis and Romans 9 are mentioned Jacob and Esau. Of the twin sons of Isaac, only one is saved. Though neither died in infancy, surely the principle of election and reprobation carries through also with infants dying in infancy. Also Canons 1:17 speaks of not doubting the election and salvation of one’s children who die in infancy—but it does not explicitly state that every single one is brought to glory.
With respect to the heathen, let it be clearly understood that salvation is in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ His Son (John 17:3). Without that knowledge, thereis not eternal life. Without that knowledge, there is no part or place in the covenant of God. And outside of that covenant of God with His people, there is no basis whatsoever for maintaining that infants or children, dying in infancy, shall be saved. They are outside even of the sphere of the covenant.
Let us never, then, appeal to human sympathy when judging who are, and who are not, in heaven. God’s Word stands. His people, elect from eternity in Christ, are surely saved. With that, let us be content—and thank God for His goodness and mercy.